Important Specs Overview
Speaker type: passive, 3-way, sealed
Continuous power handling: 50 W*
Peak power handling: 150 W
Impedance: 4-6 ohms compatible
Sensitivity: 87 dB/W/m
Frequency response range: 55 – 20k Hz
Driver size: 2 in midrange; 6.5 in woofer
Unit weight: 16 lbs
Cabinet dimensions: 7.5 x 10 x 14 in (width x depth x height)
Warranty: 5 years
*When nominal/RMS power isn’t specified by manufacturer, we use an approximation of ~30% of the specified peak/dynamic power for comparison purposes.
Review And Discussion
NHT’s Classic Three (C3) is their flagship premiere bookshelf speaker that was released circa 2005, though it’s gotten, according to them, minor incremental upgrades since then. It’s a very interesting and uncommon design: a three way bookshelf speaker that’s sealed, with an added two inch dome driver that’s closer to a second tweeter rather than a subwoofer.
The general advantage of a three way speaker is that you can get more range and bass with an extra woofer and crossover, yet the range of the C3 is about on par with what you’d see on any decent two way bookshelf speaker. One thing we noticed is that on their description tab they say these can get down to 40 Hz, while on the specs tab they quote the response floor at 55 Hz. The most likely explanation is that the latter could simply be what’s still within a 3 dB differential, or perhaps there’s a typo on their page. In any case, it’s certainly possible for a well designed 6.5 in woofer to achieve 40 Hz reproduction, but the question is how much volume it can actually maintain when doing so.
These speakers are big and have solid power specs, and could certainly suffice as standalone satellites in a full sized room. The 6-4 ohm impedance means they can likely handle higher continuous power, but that you’ll need a beefier receiver to supply that power, depending on the impedance you choose to go with.
All three drivers are aluminum, which really has propensity to get loud and forward, especially so with this unusual sealed design, mainly because of how light and stiff it can be compared to paper, cloth, rubber polymer, woven fiber, etc.
A design like this will really shine with very accurate, even midrange reproduction that a single woofer and tweeter per a standard 2-way design just could never do. However, though NHT claims these speakers make a subwoofer optional, there’s no way a single 6.5 in driver with a 55 Hz floor can do what a dedicated full sized subwoofer could. If you’re not a stickler for big bass, maybe these will be fine on their own though.
The C3’s cabinet has seen a few cosmetic upgrades over the years, though it maintains that classic millennial look with the sheen piano finished MDF cabinet that includes the baffle and extends all around. Both tweeters are housed in separate pieces that have finger guards, then the woofer of course is housed in its own basket.
These speakers manage to stay relatively small and light for a full 6.5 inch 3-way bookshelf speaker, whereas most other three way bookshelfs like Yamaha’s older NS 6490 (reviewed here) just wind up being massive. A sealed design certainly helps keep cabinets small, and you also don’t have to worry about giving these breathing room in the back since there’s no port. The drawback though is that bigger cabinets and ports help with the bass, especially with smaller drivers.
All NHT’s passive speakers come with a 5 year warranty which is top of the line coverage for non-elite speakers.
Our Overall Take, As Compared To The Competition
The C3’s uncommon 3 way design will make it a particularly strong performer with even reproduction across the range. This is also a speaker that NHT has incrementally improved for the last 15 years. It’s also one of those speakers that has seen significant discounts from the MSRP.
Yet even so, these are still pretty expensive for ~50 W speakers. Companies like Klipsch have come along and made metallic bookshelf speakers that are just as loud and powerful for less money. But the C3 could certainly be worth the premium for some who give it a listening test.