what's my problem?

here's my scoop:

I have a pair of NHT 2.5i's
rotel rcd 971 transport
Unison Research Unico

I'm not getting the clarity or the air i was hoping for. I picked up the integrated last week, and i figured I'd give it warm up time and some break-in. Not sure what's going on. It HAS started sounding better...smoother...but it just isn't giving me the extension that i want, nor is it giving me the midrange clarity that i expected...

What do you guys think my weak spot is? I'm starting to think it might be the speakers. Perhaps i've simply outgrown the NHT sound. Further, my speakers are a little large for my room which translates to a fairly boomy sound. (The setup sounded better with the smaller NHT 1.3a's that i owned up until recently)

I have heard nothing but good things concerning the Unico, so i'm fairly certain it is not the problem. My front end is decent too (I've heard it in various setups and always sounded good).

Speaker cable is Audioquest type 4 (crap) and interconnects are Monster interlink 400 (also crap). The monster could be one of the causes of the problem.

Also, i have the stock tubes in the unit. Would a change of tubes reap an astonishing change?

HEELLLLPP!!! i'm going crazy!!!

thanks guys,

I guess there are a couple things you could try. First, I'm not sure how much you have experimented with speaker placement. Any chance you could pull them out farther into the room? Second, I've found out recently that cable plays a bigger role in a system than I had first thought. You might look at upgrading the cables. I heard acoustic zen sound fantastic for not a whole ton of money.
Get rid of the MI 400!! You don't have to spend lots of money on cables to significantly improve upon what you're running now. This also includes upgraded power cords. As mentioned, speaker placement tweaking can greatly improve the sound. Also consider speaker stands and equipment stands - Sistrum and Neuance come to mind. Don't underestimate the effect of good stands. When you've attended to these areas, then tube rolling can be very effective. Good luck.
get rid of the monster cable interlink 400, it is about the worst interconnect on the planet ... just about anything will sound better .... upgrade the power cord on the amp too ... also give the amp more time to break-in ...
Yes, cables, cables, cables.....
The Audioquest are OK for an inexpensive cable, but the MI400 should go.
How much are you willing to spend, new or used?
At 86 db efficiency and a 3.6 ohm minimum impedance, Im afraid you may be low on juice. The Unico is rated 80wpc for 8 ohm -and- 4 ohm. If the suggestions above dont do the trick you might need to try an amp that is really suited to difficult loads. This might be what you need to "open up" the sound.
well, the speakers have been pulled out into the room as much as they can be. No room to pull them out any farther. I have another pair of cables that i could try...the MIT Tmax one wire (i think that's its name)...not sure if they're any better. Any suggestions on reasonably priced interconnects that might fit the bill?

Speaker stands are irrelevant (floor standing speakers)

As far as the amp is concerned, I'm not sure what to say. From what i've read, it's capable of running even fairly difficult loads (dealer mentioned this also). Further, it has had such high praise by people in the audio world that I cannot see it being at fault (although i could be gravely mistaken).

Further, despite the ratings of the NHT's, I have been told (by the dealer) that they are an easy drive. At one point, he tried to sell me an Alchemist Nexus integrated (i think it's rated at 35w/ch). He claimed that this would drive them properly. I would hate to have to ditch the amp as it's brand new (and was tough to find in my area)

At one point, i had a Roksan Kandy mkIII rated at 120w/ch driving them... didn't do as good a job as the Unico. Would the Simaudio I 5 fare any better? Should I go with separates? (ie higher power amp/ separate preamp)

should i keep the amp and find some smaller speakers that might match up more synergistically with the Unico?

After so many years of playing with audio equipment, I seem to have lost my way...(and my mind)

i'm in audio hell.
Try DH Labs digital and interconnect cables. Will be an inexpensive fix. Lots of choices on speaker cables...
1. Bass response is something that definitely improves with break-in. After a few weeks, you might
even feel like you have a new system.

2. No doubt -- separates will give you better sound.

3. Some speaker manufacturers do a great job with
speakers with fewer drivers, sacrificing the low end
for greater clarity in the mids and highs. As you go up
their line, they try to add bass and somtimes the result
isn't pretty. Then, as you go higher up the line, the bass
gets better. Bass is hard to do properly. Sometimes
no bass is better than bad bass.

