Author Archive | Chris Heinonen

Triad Factory Tour and DS4 Speakers

Tucked off in a nondescript business park just outside of Portland International Airport is Triad Speakers. You can be forgiven for thinking that this is likely the business side of Triad, while their assembly operations certainly have to be overseas somewhere, right? But inside you’ll go in and find one of the more amazing setups you have seen.

Triad Speakers was acquired by Control4 earlier this year, one of a number of acquisitions for Control4 recently. Control4 is designed to make your home, not just your AV system, easier and more user-friendly. Triad fits into that setup by allowing your music system to be as visible or invisible as you want it to be. When you think of custom install speakers, you usually think of something you’ll put inside a wall or ceiling. Triad goes much further, letting you truly customize your custom install speakers as much as you would like.

Do you want a high-end bookshelf speaker to go in your living room? That’s easy. Perhaps you want it to be wood grain, but not just any wood grain. You want it to match the built-in wood bookshelves you have in that room. And it has to be so high and so deep because those shelves are fixed into position. When your dealer brings this to Triad, they’ll say “Sure, and what level of speaker drivers do they want?”

Walking around Triad, you’ll quickly notice there are not finished speakers laying around, or stacked on shelves. The only speakers in the building that are finished are those that were built that day and are waiting for the FedEx or UPS person to come get them or the ones in their demo theater. You’ll see lots of raw MDF, CNC machines to cut it, booths to paint it, racks of drivers to select from to build them, and stations to test them. Even the packing materials for Triad are custom built from a local company so as not to take up extra space in the factory. I was at Triad two weeks ago, and by this point every speaker I saw being built, and most likely all of the MDF and boxes in there have been used and delivered to customers.

When you see this, you understand how they work with Control4. You can get any kind of speaker you want for your situation. A sound bar that’s the exact width of your TV? Some bookshelf speakers to go behind your projection screen along with matching in-wall surrounds and height channels? They can do almost anything, and having reviewed their Gold bookshelf speakers in the past, I can tell you they sound fantastic as well.

I wasn’t just there to see the factory, though. Instead, I was there to get a preview of a new speaker they had designed and were going to be showing at CEDIA this year. The new Designer Series is an in-wall speaker or subwoofer that is hardly visible but offers ultra-wide dispersion along with the ability to easily repair them if something goes wrong.

Triad DS4 Grill

This is all you’ll see once the DS4 is installed.

I had my own experience with installing speakers this past year. It required big cuts into drywall, lots of work, and they are clearly visible to people that come over. The Designer Series is completely hidden, aside from a single 4” round or square port that is flush-mounted to the ceiling. To have such a tiny visible area, it means most of the speaker components are hidden behind the ceiling. It also means that in almost all cases, you’re going to have to install them before the ceiling is put in, or during a major renovation. So what if something goes wrong once the speaker is installed, and stuck behind drywall?

Triad thought of this and designed it so all the drivers and crossovers are serviceable through the 4” opening. It’s easier to do if you have small hands and wrists like me, but you can pop off the grill, reach in, and replace any or all of the components. If a tweeter blows for some reason, it can be repaired without needing to pull the whole speaker out. It’s certainly much easier to do this than how much work it is going to take me if one of my speakers ever has an issue.


White kitchen Interior and living room in luxury home

Can you spot the speakers?

But this doesn’t matter unless it sounds good. The Triad demo units were not installed in the ceiling but were stand mounted for us in a conference room. Listening to Daft Punk as I walked around the room, the dispersion that the speakers manage is very impressive. I could walk from side to side, going almost even with the speaker itself, and still hear all the detail. They aren’t going to replace your full-range in-wall speakers with 6” or 8” drivers, but they aren’t going to disappoint when they are your in-ceiling speakers for the kitchen, bedroom, or living room.

Triad DS4 Exposed

Easy access to repair

We finally got to see them installed in the home of Triad founded Larry Pexton. He was installing them to serve at Atmos channels in the ceiling, while other Triad in-ceiling speakers served the role of the five main channels. The DS4 speakers were almost impossible to notice in the ceiling, and the speaker system combined with an LG OLED showing Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation made for a great viewing experience. The system had no components taking up space in the room at all, just a TV mounted to the fireplace (but thankfully not too high) and a speaker system hidden in the ceiling.

The Designer Series currently has two models, the DS4-FR Full range with a 2.5” full-range driver and a pair of 3”x6” woofers and the DS4-SUB with three 3”x6” woofers. Each is $1,400 and is available now from Triad. Before we left, we had to get a demo of the Triad theater in an Atmos environment. There were two systems, one using their Silver bookshelf speakers and one using the Cinema Reference line. With four 21″ subwoofers they could easily fill the room with as much bass as anyone could handle, but tuned it to reference levels that sounded fantastic.

This speaker is the first product from the Control4-Triad partnership, and we’re looking forward to seeing what else they will have at CEDIA this year and beyond. I’m certain they’ll continue to find ways to integrate music into your life but without having it need to be the focal point of the room it is in.

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Color Volume: Measuring and Understanding What it Means

Coming out of CES 2017, one of the key things you heard thrown around from manufacturers was Color Volume. For the past few years, we’ve heard companies talk about what percentage of the DCI/P3 or Rec.2020 color gamuts they cover, but those are 2D measurements. Color volume adds the third dimension, brightness, to the measurement. So what is color volume, and how should we measure and report on it to best distinguish what a display is capable of? Continue Reading →

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$5,000 Home Theater Guide

We are currently working on an update to our $2,000 Home Theater Guide that is coming this week, but today we created the $5,000 Home Theater Guide. Putting this together really showed how good of a system you can get for this much today. You can have a reference quality display and a high-end audio system that will put most theaters to shame. There are really no sacrifices to be made here, and it’s a system that any of our reviewers could run for all of the gear we use.

