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B&W CDM 9NT and CDM CNT loudspeakers review

Recommended by TimeForDVD.com


B&W CDM 9NT tower loudspeaker (click to see more photos & enlargements)
See more photos

Manufacturer:

B&W (Bowers & Wilkins)
Models: 9NT floorstanding loudspeaker
CNT center channel loudspeaker
Market
introduction:
9NT - Spring 2001
CNT - Fall 2000
Warrantee: 5-year parts & labor
Retail/list price: CDM 9NT $1300 each ($2600/pair)
CDM CNT $600 each
system price $5800

Features: A Performance: A- Aesthetics: A Build quality: A-
Treble: A- Midrange: A Bass: A- Value: A-


Summary: The B&W CDM 9NT floorstanding loudspeaker is outstanding in a 2-channel stereo system.  Throw in a second pair of CDM 9NTs and add a CDM CNT center channel speaker and you've got a terrific high-performance multi-channel audio and home theater speaker system.  I was impressed with their openness, transparency, phenomenally precise imaging, three-dimensional soundstage, great looks, build quality, and value.  The treble and midrange are exceptionally smooth, while the bass is surprising tight for a ported speaker design.  The tonal balance between the CDM 9NT and CDM CNT is much better than most other main/center channel speaker combinations, resulting in a relatively seamless soundfield.  For the serious home theater and audio enthusiast, this combination is very worthy of an audition.  I was very impressed and it suffices to say that I bought this loudspeaker system for my reference home theater/multi-channel audio system.  Can there be a more sincere form of a recommendation?

 

High Points:

> Transparent reproduction of all types of music, but the system clearly shines when reproducing demanding classical and orchestral programs

> Treble and midrange are exceptionally smooth and open

> Bass is strong, tight, and well-defined, with visceral impact that is second to none

> Imaging is phenomenally precise with a detailed and well-defined three-dimensional soundstage, in both two-channel stereo and multi-channel audio modes

> Paired with a clean amplifier, the CDM NTs can play really loud without losing their composure

> Very good tonal balance between the CDM 9NT and CDM CNT for a near seamless multi-channel setup

> Bi-wireable for improved low-level bass resolution and performance

> Handsome real wood veneer finishes

> Top notch build quality

> Exceptional value when you consider the performance

 

Low Points:

> Slight emphasis on the treble frequencies (i.e., very slight "brightness")

> CDM CNT's large form factor and weight make placement more difficult

> Priced beyond what most "everyday consumers" can afford

 


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Introduction

Nautilus technology tweeter pod & Kevlar FST midrange cone (click to see more photos & enlargements)Most people know the B&W brand of loudspeakers by their once-unique yellow color midrange cones and the odd-looking yet attractive protruding tweeter assembly.  B&W, which stands for John Bowers and Roy Wilkins, is a British company that has been making great sounding loudspeakers since 1966.  Most recently, the company established their leadership in high performance speakers in developing their famous $40,000 Nautilus loudspeaker.  Ever since that groundbreaking design, B&W has been introducing more practical and more affordable loudspeaker systems based on the same technologies spearheaded in the development of the Nautilus loudspeaker.

B&W's groundbreaking Nautilus loudspeaker, price $40,000 (click to see more photos & enlargements)The first loudspeaker series to benefit is the high-end Nautilus 800 series ($1000 - $4000+ each).  In 2000, the company updated their popular CDM SE loudspeaker series with the re-designed CDM NT series as the second loudspeaker series to benefit from the technology developed in the Nautilus loudspeaker.  In fact the designation "NT" stands for "Nautilus Technology".  In my opinion, B&W has successfully pushed their best Nautilus technology to this mid-range CDM NT series, and as you shall see, this is particular true for the CDM 9NT.  As a testament to the appeal of B&W speakers in general, the company claims that 80% of classical recordings are monitored using B&W speakers.  The latest example is the selection of the B&W Nautilus 802 loudspeakers by world-renowned Skywalker Sound as their in-studio mid-field monitors.

The CDM NT series consists of a number of different types of speakers.  Most are bass reflex in design and incorporate various measures of B&W's unique technologies.  The table below summarizes the entire CDM NT line with some basic features and specifications.

