NIRO TWO6.1 review: NIRO TWO6.1

Compared to most premium-priced HTIBs, the Two6.1 doesn't provide much connectivity. Inputs are limited to just three sources, although you do get three coaxial digital and one optical in, as well as one coaxial digital output. The Niro lacks SACD/DVD-Audio inputs and component-video switching, but it sports a full set of A/V inputs (including another digital optical in) under a flip-down front-panel cover.

Niro also makes a less expensive version of the Two6.1, the Two6.1C. The $1,500 system has the same receiver and sub but uses two smaller Super Speakers.

We started our auditions in stereo with a stack of our favorite Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams CDs. They sounded sweet, with greater refinement than we're used to getting from home-theater systems. Stereo spread was remarkably spacious, and the sub's bass was reasonably powerful and deep, although bass definition was only fair.

The new Led Zeppelin DVD lacked the power and dynamics we heard from Onkyo's awesome HT-S667C kit; the Two6.1 doesn't have a rock-and-roll heart. On less demanding material, such as the Keb' Mo' track from the first Sessions at West 54th Street DVD, the system's surround capabilities came alive. If we had heard the enveloping sound with our eyes closed, we would have sworn we were listening to a 6.1-channel setup. The Goldmember DVD sounded well balanced as long as the volume levels remained moderate, but the sound thinned out at higher levels.

On some DVDs and CDs, we heard a hole in the response between the sub and the two sats, but that sort of thing is very dependent on room acoustics. We rectified the problem by moving the sub out of the corner position, closer to the front speaker. For larger rooms--say, more than 400 square feet--you might want to add a second ($599) Niro subwoofer.

We came away impressed with Niro's technological achievements, but the Two6.1 falls short of the power and glory of true surround speaker packages in its price range, such as the Infinity Modulus. If you're looking for a system that's easy to set up and use, however, and the simplified speaker layout works for you, we recommend an in-home audition.

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