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NHT C3 3-Way Bookshelf Stereo Speakers – Music For Life

NHT C3 3-Way Bookshelf Stereo Speakers – Music For Life

 

 

NHT C3 is a high-end premium speaker priced at 624.99 USD per piece or 1249.98 USD for a stereo setup, with a 3-way design, sealed Box Design, and with a beautiful aesthetic. It will be compared to Buchardt S400 (1800 USD), Aurender S5W (3000 USD), and Audioengine A5+ Wireless (500 USD). I will also be pairing NHT C3 with Cyrus One Cast (2000 USD), Burson Funk (550 USD) driven by an AAdac from Audio Analogue (4000 USD) , and SMSL AO200 (280 USD) driven by SMSL DO200 (490 USD).

 


 

 

 

Introduction

 

NHT Audio / NHT hifi speakers / NHT Loudspeakers LLC is a company founded in 1987, by Mr. Ken Kantor and Mr. Chirs Byrne, with the purpose of helping consumers and customers experience premium audio products, like the ones they have today in their offer, but at normal and fair prices. Their name is an abbreviation for “Now Hear This”. They state that they feel like everyone should have the right to hear music the way it was meant to be heard, and that they work towards a “high-end, not high-price” philosophy for all their products. They are very communicative, and provide excellent support for their products, this pair of NHT C3 having been sent from the USA, all the way to Romania, but having survived the shipping over continents. The company sells direct from the factory, with no middleman, so even when you purchase their products from Amazon, you get the best prices, as well as the full support of NHT, along with their excellent service. 

 

 

The company shops everything directly, and to any location, so you don’t have to worry about your location being on a blacklist. The company also calls itself a no-frills company that will leave all the savings to you, but somehow, I feel that they really do put an artistic touch on their products too. Their speakers are beautiful, designed for both aesthetics and quality, and they have a really reliable quality. The company has only a handful of employees and is from the USA, most of their employees being musicians themselves, and doing it out of passion for this art. There is a showroom in California for those who want to check out NHT products in person, and they are surely going to be helpful if you’re curious on how they can improve your listening experience. 

 

It should be noted that I have absolutely no affiliation with NHT Loudspeakers LLC, I am not receiving any incentive for this review or to sweeten things out. I’d like to thank NHT  for providing the sample for this review. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it. The purpose of this review is to help those interested in NHT C3 Bookshelf Loudspeakers find their next music companion. 

 

 

 

Product Link

 

You can grab one from www.amazon.com here: https://amzn.to/3DpziJn

 

If you’re in the UK, you can grab one from www.amazon.co.uk here: https://amzn.to/36C1Bsn

 

And if you’re from Europe, you can grab one from www.amazon.de here: https://amzn.to/35ovZWm

 

 

 

Packaging

 

First things first, let’s get the packaging out of the way:

 

 

The NHT Package is excellent and provides excellent protection to the speakers. Those are bookshelf passive speakers and do not come with a lot of extras, but they do come with nice protective grilles, which I removed as soon as they entered my home, as I enjoy seeing the drivers of speakers for entertainment. I would not recommend doing the same, if you have kids and pets that could damage your speakers, as accidental damage is always a sad story to tell. 

 

 

 

Build Quality/Aesthetics/Fit/Comfort

 

 

 

The build quality of the NHT C3 is absolutely superb, and it makes you feel like you’re one of those high-end speaker owners with a superb unit that has that beautiful aesthetic and sound, they have a smooth piano glossy finish, with three drivers at the front, and high end connectors at the back. The speaker cabinet design is fully closed, and this will be important for tier sound, as we will be exploring below. 

 

 

The design of the speakers have 3 drivers, all high end, with a woofer that is a 6.5″ Aluminum Cone Driver, a Midrange driver that is a 2″ Aluminum Cone driver, and a Tweeter that is a 1″ Aluminum Dome driver. NHT C3 has a rather low sensitivity of 87dB (2.93v@1m), which means that they will need some good amplifying power to drive them, but they have a typical impedance of 6 OHMs nominal and 4 OHMs minimum. The recommended power for your amplifier is between 50 and 150 Watts per channel, and they have a rated frequency response of 55Hz – 20kHz. This being said, the company stated that the speakers can reach as low as 40Hz, making the subwoofer optional for many setups, but this is something we will also be exploring in the Sound Quality part of today’s review.

