Sugg. Retail: $1999 CAD, $1699 USD
The Niro Spherical Surround System, or SSS for short, is a complete surround system that supports Dolby Digital, DTS, and Dolby Pro logic II. It provides 6 channels of 30 watts rms, and complete surround reproduction from a 3-piece front-mounted minimal speaker/subwoofer array and an amplifier/controller with analog and digital inputs. It’s plug-and-play all the way, and offers a level of convenience that’s hard to resist. Custom 16.5-foot speaker cables are included, enough for a fairly large home theatre room, and connect quickly and directly to the appropriate outputs from the amp/controller and to the three speaker modules.
The Front speaker is designed to sit just below and in front of a flat screen TV, and has three 3.5-inch drivers in it, while the Top speaker sits on top of the TV and supplies the surround information from its two 2.5-inch drivers. Placement this way is quite critical because of the acoustic interaction that provides the surround illusion. The subwoofer can be placed nearby in a convenient spot, and it’s a bottom-ported box with an 8-inch driver.
The controller has 4 digital inputs, 3 optical Toslink, and 1 coaxial, with an additional pair of RCA stereo analog ins. There is also a headphone output, and the 6 digital amplifier channels, provide 30 watts for the 5 main channels, and unspecified power to the sub. The remote control is a universal type, and can control DVD players and video displays, a nice convenience feature.
The designer of the Spherical, and other Niro systems, is Niro Nakamichi, from the famous tape recorder family, who set up his own company for this new endeavour. One of the design criteria, he says, was to “update the software in the digital amplifier so that the sound wouldn’t be influenced by or depend on every user’s room conditions or set-up.” It is this signal processing that makes the Niro systems work, something I’ll enlarge on below.
I tried the SSS first with my VuTec 92″ projection screen, but discovered that the surround effect was somewhat weak. Surmising that the vertical distance might be the limiting factor, I then put away the big screen, and set the system up with my resident 64″ Pioneer Elite PRO-710HD. This was better, and almost as effective as a demo I’d heard last summer in Kenora. The distribution company, DBI Inc., works out of this northern town near my cottage, and that’s where I encountered thiis product.
The other way in which the Niro SSS is also superior to these bars from Yamaha and others is in its spatial realism and unity, since room boundaries do not colour the sound. It also has quite low coloration in frequency response, as well as a wider and deeper sound field. I also noted that the deep bass response was strong and clean down to about 40 Hz. Now, you can’t faithfully measure such a system as this, and we did not try; there is simply too much psycho-acoustic phase manipulation going on, and the measurements would have little meaning, except perhaps for the subwoofer, which was very powerful, and matched well with the overall system.
Also, the listening sweet spot was much wider than you’ll hear from sound bars, and the quality of the small drivers used by Niro is reflected in the clean sound, fast transient performance, and quite amazing dynamics for the system size. You can actually pay quite a bit more for some name-brand systems that are distinctly inferior; they sound like small speakers, but the Niro SSS sounds like a big surround system.
The surround image is, admittedly, more to the sides than the rear, but is still extremely effective and involving. And the integrated nature of the SSS certainly shows in the quality of sound and the effortless dynamics I heard. Niro Spherical Surround is, in my experience, superior to any ultra compact home theatre system I’ve heard, and the ability to do it with only 4 small boxes a true engineering triumph.
Related Reviews:Niro Two 6.1 Home Theater System
AIG Back Issues: Winter 2004
DVD Reviews - Backdraft and Executive Decision
Comment On this Post
Outside the Speakers
Random Thoughts on the Music Mask
NPR on Whether Audiophiles Still Exist
Audiophile Grade Mics?
CDs Sales Die, LP Sales Fly
Some High End 'Phones from CES
Audio Ideas (Andrew Marshall)
Ox Box (Bob Oxley)
Hy End (Hy Sarick)
Bain's Blog (John Edward Bain)
Most Popular Today