The B&W CDM NT loudspeaker line
(yellow highlighted models are those I reviewed here)

 Model  Type Description & Basic Features Frequency Response
(±3 dB)
 Price
(each)
CDM 1NT bookshelf 2-way vented, Nautilus technology tube loaded 1-inch alloy dome tweeter, 6.5-inch Kevlar cone midrange-woofer, Flowport 60-25 kHz $600
CDM CNT center channel 2-way vented, Nautilus technology tube loaded 1-inch alloy dome tweeter, 6.5-inch Kevlar cone midrange-woofer, dual Flowports, magnetically shielded 50-25 kHz $600
CDM SNT surround speaker 2-way acoustic suspension, Nautilus technology 1-inch alloy dome tweeter, 6.5-inch Kevlar cone midrange-woofer, direct radiating 75-20 kHz $600
CDM 7NT floor standing 2 1/2-way vented, Nautilus technology tube loaded 1-inch alloy dome tweeter, 6.5-inch Kevlar cone midrange-woofer, 6.5-inch Kevlar/paper cone woofer, dual Flowports (second one in the back) 40-20 kHz $1000
CDM 9NT floor standing 3-way vented, Nautilus technology tube loaded 1-inch alloy dome tweeter, 6.5-inch Kevlar cone FST midrange, two 6.5-inch Kevlar/paper cone woofers, single Flowport 38-25 kHz $1300

For this review, I evaluated the flagship CDM 9NT and the center channel CDM CNT.  I chose the flagship CDM 9NT floorstanding loudspeaker, since it features the most technology from the reference-quality Nautilus 800 series (more on this in the next section).  I actually reviewed four CDM 9NT full-range loudspeakers as part of a high performance multi-channel audio system with a Super Audio CD player as source equipment.  The CDM CNT center channel served as the obvious choice as the fifth speaker for this setup, which I also use as my primary home theater.  The total loudspeaker system price?  $5800.  Though the price just broaches the low range of audiophile territory, it's far from affordable for most "everyday consumers".  Yes, this is a loudspeaker system for serious enthusiasts (and those with a generous budget).

The CDM 9NT: three-way vented floorstanding flagship model

B&W CDM 9NT floorstanding loudspeaker (click to see more photos & enlargements)First, let's talk about the CDM 9NT and see what's unique about this floorstanding loudspeaker.  As the flagship speaker in the CDM NT line, this 3-way loudspeaker sports the following features (for pictures of these features, be sure to check out our photo gallery):

  • FST™ midrange driver: "FST" stands for Fixed Suspension Transducer, a technology used in all of the floorstanding loudspeakers from B&W in the award-winning Nautilus 800 series.  The technology essentially allows the surroundless (meaning there is no rubber surround) midrange cone to act as a "perfect piston" up to 2 kHz, which serves to maintain effective control over cone excursions.  Above this frequency, the radiating area effectively decreases to keep both output and directivity virtually constant, while the outer region of the cone encourages random vibrations that effectively cancel out any undesirable sound colorations.  The result is midrange performance with incredible detail, unsurpassed clarity, and minimal sound coloration.  Of the entire CDM NT series, only the flagship 9NT loudspeaker includes this feature.  The performance of this FST midrange driver is one of the primary reasons why I think the CDM 9NT is especially noteworthy.

  • Kevlar® midrange cone: This yellow material used in bullet-proof vests provides a stiff material ideal for midrange cones.  The criss-cross weave of the Kevlar fibers allows random vibrations to effectively cancel out undesirable standing waves and resonances that typically plague cones made with conventional materials.  The benefit is midrange sound that is more neutral and less colored.

  • Nautilus™ technology tapered-tube tweeter: This unique technology ensures far greater absorption of undesired radiation from the rear of the diaphragm.  The result is a more focused and natural high frequency sound reproduction.

  • Tweeter pod & sloping top: This design feature permits time-correct alignment of the treble frequencies in relation to the midrange and bass frequencies by setting the dome tweeter back about 1/2 of an inch so that it lines up longitudinally with the midrange and bass cones.  This allows the high frequency sounds reproduced by the alloy dome tweeter to arrive at the listener's ears at the same time as those reproduced by the midrange and woofer cones.  Additionally, the tweeter pod works in conjunction with the sloping top to encourage better dispersion of high frequency sounds, producing superb imaging and a very life-like three-dimensional soundstage.

