An audiophile can spend thousands of dollars on one speaker—a multi-driver tower that can produce a broad range of frequencies clearly at high decibel levels. But even the best speaker, or an entire home theater full of them, will typically sound its best in only one spot: the sweet spot. THX has designed a speaker, the Steerable Line Array, that produces up to eight sweet spots. No matter where a person sits, he'll hear near-perfect audio. THX expects to sell the Array as part of custom installations soon and will eventually license it for other companies to use in their own TVs and audio systems.
Housing: The Array can fit inside a long cabinet, and a six-foot-long, 1.4-inch-tall gap in a wall or TV stand is all that's visible. Forcing sound waves through a narrow slot channels them into a stronger, more direct path, the same way water sprays more powerfully out of a slotted nozzle than an open one.
Speakers: THX packs more speaker drivers into the Array than any equivalent system. In the cabinet, 92 speaker drivers generate sound. Two rows of 30 low- and midrange drivers fire sound into the gap from above and below, while 32 outward-firing tweeters handle high frequencies.
Amplifiers: To fit so many speakers into the Array, THX developed a new kind of amplifier. A 100-watt amp aligns with each driver; each powers up only when its driver needs to fire and uses just one tenth of a watt when inactive. Less power means less heat, allowing THX to cut bulky heat sinks.
User Interface: During setup, viewers use a smartphone or a computer app connected wirelessly to the Array to map their home theater. Seats are tagged as sweet spots for the Array to target. In future iterations, the speaker system will be able to locate people on its own using infrared sensors.
Signal Processor: A dual-core processor decodes audio signals. Based on the predefined sweet spots, the processor determines when drivers will fire. To hit the leftmost of three sweet spots, for instance, the processor will fire the leftmost drivers, delay, fire the ones farther in, and so on. The delay bends the sound toward the target.
Cabinet length 6 feet
Price Not set
Sounds nice... price range?
A few years ago my brother-in-law, an outspoken and self-described audiophile, told me while watching a basketball game at my home that the sound coming out of my little $250 home theater system was terrible and he was so glad that he had spent thousands on his wonderful home theater system that made everything sound so wonderful. For years I had thought that it was probably all in his head, but hadn't said anything. This comment, however, was finally the breaking point. I told him I wanted to conduct a test to see if it was really all that discernible. He readily agreed, confident that there was a significant difference.
So I planned it out, got all involved to agree, and we had a fun night testing. I gathered my little home theater system and 2 of my friends who also had somewhat comparable home theater systems to mine, and we went to my brother-in-law's house. He invited 4 of his friends who were also self-proclaimed audiophiles, and one of them willingly brought his entire home-theater system over (not a small feat, considering the size and complexity of it). So with 5 different systems (2 expensive high-quality systems and 3 average mid-line systems) we proceeded with the testing.
The testing was blind, using the same high-end blue-ray player, and none of the 5 self-described audiophiles was able to watch another person's test until after their own (the amount of wiring running around his TV room was completely insane). We tested each of the 5 self-described audiophiles by having each hear the same 5 samples (an action movie, a rap song, classical music, rain in a rain forest, and a 3-person dialogue) from each system. Each sample was 15 to 30 seconds long.
After some basic statistical analysis, the result was pretty clear. Long story short, the self-described audiophiles could not consistently tell the difference between their high end systems and the mid-line systems. One of them was actually significantly better than the rest, at picking it out, but even she was still shy of 2/3 accuracy. Granted this was a small sample size, and not an extremely elaborate system that would be possible with a lot of time and money to set up, but it was pretty good for 8 guys & gals killing 5 hours one Friday night.
Oh, and my brother-in-law, the one who ripped my system originally? He graciously ate crow and accepted defeat. He's now the first to tell people that he believes that most audiophiles probably aren't, even though they think they are, and that it's all in their head. I'm sure there probably are some people who can tell the differences, but probably not as many as claim to be able to.
But of course, THX doesn't care if it is in your head or not, so long as you buy their stuff. =)
Thanks for sharing! That really is a fun way to find out if the audiophile thing is legit. I imagine it turned into a truly fun evening with people who obviously geek out about their equipment as much as you do. I know you don't care as much about your specific sound system, but given you were willing to participate in this test, you must have some scientific drive in you.
Or, you could have simply chalked it up to him generally being a douche, but I guess its better to prove he is rather then take that crap forever. I'm reminded of a show I watched where they had audio professionals comparing the sound quality difference between "Digital" and "Analog" recordings because, you know, apparently "Digitial" sucks. Anyway, long story short they too couldn't tell the difference.
I have the argument ALL the time with people about: Food, Video Recording, Audio Recording. There are just some things that are PHYSIOLOGICALLY impossible for the human body to do. I especially love the people who claim that their "Palette" is more refined then a childs, which is why the swill they are drinking/eathing is so amazing.... bah!!! Snobbery..
"Bah!!! Snobbery." is now on my list of standard retorts.
When a person coughs up thousands of dollars for a audio or home entertainment system, the imaginary goal is to convince yourself "YOU ARE THERE!", emotional feeling.
Now having spent so much money, obviously to oneself the audio system is all connected, it has to be justified, so here our own imagination arrives ready to fill in any missing gaps, lol.
Still, it is so much fun to use our imagination and get involved into the media and just pretend and believe we are actually there.
I too, turn the lights down low and snuggle with my love and enjoy a good movie, sharing the experience of actually being there!
It is just so much fun our ‘imagination’! Remember we are all born with imagination and it came FREE! ;)
Science sees no further than what it can sense, i.e. facts.
Religion sees beyond the senses, i.e. faith.
My conclusion exactly, "audiophiles" typically know very little about real, live sound. But, they do know about their own preferences whether it be emphasis on clear high ends, deep (and often muddy) bass, 3 dimensional imaging (even though even perfect real, natural sound auditoriums do not provide this artificial level of "imaging"), etc. Fine, let them ruminate and revel in their hobby and spend their money. As for me, my ears are simply average and that fine with me!
Interesting, Marcoreid. I agree that not all have refined their senses enough to distinguish a difference between high-end and low-end speaker systems. However, with some "especially" nice systems I would be surprised if the inexperienced listener did not notice the difference right away. My dad is definitely an audiophile and has invested in some nice sound systems. He was converted to buying a high-end system when he did a blind test on two CD systems. One CD player was a $14,000 Wadia system, and the other was a mid-line CD player. He was skeptical that he would hear any difference, but the Wadia guy talked him into taking the test. Surprisingly, he heard a noticeable difference! Anyways, now we listen to music through a 26k pair of Martin Logan speakers, a 14k CD player, and some other box that I am not sure of what it does.. The sound is incredible, although there definitely is a "sweet-spot". We also use an Infiniti home theater system, and this produces great sound and makes all the difference when watching a movie. The Subwoofer even rumbles and shakes the room during loud scenes.
In reality 15-30 seconds and direct A/B comparisons, switching back and forth, does not allow for a proper comparison so I have to disagree with Marcoreid's conclusions. Every speaker system has a different nominal impedance and more importantly different efficiency.
When doing quick (15-30) second listening tests, the speaker that is louder or more efficient often is chosen as the better sound. It is only when you listen to an entire song and note the nuances and details heard, then repeating that same song at a similar volume level (not volume on the electronics) but volume to your ear,; does it allow for proper comparison of sound quality. I think you will surprised at the differences when this type of comparison is done. Hope you won't give up on bringing the live experience (what ever this is for you) into your home listening pleasures.