For the otherwise uninitiated, Virtual Surround Sound (VSS) is the simpler and more compact way to simulate and enjoy the superior audio quality you’d get with a standard 5.1 surround sound audio receiver set-up – save for all those unsightly cables and space-consuming speakers that require a messy installation. All that’s generally needed with a virtual surround sound system is one speaker, one subwoofer, and a digital audio amplifier as pictured above.
So to those with limited space, to those that live in condos or apartments where every single square inch counts, to those in boardrooms and classrooms, and to those that just simply can’t be bothered with the all the time, hassle, and effort required to set up an audio receiver with accompanying speakers and cables, a virtual surround sound system could be just what you’ve been waiting for.
In the annals of audio pioneers, perhaps no one figure casts a bigger shadow than that of the legendary Niro Nakamichi. For those who know him, I need not elaborate any further, and for the rest of you, a quick web search will tell you all you need to know. I mention this because when he puts his name and engineering expertise into a product, it all but guarantees the golden seal of approval that you’re buying an exceptionally stellar product. And his newest line of single-speaker (plus subwoofer and amplifier) surround sound systems, including the top-of-class Niro 1000, only reinforces this.
The beginning to any product review always starts with the product obviously, but in order to even get that far, you need to have the product delivered to you in proper working order. The best way to assure you get a product as new and functional as when it shipped is providing the proper packaging that some companies feel they can skimp on. With respect to the Niro 1000, the folks over at Niro did a tremendous job packing their product as strong and sturdy and safe as possible. If you don’t believe me, please view the visual evidence down below.
For those who are already familiar with the newest line of Niro single-speaker surround sound systems which include the Niro 1000, the Niro 800, the Niro 620, and the Niro 420, you may already know that they offer them in a black and silver color scheme. This is certainly a good thing when you take into account the fact that most home theater TVs and other such accessories are now commonly – if not exclusively – made in a black color finish, while the rest are usually silver. This allows your entire home theater or boardroom set-up to work together to create that perfect décor to suit your space.
In terms of pieces, the Niro 1000 keeps things very simple. The first piece is the digital audio amplifier which is modestly sized at W x H x D: 7.9 x 2.2 x 11.7 inches and weighs only 4 pounds and 13 ounces. Next you have the single satellite speaker which measures W x D x H: 27.5 x 6 x 5.5 inches, and tips the scales at 14.7 pounds with a fixed 16.5 cable provided. Lastly, you have the subwoofer which weighs in at 23.3 pounds with dimensions of W x D x H: 10.4 x 15.6 x 15.75 inches, and also features a 16.5 foot fixed cable. All three components feature an attractive and classy design, with a sturdy and solid build. The subwoofer and speaker specifically offer a nice blend of rounded contours and straight edges, while the speaker cabinet is made of high-grade wood, with the mesh cabinet exposing about 50% of the five individually-housed speakers inside. The five speakers are 3.5 inch mid woofers, along with a 1-inch super tweeter. While all in-line, they are subtly angled away from each other to better replicate the traditional 5.1 speaker home theater experience, which, as you know, includes your left, center, and right audio channels, along with your left and right surround sound. And because we respond best to up-front sound, the Niro 1000 utilizes a dedicated driver in the amplifier for its center speaker, and the subwoofer features an enlarged enclosure and extra-thick cabinet. Additionally, the amplifier delivers 30 watts of power x 5 for the main channels. All of this has been purposely designed as such to better carry sound in rooms of various sizes for maximum impact. And for those of us who want big-time, home theater sound, without having to arrange a multitude of cables and speakers in your room, the Niro 1000 package strikes that very perfect balance of performance in an ultra-compact and stylish design.
Setting up the Niro 1000 can best be described like this: simple. The subwoofer and speaker (with provided cables) attach to the back of the amplifier. And lest you worry about what goes where, everything is clearly labeled and nicely laid out for you. The next step would be connecting an audio cable from the amplifier to your television. The Niro 1000 is equipped to support a Coaxial, Optical audio, or Composite audio connection. And because the Niro 1000 is only equipped with an audio terminal, for the video end of things, all of the inputs will run from your video source (i.e., DVD player, Blu-ray player, gaming console) to your TV or projector directly. While this in some ways simplifies things by separating the audio and video, the downside to all of this is that the Niro 1000 doesn’t offer HDMI or video switching capabilities, so when in use, you’ll have to toggle back and forth between audio and video (and two different remotes), thus not allowing for as smooth an experience as it otherwise could be. As a possible reprieve for its lack of video switching, in terms of the audio inputs, the Niro 1000 offers a real nice collection of them. The amplifier’s rear panel has inputs for: Coaxial (1), Optical audio (2) for DVD/CD and satellite/cable TV, and Composite audio (1). There’s also a Memory Card slot and this is a really great idea in my estimations because it allows the Niro 1000 to be fully expandable and upgradeable for future technological advancements. The front of the amplifier offers one additional Optical audio input and one additional Composite audio input, as well as one for headphones.