  • Beveled cabinet edges: Designed to minimize diffraction of midrange frequencies that would be caused by sharp 90-degree cabinet corners.  The benefit is improved imaging in the midrange frequencies.  Observant audiophiles would note that this benefit can only be fully realized if the protective dust grilles are removed.  So be sure to remove them during reference listening sessions.  Aesthetically speaking, the beveled cabinet edges and the sloping top add visual appeal to what would have been another boring boxy loudspeaker cabinet.

  • Large bass driver dustcap: The woofer voice coil is directly bonded to the back of a large "mushroom" dustcap to increase rigidity and achieve greater control of bass cone excursions.  The advantage of this design is tighter bass response and lower distortion at higher volume levels.

  • Flowport™ vent: This unique vent port design uses dimpled surfaces to keep the airflow smooth over its flaring port.  This is the same aerodynamics technique used in golf balls to minimize turbulence and maintain smooth airflow over the rear of the ball (so that drag is minimized).  B&W uses the Flowport design in all of its vented loudspeakers to avoid the "chugging" sound resulting from air compression and turbulence when the airflow separates as it tries to navigate the flared opening.  The acoustic benefit of the Flowport design is tighter and more accurate bass response.

The two Kevlar/paper woofer cones are housed together in their own separate chamber and vent to a single Flowport vent that opens to the front baffle.  The 9NT's sensitivity is 90 dB, so it won't require a lot of amplification power.  Its nominal impedance is 8 ohms and never drops below 3.0 ohms, so just about any decent quality receiver or amplifier can drive this loudspeaker load.  Of course, better receivers are more likely to bring out the 9NT's full potential.  For the serious audio enthusiast, there are two pairs of high quality gold-plated binding posts.  These permit the loudspeaker to be bi-wired for improved resolution of low frequency detail and performance.  Alternatively, you can bi-amplify.  If you don't want to bi-wire or bi-amp, simply leave the gold-plated link in place and use one set of the binding posts.

The CDM CNT: two-way vented center channel

CDM CNT center channel loudspeaker (click to see more photos & enlargements)The CDM CNT is a 2-way center channel loudspeaker and shares a number of the CDM 9NT's features:

The CDM CNT doesn't have the FST midrange, but it still features a Kevlar cone in a midrange-woofer configuration.  The midrange-bass driver vents to dual Flowport vents located on either side of the driver.  The CNT uses a single midrange-woofer driver for greater midrange imaging accuracy.  Many center channel speakers that use a side-by-side dual midrange-woofer driver layout suffer from uneven off-axis response due to sound wave mutual interference.  This is also known as the "lobing effect" and affects center channel clarity in some areas of the primary listening location.

The CNT's sensitivity is 91 dB.  Like the 9NT, the CNT's nominal impedance is 8 ohms and never drops below 4.6 ohms, so any decent quality receiver or amplifier can drive this loudspeaker.  For a center channel speaker, I was pleasantly surprised to find two pairs of high quality gold-plated binding posts, for bi-wiring or bi-amping.  Very few center channel loudspeakers offer this option.  This is one of many examples where B&W did not take shortcuts.

The CDM CNT struck me as being large and quite heavy.  It measures 11.8 inches high x 18.1 inches wide x 11.4 inches deep (300mm x 460 mm x 290 mm) and weighs a hefty 30 pounds (13.5 kg).  Its larger size and mass are justified when you realize that its frequency response extends down to 50 Hz.  Though its size and weight pay dividends in acoustic performance, make sure the top of your TV or shelf is deep, wide, and strong enough to accommodate the size and weight of this large center speaker.  If you have a large rear projection TV, make sure to aim the speaker slightly downward towards the listening area (ear level) for the best dialog and center channel performance.  The cabinet's height of nearly one foot can bring the tweeter way above the plane of most listener's ears.  The CDM CNT is magnetically shielded so that placement near or on top of a TV would not interfere with the TV.

