Pacific NW Home Theater Get Together
By Chris Heinonen on
I’ve gone to a home theater get together (GTG) or two in the past but none recently. With a couple of little kids it just never fit into the schedule as well as it used to. When Kris Deering (Home Theater, formerly Secrets of Home Theater) told me he was going to have one, I began to consider going. When he told about everything he put together for it, I decided I had to attend. It turned out to be well worth the effort.
I attended the GTG with Stephen Hornbrook (Secrets of Home Theater) as well as Jim Peterson, the president of Lumagen. We made the 3-hour drive from Portland, hauling along the Sony HT-ST7 sound bar that I have been reviewing to demo for all the guests as well. Jim wasn’t the only company representative to be present for the GTG.
Mark Seaton, president of Seaton Sound, made the trip out. Kris recently installed a pair of Seaton Sound Submersive HP subwoofers into his theater and Mark wanted to dial them in. These monsters are at the front of his 21’x16’ dedicated theater room, hidden away behind a pair of massive tower speakers from Legacy Audio. Since 4,800 watts of subwoofer power just isn’t enough, the bass in the room is further augmented in the back by dual SVS SB13-Ultra subwoofers. With a 13” sealed driver and 1,000 watts of power each, Kris has more than enough low-frequency to make anyone happy.
Legacy Audio Speakers
The speakers in the room are Legacy Audio models that he is currently evaluating. The front speakers are their Focus SE model. They have dual 12” woofers, dual 7” midwoofers, a 4” air motion tweeter (AMT) midrange and a 1” AMT tweeter. These beasts are almost 5’ tall and come in at 138 lbs. each. The Submersive HP subwoofers hid behind them pretty easily at the front of the room. The center channel was a similarly monstrous Marquis HD. With another dual 12” subwoofers, a 7” midrange and a 1” AMT tweeter, it should provide very similar voicing to the Focus SE fronts. Surround duties were handled by a pair of Phantom HD surrounds. This was a 5.4 channel setup, with no rears in the mix.
Listening to stereo the Legacy speakers provide a huge soundstage that extended far back into the wall. Kris’s room is acoustically treated which helps in providing a detailed environment free of reflections to muddy the imaging. Van Morrison’s vocals were clear and effortless from the Focus SE, and the dual 12” woofers were able to dig out those low-frequency notes with no trouble at all. Power for the speakers was provided by 1,000 watt Emotiva XPR-1 monoblocks so we ran no risk of running out of power. The only issue I heard with the Legacy speakers were a couple of notes that moved from the woofers to the midrange and sounded a bit off. There were only 1-2 notes I heard that exhibited this behavior, but I also was not sitting in the sweet spot for the speakers either.
The bass provided no issues at all unless you don’t like bass. When the ridiculous arena entry scene in Tron: Legacy begins, the whole house knows. The low-frequency effects fill the room and escape through the walls and door to the rest of the house. At one point a couch I was sitting on 30’ outside of the theater room began to vibrate from all of this bass energy. Despite that obscene amount of power, the bass was never fatiguing at all. Tight, accurate, and able to stop and start at will the subwoofers filled the room. Any crash, explosion, or thud was heard and felt as the Submersive HPs filled the room. The SVS SB13-Ultra subwoofers are no slouches, but they cannot put out the kind of power that the Submersives are capable of. Altogether they filled the room with explosive, clean, even bass that made the movies come to life.
Oppo Surprises Us All
One of the main reasons I came up is because Jason and Nathan from Oppo were planning to attend as well. I figured they would just be up to enjoy the event and talk about the Oppo BDP-105 player that Kris and I both use for our reference Blu-ray player, but they had a surprise for us. Inside a bag was a prototype of a headphone amplifer/DAC/preamp that they are working on. When, and if, it will be released are still up in the air, but from the model we got to see and listen to it will be something I will buy for my desktop for sure.
With all of the experience gained from producing the Oppo BDP-83SE, BDP-95 and BDP-105, Oppo knows how to design a high-end analog circuit now. This features the same ESS SABRE 9018 DAC that those products use, and provides both balanced and unbalanced inputs and outputs. It also has Coaxial, Optical, USB, and Bluetooth AptX inputs for using it as a DAC for your PC, Smartphone, Tablet, and other digital devices. It also has a high-quality, pure analog potentiometer for volume control letting you use this as a high-quality analog preamp and DAC as well as a headphone amplifier.
As a headphone amplifier it did not disappoint. It has 6.3mm and a balanced headphone output on the front so it can work with anything you have. Using Audeze LCD-2 headphones, which can be a beast to drive, the sample unit was able to bring out all the bass that the LCD-2 is capable of. My only sources were lossy Amazon Cloud Player tracks using Bluetooth streaming, but the amp still sounded fantastic. The headphone output section is pure Class A. The maximum power was still up in the air, but they said it can even power the HiFiMan HE-6, which is one of the toughest headphones on the market to drive today. Since they aren’t certain if they’ll be able to build it, price and timing are not available at the moment. If they do release it, I’ll be certain to pick one up and review it as it can serve double-duty as a headphone amp and analog preamp for me.
One demonstration that I missed was Don Munsil, of Spears & Munsil, offering an in-depth demonstration of their new HD Benchmark Blu-ray to the attendees. I’ve reviewed the disc in the past for both HD Guru and Secrets of Home Theater and find it to be a truly indispensable resource. The menu system isn’t the easiest to navigate due to how much content is on the disc, but your patience is rewarded with the best collection of test patterns and material anywhere.
Also available to attendees was a presentation on calibration using CalMAN 5 and a Panasonic VT50. This let people see how much even a high-end, THX Certified display can be improved by a certified calibrator, and what all goes into the process. I believe after the demonstration, and switching back and forth between the THX mode and the ISF calibrated mode, many people were impressed with the difference in image quality.
I really do want to thank Kris for putting on this home theater get together. It was a blast for everyone involved, and I got to meet many people who I’ve only seen online before. I also got a sneak peek at a component that I didn’t know existed, but is now at the top of my list for things to request for review. Hopefully when CEDIA rolls around in a few more weeks we can get some more definitive plans out of Oppo!