NHT was known for acoustic suspension speakers, which are less efficient than ported or bass reflex speakers. That could at least partly account for what you are experiencing.
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Yes, the NHTs (and many, many other) 2 ways are insensitive if you consider 86dB SPL insensitive. Do not confuse sensitivity with efficiency. The speakers are reasonably efficient.
I doubt the problem is with your speakers or the load they present to the amplifier. I have 86dB SPL NHT 1.5 that can be driven to deafening levels with a 40W tube amp. I think you should take a closer look at the Pioneer. Swap out your poineer for the Carver/Phase Linear combo and see what happens. Try your previous mains speakers with the poineer and see what happens. Obviously, something has changed in your system, so try to isolate the problem by swapping components one at a time.
NHTs, especially the larger ones, may present a challenging load for an amplifier, but in my experience, are not particularly "inefficient" or rather - insensitive.
Well, I have sold the other components. I am moving to Tuscany for a year, needed the money. I do have and old pair of Polk bookshelf speakers that are my rear speakers. That was my next thing to do was swap out tonight. If that doesn't seem to answer any questions I guess a $20.00 diagnostic fee is in line. I have order an owner's manual but it is not here yet. There just doesn't seem to be that much to tinker with as far as settings. I will let you know what comes of it.
Thanks for your responses. I did speak to a pioneer service tech and he tells me that it is not that unusual. I have to admit that it does sound pretty good, relatively, even when all the way up. I guess the old Phase Linear had me a little spoiled on brute power. There probably isn't anytime that I would ever need it to be louder than it gets.