 

 

While this is not something I am supposed to do for every review, I can tell you that the design inside the speaker is as high end as it looks on the outside, and that NHT C3 is a speaker that will satisfy your audio needs in any ways necessary. As far as driving them goes, I actually have not had much of an issue, and most amplifiers I have around the home are more than capable of driving the NHT C3 properly and this includes Roksan Caspian M2, Burson Funk, Cyrus One Cast, SMSL AO200, and pretty much all the other amplifiers I have around the house. 

 

 

NHT C3 is not very picky with the amplifier, and will sound good with most sources, they have a really wide and dynamic / engaging sound as promised, but the most surprising part I noticed about them is that they are not overly sensitive to speaker placement. They are slightly more sensitive to placement than Adam Audio T7V, which I also own, but the final maximum quality is much better. NHT C3 prefers being placed in line with your listening position, vertically, and they sound best the wider they are spread apart laterally. It is ideal to have an equilateral triangle happen between you and the speakers, for best listening, and NHT C3 works superb as a home theater speaker. The sound is not extremely directional, and I’ve been able to enjoy them as both music and home theater speakers both while sitting at the computer, but also while on bed, watching movies, or in very remote parts of the room doing workouts. The sound of C3 fills the room and never gets lost, providing an excellent listening experience even if your room and home has no acoustic treatment done. 

 

 

It is important to keep in mind that ideally, they will sound even better for you than they did for me, as my room has poor acoustics, and no reviewer has any special hearing or special superpowers, so I most certainly did not hear something you won’t too. I think this is ideal, because you can expect my descriptions to be about the baseline sound and experience you’re going to get, and you will get at least what I am getting, or more. This is exciting, because it means that you will not struggle to get an even better experience that I got with NHT C3. 

 

 

 

Sound Quality

 

While I have been testing the NHT C3 for a few months, and with a wide selection of amplifiers, most of today’s impressions will be taken using Cyrus One Cast as the main amplifier driving them, and as my favorite all in one solution for desktop listening. I have combined this listening setup with an active subwoofer as well, the Adam Audio T10S, a subwoofer with a slow and sloppy sound, but which adds some low end extension to the speakers. Whether a subwoofer is necessary or not is a personal decision you will have to make, and I personally recommend adding one, even though the bass extension of C3 is quite good, reaching the promised 45Hz – 50Hz. For taking today’s test I have tried placing myself at a good spot between the speakers, and going for a more ideal listening position, but my room still has no acoustic treatment, and the speakers placement inside the room are nowhere near ideal, you can see how my setup looks like in any of the recent Audiophile-Heaven videos on Youtube. You should get a much better experience than I do, so take my descriptions of the C3 sonics as a bare minimum of how they should sound like. 

 

 

The overall signature of NHT C3 is fairly natural-neutral, with excellent dynamics, a wide and open stage, excellent resolution and textures, and superb overall impact. They have superb extension up to the highest octaves, and you’re not likely to miss any cymbal crash or feel suffocated by the lack of extension, but they will provide a good sound down in the bass as well. I couldn’t figure for sure where the crossover happens in their speakers, so I have to give the guys at NHT that, their crossover implementation is perfect, and you will never tell that there are 3 drivers at work, they just combine perfectly and there’s no dip nor peak in the signature where the frequency response of the driver meets. The sound of NHT C3 has really good punchiness, and it emphasizes both male and female voices, giving both a beautiful musicality, and tons of substance to instruments. C3 handles quiet volumes nicely, keeping excellent levels of details and dynamics at low volumes, but they handle high volumes very well too, with no audible distortion at volumes that flex the windows of my home, and you could totally throw a party with those and call it a day. 

