Niroson Two 6.1 Speaker System Reviewed

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Maybe it's too early to be doom-y about it, but spare a thought for speaker manufacturers. Having rubbed their hands with glee - multi-channel seeming to be a license to print money because it increased speaker yield from two to five per customer - they weren't prepared for the most powerful form of backlash on earth: Bitch Wives From Hell. It wasn't cost, software nor set-up complexity which kept multi-channel growth from level pegging with the actual penetration of DVD (it's believed that the VAST majority of DVDs are played through two-channel systems). The real problem is convincing She Who Must Be Obeyed that you need to house more speakers.

Now they have a new nightmare. While we await the populist version of 1Digital's 7-channels-from-a-single-enclosure ultimate solution, something far less expensive than the mooted £20,000 or so for the current device, there is a new product which - for non-purists at least - completely eliminates the BWFH's protests because ALL SIX CHANNELS COME FROM TWO ENCLOSURES MEASURING ONLY 21.87in WIDE, 7.87in DEEP AND 6.87in HIGH. Read that again. And again. Then factor in that the two modules - one front, one rear - can be wall-mounted. And we're talking SIX channels. And they're pretty. If they work, what non-audiophile in his right mind would even bother fighting for five or six separate enclosures? In other words: Why Bother The Bitch? (Note to whoever prints up T-shirts with that slogan: I want points.)

Niroson's TWO6.1 Cinema System is an answer to a zillion prayers. In-between the low-end all-in-one purchases for £399 and the new breed of upscale single-box systems from Linn, T+A and others, the Niroson bridges both the performance and convenience gaps, while keeping an eye on price. Let's dispense with sub-£500 swill; I don't even want to acknowledge its existence. Sticking instead with decent products from respectable, serious brands, we find that Linn's all-in-in Classik and T+A's K6 give you everything bar speakers and monitor. But the Linn costs £2000, the T+A around £3000, AND you have to add speakers and monitor.

Niroson, on the other hand, gives you EVERYTHING bar monitor and DVD player for £1999. [Note: There will be a version with DVD player next year, for under £2500.] And I mean everything: the TWO6.1 comes with all the wiring (which it has to - see below) AND a remote control which can learn the commands from the majority of TVs, DVD players, VCRs, satellite boxes and more. If you add one of those super-value 28" or 32" widescreen-TV-and-DVD-player packages from 'name' brands such Philips, Samsung, or a dozen others, you can have a genuinely decent home cinema for under £2500. And if you think that £2500 is expensive, then maybe it's time you entered the 21st Century.

TWO6.1 consists of two speakers, a subwoofer, a remote and an A/V receiver with the processing which allows two enclosures to deliver credible surround sound. The heart of the system is the receiver which contains the newest Cirrus Logic CS49400 series processor. In addition to handling the 'conventional' surround duties of Dolby Digital EX, DTS ES 6.1, Dolby Digital, DTS, Dolby ProLogic II, Music and Cinema, there's 32-bit processing for the post-surround Niroson Cinema processing, system equalization and 24db/Octave Butterworth crossover. [Note: The forthcoming DVD version will also handle MPEG.]

Note the words 'post-surround', which why nobody will be trying a Niroson with a half-dozen separate conventional speakers. Niroson is close-lipped about the processing, but, suffice it to say, their receiver and speakers are dedicated to each other. Although the speakers have conventional spring-clip connectors - they take bare wire so the supplied flat leads can be fed under carpets or behind skirting - the back of the receiver accepts the leads via dedicated single-connection blocks because the wiring is conventional. Each speaker accepts only four leads for the three channels - L, C, R and common earth - while the front also accepts three wires for the remote control IR receiver. While you could, if you wanted to, find a way to split the common earth to try other speakers, don't bother. As Niroson's Mr Toyozumi said, 'It would sound awful. The post-DTS, post-Dolby processing remains in circuit at all times because of the dedicated speakers. It cannot be switched off.'

Which means that the Niroson components MUST be reviewed as a single system, the ONLY possible variables being TV and source components. Even the subwoofer lacks any adjustments; it's truly dedicated to the TWO6.1. So, piece by piece, here's what you get:

Editor Steve Harris was driven to comment about the receiver, 'What a beautiful piece of industrial design!' It's so clean, handsome and reminiscent of Nakamichi of yore (the 'Niro' in Niroson is Niro Nakamichi) that you can only hope Niroson will extend the look to other separates. Occupying 3.125x17x15in (HWD), it's absolutely minimalist because everything bar five controls - on/off from standby, volume, source select and radio up and down - has been relegated to the remote. To the right of the centrally-positioned volume control is the display which provides source ID, volume level, radio frequencies, which of the 30 presets is in used, identification of the surround mode and a graphic representation of the speaker layout.

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