I can only provide you this opinion. I currrently own the NHT 2.9's and for what they can be had now a days it's a no brainer $1300-1500 new. Now many out there, which I somewhat agree, state that the Aluminum tweeter can tend to be a bit bright. Matching equipment with your speakers is the key. As my upgrade bug hit I went from receivers to adding amps to complete separates then high end separates and playing around with a tube set up. All along staying with the 2.9's. You may have to spend more on the electronics going with NHT. I use Cardas cables through out which tend to have a more laid back sound. Amps like Classe sound best with these speakers. Tubes sound fantastic, but due to the efficiency they make for a difficult and expensive route.
I have stayed with 2.9's for many reasons.
1.They sound great with all types of music and they have fantastic bass.
2.They do not need to be place far form the back wall.
3.The wife likes the way they look:)
4.They were relatively cheap used.
However B&W makes great speakers I can not ad anything, you may hear from others that will presuade you other wise. And I am sure you'll hear other suggestions. Do what's right for your situation.
I, too, can only comment on the NHT's. I owned a pair of the 2.9's for about 2 1/2 years and would pretty much mimic Jimmy's feedback - I was very satisfied with them for all the same reasons and at $1300/pr used, they're an excellent buy. My listening tastes are almost exactly the opposite (lots of rock, some jazz/blues, no classical), and bass is essential to me. The 2.9's have excellent integrated bass, probably as good as you'll find in that price range. The one thing I would add as a possible detraction - I listened to mine mostly in a dedicated environment. I don't know how I'd like them in a living room while I was walking around. -Kirk
Now Hear This!!! B&W sound weak compared to the NHT speakers. I did a very extensive in store demo yesterday with a set of NHT's, B&W's, Paradigms, and PSB's and the B&W's you mentioned were sad. I have never liked B&W sound and everytime I hear another pair, they just reaffirm my opinion. OVER PRICED and UNDERPERFORMING. This is all subjective to my own ears but it may help you so you don't make a big B&W mistake.
I haven't heard the NHTs, but I own a pair of the CDM9NTs and I have been very happy with them. I listen mainly to classic jazz, rock, and classical in that order, with some country and R&B thrown in for good measure.
In my opinion, the CDM9s do a good job of presenting the music accurately without getting too bright or forward. They do equally well with recordings that feature plenty of horns (such as Coltrane's Blue Train) or those that feature piano and bass (Keith Jarrett's Live at the Blue Note). They also do well with large orchestral pieces (I just got Kleiber's recording of Beethoven's Fifth, and it sounds fantastic). They stay very composed as the volume increases and don't break up until you reach truly loud listening levels.
As for the bass issue, I went with the CDM9s rather than the CDM7s because they do a significantly better job with the bass. I run mine off a Denon AVR-4802 (would like to add a separate amp in the future, but this works fine right now). They are two months old and they keep getting better as they break in. No buyer's remorse here.
The best thing for you to do is ignore all the advise and go listen for yourself. There are no many variables that go into why things sound the way they do, you can get a rough idea of what is good and what is not from our recommendations, but that is it. Since you have narrowed it down to two speakers, then go listen and take your time.
You don't know our personal tastes? We may like tons of bass and you don't? How good is our hearing? What amp, CD player did we use? It may not have been appropriate or a compliment to one of the speakers in the demo, when some other setup would have yielded the opposite result. What is our music taste? We like rock and you listen to opera. How were the accoustics in the room where we listened? What cables did we use? You know none of these things.
My best friend's Home Theater setup has those Bose cube speakers all around. He likes how it sounds, so who am I to say he is wrong?? I have actually found myself in places where I heard something that sounded good and was shocked I was listening to Bose speakers. It just happened that all the right variables were in place to make it sound good.