 

The bass of NHT C3 is fairly linear and neutral, with no emphasis on the lows, but a good enough extension, helpful especially for EDM, Dubstep and Metal music. The speed of the bass is fast, with excellent nuance for all music styles, and going from Jazz to Anime Based songs, you can always hear a good amount of lows extending as low as about 50 Hz. Songs that are bass boosted are presented thicker and heavier, but with no distortions, which is pleasing. When I engage the Adam Audio T10S, I have no crossover point set, except for Adam’s 80Hz crossover point, but they work well this way, with no extra processing. The bass is strong enough for bands like Haggard, where low pitched instruments have the right amount of weight and impact, while songs from bands like The Lonely Island are enjoyable and have enough substance / low presence, but can be helped with the addition of a subwoofer. 

 

 

The midrange of C3 is the best part, and all speaker drivers cover parts of what could be considered the midrange, the lower midrange being covered by the woofer driver, the main midrange body being covered by the mid woofer dome, while the upper midrange has certain parts covered by the 1″ tweteer as well. I wasn’t sure how aluminum drivers would handle sound, but to my surprise, the signature is extremely sweet, clean and quick, with a really euphonic tonality for all music. You name it, NHT C3 will handle it really well, from punk to acoustic to Jazz to Metal to Pop and EDM. Everything is pleasing to the point where once I heard NHT C3 play my favorite tracks, like Green Day – Ordinary World, or YFU Baby – Follow The Leader, I was unable to go back to speakers like Adam Audio T7V, which have previously been my favorite. The emphasis here is on the dynamics and realism of NHT C3, because going back and forth between C3 and T7V, C3 sounds wide, open and realistic, where T7V sounds compressed, dynamically and in resolution, everything seems to be cut off, and limited, where C3 extends so naturally that you simply want to play more music through them, everything is enjoyable and clean. The company promises soundstage width, and they totally deliver on this, as regardless of the speakers placement, they have a super large and holographic scene. NHT C3 can play a live concert and place you right there, in the crowd. The most surprising presentation is with really complicated voices and sounds, for example old Maroon 5 songs, like Shiver, where C3 is able to render the dynamic of the song perfectly, and capture Adam Levine’s voice and tonality perfectly. Stereo imaging is superb, and the mids are super punchy, colorful and vivid, all guitar solos being as juicy as a pineapple in the midst of summer. 

 

The treble of C3 is shapely extended and natural in texture, able to render and play any cymbal crash, and render the amount of air originally presented in the recording, with great precision. Especially for EDM, Dubstep and Metal, C3 is surprisingly sharp, and most of the direct competition either goes for a smooth and less sparkly presentation, or just rolls off shamefully, forgetting that we need some energy and air with music too. C3 is great at instrument separation, and overall stereo imaging too, being able to play through the songs of complex bands such as Wintersun, where multiple guitars are layered at the same time, and most speakers would struggle in delimiting each from the others, pushing them together. This is an important aspect of C3, as regardless of how complex a song is, it never mashes instruments together, and always keeps everything well defined. I can say that the listening experience is quite satisfying, pianos have contrast, blowing instruments have enough texture and extension to sound natural and real, while voices of both male and female artists are sweet and pleasing, euphonic and presented natural. 

 

 

 

Comparisons 

 

 

 

For all the comparisons, I have turned off the active subwoofer, so that only the performance of the speaker may shine through. I have also used the same amplifier for Buchardt S400, but used the built-in amplifier on all the others, as they do not have a passive mode. 

 

 

