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Product Review
 

NIRO 1.1 PRO DVD/Receiver-Speaker System (HTIB) and MovieMouse

September, 2004

Yongki Go

 

Specifications:


DVD Player/Receiver:
● Formats: DVD, SVCD, VCD, CD, CD-
   R, CD-RW
● Signal System: PAL/NTSC
● Progressive Scan Output Capable
● Codecs: DD and DTS
● FM/AM Tuner
● Amplifier Power: 5 x 30 W RMS
● Subwoofer Output Power: 50 W RMS
● Dimensions: 2.1" H x 16.9" W x 2.1"
    x 13.2" D
● Weight: 9.2 Pounds

Speakers:
● Drivers: 5 x 3" Shielded Drivers; One
    Driver for Each Channel; One
    Enclosure
● Impedance: 8 Ohms
● External dimensions: 4.3" H x 19" W
    x 7.9" D
● Weight: 9.5 Pounds

Subwoofer:
● Driver: 8", Bass-Reflex
● Impedance: 6 Ohms
● External dimensions: 12.9" H x 11.7"
    W x 11.7" D
● Weight: 14.3 Pounds

NIRO 1.1PRO System MSRP: $799

MovieMouse:
● Drivers: 5 x 1.5"
● Impedance: 24 Ohms
● Dimensions: 2.5" H x 11" W x 7.5" D
● Weight: 1.75 Pounds

MovieMouse MSRP: $199
 

NIRO

 

www.niro1.com

Introduction

NIRO products are all about innovation to achieve high performance level with simple setup and use.

This is not my first acquaintance with a NIRO product. I reviewed the company’s Two6.1 system, and came away impressed with the level of surround effects it could produce with speakers in just two enclosures and a subwoofer. That experience eliminated my skepticism about the company’s proprietary NIROSON CINEMA processing, which is used to create realistic surround effects from the speaker configuration the system employed.

The 1.1PRO system (MSRP $799) reviewed here is the little brother of the Two6.1 system - both of which are Home Theaters in a Box - HTIB - and uses only one speaker enclosure to do the surround job. Surely, this simplifies the system setup further, but it also brings up an obvious question: how realistic a surround effect can this system deliver with only one speaker enclosure? Also it would be interesting to see how it compares with the Two6.1 system.

A new product that is also included here is the MovieMouse speaker (MSRP $199 each). I found the name to be quite appropriate, because the impression that came to my mind when I first saw this speaker was a larger version of a computer-mouse. This is due to its somewhat half-rounded shape and its connecting cable in the back.

The MovieMouse is a very interesting product. It is actually a surround sound speaker system to be used in close proximity. Hmm, you might think: why would anyone want such a speaker? Read on and you will know the reasoning behind it. Of course, the more important question is: does it really deliver the level of performance as is intended?

Features

The heart of the NIRO 1.1PRO system is the DVD/Receiver. From the front, this unit looks just like your average DVD player. However, it is deeper than a player, because it has the processor and power amplifiers as well.

Besides the disc tray, the display, and the headphone jack, only a few functional buttons are located on the front panel. But these buttons are sufficient to access pretty much all the operational features of the unit.

On the rear panel, you’ll find the necessary connectors to get the system up and running. Only two pairs of analog stereo inputs and an AM/FM antenna jack are provided. The rest of the connectors are for outputs.

On the video side, one output each is provided for composite, S-Video, and component video. If you want to use the progressive scan mode of the player, you should use the component video output.

On the audio side, there is a pair of analog stereo outputs and of course, the speaker and subwoofer outputs. There is no digital audio output provided. Specific types of multi-pin connectors are used for the speaker and subwoofer outputs, which can be used only with the provided speaker and subwoofer. This DVD receiver packs five 30 W amplifiers to drive the speaker(s) and a 50 W amplifier to drive the subwoofer.