Finish, Cabinet Construction, and Build Quality

available in three finishes (click to see more photos & enlargements)The entire CDM NT series is available in three real wood veneer finishes: black ash, red-stained cherry, and natural cherrywood.  Take a look at our photo gallery for close-up pictures of each type of finish.  I like both the red-stained cherry and natural cherrywood finishes, and had some difficulty choosing between the two.  The natural cherrywood is nicely grained and its natural wood color goes well with many wood furnishings you may have in your listening/home theater room.  The red-stained cherry is rich and satiny looking.  In the end, I chose the natural cherrywood.  This finish makes the loudspeakers look more like fine furniture than some electronic gadget or black box.  Its natural wood finish looks great in my listening/home theater room and adds warmth to a room that pulls double duty as the family room.  The wood veneer panels are thoughtfully and aesthetically applied.  The grain continues its run as the same sheet of veneer is used on adjacent surfaces (front, top, back, and bottom surfaces).  The side panels are chosen such that the wood grain pattern serves as a "fingerprint" for each loudspeaker cabinet, each unique but with similar patterns.

Under the beautiful natural cherry real wood veneer finish, MDF (medium density fiberboard) forms the structure of the cabinet.  MDF is frequently chosen by loudspeaker manufacturers due to its inert acoustic properties.  For extra rigidity, three-quarter inch thick MDF boards are used and internally reinforced for extra rigidity.  In the CDM 9NT, the cabinet is separated into two chambers, one for the midrange and the other for the two bass drivers.  A solid cabinet construction is critical to sonic performance, as it provides a solid enclosure that minimizes vibrations and resonances that can significantly color the sound.  Rap on the outside of cabinet and all you'll hear is a dull thud.  Solid.  As another indicator of cabinet build quality, the CDM 9NT weighs 58 pounds (26.5 kg), while the CDM CNT weighs 30 pounds (13.5 kg).  The speaker grilles are sturdily constructed of high-grade plastic and acoustically transparent fabric.  They pressure fit onto the front baffle using grille holes and fully enclose all but the tweeter pod.  Cabinet craftsmanship is first class all-around.

The large binding posts can accommodate any sort of termination: spade lug, banana plug, pin connector, or bare wire.  They are gold-plated for maximum signal integrity.  The crossover networks are audiophile quality, using separate circuit boards for treble, midrange, and bass, for maximum clarity and minimal distortion.  Overall, the finish, cabinet construction, and build quality are top notch across the board.

Set Up & Burn-In

B&W calls it "running-in", but otherwise it's known as the burn-in period.  This is when the mechanical parts start to work with each other smoothly as a system to produce the designed sound quality.  I basically gave these speakers an extended break-in period, playing stereo music, movie surround sound tracks, and multi-channel music for two to three hours a day for three weeks before conducting any serious listening sessions for our review.  Though I did not make any notes during this period, I remembered that the sonic performance became more open and smooth, especially in treble and critical midrange frequencies.

After the burn-in period, I fine tuned the loudspeakers' placement.  As each manufacturer recommends proper placement guidelines for their speakers, I followed B&W's guidance of placing the CDM 9NTs such that the angle subtended by the left and right stereo pair is more or less 60 degrees in front of the primary listening position.  For home theater and multi-channel music, I placed the CDM CNT center channel on top of my rear projection TV.  The other pair of 9NTs serve as surround speakers and were relegated near the rear corners of the room, per the ITU loudspeaker setup guideline for multi-channel music.  During reference or review listening sessions, I removed the grille covers for the most precise imaging performance possible.

Listening Test: Stereo Music

I started my listening tests with a pair of CDM 9NTs playing stereo programs from audio CDs.  Immediately, I was bowled over with the CDM 9NT's incredible imaging.  The soundstage was incredibly three-dimensional.  It extended far wider than the physical placement of the speakers and far higher than the height of the speaker cabinet.  A soundstage this three-dimensional must be heard to believed.  B&W's tag line appropriately says, "listen and you'll see".  I first heard the CDM 9NTs in a showroom that was wider than it was deep (approximately 30 feet wide by 20 feet deep).  I put on Celine Dion's "Hero" (from her album "The Colour of My Love", Epic BK-57555) and closed my eyes.  To my astonishment, I heard a soundstage that extended far to the periphery of my vision.  Yes, I heard music coming from about 150 degrees in front of me, while the pair of CDM 9NTs were physically placed only 60 degrees apart!  The absence of side wall reflections in this wide listening room and B&W's superb treble and midrange dispersion made this extraordinarily wide soundstage possible.  This experience was quite an epiphany for me.  I've listen to this recording many, many times before, but ignorant of its superb imaging until now.  It was this way with every quality recording.  As good as it was, the source was only audio CD.