NHT C3 vs Buchardt S400 (1249 USD vs 1800 USD) – This is probably the comparison everyone has been dying to hear about, so let’s start with the build, which is good on both, but C3 has slightly better aesthetics, especially with the more geometric design and better piano glossy finish. I also noticed that C3 is harder to scratch, as I had both C3 and S400 out for photos and video B-Rolls. The overall drive factor is similar, both are comparable when it comes to driving them, and both can handle extremely loud volumes really well, both being great for holding a party. The overall tuning and signature is considerably warmer and smoother on S400, while it has better focus on details, clarity and overall linearity on C3. S400 has more bass, and slightly better sub bass extension compared to C3, but if you want to get closer to 30 Hz and 20 Hz, you will need a subwoofer, at least 10″ or more in size, and you should go with one that’s high quality too for a good overall experience. The midrange is more mellow, smoother and less focused on S400, where it is more detailed, cleaner and more analytical on C3. I found C3 to be better for rock, metal and more aggressive music, as they have a wider presentation, with slightly better dynamics, S400 being more relaxed and having a warmer presentation, good for Jazz, Pop and laid back listening. C3 is more peppy and punchy. I would recommend the S400 to you if you know you prefer a smoother, warmer sonic signature, with a larger bass, and with slightly more depth to the stage. C3 is going to be better if you prefer a more linear, more forward and more uplifting signature, with better overall stage width. While C3 is not very sensitive to placement, S400 is even less sensitive and easier to place in rooms with limited placement options and poor acoustics. 

 

NHT C3 vs Aurender S5W Wireless Speakers (1249 USD vs 3000 USD) – We have the price tilt in the advantage of the competitor here, but this is one of those times that I need to admit, that higher price does not really result in a higher quality always. The overall build quality is more solid on S5W, which are made entirely out of metal, but the finish and aesthetics are better for NHT C3, which are glossy and simply look better, larger in size. The sonics are very different, with the first and most obvious difference being the difference in maximum volume, which is quite limited on S5W, reaching the point of distortion easily, where C3 can be brought many times louder, with no problems and no distortion. The bass extension is also much better on C3, which can reach 40-45Hz audibly, where S5W rolls off below about 60Hz, with no subsonic information at all. The treble extension is similar between them, both having good treble extension and clarity. The dynamics are better on c3, which has more details, better overall resolution and clarity, compared to S5W, which can sound a bit compressed at times. The overall detail and resolution is comparable, the drivers of S5W being really good at extracting details from music, but their presentation is brighter than that of C3 which is more natural and better balanced than S5W. 

 

NHT C3 vs Audioengine A5+ (1249 USD vs 500 USD) – A5+ is a fun pair of speakers, with good build quality, and outstanding price / performance ratio, and a really accurate sound, so much, that I never considered them to really require a subwoofer to achieve the best overall experience possible. The sound is incredibly accurate, clean, and lean on A5+, while C3 is a very different story, they have a more engaging sound, with more dynamics, better impact, more detail and more resolution. The downside is that they do cost considerably more, and need an AMP too, where A5+’s price is final, as they have the AMP inside as well. If maximum volume is a concern to you, you can get C3 louder than A5+, with lower distortions, but unless you’re throwing a party, you’re unlikely to reach those volumes in actual listening. 

 

NHT C3 vs Adam Audio T7V (1249 USD vs 674 USD) – I wasn’t originally going to be reviewing this comparison, but I ended up doing it anyway, because I have good experience with those, and it may come in handy. I consider C3 to be an upgrade from T5V in every possible way, from the bass, which is deeper, better controlled, and less distorted on C3, to the midrange, which again, has lower distortions, better musicality, better detail, and clarity, and a much improved resolution on C3, compared to T7V. The treble is better on C3, with better overall clarity, better resolution, more treble extension and a more airy high end presentation than I’ve heard on T7V. Even if driving them from the same DAC, and with a cheapo amplifier for C3, the sound is still going to be considerably above what I’m hearing from T7V, and while Adam Audio has some models in the high-end range that I would consider purchasing in the future, the overall clarity difference between T7V and C3 has been enough for me to make T7V furniture, next to C3, which I consider a truly worthwhile upgrade, in every possible sonic way.  

 

 

 

Recommended Pairings

 

 

NHT C3 + Cyrus One Cast (1249 USD + 2000 USD) I found the most ideal pairing for NHT C3 with the Cyrus One Cast, as this all-in-one solution has absolutely everything you may desire, but more. I have actually mainly used One Cast as a DAC for my PC, and used it as a speaker amplifier for NHT C3, as well as Headphone Amplifier for harder to drive headphones, like HIFIMAN Edition XS, Audeze LCD-5 and others. The thing with One Cast is that it just has the perfect sound for everything, it has that sweet midrange, clear bass and good dynamics, combined with the convenience of having it always available and on hand for direct usage. I prefer having a simple and effective solution, and the overall sonics of the pairing have the best overall price to performance ratio from what I tested, One Cast being able to actually deliver that one-device-does-it-all experience it promises. 

