Like other Niro HTIBs we've tested, the 400 is remarkably easy to set up. You won't have to navigate setup menus or calibrate sound levels--there's nothing to adjust, and we had our review sample up and running in about five minutes. The included remote offers direct access to the bass and treble controls as well as to the subwoofer, center, and rear-channel volume levels.
As for power ratings, the amplifier dishes out 24 watts to each of the five drivers in the main speaker and 40 watts to the sub. Niro's proprietary surround processing, along with Dolby and DTS, work together to synthesize surround effects from the main speaker. Niro's technology is a closed system; if the amplifier breaks, you can't replace it with a standard, off-the-shelf amplifier or receiver. Also, the main speaker works only with Niro electronics.
Connectivity options are scant: you get one coaxial and two optical digital inputs and one analog stereo input. Video switching isn't part of the plan; the 400 routes only audio signals, so you'll need to hook up your DVD player, game console, and/or cable box directly to your TV (the 400 doesn't include a DVD player).
The 400 is also fitted with an output jack that accepts Niro's "personal theater" speaker, the MovieMouse (see our review of the MovieMouse for more in-depth analysis of its unique design).
In a small bedroom or a cozy den, the Niro 400's sound looms large. We pummeled the microsystem with the Matrix Reloaded DVD and were astounded by the oomph and the detail of its bass. Our favorite car-chase scene had no shortage of impact, and the carnage was visceral. We noted that the sound was best experienced at close range--three feet or less. We placed the sub on the floor to our left and the little speaker atop a small TV. Surround effects never came from the rear, but instead projected sound a good three or four feet to the sides. Morpheus's melodious pipes sounded rich and full. We sometimes felt the dialogue was too loud, so we lowered the center-channel level via the remote, which opened up the sound.
CDs didn't quite match the sonic heights achieved by DVDs, but the quality was still respectable. The sound was initially too bright for our tastes, but lowering the treble 4dB helped. Still, the overall sound was astonishingly good. With our eyes closed, we'd never have guessed that it was emanating from such a tiny system.
While the Niro 400 is not as adept at providing sound for CDs, we were once again impressed by Niro's ability to deliver impressive surround performance from a 1.1 system. The 400 is a hot ticket for cozy home-theater fun.