As can be seen below, the speaker actually houses separate drivers for each of the five channels, all in one enclosure. The secret to the sound is in the signal processing. Portions of the sound from the various channels are mixed, added, and subtracted from each other to fool your ears into thinking some of it is coming from behind you.

The subwoofer of the NIRO 1.1PRO system has an 8" driver, covered by a light gray removable cloth grille, in a bass-reflex enclosure with bottom port. The power amplifier is in the receiver, but the crossover network is in the subwoofer enclosure. This has the benefit that you don’t have to concern of plugging the subwoofer to an electric wall outlet, which again is inline with NIRO’s ‘keep it simple’ philosophy.

The subwoofer is relatively small, only about a cubic foot and lightweight, so moving it around for positioning adjustment shouldn’t be a problem. It has four small feet with threaded holes for accommodating the provided spikes. The dark gray finish of the subwoofer complements the appearance of the other components nicely. It is joined to the DVD/Receiver using a proprietary type of connector.

The NIRO 1.1PRO system also comes with a remote control. Unlike the remote control of the Two6.1 system, this one cannot be programmed and the buttons are not backlit. All the operational and adjustment functions of the DVD receiver can be accessed using the remote control.

Set-up and Operation

As advertised, the setup of the NIRO 1.1PRO system was very easy and simple. Because only one speaker enclosure is used, you have much fewer connections to make compared to a conventional surround sound system. To use the MovieMouse, you just need to unplug the speaker cable from the receiver, and plug in the MovieMouse cable. This could be a hassle if the back of the DVD receiver were not easy to access. But NIRO apparently has thought about this, and provides a cable extension for the speaker terminal on the DVD receiver, so that you don't have to reach the back of the receiver for this purpose. During most of this review, I put the speaker right below my projection screen and the subwoofer not far from one of the front corners of the room. For the MovieMouse, I just placed it on a coffee table in front of where I sat. So, in essence, the 1.1PRO speakers are for when you are sitting across the room, while the MovieMouse is for when you want to have the sound closer to you. But, the basic idea is the same: all the speakers in one enclosure.

The setup menu of the DVD receiver is pretty logical and straightforward. The DVD player defaults to interlaced output. If you would like to use the progressive scan feature of the player, you need to activate it by leaving the disc tray open and pressing the STOP button five times consecutively. The same method can be used to go back to the interlaced mode again. Operationally, the NIRO DVD player was quite smooth and relatively quick.

The remote control supplied was fine functionally, but it was rather hard to get used to. The buttons are rather small and their arrangement is not very logical. The volume up and down buttons for example, which I imagine to be the most often used, are located in the middle of the button layout with no easily distinguishable shape. I would prefer that such often-used buttons to be slightly bigger and put in a rather distinct location in the remote layout, so one can easily find them even in the dark (the remote is not backlit). The remote is the part that could use an improvement to make the 1.1PRO a completely user-friendly system.

The Performance

The tonal balance of the 1.1PRO through the speaker vs. through the MovieMouse was different. Therefore, the treble and bass settings that worked well for one didn’t work well for the other. With the default settings, the MovieMouse sounded rather neutral, but I found that the main speaker was a bit on the bright side. This was especially noticeable in stereo mode. Therefore, I tended to lower the treble by one or two notches when listening using the speaker.

In most cases, the level of bass that is right for using with the speaker would not be right for the MovieMouse. Bass response usually varies significantly from one location to another in a room, so where you use the MovieMouse would determine the amount of bass adjustment to be made. I found that adjusting the treble and bass was relatively easy on the 1.1PRO DVD receiver, but unfortunately the settings could not be stored. So they were back to the default values after the DVD receiver was turned off or put in standby mode. It would be nice if specific settings could be memorized and then recalled with a press of a button, like the tuner-preset operation.