4. IMO, Upgrading to a speaker that handles bass the way you like will yield greater dividends than wire and cable expenditures.

5. Just as an experiment, go listen to B & W speakers.
These are the perfect speakers to see what I'm talking about. You'll notice, as you go up the line, the major
improvement is in the nature of the bass. It gets tighter
and more detailed.

6. Why try to accomplish this with a wire when you
can purchase a speaker that can give you the capability of better sound. Start by upgrading your speakers
and then see if you still want expensive cables.

7. The chanes are: As you get further into this hobby,
you are becoming more demanding and your ear is
becoming more critical. So, you're demanding more
of your system. The sound you "imagine" is much
more detailed and sophisticated than it used to be.

Now, you must feed the monster.

Hi Loose:
Give your Unico time to break in, before you do too much more. I had a similar experience, when I replaced my ADCOM 545 with a Musical Fidelity A3 integrated amplifier. It took about 2 months for the break-in to run its course and then, I just needed to upgrade the power cord and things are fine (frustrating though). Looking down the road, speaker placement , as opposed to amplifier load, may wind up being the toughest hurdle as the NHT's have side firing woofers. I run similar speakers (Acoustic Research 302 Classic Series. 85 db sensitivity ... designed by Ken Kantor/NHT) with both the MF A3 (85wpc) and a second pair with a NAD 320BEE (50wpc) and there is plenty of power. Sit tight and write back in a few weeks. regards, Rich
Please upgrade the Speaker cables and Interconnects. Kimber Hero and 8TC are nice for the price. The NHT speakers are very nice but I have found they like power to rock. After the above if you not happy you need to move to better speakers Maybe ProAc may have your sound. Please note that NHT speakers have a smooth laid back sound. You may like something a little more lively like the ProAc 's The other gear is real nice, so you could upgrade to a very revealing speaker like the ProAC etc. A Linn LP12 would also be a great source to add to this system.
First look at your electrical outlet. Replace if in doubt w/ a new one. (2) A good power cord to your Unico. DIY $40/Beldon 83802. (3) Replace interconnects/spk. wire. (4) Let equipment break/settle in. (5)Change tube/s in Unico.(6) Decide if spks/amp have synergy. If your spks. need power and are "laid back" they may not match well w/ a laid back amp. May have to try a more forward/lively/brighter spk. such as JM Lab/B & W and such others? Good Luck! Bill
I think you answered your own question when you said the speakers are too large for your room and the bass is boomy. Excessive bass energy could definitely give you the perception of less midrange clarity and lack of air and extension.

In fact, it's probably the only explanation that would lead you to dramatic feelings such as "I'm going crazy" and "I'm in audio hell". Your equipment is high quality and would not generate that bad of a sound without some ancillary issue. While your cables could be better, I seriously doubt they are the primary cause of the problem.

What's the solution? Well, you said yourself that your system sounded better with the smaller NHT model. I would borrow some smaller speakers designed for your size room and see how they perform with your new Unison. You should also get a Radio Shack SPL meter and a test tone disc to further confirm the excessive bass energy in your setup. Lot's of eqipment sound flat/neutral on a test bench, but inroom measurements are the only ones that really count.

Good luck
The Type 4 speaker cable, while not crap, certainly is a colored cable. It really humps the upper bass in many systems, and midrange can be congested.

And I agree, run (don't walk) over there and yank the Monster 400's. Give them to someone you're obligated to be nice to but really don't like.

Replacing the stock tubes can give you much higher clarity and air (especially if you seek out some good NOS or top current production tubes), but this is not a priority in your situation. Consider it down the road once things are settled in and you start itching again.

I agree with other posters that changing the power cords is beneficial - I would do this before fiddling with tubes. I would call it a toss-up whether to experiment with the PC or speaker cables first, but the interconnect is a definite #1 priority.

And as everyone has said, break it in. A few weeks of almost constant playing may change your reality substantially.