Super Audio Compact Disc (SACD) logoTo really hear what these B&Ws can do, I turned to one of the new high resolution audio formats, Super Audio CD, to hopefully drive these loudspeakers to their fullest potential.  I started with Gloria Estefan's "Alma Caribeńa" (stereo, Epic ES-62163).  Listening to the Cuban music at reference volume was a mesmerizing experience.  The 9NTs gave a thrilling performance of "Dame Otra Oportunidad (Give Me Another Chance)".  The loudspeaker's tweeter, midrange, and woofer worked seamlessly together to produce a sonic experience rich in musical texture and rhythm.  Gloria's strong and beautiful voice came across clearly even while the mesmerizing beats of the percussion instruments pounded on.  The stereo imaging was exceptionally defined, depicting each instrumental sound clearly its proper three-dimensional space.  Musical details of the acoustic guitars, horns, and percussion instruments were accurately rendered.  Treble was crystal clear with no hint of harshness.  Midrange was smooth, open, and transparent.  Bass was strong and tight, with a well behaved response that is more typical of acoustic suspension cabinet designs than with vented enclosures.  I simply closed my eyes and bathed in the sonic delight.  By the end of the song, no words came to my mind.  Just emotions.  A testament to the incredible performances by the artists and the B&Ws.

Listening to Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4 as performed by Lorin Maazel and the Cleveland Orchestra (stereo, Telarc SACD-60563) (track #3), I felt as though the horn section was in my listening room.  The strings were holographic as they volleyed between the left and right sides of the soundstage.  The bass was exhilarating, with clean definition and deeper extension into the lower octaves than its specification response of 38 Hz would indicate.  The entire wide range of orchestral instruments in this marvelous recording was breathtakingly reproduced by the B&W, in a performance that was spine-tingling.  The 9NTs rendered the full orchestral weight without overlooking any subtle nuances of this fine recording.  Everything, from the lush sweeping violins to the immediacy of the percussion section, was rendered with an incredible sense of realism and palpability that only loudspeakers this sonically pure can offer.

I listened to quite a few other stereo SACDs and audio CDs, and came to similar conclusions.  The only shortcoming was a very slight emphasis (richness) in certain treble frequencies.  I emphasize "very slight" since I wouldn't go as far as characterizing the sound as "bright".  It became immediately clear to me that where the CDM 9NTs really shine is during playback of Super Audio CDs.  Reference quality recordings in this new high resolution format played back on a high performance system and these CDM 9NTs bring out a level of transparency, openness, musicality, and imaging that undeniably will raise every listener's reference level and expectations.

Listening Test: Multi-Channel Music

Jerry Goldsmith's "The Film Music of Jerry Goldsmith" SACD, click here to read our reviewNext, I turned to multi-channel SACDs.  Listening to the multi-channel DSD track of Telarc's "The Film Music of Jerry Goldsmith" SACD (SACD-60433) was a remarkable experience.  It was clearly the best audio experience this reviewer has experienced.  "Wow!" doesn't begin to describe the emotions I felt.  I am completely sold on multi-channel audio, particularly in the SACD format.  Stereo SACD is excellent, but multi-channel SACD is even more so.  The entire room is transformed into one big soundstage and the best way to describe the experience: "virtual reality for sound".  I was astonished and my jaw dropped in disbelief.  As you can imagine, the four 9NTs worked incredibly well together as the front left and right mains and as the surround speakers.  The CNT center channel followed suit and pretty much kept up with the larger 9NTs to provide a virtually seamless front soundstage.  The presentation was certainly free from any sonic "holes" in the frequency spectrum.  The CNT performed exceptionally well thanks to superior design features that it shares with the 9NT.  And as I suspected, the CNT's larger form factor paid large dividends, allowing it to easily reach down to 50 Hz and keep up with the 9NT's superb bass definition.

The realism was so incredible that all I had to do was put in my favorite multi-channel SACD, close my eyes, turn up the volume, and press play.  Immediately, I was transported into the acoustic space of the recording studio or the venue of the recording.  The experience is completely and utterly mesmerizing!

