MOVIE PERFORMANCE The center channel is key to any home theater system, and the NHT suite's sideways V Large proved an able contributor. It was relaxed yet intelligible over a wide range of voices and delivered a somewhat wider field of balanced sound than that of many a horizontal, dual-woofer center. Much beyond ±15° to either side, high treble fell off noticeably. But basic vocal tonality remained quite consistent a good bit further, giving the NHT system a comparatively wide best-sound zone - which is probably a good thing in the small rooms (with their closer seating distances) where the Verve may often be placed.
The Blu-ray Disc of Casino Royale is likely destined for home-theater-demo classic status, yet the compact Verve layout handled it deftly and dramatically. The solid imaging I'd noted in two-channel auditions was just as evident here, with the many fast-action chase sequences flashing across the sound field cohesively and smoothly; the three-across V Large speakers produced a big, impressive, well-knit stage. The sound of the surround channels was just fine as well. The V Small speakers demonstrated generous enough dispersion to deliver good envelopment and nonlocalizing ambience, while not giving themselves away on hard-panned sound effects.
The V Woofer also did a solid job of filling out the bottom end of Casino's Bondesque musical score and big-action explosive effects; like the full system, it could reach surprisingly high levels without audible strain. But it lacked the bottom-octave, earth-moving ability to bring out everything that big-ticket film sound has to offer. For example, in the sequence where a building implodes and submerges (an everyday occurrence in Venice, I'm sure), there was plenty of rumble - almost to the point of localizing the sub a bit - but not all of the deep, seismic sensation I knew to be in the recording. In a level-matched comparison with my everyday sub, my reference woofer damped the rumble a bit and revealed plenty of the extra-deep stuff - though I hasten to add that this sub costs almost as much as the entire Verve system.
BOTTOM LINE Okay, I need to remind one and all (and myself) that this is a $2,000 matched system. Yet in everything but deepest-bass power, it should hold its own rather well with plenty of larger, more costly designs, including some with small-tower fronts. And if its balance falls a hair toward the warm-and-seductive, that may well be a deliberate design choice, and one that most owners will approve. All in all, NHT's Verve system is a finely flexible and immensely attractive solution to the looks/sonics conundrum.
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