 

NHT C3 + Audio Analogue AAdac + Burson Funk (1249 USD + 4000 USD + 550 USD) While I could have gone for any other DAC from my collection, I wanted to try something special. Especially with how lively, punchy, colorful and dynamic Funk is in general, AAdac is just the DAC to try pairing, leading the whole setup to a new level of engagement. The sound of NHT C3 driven by the AAdac and Funk is superb, fully wide, clear and dynamic, they are engaging and provide a good amount of depth, clarity and impact. The most surprising part is that this setup has not only full control over C3, but also seems to extend their response in the bass, allowing for a well controlled and clear punch every time there’s a call for it, and providing low distortions at the same time. 

 

NHT C3 + SMSL DO200 + SMSL AO200 (1249 USD + 490 USD + 280 USD) If you’re low on budget and want a powerful amp, at a mindful price, then AO200 is absolutely fine, and it will drive C3 almost as good as the high-end options above. The main reason I went for DO200 as a DAC for this setup is that DO200 is actually pretty great too, and because DO200 has a good overall build quality, and a stack-able design for AO200, so basically you can have a neat looking setup if using both. The sound has the least bass presence, and the least dynamics out of all the options I tried, but it has a magical musicality, and good nuance, also good details and overall clarity. Thinking that you can use virtually any other DAC for this system, you could have a working setup for less than Burson Funk costs alone, which is nice to know. Please remember to always invest the most in the speakers, then in the AMP, and then in the DAC, for the best Return of Investment. 

 

 

 

Value and Conclusion

 

The kind of quality NHT provides with their C3 speaker is outstanding and I’m not talking just about the sonic quality, but the build quality and overall design as well. Those are some real speakers projected in the USA, with high end components, a proper sealed design, and that superb soundstage promised by using speakers rather than headphones and IEMs. You will need a good stereo amplifier for them, but in my experience, if you’re really limited in budget, you can drive them just fine with one of those super mini Class D amplifiers, including Arylic A50

 

 

Before the end of today’s review, I feel compelled to add NHT C3 to Audiophile-Heaven’s Hall Of Fame, as one of the best speakers ever created and one of the best I’ve heard, with beautiful aesthetics, outstanding build quality, and excellent overall design, the kind that you hear once but never want to stop playing, and for their excellent price to performance ratio. 

 

 

At the end of today’s review, if you’re looking for the ultimate performance from a stereo bookshelf setup, and beautiful aesthetics at the same time, if you’re looking for a wide, sweet, natural and detailed sound, better so than most monitors can offer, I fully and wholeheartedly recommend NHT C3 as your next big step in the stereo and music world, and as partners to bring a smile to your face and joy in your life for years to come. 

 

 

 

Product Link

 

You can grab one from www.amazon.com here: https://amzn.to/3DpziJn

 

 

 

If you’re in the UK, you can grab one from www.amazon.co.uk here: https://amzn.to/36C1Bsn

 

And if you’re from Europe, you can grab one from www.amazon.de here: https://amzn.to/35ovZWm

 

 

 



 

 

 

— Please remember to stay safe, and always have fun while listening to music!—

 

 

 

 

 

 

Full Playlist used for this review

 

We listened to more songs than those named in this playlist, but those are excellent for identifying a sonic signature.  PRaT, Texturization, Detail, Resolution, Dynamics, Impact, and overall tonality are all revealed by those songs. We recommend trying most of the songs from this playlist, especially if you’re searching for new music!

 

If you have a dime to spare (donate), it would make my day much brighter, as it would help me improve things around the website and increase the frequency of my posts.

 

Youtube Playlist

 

 

Tidal Playlist

 

https://listen.tidal.com/playlist/64555551-ec3c-4279-ae44-248fdfcf6c4b

 

 

 

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