Founded in 1987, NHT (Now Hear This) is a privately held US-based speaker manufacturer. They aim to better serve their customers with a “high-end, not high-price” philosophy as they think everybody should have the right to enjoy music the way it was meant to be heard. In this review, I’m taking a look at the NHT C3 Carbon Fiber limited edition bookshelf speakers.
The C3 Carbon Fiber is a limited edition model developed to celebrate the success of their C3 which has been a best-seller since its introduction in 2005. This is a three-way bookshelf speaker with 3-way acoustic suspension design.
This sample was provided for the purpose of an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own based on my experience with the product.
NHT C3 Carbon Fiber Review
Agile and precise
Good build quality and unique finish
Transparency and transient speed
Great sense of timing
Limited bass depth
Build and Design
The NHT C3 Carbon Fiber (C3 CF) is a 3-way design with a 6.5” aluminium cone woofer, 2“aluminium dome midrange and 1” aluminium dome tweeter. With 3-way speakers, each driver can be optimized to perform in its own frequency band thus the tuning is less compromised compared to the more common 2-way speaker design.
It’s a similar concept to multi-driver in-ear monitors (IEMs) that many of you will be familiar with and if done right, can increase resolution and reduce distortion. There are challenges involved with this type of configuration, the most notable being achieving cohesion between all 3 drivers. In addition, it adds an extra level of complexity and cost to each unit.
The C3 CF’s has a sensitivity of 87dB with a nominal impedance of 6 ohms and a minimum value of 4 ohms. 50-150 W per channel is the recommended power which is fair game for my modest FX-Audio FX1002A with the Feliks Audio Echo serving as a preamp. These were fed by the Singxer SDA-2 and Shinrico D3S.
The cabinets inherit the same shape as the C3, which is a straight-edged, sealed enclosure with a faceted panel at the top of each side. Each speaker weighs in at a hefty 7.2kg (16lbs) and the dimensions are 13.75″ x 7.5″ x 10.125″ (H x W x D).
Instead of the original C3’s piano black exterior, the C3 CF has a high gloss carbon fiber finish. It is a unique look and gives the speakers a sleek, modern aesthetic. Overall build quality is excellent. The C3 CF enclosure feels extremely sturdy and the attention to detail is consistent from top to bottom.
Positioning was fairly straightforward. Placed on my 30″ teak stands, the C3 CF are at just the right height. The speakers are around 2 meters (6.56 feet) apart, 2.5 meters from the listening position and toed in at 10 degrees.
These aren’t the fussiest speakers in terms of position but of course, every room is different so you should always experiment to find the optimal setup for your space. The speakers were placed about 30cm from the wall. I found that the NHTs were easily able to fill my living room with loads of power to spare.
If you’re not sure about the best position for your speakers, you can try the excellent free speaker placement calculator over at https://www.soundton.com/ It works with all types of speakers and they have a rich library with over 350+ popular speaker models to make things even easier.
The first thing I noticed about the C3 CF’s sound was the neutrality of their bass response. In fact, it would be fair to say that they’re quite neutral across the spectrum, which immediately had me considering them for the role of a studio monitor.
A clean and detailed presentation was also immediately apparent from the first note. These aren’t warm or relaxed speakers but rather skewed more towards accuracy with minimal colouration. Having said that, vocals pop with exquisite articulation and accurate instrument timbre.
Listening to Melody Gardot’s “Over The Rainbow – Live“, I was struck by the stability and scope of the soundstage. It really felt as though I was sitting in the audience and was fully immersed in the performance.
Melody’s vocals sound silky and exquisite but are loaded with detail and texture. This kind of song is where the C3 CF really excels as a standalone speaker. Another thing I noticed was the realism of the crowd’s applause which sounded so natural and lifelike. The applause of a live crowd can often sound wrong, especially when a speaker has a coloured lower midrange but the C3 CF really nails it.
When playing E.S. Posthumus’ “Isunova“, I’m once again taken aback by the power and natural tone of the vocals and acoustic guitar. They really pop with the C3 CF and are loaded with emotion and nuance.
I’m really impressed by the cohesiveness of these speakers and the way the 3 drivers work so seamlessly in unison. Also of note is the transient speed of the C3 CF which is very fast and delivers with extreme precision.
There are certain tracks that don’t feel quite complete without adding a subwoofer to the audio chain.
For example, Hans Zimmer’s “Rise” sounded suspenseful and intoxicating but here the bass lacked the authority to make you feel really absorbed into it. The sense of danger and urgency weren’t fully carried in the song. Once a subwoofer was introduced, however, the C3 CF had no trouble conveying the full gravity of the track.
The C3 CF has the effect of really drawing you into the music. Vocals are a real highlight on these and are staggeringly good for listening to your favourite vocalists. I also found them to be especially good for classical music with their expansive soundstage and incredible layering. The sound is transparent and it really feels as though the speakers become invisible and you’re just left listening to the music.
The NHT C3 Carbon Fiber is an insightful, transparent and mature speaker. They might not be the ideal solution as a standalone unit but you’d be hard-pressed to find a better bookshelf speaker to build a system around at this price. It’s easy to see (and hear) why the C3 series is such a popular choice among enthusiasts. Does the NHT C3 CF get our recommendation? Absolutely.