Compare Niro's 1.1 Pro II surround-sound system with a typical home theater in a box (HTIB), and a number of important differences immediately stand out. Where most HTIBs feature five or six satellite speakers, a subwoofer, and lots of wires, the Niro has just one larger-than-average speaker with a thick hookup cable and a subwoofer with a skinny wire. Next, while the Niro system doesn't include a DVD player, its amplifier is a good deal smaller than any receiver you've ever seen. Oh, and the 1.1 Pro II's full-bodied sound trumps most of the virtual-surround competition. Niro sells the 1.1 Pro II through the company's Web site for $990. Setup chores are as straightforward as they get: hook up the 1.1 Pro II's superspeaker and subwoofer's one-way-in connectors and a digital cable from your DVD player and cable/satellite box, and you're done. After that, there's nothing to adjust and no menus to navigate--we were watching a DVD in five minutes.
The ultracompact amplifier measures just 7.9 inches wide, 2.2 inches high, and 11.7 inches deep--that's a lot smaller than any receiver we can think of. You can even stand it up on its end and tuck it in next to your TV. It will fit in the most cramped spaces.
The matching superspeaker is beautifully finished in satin silver with gray fabric grilles. It's about as big as a full-size center speaker, and it measures 19 inches wide, 4.3 inches high, and 7.9 inches deep. If that's too large, check out Niro's smaller virtual-surround systems, the Niro 400, 600, or . In any case, the preferred speaker placement scenario is on top of your TV or at the base of a flat-screen TV, angled up towards the listeners' ears. Blocking the speaker's sides would be a major no-no--that would muffle the surround effects. The 1.1 Pro II's satin-gray, one-foot cube subwoofer sits on solid brass cone feet and weighs 14 pounds.
The remote control offers direct access to the amplifier's bass and treble controls, as well as control over the subwoofer and center- and rear-channel volume levels. You can also shut off the main speaker and listen to Niro's optional personal minispeaker, thePeel off the 1.1 Pro II's superspeaker's grilles, and you'll see that it's fitted with a total of five 3-inch drivers--one fires forward, and the two drivers at each end handle the left and right front and surround channels. The subwoofer has a forward-firing 8-inch driver. The digital amplifier sends 30 watts to each of the five drivers and 50 watts to the subwoofer. Niro's proprietary surround processing works in conjunction with Dolby and DTS , from the remote.processing. Please note: The 1.1 Pro II is a closed system; if the amplifier breaks, you can't replace it with a standard, off-the-shelf amplifier or receiver. And the superspeaker works only in tandem with the supplied Niro electronics.
The amplifier's rear panel has three optical digital inputs, one coaxial digital input, and an analog stereo input. On the front, you'll find a fourth optical digital input, another set of stereo RCA jacks, and a mini headphone jack. Video switching isn't offered; you instead hook up your DVD player and cable box directly to your TV.