Yep, still got some CES news to share. For me, like many folks, my home theater system resides in the living room, given I don’t have a dedicated room for it. To peacefully co-exist in the living room, most folks don’t have monster speakers but something on the smaller side. While some simply opt for a home theater in a box, you can get a much better audio and video experience for several hundred dollars more. However, if you’re going to spend $500 on a good A/V receiver and another $1,000 to $1,500 on a 5.1 surround system, you typically don’t buy the speakers and the receiver from the same manufacturer.
Ideally, you would buy a complete set of 5.1 or 7.1 surround speakers at once. However, the reality is that some folks buy their speaker systems piece-meal as they can afford it. Personally, I bought my system over the course of three purchases, the last piece being the sub-woofer. When you buy speakers from different manufacturers, you have to make sure they play nice together: do they have similar tonal balance? Speakers with good tonal balance present all frequencies evenly and don’t emphasize either bass, midrange or treble. Is there a nice hand-off behind the subwoofer and the other speakers?
THX has introduced a new small speaker certification to help the consumer pick out speakers that not only sound great but also will work well with speakers from different manufacturers. Designed for rooms 1,000
square cubic feet and under, the certification includes a battery of tests to ensure there is low distortion at higher volumes and flat frequency response so you can properly hear dialog. If you put the certified speakers with a THX certified receiver, you should have a great sounding home theater system.
The first speaker that has been submitted for the certification is MK Sound’s M7 which sells for about $1,100 a pair. To provide the most value to consumers, the certification needs to be utilized by a number of speaker manufacturers. While it can give one piece of mind when purchasing a complete system, the real value is knowing you can take speakers from one company and match them with another. Hopefully, companies such as Velodyne submit some of their subwoofers. It would also be great to see some 5.1 speaker sets in the $1,000 to $2,000 retail price point receive the certification. One piece of advice I give to folks is to spend twice as much on their speakers than on their A/V receiver. Given that your going to spend at least $400 for a nice A/V receiver, it would be nice to know what speakers go along well with it.
Now, just because a speaker is not THX certified doesn’t mean that it won’t sound great. The THX standard defines a specific profile that a speaker manufacturer may not wish to abide to. Remember, great sound is like art, it’s sometimes in the ear of the beholder. Regardless, the certification has the potential to simplify the speaker buying process for many consumers.
By the way, THX also indicated to me at CES that their new Media Director standard has been incorporated into Blu-ray, DVD and streaming media authoring tools and is being used by several authoring houses. Also, several companies formally announced their support for Media Center in future devices including future models of the Sharp Elite LEDs, Epson projectors, select Dune media players and Indy Audio Labs Acurus ACT 4 pre-amp. THX says we should see additional devices announced throughout the year. By 2013, we should see a healthy supply of movies that support it as well. Read the complete THX press release here.
Edit: THX did announce some Media Director enabled devices at CES 2012. I’ve updated the above text.