$5,000 Home Theater Guide

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Building a Home Theater – Part 2

In our first part of this series, we covered our room design and some of the issues we would have to overcome. We also painted the walls to be more ideal for a home theater environment and decided to install some wall shelving to hold media and equipment. This installment we are going to focus on installing that wall shelving and how it works out and then the selection of gear for the room. Continue Reading →

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Building a Home Theater – Part 1

This summer we bought a house, which meant goodbye to the days of renting. With the housing market here being crazy, we were often forced to move to a new house as the owner would decide to cash in on the market and sell. I had gotten lucky with the past two houses we rented as both offered me large 12’x25’ basement rooms for a home theater. Despite the rather large headaches of getting gear into a basement, where narrow staircases can prevent large TVs from easily making the trip, they worked well for my work and personal enjoyment. Continue Reading →

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SlingTV: One Year In

The most exciting thing for me at CES 2015 was SlingTV. Here we had a TV provider that was actually looking forward instead of relying on a monopoly to get users. For $20 you got access to essential channels, including ESPN, that you could watch on almost any device. I could stream it to my Roku or FireTV when I’m in the living room, or watch on my laptop, a tablet, or smartphone. With no set top boxes to pay for, and no contracts, it seemed like a promising idea.

In my initial review I found that to be the case. Sure, I had a few quibbles with it, but am impressed. Now after having it for over a year, I have a better idea of what SlingTV is doing right and where they still need to improve. Continue Reading →

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What are UltraHD Premium TVs?

The UltraHD Premium TV standard was announced at the 2016 CES Show, but what does that mean? After years of pushing 4K and UltraHD at consumers, is UltraHD Premium yet another standard? If you’ve already bought an UltraHD TV, is it an UltraHD Premium TV or is this something that is already making your TV outdated? In many ways UltraHD Premium is what we’ve been waiting for once you understand what it is. Continue Reading →

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UltraHD Blu-ray Database

In March 2016 we finally see the launch of the UltraHD Blu-ray player format with a $400 player from Samsung and titles from many studios. These UltraHD discs will likely be the best sources of UltraHD content at home. This new format offers 10-bits per pixel instead of the 8-bits of Blu-ray for better gradients and less banding, wider color gamuts that are closer to what you see in the movie theater, high dynamic range with brighter highlights that better represent real life, and better compression for a sharper image. Overall the format is a big step-up from Blu-ray which is the best physical media format available.

The Martian UHDThere are some things to look out for, though. One main point of contention is that many movies aren’t mastered in 4K for the theater, but have their master done at 2K resolution. What this means can differ from title to title. Some movies, like Mad Max: Fury Road, are shot at 2.8K resolution on an Arri Alexa camera, and then have their special effects done at 2K resolution. So this title on UltraHD Blu-ray will benefit from more bits-per-pixel, wider color gamuts, better compression, and possibly high dynamic range. However it is upscaled to 4K as it was never shot in 4K.

Samsung UltraHD Blu-ray Player

Samsung UltraHD Blu-ray Player

For a title like The Martian, it was shot in 4K but the final master is at 2K resolution so all the visual effects are likely that resolution. For the UltraHD Blu-ray, it looks like they are going back to the 4K master for creating the HDR effects but the special effects will still be 2K. So this title will have all the real world content in true 4K resolution, but the visual effects done at 2K resolution.

Sicario-UltraHD-Blu-ray-wpcf_239x300Finally we have Sicario, which is shot in 4K and has a 4K master. With far fewer special effects shots, it didn’t need to go down to 2K resolution so we will get true 4K all the way through.

The key thing is that these films will almost certainly look better on UltraHD Blu-ray than on traditional Blu-ray. They’ll have a wider color gamut to use, highlights that are spectacular, and less compression. However only some might take full advantage of the UltraHD resolution offered. We are going to attempt to keep track of this and update a chart with all the details on the announced titles. This way if you only want true 4K films, you can find those. If you just want to know what the original format is you can also find that, but this way you aren’t going into a purchase without being sure of what you are getting.

You will also need a TV that is an UltraHD Premium model to take full advantage of these features. If you simply have a 4K TV from a year or two ago, it might not support the wider color gamuts and high dynamic range features that UltraHD Blu-ray can offer. The TV will need to support HDMI 2.0a to understand the HDR content, and will need HDCP 2.2 copy protection to pass the image. If you are unsure if your TV supports this then you should check your manual or see if there is a firmware update available for it that might help. Most high-end TVs this year are UltraHD Premium certified, but it isn’t a guarantee.

View the UltraHD Blu-ray Title Database

You can also find the database in the Main Menu under Guides. It will be continually updated as we get more information from the studios on the features available in each title.

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Monoprice Tube System Giveaway

For the recent holiday season, Monoprice was kind enough to send over their new hybrid tube amp along with a pair of speakers and speaker cables. The hybrid tube amp features 15 watts of power with 25 watt peaks, an analog input along with a Bluetooth 4.0 input, and a front headphone output. The tube preamp stage gives you that classic tube sound that so many people still love. Continue Reading →

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