Listening Test: Movie Surround Sound

For movie soundtracks, I configured the bass management of my receiver for "large" speakers all around, including the output to the CDM CNT center channel.  I set the subwoofer to "none" so that the low frequency effects (LFE) in the ".1" channel would be re-directed to the front main left and right speakers.  Basically, I tested the CDM NT loudspeaker system in 5.0-channel mode.  So how good did demanding DVD-Video movie soundtracks sound?  In short, stunning!

Star Wars: Episode I, The Phantom MenaceIn numerous demanding soundtracks such as "Star Wars: Episode 1, The Phantom Menace", "Gladiator", and "Toy Story 2", the CDM NTs exhibited strong dynamics while simultaneously demonstrating the capability to resolve low level details.  The treble and midrange were liquidity smooth, presenting a totally immersive and seamless soundfield.  The slight brightness that I mentioned before was equalized out with my A/V receiver's digital equalizer in home theater mode.  The bass was strong, tight, and articulate.  Never mushy.  Never floundered when pushed hard.  Though the CDM 9NTs' -3 dB point is 38 Hz, it seemed to have pushed much lower.  Having a pair of CDM 9NTs as surround speakers was an enlightening experience.  I've never realized how aggressive and how much bass material sound designers put into the surround channels.

Surely, some home theater purists may squawk at the thought of using direct-radiating speakers (not to mention large floorstanders) in surround channel applications.  Admittedly, direct firing speakers may not provide that diffuse surround effect that is preferred by some for movie soundtracks.  But this configuration actually did quite well with my Sony ES A/V receiver's "virtual 6.1-channel" mode for THX Surround EX and DTS-ES soundtracks, taking advantage of the precise imaging afforded by direct radiating speakers to re-create that virtual surround back speaker.  For me, the full-range performance of the 9NTs more than compensated for the "less than diffuse" surround effect.  As an example, every time the Yamaha grand piano DTS trailer plays, I can feel the back of my sofa vibrating.  Few bipole/dipole surround speakers can reproduce that kind of visceral impact.

Given the importance of the center channel for movie soundtracks, the CNT gave a strong performance.  Dialog was articulate and clear, with absolutely no signs of sibilance.  The Kevlar midrange-bass driver rendered every nuance of human speech and song with utter precision.  And the relatively deep bass response projected most of the visceral impact of on-screen explosions.  The CNT center channel's single midrange-bass driver design fostered an even sound dispersion across the primary seating areas, unlike some horizontal dual midrange driver designs that are fraught with lobing effects that can penalize off-axis performance.

Auditioning Tips - What to listen for when you shop

Loudspeaker purchases are one of the more daunting tasks of putting together a home audio or home theater system.  Here are some tips for best results when auditioning the B&W CDM NT speakers in the showroom, to make sure you're listening to them at the fullest potential:

  • Correct speaker placement: When listening in a showroom, make sure the speakers are properly placed for optimal stereo imaging.  Place them at least 3 feet (1.5 meters) from the back wall and side walls, and about eight feet apart from each other.  Place your chair such that you and the two speakers form an equilateral triangle.  The speakers should be spaced 60 degrees apart and symmetrically in front of you.  Then "toe in" the speakers about 20 to 35 degrees so that the speaker cones are somewhat pointed towards you.  Play with the toe-in angle to get the best stereo imaging.

  • Listen to stereo sources: The best and most practical way to audition speakers is in 2-channel stereo mode.  Listen to the entire song and resist from doing too many "A-B tests" (switching between speakers frequently in the middle of the song).

With these tips, some time and patience, you'll be able to hear these wonderful loudspeakers at their best.  Even if you're not seriously contemplating these speakers, try them out anyways as a point of reference.

Competitive Models & Value - How does this model compare?

