The ST-4 tower stands atop NHT's Super Audio speaker lineup. The cabinet, which shares the family's gorgeous black-lacquer finish, is 38 inches tall and feels especially robust, weighing a hefty 47 pounds. Peel away the low-diffraction grille, and you'll see the 6.5-inch polypropylene woofer sitting above the 1-inch aluminum tweeter. The ST-4 looks like a two-way tower, but thanks to the 8-inch long-throw woofer discreetly tucked into its side, it qualifies as an honest-to-God three-way design.
We've used NHT's original SuperTwo floor-standing speakers in our beer-budget home-theater reference system for years, so we started off our music-listening test by comparing them with the ST-4s. The new speakers' sound was more va-va-voom transparent, but the ST-4s pushed the soundstage a foot or two farther back than the SuperTwos. The ST-4s' low-end oomph far exceeded that of the older models.
To give the speakers a worthwhile workout, we cued up some selections from The Bad Plus, a hard-rocking jazz trio known for interlocking piano, bass, and drum grooves. To fully enjoy the complexity of the band's tone and dynamics, which range from subtle nuance to full-blown frenzy, you need speakers of the ST-4s' caliber. They didn't miss a beat--their sound is far more sophisticated and refined than that of the last tower we tested, JBL's potent.
For the home-theater portion of this review, we teamed the ST-4s with some NHT family members: ancenter channel, a pair of as surround speakers, and an subwoofer. We auditioned David Cronenberg's Crash, a DVD loaded with frighteningly realistic-sounding carnage of all sorts. The ST-4s happily cranked out mean, rumbling horsepower; booming exhaust; screeching brakes; and shredding metal. In fact, the ST-4s' generous bass response may make a subwoofer unnecessary--at least in smaller rooms of less than 200 square feet or so.
After listening to the ST-4s, you may wind up permanently dissatisfied with small speakers. Big speakers sound, well, bigger, with more and better bass, livelier dynamics, and a larger sonic image than any small model could possibly muster. No 7-inch-tall unit, even one bolstered with heavyweight subwoofers, can compete with the mighty ST-4.