Since joining his family business over 30 years ago,
Nakamichi has been the force behind many innovations in the audio world.
Under the Nakamichi company name, his contribution ranges from the
development of an improved cassette tape player to the creation of an
innovative CD changer mechanism.
About five years ago, he established a new
company, called Mechanical Research Corporation, which markets products
under the NIRO brand. The goal of his new company is simple: to create
original and innovative audio products without the limit of conventional
technologies. The NIRO Two6.1 system reviewed here exemplifies one such
The NIRO Two6.1 system was developed under the premise that the complexity
of a modern home theater system intimidates many consumers. I could see the
validity of this concept myself, as I have some friends and colleagues at
work who are reluctant to get into home theater because they think it is
not easy to set up or to accommodate in their living room. Certainly the
idea of having to deal with five, six, or more speakers becomes an
intimidating factor for them.
The NIRO Two6.1 system was developed as a
solution to such situations. The design goal of the Two 6.1 is to
provide non-compromise home theater enjoyment yet be simple to set up and easy
to use. My review here hopefully could shed a light to the readers whether
the intended goal of the system is met.
NIRO Two6.1 cinema system comes pretty much self-contained. Everything you
need to make the system up and running is provided in the box. The system
consists of a receiver, front and rear speakers, a powered subwoofer, a
remote control, and some accessories, such as speaker cables, subwoofer
cable, AM/FM antenna, and speaker mounting kits.
Besides the user manual, a
quick setup guide is provided to help you in making a quick and proper
system connection. The user manual itself is relatively concise and utilizes
a combination of picture and text, an approach that I really like. The
manual is fine in general, although some of the instructions in it are not
very clear and need to be improved to avoid potential confusion. Also I
would love to see more detailed specifications than the ones currently put
in the manual.
heart of the Two6.1 system is the receiver. The front panel is free from button clutter. Besides the on/off button and the big
volume knob in the middle, there are only three more buttons: the radio
preset up/down buttons and the source select button.
A set of audio/video
inputs is hidden behind a small flip door on the bottom of the front panel.
These front inputs include S-Video, composite video, stereo analog audio,
optical digital, and a headphone jack. The display on this receiver uses green
lettering, which automatically brightens for a second or two when any
command is received from the remote control or the front panel buttons. The
main part of the display shows the source input or the radio frequency (in
tuner mode). Good sized lettering is used for this part, so it’s
relatively easy to read from distances up to 12 ft away. The other parts on
the display show the operating mode, such as the surround mode, and for
these indicators, I can only read them if I am close to the receiver.
rear panel of the Two6.1 receiver sports an array of connectors as shown in
the photo. For audio inputs, there are three stereo analog, three digital
coaxial, and one optical digital. For line-level audio outputs, a stereo analog, a
subwoofer pre-out, and a coaxial digital are provided.
Switching for three
S-Video or composite video inputs are also available with two sets of video
output. There is no component video switching provided. Up to four
audio-video devices can be connected through the back of the receiver. Note
however, that because the receiver doesn’t have the capability to assign
inputs, the connection configuration using this receiver is not very
flexible. For example, for the input labeled DVD/CD, only a digital coaxial
connection is provided. If you want to also connect the analog audio output
in addition to the digital one from your DVD/CD player to this receiver, you
have to connect it to another input, such as the one labeled TV/AUX. Digital
audio will be prioritized when both digital and analog audio inputs from the
same input label are connected. When the unit receives a digital signal,
it automatically configures itself to the correct mode. The surround formats
supported by the receiver include Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital EX, Dolby Pro
Logic II (Cinema and Music), DTS, and DTS-ES. A night listening mode is
also provided, which compresses the difference between the loud and quiet
passages in the program material.
On the receiver’s rear panel, you’ll also find a master power switch, an
AM/FM antenna connector, an infra-red jack, and speaker output connectors.
The speaker outputs on this receiver utilize a specific type of connector
to be used with the special speaker cables supplied. These connectors are
like the ones you usually find inside your desktop computer, for power
connection of computer components such as a hard drive or a CD-Rom. The
power cord on this receiver is not detachable.
the functions of the receiver can be accessed using the supplied remote
control. The buttons have various shape and size, and they
are nicely spaced and laid-out. I found the remote to be easy to hold and
pleasure to use. The white buttons on the remote, which are the ones you
likely use most often, softly glow in the dark (phosphorus type of
glow). The source/input buttons on the remote have a red backlight, which
light up for a second after they are pressed. The remote can be used to operate
other equipment as well by inputting the appropriate three digit codes of
the equipment based on the brand name. The manual provides the list of codes
for various types of devices from various brands.
