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1.1 Pro Home Theater System
as reviewed by Larry Cox
Iíve been an audiophile for seventeen years and have been reviewing audio goodies for ten, and the Niro 1.1 Pro is by far the best value in an audio component that Iíve heard. Just so you didn"t miss that: The Niro 1.1 Pro is by far the best value in an audio component that Iíve heard. It isnít the best sounding piece of gearóevery one of my reference components exceeds the performance of the Niro component reviewed hereóbut the performance of the Niro system is simply astounding.
Each of my reference components retails for at or over $3000, almost four times the price of the entire Niro system, which retails for $799. For that, you get a progressive scan DVD player, an AM/FM receiver, a magnetically shielded full-range loudspeaker, and a subwoofer. Also included are cables to connect to the Niro speaker and subwoofer, a component video cable, AM and FM antennas, and an infrared remote control. The Niro 1.1 Pro loudspeaker is 19 inches wide, 4.3 inches high, and 7.9 inches deep. The subwoofer measures 11.7 inches wide by 12.9 inches high by 11.7 inches deep and weighs 14.3 pounds. The receiver is very slim and beautiful. The DVD player features 2x, 4x and 8x slow motion and 2x, 4x, 6x, and 8x fast forward visual scanning capability and supports Dolby Pro Logic and Dolby Digital. The remote allows you to switch sources from DVD to radio to an alternate source. You can also switch from stereo to mono and choose DTS or Dolby Digital from the remote. You can even set a sleep timer to listen to FM or a DVD for a half hour or more. While the remote is a bit packed, youíll soon find your way around it.
Aside from price, the Niro system offers a bona fide theater experience without having to have five speakers taking over your home. Thereís just a single shielded speaker that can easily sit on top of most televisions, plus a subwoofer that does not require mathematical exercises to determine its placement. I just plopped it down and it sounded great. This is a no-nonsense, easy to use system. Iíd say that most people shopping for a home theater system under $4000 would be wasting their time and money looking elsewhere (unless it is Niroís 6.1 system, but I havenít heard that). The Niro 1.1 Pro played loud enough to fill my room without becoming hard or congested, or otherwise telling me that it was getting ready to distort.
I thought that the presentation of the Niro system was better than that of the Arcam AVR200 coupled to the Totem Dream Catcher system, which retails for about $3000. The Niro was better in the bass region, possibly because the subwoofer of the Totem system was inadequate for my nearly 5000-cubic-foot listening room. The clarity and quality of the Niro system was probably the result of the 5 x 50 watts of digital amplification, but whether the amplification was digital, class A, or class A/B isnít the point. The sound was extraordinary.
The Niro speaker has five small (perhaps 3-inch) drivers in a box the size of one for, say, size thirteen running shoes. One full-range driver is aimed straight ahead. The others are slightly angled back, with two full-range drivers facing toward the left and two toward the right. How speakers this small sound so good is hard to fathom, but easy to enjoy. Niro calls this one-speaker surround sound, but thatís not accurate. When I think of surround sound, I think of hearing things happening behind my head. That never happened with the Niro system. However, the system more than ably conjured up a sense of environment, with lots of left, right, front, and back information but no back-of-my-seating-position information. For the most part, that is how I experience movies in theaters.
There is a scene at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring in which the Black Riders are chasing Frodo toward the River Brandywine. The Niro system gave an excellent sense of the horse and Frodo circling back and forth as the Black Riders attempt to trap him. While, as I say, it wasnít an immersive experience, there was an excellent sense of motion in front of me. I had no problem with the presentation, and enjoyed it immensely.
Treble extension was quite nice, if a bit reserved. I played a drum instruction DVDómy neighbor Stew is a drummeróand the high hat action was quite good. Iíve heard more feathered, lighter presentations of high hat sound, but the Niroís presentation was more than good, especially considering that the whole enchilada rings the till at $799! Vocals were well represented, with a more than adequate sense of the timbre of male voices. Ditto for female vocals. A chorus was easily distinguished as different voices, with very little blur.
Even with all of the bang-zoom pyrotechnics of the Matrix movies, bass was more than adequate. At nearly full volume, which was very loud, bass control was good. Pitch definition was more than decent, and with good pitch definition came the ability to pressurize the room without losing bass control. There were some occasional, but very brief moments during which I could hear some discontinuity between the subwoofer and the main speaker, but I was listening from way off axisóabout 70 degrees from the intended listening position. This was as good as many audiophiles will need or want for home theater.
I tried a couple of surround DVDsóthe Eaglesí Hotel California and Bucky Pizzarelli's Swing, and they were very well executed. The AM and FM tuners were more than decent. They picked up signals that the Arcam AVR200 receiver couldnít. The timbre of the Niro wasnít up to that of the Arcam, but the selectivity was nearly its equal. There are enough presets to please most people. Thereís also a timer, so if you want to go to sleep with the tuner playing, you can set it to do so in fifteen-minute increments, up to about an hour and a half.
Although Iíve only written about two movies, I watched nearly a dozen in the month that I had the Niro system. As I was packing it up, I told my wife that I was sending it back, and she said she was sad to see it go. Me too. Unfortunately weíre not buying anything for a while, but the Niro setup is something weíd really like to keep around.
If you want to know more about how the system works, check out the Niro website (www.niro1.net). With their generous thirty-day return policy, you have the chance to try out a winner. If you decide that you need something more, you can return it. I think youíd be making a mistake, but so it goes. If there were a more powerful way to say that the Niro 1.1 Pro Surround System is highly recommended, Iíd say it. Larry Cox