If you think it's impossible to get audiophile sound from your computer, think again. You just need plenty of cash, a good audio card, and a set of high-quality studio monitors, such as NHT Pro's M-00 two-way satellites ($249 each) and S-00 front-firing subwoofer ($499).
We tested two M-00s and an S-00. Each small satellite features a cast-alloy enclosure of aluminum and zinc. It houses a soft-dome, fluid-cooled 1-inch tweeter; a paper 4.5-inch cone woofer; and a 75-watt amplifier. The sub, constructed of medium-density fiberboard, has a paper 8-inch cone driver and a 125-watt amp. The acoustic-suspension (sealed) cabinets and the dedicated amps contribute to the system's tight, dynamic responsiveness. Since the M-00's frequency range is rated down to only 98Hz, you need the sub for strong reproduction of deep elements such as electronic bass lines.
An array of inputs and configuration controls makes the M-00/S-00 system suitable for a variety of environments, including home workstations and production studios. The RCA hookups accept mainstream consumer devices, while high-end gear such as multichannel mixers plugs into the balanced XLR or 1/4-inch TRS inputs. Computer sound cards can connect directly to the system, but since it doesn't have a main volume control, you have to instead rely on your PC's software mixer or purchase NHT's $99 dedicated passive volume control. The effective near-field and midfield modes optimize the sound for the two listening positions.
While many satellite/subwoofer combos suffer from a midrange hole and unbalanced bass, the M-00/S-00 team delivers exceptionally even, seamless sound. When we played Led Zeppelin's "Tangerine," the rich acoustic guitars filled the midrange, supporting the vocals and the lead guitar. Outkast's new double CD, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, proved the system also has the versatility to handle jazz, hip-hop, and techno. We heard subtle overtones in the piano musings, and the speakers didn't get sloppy with "Happy Valentine's Day," delivering a deep electronic kick and a pulsing bass line.
When we watched our Requiem for a Dream DVD, sound effects leaped out into the room, and the soundstage had superlative depth. In lock step, the satellites and the subwoofer precisely followed the soundtrack's subtle dynamic changes, and the sub was never boomy. We weren't using a center speaker, but thanks to the sats' slightly bright treble, which is also an asset in pro mixing environments, we still got crisp, clear dialogue.
If you can spare the cash, this NHT combination is worth considering for serious PC-based listening. Five M-00s and an S-00 would make a very expensive surround system, so for PC-based home theater, we recommend the excellent Logitech.