The NIRO Two6.1 uses two speaker enclosures (for front and rear) that are
distinctively shaped (see picture). Each of these speakers actually houses
three sets of drivers in three separate chambers. The picture of the speaker
with the grille off shows the side and middle driver configurations. So, each
of the speakers has three 1" dome tweeters and three 3.5" woofers. In
essence, you have three speaker channels packaged in one enclosure. The front speaker
has the front left/right and center channels, while the rear speaker
has the left/right and center surrounds. The front speaker also has a
built-in infrared sensor, that when connected allows the user to direct the
remote control at the speaker to control the receiver. This can come in handy in
situations where pointing the remote at the receiver is not convenient. There
are two threaded holes on the bottom of the front speaker, which can be used
for inserting the appropriate footing. The speaker connectors on the back
are of the spring-clip variety.
the NIRO system employs only two enclosures with a unique configuration (the
speakers are close together),
some processing is necessary to make the design work or, in other
words, to create the desired surround effect. The core technology behind the
Two6.1 system is NIRO’s proprietary NIROSONTM Cinema processing, which is
used to create an enveloping surround sound from the two enclosures. This
technology, which is included in the Two6.1 receiver as
indicated by the NIROSONTM logo on its front panel, was based on research in
the psychoacoustics field and developed with the help of some Hollywood
sound experts. Later on I will discuss whether this technology actually
NIRO comes with a powered subwoofer. This cubical
subwoofer, which is relatively tiny, has an active 8" driver with dual 8"
passive radiators and is powered by a 150 W amplifier. The rear panel of
this subwoofer is much simpler than what you usually find on an average
powered subwoofer. Only a single line level input and output are provided.
There are no controls on the subwoofer, as it is designed to be used only with
the receiver and the speakers that come with the Two6.1 system.
level and the phase of the subwoofer response can be controlled from the
receiver. However, the subwoofer phase control in the receiver is only for 0
or 180 degrees, and hence, for optimal bass response, you have to also play
around with placement of the subwoofer. Fortunately, due to its tiny size,
this subwoofer is easy to move around.
There is no crossover frequency
control. Although this subwoofer is only meant to be used with the speakers
of the Two6.1 system, I do think that a crossover frequency control is still
useful to accommodate various room acoustics for achieving smoother
frequency response. On the bottom of the subwoofer, there are four threaded
holes for inserting spikes if you wish.
speaker cables with sufficient length and specific termination to match the
connectors at both the receiver and speaker ends are supplied with the
Two6.1 system. The front speaker cable is round in shape, and the rear one is
flat. I thought it was thoughtful of NIRO to provide a flat speaker cable
for the rear speaker, as in most situations, one will likely run this cable
across the room, and the flat cable is easier to hide than the round one. The
front cable also includes the wiring for the infrared sensor.
The NIRO Two6.1 components looks contemporary and modern. The receiver and
the front and rear speakers are finished in silver, while the subwoofer is
finished in gray. All the speakers and the subwoofer have detachable
light-gray grilles. Build quality is good all around.
Use, and Sound
Setting up the NIRO Two6.1 system is a breeze. There are significantly
fewer connections to make, compared to other systems, as you
only need to deal with two speaker enclosures instead of five or seven. For the
speaker placement, I followed the instruction on the manual. I put the front
enclosure on top of my television and angled it a little bit towards my
listening position using the bolts and hex nuts supplied. For the rear
enclosure, the manual suggests to mount it on the rear wall firing towards the
listener or put it on the floor/table firing upwards to the ceiling. In this
review, I used the second method, that is I put the rear speaker on the
floor and fired it up towards the ceiling. I placed the subwoofer near one
of the front corners of the room and made the necessary placement adjustment
to arrive at what I considered the best result. The level of the speakers
and the subwoofer was then balanced using the internal test tone in the
receiver and an SPL meter. The setup can be fine tuned by setting the
appropriate surround delay and adjusting treble level to compensate for room
acoustics. Three levels of treble adjustment are available, with flat or
adding more treble as the options (no treble reduction option is provided).
In my room, I found the use of the flat setting to be the most natural sounding.