I have the 2.9's and 3.3's. I would like to point out that although I love my NHT's They are a very position dependent speaker. I don't know what kind of a room you have but they need a wall both behind and outside them, (i.e. a corner) for the bass to look at. And if you can do it, seperate them by 10 to 14' with nothing in between. Even just moving them inches can have an effect on the sonic dynamics of them. If your serious about the 2.9's, might I suggest you give one of the engineers at NHT a call. (number's on their web site) Their always more than happy to give you advice on how to meet your system goals. Truly they would know better than any advice you'll get here. And if the 2.9's may not work in your situation, they tell you that too.
As far as the B&W's, decent sound (not as power hungry) and you don't have to worry as much about placement. Hope that helps. It's all in the ear of the beholder.
For my CDM7NT's, I found a used B&K EX442 (200w/ch) to be an excellent match and very positively changed my opinion of the speakers. Un-harshed 'em. Paid less than $500, leaving room in the budget for other goodies. The current production version (I forget the model) is in the $1500 range, I think. If you like tube sound with ss convenience, try to give B&K a listen.
i work at a hifi store in the south and we sell both b&w and audio research. one of the sweetest, in fact, THE sweetest sound i have heard so far is not with b&w's nautilus series, but with a pair of cdm9nt's played through audio research equipment. in fact, the vt60 tube amp sounds absolutely fantastic on these b&w's!!! as for nht equipment, i am unable to make judgment; however, i think crutchfield sells them. all the music critiqued on the b&w's was brubeck jazz and tchaikovsky classical.
It is easier to go with NHT since they are much easier to match with amps and other components. NHT are more efficent and has less "garbage in garbage out" syndrome. Many people who have NHT floor standing speakers merely use AV receivers with great results. When my non audiophile friends, actually none of my friends are, ask me to recommend speakers, I always tell them to audition NHT.
In a more perfect scenario, using a high quality high current amp and a high resolution source component, I'd go with CDM series. Then again, if I got the dollars to afford this "perfect scenario", I'd go with KEF Reference, Vandersteens, Von Schweikerts, Theils, Dunlavy, or.... I don't know, Tannoy?
I would have to agree with jimmyrod also. I have upgraded all electronics but have kept my 2.9's. i currently own classe source components (preamp, cd player), new Odyssey Stratos monoblocks, with Transparent biwire speaker cables and straight wire balanced interconnects. The Classe and Odyssey equipment works great with these speakers. I do not have the treble bite anymore. Because of the power requirements, i went with the monoblocks. I had a new Mcintosh 6500 160 watt integrated amp before and they sounded great but the speakers needed more power. The monoblocks just opened up the sound even at low volumes. I have a 13'x13'x9' dedicated room for 2 channel listening. Placement is critical. I don't use NHT's method of placement. I actully fan the speakers out a little so the sound meets behind my head, not right at it. This positioning also points the woofers out into the room instead of them pointing right at the other speaker. Stereophile rated these as class 'B' a couple of years ago if that means anything.
I had 2.9's for a year. They will play vary loud and have great bass. 2.9's are an extremely revealing speaker, and I found they make poor recordings hard to listen to. They sound great from the sweet spot with good quality recordings. From the next room they sound like a boom box on top of a subwoofer. They need alot of power. I used Classe electronics (ca200), and Harmonic-Tech cables. I have Proac 3.8's now and can listen to my poorly recorded classic rock again and still enjoy it. At three times the price it is not a fair comparison. I still miss the 2.9's when I pump up the volume.
I too compared the 2.9 to the B&W. Yes both are great, I was leaning toard the 2.9. But then I found Maggies and they are the best for accoustical music! Get the Maggies and when you save up a few hundred, get a fast tight 8 inch sub.
Your going to kick your self for not getting he Maggie's. I've heard the others (owned the NHT 2.5's)and there not in the same league as the 1.6's IMO. You can add a good sub later and you could also spend less on the amp and have money for a sub. A good sub need not be expensive. I'm using a SVS 20-39Pi and it blends very well so long as you keep the crossover below 60Hz, and I've seen post from others who have used even cheaper subs with good results.