After auditioning a number of loudspeakers in this general price range from various manufacturers, I found that comparisons are more appropriate to other loudspeakers from B&W.  And more specifically, I was compelled at how well the CDM 9NTs performed in comparison to more expensive speakers from B&W.  The CDM 9NT is definitely a better value than the Nautilus 803s, 804s, and 805s.  They easily beat the acoustic performance of the Nautilus 805 bookshelf speakers ($1000 each) any day.  And in some ways, the CDM 9NTs outperform the more expensive Nautilus 804s (the most affordable floorstanding speaker in the Nautilus 800 series at $1750 each).  And dare I say the CDM 9NTs approached the performance of the Nautilus 803s ($2500 each).  Certainly from this regard, the CDM 9NT is a very good value.

Compared to the less expensive CDM 7NT floorstanding speakers ($1000 each), the CDM 9NT blows it away, with its 3-way design.  The two dedicated woofer drivers and the FST midrange driver elevate the 9NT's performance closer to that of the Nautilus 800 series.  Compared to the CDM 7NT, the CDM 9NT is a far better loudspeaker and for the $300 price difference the 9NT is also a far better value.

Availability & Price - Where can I buy this model & for how much?

The B&W lines of loudspeakers are sold worldwide in over 65 countries.  Look for these B&W CDM 9NT and CNT loudspeakers at your nearest B&W authorized specialty electronics retailer.  As far as I know, there are no B&W authorized internet dealers.

Conclusion

top view (click to see more photos & enlargements)I absolutely love the CDM 9NTs, as a stereo pair and as a quadruplet in a multi-channel audio / home theater system.  The CDM CNT center channel speaker nicely completes the set and is a better-than-usual match.  The CNT's size and weight contribute to its great performance, but its unusually large dimensions can make placement atop large rear projection TVs a little difficult.  But if you have room for it, the CDM CNT is a worthy loudspeaker that provides a good measure of center channel performance for home theater enthusiasts who are also serious multi-channel music connoisseurs.

All the technologies I discussed above boil down to a sonic performance that leaves me in a state of bliss as a serious music listener, and in a state of awe as a home theater enthusiast.  I'm talking about goose bumps all the way!  The imaging is incredibly precise and detailed. The resulting soundstage is incredibly three-dimensional, far exceeding the physical placement of the speakers in both the horizontal and vertical axes.

This is a classical music listener's loudspeaker. Not that it can't handle rock, jazz, country, rap, or other genres of music and home theater soundtracks. In fact, there are many and more affordable speakers that can reproduce those programs well.  But few can reproduce classical music and the new high-resolution audio formats like SACD and DVD-Audio to the high level that the CDM 9NTs can.  And that list gets a lot shorter when you limit the price to about $1300 each. From this perspective, the CDM 9NT proves to be quite a value.

I suppose if you had the means, you could buy a pair of high performance loudspeakers that go for $6000 or more. But why, when you can attain the high level of sonic performance that these CDM 9NTs provide for a more reasonable $2600/pair.  Better yet, buy five of these B&W CDM 9NTs (or four with a CDM CNT center channel) and experience what high-resolution multi-channel audio is all about. In fact, the CDM 9NT's closest competitor aren't from competing loudspeaker manufacturers, but rather B&W's own (and more expensive) Nautilus 800 series, specifically the Nautilus 804 ($3500/pair) and the Nautilus 803 ($5000/pair). Oops!  Maybe this is a secret that B&W doesn't want its customers to know.  

Overall the CDM 9NTs and CDM CNT make an awesome combination for any serious home theater or audio enthusiast.  I like these speakers so much, I purchased these loudspeakers for my reference system.  That's just about the highest and most sincere recommendation a reviewer can give.  I've had this CDM 9NT/CNT loudspeaker system for about five months now, and I absolutely love them!  

Other Information

Summary of Features:

  • CDM 9NT: 3-way vented floorstanding loudspeaker, Nautilus technology tube loaded free-mounted tweeter, FST™ midrange design, Kevlar® 6.5-inch midrange cone, dual Kevlar/paper 6.5-inch woofer cones, Flowport™ vent, bi-wireable, bi-amplifiable, a set of 4 spikes are included, available in three real wood veneer finishes (black ash, natural cherrywood, and red stained cherrywood), black cloth grille, 5-year limited warrantee (parts and labor), made in England.

  • CDM CNT: 2-way vented center channel loudspeaker, Nautilus technology tube loaded free-mounted tweeter, Kevlar® 6.5-inch midrange-woofer cone, dual Flowport™ vents, bi-wireable, bi-amplifiable, available in three real wood veneer finishes (black ash, natural cherrywood, and red stained cherrywood), black cloth grille, 5-year limited warrantee (parts and labor), made in England.

