I guess you know that NHT is not manufactured anymore...they are out of business. That said....the speakers are pretty good. I have them in my surround sound video system, and they are quite ok.
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I can't think of one speaker that would come close to outperforming them for $400. They are quite decent to be sure. The side firing woofer actual helps with room issues in the bass sometimes. The receiver would work fine with them since the Onkyo puts out some real power. They are also bi-wire capable.
As above, it has been some years since I have owned the 2.9's, the next up the line. I found them to be very accurate and revealing. The source and or amp went a long way in determining the sound. The shape of the speakers lended themselves too having to sit in the sweet spot too hear them at their best. Hope this helps some.
in the past, i had almost all nht speakers from the super zeros, super ones, 1.5's, and the 2.9's. all of them are very cool sounding speakers. nothing laid back about them. i went all totem and the totem are less fatiguing, much more musical. the 2.5's are a decent speaker. IMO, i would save your money and get a pair of used totem rainmaker, mites, or even the model 1's. you can spend all day listening to any of those. with the nht's, you will go find something else to do within an hour.
I can't comment on the PSB's BUT I do know that if you like the B&W sound you will NOT be happy with the NHT's.The NHT's are fairly nuetral from the midbass DOWN,but the critical midrange has a pronouced bump,the highs are VERY sharp & they need a lot of power to sing.If you buy them be carefull with system matching.Mid- fi receivers,cheap cables,etc..should be avoided at all costs.Think NAD or the latest Marantz offerings with Audioquest cables.A better path at your budget would be a gently used set of B&W DM 602s or Quad 11L's from Agon or search the net for a good deal on a new pair of Wharfedale EVO2-10's(about $400.00 delivered).As a matter of fact there's a pair of last seasons EVO 20 floorstanders for sale here that are a great buy(under $400.00 delivered,warm & detailed with decent bass)).Hope this helps.
I'm a fan of NHT speakers from that era. I think Ken Kantor was around during that time. I still use the SuperZeros and SuperOnes I bought in 1995, and I've always wanted a pair of 2.5s even though I don't have an application for them.
Give 'em a try. You can always sell them on A'goN if they don't float your boat.