I won’t discuss the video performance of the NIRO 1.1 PRO system too much other than saying that, either in interlaced or progressive mode, it produced good pictures with vivid colors, comparable to pictures from my Toshiba SD-4700 player. Image edges from the NIRO might be a bit softer compared to the Toshiba, but that could be a good thing, depending on one’s taste.

As with the Two6.1 system, I found that the NIROSON
CINEMA processing worked quite well in producing surround effects from the single speaker of the 1.1PRO system. The surround effects were not as pronounced as what you’d get from a conventional surround setup with 5.1 speakers, but nevertheless it was there. If I had to rank the degree of the surround effect produced, I’d give a slight nod to the Two6.1 system, but the 1.1PRO system was quite remarkable on its own. The surround ambience that the 1.1PRO system created was quite real and believable with most program materials Rear sound localizations, however, were not as precise as with the Two6.1 system. It was capable of producing an effect as if the sound came from behind you, but the location of the sound was rather fuzzy. Remember, though, that the Two6.1 system uses an additional rear speaker enclosure instead of just a single front enclosure that the 1.1 PRO has. For this reason, the performance trade-off for the setup complexity, as well as the price, were justifiable in my opinion.

Processing 5.1 program material was the 1.1PRO's strong suit. But, it was no slouch in creating surround effects from two channel sources, such as TV or videocassette program material. The 1.1PRO system would be ideal to replace the function of your TV speakers to give you better sound, not to mention good surround sound, with minimal setup effort.

Surround effects alone do not guarantee an excellent movie watching experience. After all, what good is surround sound without having dialog intelligibility and other sound impacts? Well, I’m glad to report that the 1.1PRO handled these things nicely. The subwoofer of the 1.1PRO system was sufficient to add bass impacts during action scenes in a small or medium room.

In stereo mode, unlike with the Two6.1 system, there was no echo in the sound, which is a good thing. There was a slight lack of midrange purity and sense of treble artificiality, but overall, the sound from the 1.1PRO system had good clarity and a nice soundstage, which made it more than suitable for casual stereo music listening.

As to the MovieMouse, after living with it for a while, I am excited about this product. While playing the MovieMouse, I successfully fooled several of my guests into thinking that the sound was coming from my front speakers, which were located about 6 ft behind it. Indeed the MovieMouse was able to create a wide soundstage far behind its actual location. Moreover, the sound produced had good clarity and detail. The surround effects were comparable to using the 1.1PRO speaker, and in some situations were better. This was because I could easily optimize its placement for the sweet spot. Whether I put it on my lap while I reclined on the sofa or put it on the coffee table some 4-5 ft in front of me, the results were acceptable, although I found it to perform its best when I put it on the coffee table at about 3 ft in front of me.

My movie-watching experience using the MovieMouse was a joy. While I didn't get the same experience as using good full-blown conventional 5.1 system, nevertheless the MovieMouse is an alternative that I would gladly take in certain situations, such as with limited space or at low volume during the late evening Properly used, the MovieMouse was capable of bringing a sense of immediacy with screen action, which is what a good surround sound speaker system is supposed to do.

Conclusions

Simplicity is the name of the game for the NIRO 1.1PRO system: one speaker enclosure, one subwoofer, and a combined DVD/Receiver to provide home theater enjoyment. Besides my quibble about the supplied remote control design, the 1.1PRO system has more to like than just its simplicity. It is elegant-looking, and most importantly, it delivers respectable sound quality along with good surround effects. For situations where space is limited or where cable clutter is undesirable, the 1.1PRO provides an excellent solution.

As strange a product as the MovieMouse may seem, it works as advertised. When close proximity applications are called for due to whatever reason, the MovieMouse proves to be a versatile speaker that is capable of producing good clear sound with believable surround effects in a large soundstage. The MovieMouse is a truly innovative product that I can easily recommend in such situations. Expect to see more of this kind of thing (all speakers in one enclosure) with a number of companies.

 

 - Yongki Go -

    Related to the article above, we recommend the following:

Primer - Speakers

 

 

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