Niro Two 6.1 Home Theater System

      Date posted: March 10, 2004

Sugg. Retail: $2499.00 (CAN)
Distributor: DBI Inc., 39 Main Street
South, Kenora, ON P9N 1S8
(807) 468-8494 FAX 468-9417

Niro Two 6.1 Home Theater System

(Reprinted from the Winter/Spring 2004 issue)

      Niro Nakamichi is the son of the founder of Nakamichi Corporation, and he has started his own company to make high end audio and video components. The first wave, a couple of years ago, were very large, stylish audio preamplifiers and amplifiers that were very expensive. Now, under his Niro brand he’s introduced some more reasonably priced, and very innovative home theater components, that are, paradoxically, very compact and use new psychoacoustic discoveries to produce 6 discrete channels from just three boxes.

      The Two 6.1 consists of two front and rear enclosures of diminutive size (Front: 14″ x 6 1/2″H x 6″D; Rear: 11″W x 61/2″D x 5″H; Subwoofer: a 12″ cube), with an accompanying receiver featuring an elegant and simple front panel, unlike most home theater components. The front enclosure contains left, centre, and right speakers, while the rear one has a similar array of 3.5″ mid-woofers and 1″ ceramic dome tweeters. The receiver provides Dolby Digital EX, DTS ES and Dolby Prologic II, along with its own proprietary “Niroson Cinema post-surround processing utilizing the newest Cirrus Logic CS42400 Multi-Engine DSP.” It has an AM/FM tuner with 30 presets, with DVD coaxial digital, Sat/Cable, VCR, Aux, and Front stereo analog inputs. No output power figures are specified (like the horsepower of the Rolls Royce deemed to be “adequate”, I suppose), and cables for the speakers are provided, along with an RCA interconnect for the powered subwoofer. The subwoofer uses an 8″ driver, supplemented by a pair of passive “steel cap” radiators “to increase output while improving heat dissipation and reliability,” according to the product fact sheet. Its amplifier power is specified at 150 watts.

     All you need to add to this plug-and- play system is one or more sources, the most obvious being a DVD player, and I connected the coaxial digital output of my Pioneer Elite DV-AX10 player to the appropriate input, DVD coaxial. The remote control will learn other manufacturers’ IR codes, and the Two 6.1 owners’ manual lists the code numbers for all the major brands.

     It’s also well organized for the user, with input selection at top, menu and cursor controls below, numeric buttons beneath these, and below, channel and volume up/down buttons at easy thumb reach. There are also Listen, Open/Close, Display, and Rec buttons for other components, with level trim controls at bottom for all channels that can be used on the fly. It’s a nicely designed universal remote control.

     I connected our Lindsay bowtie (double dipole) outdoor FM antenna to the Two 6.1 and did a station count across the dial, finding a total of 32 signals, about half of which were really listenable. Though fairly sensitive, the tuner does not have especially good stereo quieting, and I also found it somewhat sonically disappointing. It’s local stations only here, and preferably mostly for news. But I don’t think many will buy this product for anything but its surround performance from three small boxes, one set-top, one behind and the third located for best bass. Speaking of the subwoofer, though no spec is offered, the sub seems to be crossed over at a low enough point (probably 80 Hz) to keep bass from getting too boomy.

     Among the video excerpts and films watched and listened to through the Niro was a recent sampler from dts that features clips from a number of movies and some music in surround. These included an explosive segment from Behind Enemy Lines (powerful and dynamic all around), the flyaway bicycle scene from E.T. (sound a little dated, but enveloping), Fantasia 2000 (a very good recording of the finale of Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, with a great bass drum; could it be the Telarc recording?), and The Fast & The Furious (Hondas like mine shouldn’t mess with semis; amazing surround, and graphic destruction of some nice hopped up and prettily painted little cars).

     A couple of neat surround music videos were appreciated, Eric Clapton’s Broken Hearted, and Sheila Nichols’ Faith, the former with a big hall ambience, and the latter full discrete surround, with bass at the rear, as well as some instruments and voices. This DVD, and other Dolby Digital movies we sampled, amply demonstrated the dynamic and surround capabilities of this unique system.

     We didn’t measure the Niro Two 6.1 simply because so much electronic psychoacoustic manipulation is going on in this system (the Niroson ™ Cinema post-surround processing), that such curves would not have reflected well what you hear with surround program material.

     Make no mistake about it: this is a discrete surround system, and sounds it. And I learned to appreciate the levels-on-the-fly adjustments, because DVD relative volumes, especially subwoofer and centre, can vary greatly. I find this to be much more a factor on broadcast material, where surround levels also vary considerably. Even the SuperBowl needed sonic as well as clothing adjustment.

     In general, as well as being very dynamic and powerful, I found the sound with music and film to be very crisp, with good, clear dialogue and nicely controlled sibilants. If you’re looking for no-fuss, plug-and-play, almost invisible (though what you see is very handsome) home theater, investigate the Niro Two 6.1 system. As they say these days at CBS, “It’s all here”.

Andrew Marshall

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