For those who were unable to make it to Digital Living in Raleigh and Charlotte on July 22nd and 23rd, or for those who would like a reminder of some of the cool things we showed, we want to share a few highlights for you:
Dolby Atmos Theater
If you were able to attend our Digital Living event, I hope you made it to my Dolby Atmos presentation. I appreciate the full rooms for almost every showing (as you can see in the picture above) – I have never seen so many smiling faces at the end of a demo! Dolby Atmos just rocks! If you were there, you know what I mean. My Atmos demo raised a lot of questions, so for those of you who could not attend, I thought it would be helpful to go over some more popular ones with the answers.
- What is Dolby Atmos? Dolby Atmos is a new surround sound format from Dolby Labs that offers the most immersive sound experience ever. It is a huge step forward and uses additional speakers to completely surround you in the movie or concert.
- How is Atmos different from other surround formats? First of all, Dolby Atmos makes use of additional height speakers. These can be at least one pair of height speakers (or ideally two) placed above the primary listening area. Previously all producers had for sound effects placement was essentially a balance control. It let them designate (for example) 40% front and 60% rear and say 70% left and 30% right. This worked well, but with Atmos every sound effect has metadata attached to tell the processor the exact location of sound in a 3 dimensional space. This enables audio producers to place sounds at various heights, which is simply amazing.
- Will I need a new Blu-ray player? Not likely. Almost any recent Blu-ray player will decode an Atmos disc.
- How many new speakers will I need? One or two pairs of speakers.
- Will my existing speakers work? Yes, they all should work fine.
- Where do the Atmos speakers go? In order to get the best height effects, Atmos wants your side and rear surrounds to be closer to ear level as opposed to higher up as in the past. In some cases we are able to take existing in-ceiling surround speakers, making them the Atmos speakers, and add new lower side surrounds. Ideally you would have a pair of side surrounds at about ear level, a pair of rear surrounds at about ear level, and two pairs of in-ceiling Atmos speakers. The placement of the in ceiling speakers is determined with a math formula relating to your ceiling height (which we will help you with).
- Will I need a new receiver or processor? Yes, Dolby Atmos processing requires a new receiver.
- How much Atmos content is available? The first Atmos movie, ‘Brave,’ was released in June of 2012. Since then, 173 movies have been released in Atmos.
- What about all my existing content? This is the very cool part. Any Dolby Digital or DTS movie can benefit from Atmos. Your receiver will determine how to use the height channels. As a matter of fact, this is what people upgrading an older theater to Atmos tell us is the best part. All their old movies now have far better effects!
- How does this work with streaming content? Vudu and Amazon Prime have announced they will be streaming in Atmos soon.
- What about DTS-X? DTS-X is a great new technology whose main benefit is a way to adjust the level of the actual dialog track. An Atmos system will be fully compatible with DTS-X.
Finally, as with any high performance system, set up and calibration is critical. At Audio Advice, we know how to fine tune systems to deliver the very best sound. To get the best from Atmos, trust our experts to put in the right type of Atmos speakers at the correct position, and to calibrate your system to blow you away! We have Atmos theaters ready to demo in both our Raleigh and Pineville locations and we invite you in to hear this amazing new sound technology!
Sony 4K Ultra Short Throw Projector
One of the biggest hits at Digital Living was a very cool piece our friends from Sony demoed, their 4K Ultra Short Throw Projector!
This beautiful piece of home technology sits right against a wall. It’s made of machined aluminum, is about 4 feet long, 21” deep and 10” high, and contains a 4K laser light engine. This gives the advantage of an incredible 4k picture with a light engine that will last 10 times as long as a projector lamp.
If you have always wanted a really big picture, but did not want a projector hanging from the ceiling, this is the perfect solution. It can provide up to a 147” image! While you can just shine it on the wall, both Stewart and Screen Innovations have developed custom screens for this to give optimum performance.
It’s currently priced at $50,000. However, when you consider the closest thing in a 4K flat panel provides just a 98” picture at $40k, it seems a pretty good value.
Everyone who saw it at Digital Living in Charlotte and Raleigh was blown away with the picture quality and clarity of the laser light engine. We are sorry it’s not here now for you to see, but if you have a big wall that is dying for a big picture, this may be the perfect solution.
You’ll want lots of these bugs in your system!
After our recent Digital Living Event, Steve Silberman of AudioQuest handed a couple of us very small, innocuous looking little widgets that looked like USB thumb drives. (Those of you who follow the audio industry know that Steve used to be at Ayre Acoustics, one of our favorite American made electronics lines. A little over a year ago he joined AudioQuest and has really helped them brainstorm some great ideas.)
Steve said to try the widgets out by putting them in USB ports on our gear. Robert Schindler tried his first and sent me an email raving about the improvements. (If you know Robert, you know he has been in audio for a long time and can be very skeptical of audio hocus pocus.) I tried it as well and have to agree with Robert. There’s no hocus pocus here. This little widget from AudioQuest, the JitterBug is remarkable – with real engineering behind it!
Noise is a culprit that plagues circuits of all kinds. It robs warmth, detail, and that ultimate level of no background noise from the sound of gear. In the world of digital audio it can cause data packet errors and jitter.
AudioQuest engineers figured out a way to plug the JitterBug into the USB port of a device so it grabs all the noise while reducing jitter. The best news is, it’s only $49!
So far, I’ve found you can plug a JitterBug into just about anything in your system with a USB port and hear an improvement. If you are using a Mac Mini for serving up music, plug in two.
These start shipping soon and we have a bunch coming to our Raleigh and Charlotte locations. If you are into getting better sound and picture, it may be the best $50 bucks you ever spent!