What’s nice about the Niro 1000 is just how flexible it is when setting up. For instance, the speaker can be placed one of two ways: you can mount it atop your TV via separately purchased mounting gear, or place it flush with the front base of the television. The subwoofer should be placed on the floor to the left or right of the TV, with at least five feet of unimpeded clearance to either side of it.
With the set-up now behind us, it was time to hear what the Niro 1000 was all about. I was connected via a Coaxial cable, using a Pioneer DV-400V DVD player. The dimensions of the room I was in measured: (L) 18 x (W) 13 x (H) 9 feet. For listening and testing purposes I went with Pearl Harbor and The Fifth Element Additionally, I also tried out a couple of audio CDs: Black Crowes “Southern Harmony And Musical Companion” – a must-own album for those that appreciate timeless and good ole fashioned rock and roll with some Southern comfort, and “Turn on the Bright Lights” from Interpol – an album that single-handedly restored my faith in the current state of music.
First on deck was Pearl Harbor as we decided to lay it on thick right from the start and jump right ahead to “the scene.” While I certainly don’t condone war and attacks on other countries, let me tell you, I certainly enjoyed the attack on Pearl Harbor. And by that, I mean, I enjoyed the way it sounded – not the actual attack, of course. From the gunfire, to the bombing, to the planes zooming overhead, to the heart-wrenching moments of slo-mo-infused Hollywood silences, it was a completely engrossing and intoxicating experience. Everything popped crisp and clean, taking total control of the room I was in. The sensation of surround sound was handled quite well, and while I don’t think it packs quite the same surround sound punch as you’d get with a traditional 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound system and audio receiver, for what it is, what it does, and the sheer convenience of it all, it’s a more than worthy substitute. Next up was The Fifth Element, and for purposes of not wanting to sound redundant, I’ll just simplify: refer to the above comments regarding Pearl Harbor, save for the whole attack on Pearl Harbor scene. The Niro 1000 handled the highs, lows, and mid-ranges in The Fifth Element quite well, and the 5.1 in a single-speaker plus subwoofer configuration did a great job dispersing the sound throughout. Moving on, it was now time to listen to “Southern Harmony And Musical Companion” care of the Black Crowes and Interpol’s “Turn on the Bright Lights.” For me, this was where the Niro 1000 really paid the bills. Every instrument and every vocal worked in perfect harmony with one another, as you could practically pick out the audio and subtle nuances of every drum, bass, guitar, keyboard, and Wurlitzer, while the center speaker took the vocals and just made them soar. All the audio managed to keep things fresh and crisp, and toggling through the various options in Listen Mode, I found Stereo EXP to be particularly effective at the conveying the raw power and energy of the audio CDs. And as compared to other like-brands of virtual surround systems out there, the Listen Mode managed to do all of this without regressing the audio to that generic and manipulated sound quality that comes off more artificial than natural. And despite the Niro 1000 utilizing a non-powered subwoofer, it rendered that very title ironic considering the amount of power and impact it brought to all those moments of the low frequency bass that both the DVDs and CDs had.
As the Niro 1000 is designed and engineered to work best from 10 to 13 feet away, I then naturally decided to really push my luck; this time performing the very same series of tests in a much larger space which measured in at: (L) 30 x (W) 29.5 x (H) 9 feet. On the whole, I have to say that I was mostly satisfied, though certainly not disappointed. While it didn’t possess the same audio-sensory presence as it did in the smaller room, it did an admirable job dispensing sound around the room, and the subwoofer once again proved its worth, offering a nice, deep and rich bass which reverberated quite nicely.
To summarize my general audio impressions of the Niro 1000 virtual surround sound system: the DVD movie audio sounded really good overall, but when it came to the audio CDs, the Niro 1000 offered a whole other level of performance and satisfaction. This further got me thinking: while the Niro series of virtual surround sound systems such as the Niro 1000 can often be pigeon-holed into being used strictly for home-theater purposes, I can see a whole other side of usage that could extend well beyond that, making its way into classrooms and boardrooms where aesthetic décor and space might be an issue, but compromising sound isn’t. In this regard, the Niro 1000 can definitely be regarded as a multi-purpose, virtual surround sound system that’s a perfect complement to any video display product, or as a stand-alone music box when you want to entertain friends or need to hear music the way it was intended to be heard.
You’ve got your extra-large sized HD plasma or LCD TV; you’ve got your HD cable box and/or Blu-ray player, and everything looks so great and fantastic that it brings a tear to your eye. But that’s only half the home theater battle, because you’re only pumping out and listening to that limp, uninspired, TV-quality sound, and you want to change all of that ASAP – without the hassle and mess and expense of buying a home theater audio receiver with its multiple, oversized everythings, and its twisted, cable overload. There’s now a solution that very well defines the notion of a happy medium, and it’s the Niro 1000 virtual surround sound, home theater-in-a-box package.
Manufacturer Homepage: www.niro1.com
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