I definitely don't think the Unico is your problem. You admit that the speakers overpower the room with bass energy. The Unico actually is rated to deliver 120w into 4 ohms, so it has plenty of "juice" for the NHT's. You provide your own answer, in part, when you say the 1.3's sounded better. I agree that cable changes are in order, as well as an upgraded power cord. But, those changes may not be able to ameliorate what seems to be a basic room/speaker mismatch. Stick with the Unico...I use it with Meadowlark Swift's and find that the combination is wonderful!Gerry
NHT is crap but not type 4.
triangle celius is the best match for unico as was demoed in many ces and dealer demo rooms.
i have owned many NHT speakers during the past 8 years (Super Zeros, model 1, 1.5's, 2.9's, AC2, and a pair of Sub 2's) and the only pair I currently have today are the sub twos's. NHT is not known for their "warm" sound, they are better know for being a little bright sounding. I tried Mcintosh, Odyssey, and classe gear (which all have a warm sound to them) and the NHT 2.9's I had still sounded a little bright sounding but the bass was tighter because of the better amps. As for bass, the 2.5's I listened to did have a "loose" sound to them compared to the 2.9's and 3.3's. If you like the 2.5's, try a more powerfull amp (try any of the above amps with at least 150-200 watts) and the bass might become more solid instead of boomy.
First, you should allow 200 hours of break-in time with the Unico. You can also bypass the protection circuitry by moving the jumpers to their alternate positions which will result in a slightly more transparent and dynamic presentation. Choice of 12AU7 tubes makes a big difference with the Unico. The stock tubes (Philips 5814a) are a bit soft sounding. You want ones with an open and detailed midband. I've found that in the context of the rest of my system, Telefunkens work the best for me. Many people like the Mullard CV4003. Contact Kevin Deal at Upscale Audio as he is both a well regarded NOS tube dealer and Unico dealer. I'm sure he can give you tube recommendations and other tips on how to tailor the sound to your taste.
Do you have cones/points under your speakers?
I've not owned NHT speakers but did research them at one time, and the 3.3 and 2.9 models were designed to be placed against the wall (don't specifically know about the 2.5is). Also, as noted by Blkdr above, these speakers need a good stout amp to properly drive them. If you put them against the wall and it cleans up the bass, that may produce improved mid-range clarity and more "airy" treble. Good Luck. Craig
Audioquest Type 6 or better, Wire World IC and you're on your way.
well, i'm no fan of triangle speakers (there is just something that is not 'uniform' about their sound)...

NHT 2.5i's are not meant to be against the wall b/c unlike their bigger brothers, they are ported.

If you guys think the Unico is worth keeping, what do you consider to be a good match to them? I was thinking about Epos M12's.

Any suggestions?

thanks again...

What's your price range?
Maybe around 1000USD or so...give or take...willing to look at used speakers...

lists of monitors anyone? (i think monitors would be better for me than floor standers)
Try replacing your ac power cord. I did (Van Den Hul mainstream hybrid) and that cleared up and tighten the bottom end with a little extension to it.

Let the amp break in for a 2-300 hours.

If the speakers are too big for your room, then get something smaller. If you like the NHT sound, then get smaller ones. If you want something with a soft dome that is easy on the ear, nice bass and a smooth midrange, try a pair of Kinimas from Zetagcorp.
Loose --

At your price point, I would take all of my expensive cable, power cord, and speaker wire budget and put it into my components. I would apportion my budget
so I was spending 50% of it on my speakers, 30%
on my pre/pro, 15% on my amplification and I would --
seriously -- use standard power cords, 12 AWG speaker wire you can get for around 50 cents a foot,
and interconnects from no BS sites like....



WWW.Parts Express.Com

To clean up your power for around $100, get one of
these Blue Circle Noise Hounds...


This will give you the biggest bang for your buck.

I can't say I have listened to a lot of speakers in your
price range. I would definitely try to get stuff used --
you'll get more for your money. You'll also have to
do something retailers hate -- go to their establish-ments to audition their stuff, then buy it used on-line.

The thing I would NOT do at your price range is get
talked into putting a bunch of my component and
speaker money needlessly into cables and wires.

If you haven't already, try to find a place where you
can listen to Monitor Audio and Sonus Faber speakers.

Try to find speakers that sound great, but also are
really efficient, so you can get by with less amplification.

