The first things we noticed about NHT's SW10 II subwoofer were its spectacular black-lacquer finish and its smoothly rounded cabinet. It looks a darn sight nicer than the more typical vinyl-wrapped cube, making its $500 list price a bit more palatable.
The medium-size SW10 II is solidly built; it measures 14 inches deep, 12 inches wide, and 18 inches high, and it weighs nearly 40 pounds. The sub features a newly designed 10-inch, long-throw aluminum cone woofer. The cone doubles as a heat sink for the driver's voice coil; NHT claims that trick minimizes distortion while improving overall performance.
Once you get past the standard controls for level and low-pass crossover, the SW10 II's backside looks a little unusual. There's a small finned heat sink for the 150-watt internal amplifier. NHT provided line-level and LFE inputs, as well as a receptacle with tiny holes that accept skinny speaker wires. The biggest surprise was the Boundary switch, which can tonally compensate for various room placements.
Mating a heavyweight sub with pint-size sats usually causes a lack of coherence, which in turn results in a midbass gap. Not this time, however--the SW10 II not only went deep, it blended seamlessly with NHT's spunky little SB-1 satellites. The sub easily reached high enough to produce lots of midbass and jell with the sats. On David Cronenberg's Crash DVD, which features numerous car crashes and deep rumbling sounds, the SW10 II strutted its stuff and pressurized our large listening room with bass.
With CDs, the SW10 II wasn't as feel-it-in-your-gut punchy as our Energy Take S8.2 sub, but it went deeper and played more loudly without distorting. The SW10 II is an obvious choice for use with NHT satellites; its blend with the SB-1s was perfect. This self-effacing sub never called attention to itself, but it could still rock the house with a vengeance.