Specifications

  • CDM 9NT: frequency response 38 Hz - 25 kHz (± 3 dB) and 30 Hz - 30 kHz (± 6 dB), nominal impedance 8 ohms (3.0 ohms minimum), sensitivity 90 dB (2.83V, 1meter), crossover frequencies 350 Hz and 4 kHz, nominal power handling 50-200 Watts, dimensions 39.4 in (H) x 8.7 in (W) x 12.4 in (D) or 1000 mm (H) x 220 mm (W) x 315 mm (D), 58 pounds (26.5 kg).

  • CDM CNT: frequency response 50 Hz - 25 kHz (± 3 dB) and 46 Hz - 30 kHz (± 6 dB), nominal impedance 8 ohms (4.6 ohms minimum), sensitivity 91 dB (2.83V, 1meter), crossover frequency 4 kHz, nominal power handling 50-120 Watts, dimensions 11.8 in (H) x 18.1 in (W) x 11.4 in (D) or 300 mm (H) x 460 mm (W) x 290 mm (D), 30 pounds (13.5 kg).

Contact Information: B&W Loudspeakers of America, 54 Concord Street, North Reading, MA 01864-2699.  Call (978) 664-2870.  Visit the B&W Loudspeaker web site.

Associated equipment used in evaluation: Sony DVP-S7700 reference DVD player, Sony ES SCD-C555ES Super Audio CD 5-disc player, Sony ES STR-V444ES A/V receiver, Sony KP-61V45 61" rear projection TV (4:3 screen aspect ratio), Monster Cable M-series S-Video cable MSV-500, Monster Cable Interlink LightSpeed 100 (Toslink) optical cable, Monster Cable Interlink 400 MKII interconnects, Monster Cable Original speaker cables in bi-wire configuration with Monster Cable twist-on gold-plated banana plug connectors, and Lovan Sovereign T HiFi audio rack.  Our home theater equipment was calibrated with the Video Essentials DVD.  Audio calibration was performed with the test tones from the Tchaikovsky: 1812 Overture (multi-channel, Telarc, SACD-60541) using a Radio Shack SPL meter.

Audio CDs used in testing: Celine Dion's "The Colour of My Love" CD, Gloria Estefan's "Destiny" CD, Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace soundtrack CD, and Music from the Motion Picture Titanic CD.

SACDs used in testing: Gloria Estefan's "Alma Caribeńa" (stereo, Epic ES-62163), The Film Music of Jerry Goldsmith (multi-channel, Telarc SACD-60433), Tchaikovsky: 1812 Overture (multi-channel, Telarc SACD-60541), Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4 / Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring - Lorin Maazel & Cleveland Orchestra (stereo, Telarc SACD-60563).

DVD movies used in testing: "Star Wars: Episode 1, The Phantom Menace" DVD, "Gladiator" DVD, "Toy Story 2" DVD, "Pearl Harbor" DVD, "Mission: Impossible 2" DVD, Men In Black DVD, and Fleetwood Mac: The Dance DVD.

This review was originally posted on March 5, 2002.

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In This Review:

 

> Photo Gallery

> Introduction

> The CDM 9NT

> The CDM CNT

> Finish, Cabinet Construction, and Build Quality

> Set Up & Burn-In

> Listening Test: Stereo Music

> Listening Test: Multi-Channel Music

> Listing Test: Movie Surround Sound

> Auditioning Tips

> Competitive Models & Value

> Availability &  Price

> Conclusion

> Other Information

 


Hardware Reviews

 

> Samsung BD-C5500 Blu-ray player

> Sony BDP-S370 Blu-ray player

> Sony BDP-S470 Blu-ray player

> Sony BDP-S570 Blu-ray player

> Vizio VBR231 Blu-ray player

> Vizio VBR220 Blu-ray player

 

> B&W CDM 9NT & CNT loudspeaker system

> Lovan "Sovereign" audio rack

 

more >>   

 


DVD & Blu-ray Release Dates

 

> August 2010

> September 2010

> October 2010

> November 2010

> December 2010

> January 2011

more >>   

 




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