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NHT’s Next Step: VT Speaker Series Update

NHT plans to update its VT speaker series, which includes tower speakers whose imaging characteristics can be switched between music and soundtrack modes.

The company is concentrating it R&D efforts on the VT series now that it has rounded out its music-oriented series and its midprice Performance series, marketing manager Matt Garfein said. The VT line “is our oldest now, so that’s where our focus is.”

The planned VT-3 home theater system, which might be demonstrated at HiFi ’99, will be the flagship in NHT’s VT series, retailing for an estimated $6,000 to $7,000 compared to $2,000 for the VT-1.2 system and $3,300 for the VT-2 system.

Along with moving VT series performance up a few more notches, the introduction will mark the first time NHT will offer a tower with built-in powered subwoofer.

In addition, the company will alter the way it changes the imaging characteristics of VT series towers.

Currently, the towers in the VT-1.2 and VT-2 series come with a crossover-adjustment switch that switches between pinpoint imaging for music and a more diffuse soundfield for movies. In the VT-3, a switch will activate a rear-firing tweeter/midwoofer combination and boost bass response at 35Hz by a user-selectable range up to 7.5dB.

The new design, said engineering director William Bush, will produce “better results with less tonal variation over a broader range.”

The VT-3 will come with an outboard processor that incorporates a bass preamp, electronic crossover, and circuitry for switching in the rear-facing drivers.

The towers themselves will incorporate subwoofer amplification based on Bob Carver’s tracking downconverter technology, which delivers efficiency comparable to Class D technology but at less cost. NHT first used the technology in two outboard powered subwoofers introduced at CES.

The technology, Garfein said, “delivers twice the power of our previous amplifiers at a given cost.” The previous amps, designed to biamplify the VT-1.2 and VT-2 towers, are sold as outboard options.

Many towers with built-in powered subs, he cautioned, “don’t sound like one coherent full-range speaker.”

After the VT-3 is launched, NHT will take another look at the other VT series towers “to see how we’ll upgrade them,” Garfein noted.

Although new designs and technologies are going into the VT-3, the company has no plans to change its distribution strategy, Garfein said. NHT has focused mainly on sales through independent specialists, although it has two regional accounts — 6th Avenue in New York and Sound Advice in Florida — and sells through Crutchfield, “one of our earliest supporters” and an account that doesn’t discount.

Sister brand Acoustic Research is focused more on regional specialty chains, and the Advent and Jensen brands are sold through broader channels, he noted.

NHT’s distribution strategy also excludes online sales to prevent consumers “from spending hours auditioning speakers at specialty dealers and then buying off the web,” Garfein said.

Besides growth resulting from its new products, NHT attributes additional potential to the launch of DVD-Audio and Super Audio CD.