Review: NHT ST4 full range towers

Category: Speakers

I just received the NHT ST4 speakers about a week ago and have been burning them in during the day, repeating whichever cd is in my player, while I work. This review is just my uneducated opinion after listening to it for this week.

First off; the looks and construction. The speakers look great. As I got them out of their box, and attached the outriggers and the floor spikes and placed them on the ground, I realized that the pictures don’t really do them justice. They are gorgeous. Everyone that has seen them speak of their elegance and slender lines. Most people don’t even notice the woofer on the side. The speakers feel solid and stable. The only visible signs of anything worth talking about are the seams at the bottom, and that’s at the bottom. Some people may complain about the binding posts but I don’t have any real objections to them. All in all a seemingly well built speaker.

My room is probably what I will call a small, medium sized room. It is 16, x 16’ with a ceiling starting at 9’ going to about 14’ in the center. I have the speakers about 3’ from the rear wall and about 5’ apart.
My equipment: Adcom GTP-502 preamp tuner (stock power cord)
Adcom GFA-5400 power amp
M-Audio SuperDAC 2496 DA converter
Sony DEJ-955 portable player using optical output
Van Den Hul D102MKIII interconnects (DAC to pre)
As Above (pre to power initially)
Ecosse CA1 the Conductor inter connects (pre to power at present)
Ixos Gamma speaker cable (not sure of model)
NHT ST4 loud speakers

I initially had these speakers closer to the walls and when I initially hooked them up, the bass overwhelmed me. I am accustomed to listening to my music flat or just a little altered, depending on the music, so had the tone controls flat. But I had to be reaching for the bass control and had to turn it almost all the way down. Even then the bass seemed too strong for most popular music. I left it there for a while and let it burn in. The fist impression was of very good extension at the extremes, even if the bass was very strong. My other speakers, the B&W DM601s, obviously did not have the bass extension, nor did it have the treble extension either. But other than that the difference was quite noticeable. The midrange of the B&Ws was just fuller and richer and easily more forward sounding. Now this is the sound that I am accustomed to so I left with the conclusion that the mids of the NHT was a bit recessed. I left it for a day playing as I went to work and came back the evening. The sound was now growing on me. I now saw the sound as more neutral sounding. The mids were actually starting to fill in and sound a bit fuller. I then experimented with the placement of the speakers and took a night to do so. The main difference was obviously in the bass. The bass, when the speakers were put in the position stated above, was now tighter, with extension and much more balanced wit the rest of the music. This in turn allowed the midrange and the treble to open up a bit more. My first actual listening session then followed. With music I know (especially on the B&W, my obvious reference) the sound had better bass and treble. The treble being more extended yet cleaner. I have heard that the treble of the NHTs was like a two edged sword; crisp, extended, and clear, with a slight metallic texture and a tendency to be a bit sharp. I did not find this. I found the treble to be smooth, extended and clear, only sounding metallic and harsh if the recording had those qualities. The midrange was not as outstanding as the bass and the treble though, sounding a little recessed still and lacking in the fullness that I was accustomed to. It did not sound bad however and the midrange was a bit cleaner than the B&Ws. I found myself being drawn into the music none the less, letting me know that I still enjoyed the balance. The only other complaint I had was that the midrange sounded a little nasal. I lived with this sound and listened for a few more days. The midrange filled in some more, then I switched interconnects from the VDH to the Ecosse. There was a bloom in the midrange that I did not expect. Guitars sounded fuller and richer and vocals opened up. I relistened to the setup this morning, listening to Dave Matthews (Some Devil) Jack Johnson (On and On) Sarah Mclachlan (Afterglow), some Seal (IV and Human Beings) and Sting (Sacred Love). These now had more of the midrange bloom that I was accustomed to and the sound just blossomed. There was still the slight Nasality, with a little lack in lower midrange presence, but the sound was still involving and listenable. The sound was also open and sounding unrestrained until the speaker is pushed to its limits. Focusing is also pretty good with a big soundstage that actually extends outside of the speakers with the right recordings. Soundstage depth was not that great, but I feel that this is due to my system limitations.
I also know that my cd setup is a bit nasal and a little shut in, so this may account for some of the nasality of the speakers.

Overall, the whole sonic experience of the NHTs is very good and in the end, an upgrade over the B&Ws. I must say that the B&Ws are good speakers. The NHTs are just better overall, even though I give a slight edge to the B&W in midrange tonality. If you are auditioning affordable full range speakers you might do well to give these a listen.

You have a square room and have found that there are strong standing waves in the lower frequencies. There is very little you can do about this with new equipment or room treatments but you could improve the sound a little by replacing the cd player with a cheap one using a coax digi out or even better by buying a good midpriced player with a good DAC to shorten the overall chain (NAD, Cambridge Audio, Music Hall) and let the outboard DAC go on A-gon. An Audio Research tube preamp could do some nice things as well.
In a square room the only thing you can do is set-up on the diagonal and hope for the best. With the funky ceiling this may work quite well.
I recently helped a friend put together a new system, and in the process, we listened to a number of speakers in the $800-1,600 per pair price range. The competiting brands that I recall were B&W's, Klipsch, Paradigm, PSB, Magnepan, Meadowlark, Krix, and Totem. The ST-4's really blew us away, and I was quite honestly shocked at how good they are in that price range. I couldn't find anything that sounded better overall until you got up into Thiels or ProAcs. In the end, my friend bought the Totem Arro's, but this was as much for esthetic, WAF reasons as for anything. I'd say that the ST-4's and the Arro's were sonic equals, although definitely different (NHT's had better instrument separation, dynamics, and definitely more bass; Totem's had better soundstage and detail). Still, if it weren't for the WAF, I think my friend would have gone with the NHT's.

Congratulations on the purchase of a fantastic pair of speakers! The ST-4's are crazy good for the money, and should serve you well.

I have replaced the CD player with an modded DVP-NC555ES. The sound has improved, but I havent done a full comparison of this unit and my previous setup as yet. The sound is quite close, but I do realise that there are differences indynamics bass depth and clarity........ slight but noticeable. The speakers sound great, and I am happy that I have a preamp with bass and treble controls, as this lets me dial down the bass to better match my room. I now have a paradigm X-30 collecting dust in its box. I bought it cuz I was planning to get a sub, and then I saw the deal on these speakers and I couldnt resist!!

I am happy with my purchase and am engoying my speakers quite a bit. I dont do alot of crucial listening any more unless I am evaluating a mix on my system to see how it compares to commercial stuff. I am just enjoying my speakers as much as I can.