I got the ultra 9.2 just a couple of days ago and am still testing but I figure people will be interested in another data point for this new product, so here goes my first post. I am also including some suggestions for Nakamichi, as it looks like their reps do frequent this forum. I have already had one phenomenal experience with their customer service.
About Me - Technically savvy and very discerning about the tech stuff I buy. Drives my wife nuts even while she appreciates the results. Specifically for audio, I do notice subtle quality differences and will pay up for quality but I hesitate to classify myself as a “total and complete audiophile” because I will let other pragmatic considerations direct my decision.
My comparison criteria - Looking for a wireless true surround solution for our family room, preferably one not reliant on reflections. Listened to a number of soundbar and discrete AVR solutions at local stores to get a sense of what is possible, ideally under 2K.
Comparing audio systems in stores is a crapshoot, but my conclusion was that none of them met all of the criteria. Sonos - decent sound but nothing special and the playbar is plain outdated for 2017. The Bose soundtouch 300 package (soundbar + sub + rears) sounded better to my ears than the Sonos, but there are well known ARC compatibility issues between it and Samsung TVs. The Sony is impressive but no rears. The thing is heavy, so installing it on a wall is another challenge. Went to two different Best Buys to try the Samsung HW950 Atmos, but it wasn’t working. If I was looking for an audio only solution, my money would be on the BlueSound. Their NHD heritage shows in the warmth and depth of sound. None of the others have a rear solution or the base is too wimpy. On the discrete side, I would have paid up for the Klipsch Reference HD wireless system if the center channel was in a slimmer sound bar form factor. The current solution does not work for a TV mounted over a fireplace.
My setup for now is very simple - 2016 Samsung KS8000 series 65" 4K/HDR TV connected via HDMI ARC to the Nakamichi 9.2 and direct Ethernet to the router. Comcast x1 still connected to the TV which is supposed to do 5.1 pass-thru. Will add a Blueray player soon.
My current testing is mostly with the native Amazon, Netflix and Spotify apps on the TV which will do DD 5.1 but none of the higher quality standards. The TV is set to output DD. It also has an option called DTS Neo 2:5, which I tried but noticed a loss of quality. The LED display on the Nakamichi confirms source format is DD or DTS. I also tried a number of Dolby and DTS test files off the net. These were loaded on a network drive accessible to the TV and played using the native media browser app. It’s not able to play the Atmos content, but was able to play DTS-HD and DTS-HD MA files. I am not sure if its downsampling them down to DD 5.1 or doing a pass-thru (very likely the former). Hope to test higher quality media soon.
Room Configuration - This system is set up in my family room, with the 9.2 currently sitting raised up on a box in front of the TV. The room is not a proper rectangle, but there are walls on the left and right for reflections and the ceiling is a flat 10’. The size is around 16’ x 22’, so somewhere between the medium and large settings on the 9.2. The family room is slightly sunken and the far end opposite the TV connects to the kitchen which is at a higher level, so a large portion of the back wall is open. Flooring is wood with a concrete subfloor. I have the rears in a dipole config for now about six feet behind a sofa which is about 12’ from the TV.
Packaging - I was pleasantly surprised by the packaging. Clear instructions on how to open the box and everything nicely laid out. Includes cables and installation hardware.
Build Quality - Very nice, looks and feels premium. The LED display on the front of the bar is very helpful in comparison to other sound bars which often have minimal feedback. The display can be dimmed, which is a nice touch. However, reading the display through the metal grille can be hard at times. My suggestion to Nakamichi would be to move it outside the grille and go to a higher res dot matrix display in a future device.
Remote - Feature rich remote and its nicely backlit. I had no issues with distance or lag, works from over 14’. The remote is somewhat directional, have to figure out the correct vertical angle (pitch in aeronautical terms) for it to work. One suggestion to Nakamichi, the buttons could be larger with a larger font.
HDMI ARC worked seamlessly between the Samsung TV and 9.2 for power on/off and volume. I didn’t have to do anything special to get it working. After all the gripes I had heard about the Bose, using ARC was a non event.
For Movies & TV -
The short conclusion is that the system sounds Exceptional. Even my wife commented - it feels like we are in a real theater! The MOVIE EQ preset is a very good starting point. My preference was to disable Pure Direct (which keeps neural:X enabled but disables other processing). Center channel dialogue is very clear. Wide front sound stage with very good separation. The surrounds add an immersion that should handily beat all of the simulated products out there. The final battle scenes in Star Trek: Beyond, the fight scenes in Avengers or Civil War are alive. Even non-action films with a mellow background track like Amazon’s The only living boy in NY city feel immersive even at low volumes. (Yeah, Kate is cute, but that movie is far from 5 stars) The dual subs make their presence felt in many ways - from ambient tracks to loud crash bang sounds. The base setting stayed at 3 or lower.
My room layout is not amenable for a true 9.2 configuration but can’t wait to try it out, especially with higher quality tracks.
For Music Playback -
The system is good but less capable for music and this is partly due to its speaker configuration. I listen to a lot of acoustic tracks and the sound stage feels off if you are in the middle of the room. All of the full range speakers on the soundbar are 2.5” while the surrounds are 3” and closer to the 10” subs. So the the higher frequencies tend to be apparent in the front of the room with the lows in the rear. This 7.2 or 9.2 configuration works fine for movies, but not what you expect for music. The MUSIC EQ setting helps, but not completely. The bar by itself is not designed to handle a wider range as would be the case for a bar that relies on simulated surround and has a wider range of drivers up front (for instance the Bose, Sony, DefTec or BlueSound), so turning down the surrounds or going to stereo is inadequate. On the other hand, the sound feels much more balanced if I am in the kitchen listening in from the outside as it takes away some of this directionality. So capable system, but layout is better suited for movies.
If anyone from Nakamichi is reading this, I have a suggestion that could possibly be implemented with a firmware upgrade. There will be many people who can’t take advantage of a 9.2 layout and will either go for the 7.2 system or use the 9.2 in a dipole config. An alternative 7.2 layout for the 9.2 system would be to put one sub and its surrounds up front and keep one at the back of the room. The front surrounds can be repurposed as front left and right channels and the rear as surround left+rear and right+rear. The surround performance for movies should be similar to that of the 7.2 system (or better because of the 10” subs), but with a much more capable front sound stage. The firmware will need to remap audio channels in a different way to the individual speakers, and this is something that could be supported as a different EQ mode. If you can do this, it will give music fans a crazy good reason to consider the 9.2.
It’s the holiday season, so one can hope right?
So in summary, I am super happy with this system even with the average sound sources (DD 5.1) I have been able to test with. Can’t wait to try out higher quality tracks.
If anyone is looking for an easy to install and very capable home theater solution, the Nakamichi 9.2 deserves serious serious consideration. It’s a kick ass surround system at a very good price point. To find anything better as of today (Nov 2017), you will likely have to upgrade to a discrete AVR system in a much higher price range. And deal with the cabling and setup.
Oh, and about the customer service.. I noticed on Thanksgiving morning that the price had dropped. Sent a request through Amazon if a price adjustment was possible. I got a response in under 15 minutes and the adjustment showed up via Amazon in an hour..