Like I say, I haven't spent a lot of time looking for
speakers in your price range and I never recommend
anything unless I have personally auditioned it myself,
but if I were on a really tight budget, I could live very comfortably with some of their speakers, especially
the Sonus Faber Grand Piano Homes. These retail
for $3,250, but I have seen them here for around
$2,200. I know that is above your price range, but
if you can push -- save the cable and wire money --
maybe you can get into a speaker like that. Try to
give it a listen if you can -- it beats a lot of speakers
I've heard going for twice the money.

One last note: I am not familiar with NHT speakers,
but I did a little research. Back in 1994, Stereophile
did a review of a little pair of NHT bookshelf speakers
and it was a drooling rave. After that, I don't find
Many reviews of NHT speakers by Stereophile, but
everything else NHT puts out seems to get reviewed
and the terminology and praise for all NHT speakers seems to be stolen directly from that original Stereophile review, as if Stereophile told everyone
what to think -- not just about that little bookshelf
speaker -- but about all of NHT's speakers.

Maybe it is just a coincidence, who knows.

But, if you haven't noticed already -- I'm a skeptic.

Having said all that --

Also -- give your stuff a chance to break in. I've
seen stuff sound great right out of the box and then
go into a rough period where the bass disappears,
the highs are edgy, the speakers lose their coherency
and then, after awhile, almost by the hour, the stuff
starts to sound better and better until it sounds great.

Don't underestimate the need for a break-in period.
I 100% agree with Rob conserning cable costs or moving onto detachable powercord kinda hussle that only can suck your budget for the small micro-yota change.

Wire improvements and upgrades are needed for already perfect system to get small amounts of so-called "extentions".

Many engineers manufacturers and designers would realy say so and realy none would say that their speakers or other components will sound poor with RadioShack wires.

Moreover I can say that if the equipment is too sencitive for wires than it's not properly designed(i.e. designed without calculating a wire influence).

For the small room I'd realy recommend Totem speakers that would give you sufficient volumes crispiness and clarity. If you want a floorstanding speaker than Arro is probably the toughest one to drive. The larger floorstanders are driven much easier. You'll certainly have a chance to hear how small gets big.

thanks for your advice regarding cables etc. I, too, believe that the cable issue (while not completely irrelevant and without merit) is somewhat overrated.
don't get me wrong...i believe cables are important...but I really don't think they can change the fundamentals of my system.

I will try different tubes, though...that's for sure. I understand that they can make a REAL difference in the sound by opening up the midrange, adding clarity, more extended highs and tighter bass...I'm just not sure if it's as minor a change as , say, cables are.

Now , regarding NHT's...I've been a fan of NHT since they first came out. I believe they can sound fantastic in the proper setup. I'm not convinced that the 2.5i's are the greatest of NHT's acheivements, though. And i'm not convinced that the Unico is the best of matches for them (not discrediting the unico in any way)

So, where does that leave me? I believe it leaves me looking for new speakers...

you know, i would really hate the audio game if i didn't love it so much...

Like I said above, I find the combination of the Unico and Meadowlark Swift's to be quite good. The Swift's fit your budget and are visually(not sonically) "small" in a room.
Loose --

Excellent points. I think we are on the same page.

There are some pitfalls to the whole hifi audiofile
"thing" -- but then there is the music that is so intoxicating when you get your system together.

Which lasts for awhile.

Then, you you have to feed the monster. :-)

Marakanetz -- Excellent points.
i am using unico with JMReynaud twin MKII's. i can recommend the twins but you'll need good cables.
i wasn't a beleiver in cables but after trying many i am now. i upgraded to elco audio sgi-999 rca, a gold-silver hybrid interconnect. WOW. the retail is $1200. but you may get one for around $300. it did make a huge difference. silver ic's are much better than copper. but have less bass. gold-silver is very musical and have incredible bass. i was using dh labs Q10 speaker cables. bargain price, good sound. i am switching to a silver-copper biwire combo from stealth audio now.
for midprice range cables i can recommend stealth, elco and pure silver sound. tubes and power cord is the next to upgrade in my system. i will try virtual dynamics power cords. i don't agree with "good components don't need expensive cables". cables can improve and change the character of any system. it is important to balance the money you spent and try to build a matching system. i agree that meadowlark and totem will be good choices for your set-up.