In regards to the operation of the Two6.1 system, I found it to be quite
logical and easy. The digital signal auto-detect function worked flawlessly.
In essence, this is plug-and-play. The process to preset the radio
stations was quite easy to do using the remote. Up to 30 stations can be put
into the memory presets of the Two6.1. I won’t say much about the tuner of the
Two6.1 system, except that it was very good in signal reception. Using its
supplied antenna in the FM mode, I was able to get clear reception of some
radio stations that I failed to tune-in clearly using the tuners included in
several mid-level receivers and surround preamps that I have tried in the
past. My only quibble about the operation of the system is that when you
switch off the receiver using the rear master switch, you will lose all your
custom settings and the unit goes back to the default settings upon
switching on. It would be nice if the custom setting values could be
retained in such situation, so that one doesn’t have to input the
calibration settings all over again every time the master switch is used.
Now, does the NIROSON technology work in creating believable surround
effects from the two-speaker configuration? My short answer is a sure YES.
To be honest, I was a bit skeptical initially, but now after I have had a
chance to listen to it, I am a skeptic no more. The NIRO Two6.1 system works
wonders in creating admirable surround effects. And the most important thing
is you get these effects without having to deal with the clutter of many
speakers and cables.
Left-to-right and front-to-back transition effects with the Two6.1 system
were excellent with no obvious sound discontinuity. Also, the Two6.1 system
was very potent in producing a realistic ambience effect. For example, the
intense surround effects in the shooting scene during the opening of the
movie S.W.A.T and also the fallen helicopter scene in that movie were
reproduced convincingly by the NIRO.
The Two6.1 was also capable of delivering clear and intelligible movie
dialog. Transparency could be improved, but this didn’t seem to reduce the
intelligibility. The amplifier inside the Two6.1
receiver is only rated at 30 Watts per channel, however it was capable of
driving the system to a fairly loud level before the system became
strained. I would say that the system was capable of producing SPL
that should be more than sufficient for most usage.
The little subwoofer of the Two6.1 system could produce useful bass down to
about 35 Hz in my room. It augments the rest of the system adequately,
although I would say that this is more of a home-theater subwoofer than a
music one. It was capable of delivering good impact and adding weight to
movie sounds, but I felt it lacked a bit of tightness for high fidelity
music reproduction. Fortunately, this is the part that you can easily
upgrade or change if you feel necessary, as it is not subjected to the
NIROSON processing like the front and rear speakers of the system.
Although the NIRO Two6.1 is a cinema system, I imagine users who buy it
would also use it every once in a while for music listening. Therefore I
tested it for music application as well. For music in surround with Dolby
Pro Logic II Music mode, the Two6.1 system performed respectably. In stereo
mode, however, it left something to be desired. Although the system was
capable of creating the image and soundstage that was free from the
confinement of its front speakers, the overall sound had a slight echo, which
was especially noticeable in human vocals. It was as if you were listening
to the musical performance in a big hall. My guess is this was due to some
processing to create good sound space representation from the type of the
speaker enclosure used in the system. For casual stereo music listening, this might be
okay, but serious listeners might object to it.
The drawback in the stereo reproduction, however, didn’t bother me much, as its name,
Two6.1 Cinema system, implies that it is designed primarily for home theater
applications. When using it for channeling sound from the television or for DVD
movie watching, I was quite impressed with what the system can do. You
might be able to achieve a better overall sound with a conventional
multi-speaker system, but you will have to deal with a much more complex
setup. On the other hand, the NIRO Two6.1 system offers a much simpler setup
with little compromise in the sound performance. The decision is obviously
yours, but I can tell you with confidence that the Two6.1 system is a very
viable home theater solution that won’t sacrifice your enjoyment in case you
cannot or don’t want to go with five, six, or seven speaker setups.
There is no question that the NIRO Two6.1 system is a very appealing
solution for many space-challenged situations. It is elegantly designed,
very easy to set up, and simple to use. On top of that, it is capable of
delivering an admirable surround performance that creates realistic movie
experience. While a bit pricey at $1999, if it is simplicity and space-saving
features that you are after, the NIRO Two6.1 system might be your best solution.
- Yongki Go -
Associated Equipment for This Review:
CD playback: Shanling CD-S100
DVD playback: Toshiba SD-4700
Satellite receiver: Dish 301
Other pre-pro: Lexicon DC-1
Other speaker system: Onix Rocket ELT-1 speaker system.