A year ago at CEDIA EXPO, renowned home theater acoustical engineer Anthony Grimani (THX and PMI Engineering) launched a new loudspeaker brand, called Grimani Systems, with his business partner and designer Manny LaCarrubba and silent partner David Steel. When Grimani presented his initial designs on the trade show floor in Denver in 2014, he showed scale models of what the home theater speakers would look like when they were built. This past October at CEDIA in Dallas, Grimani returned to the show with fully operational, full-size production units of his CinemaOne Audio Ensemble, and gave a series of demos that convinced many people that he and his partners had found a way to innovate home theater speaker designs.
Grimani Systems’ Anthony Grimani (left) and Manny LaCarrubba
The CinemaOne Audio Ensemble is the brainchild of Grimani and LaCarraubba, but the speakers were made possible by a financial investment of Steel, who is an entrepreneur, longtime audiophile, and one of Grimani’s clients. The speakers have been designed to deliver exceptional sound quality and coverage thanks to LaCarrubba’s development of the Conic Section Array (CSA) waveguide, the loudspeaker’s driving technology. The CSA waveguide ensures that everyone in the room experiences the same superior sound, delivering virtually unlimited power and extraordinary musicality in one integrated architecture.
The CinemaOne Audio Ensemble consists of a multichannel digital audio controller and 13 loudspeakers, that are named variously, as Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta. The CinemaOne is suitable for rooms up to 25,000 cubic feet.
In an Omni hotel suite during CEDIA, Grimani provided a lengthy explanation of the design process and what makes his speakers unique. A wider sweet spot was a clearly discernable trait of the speakers, but so was precise nature of their digital design, offering massive amounts of headroom and literally no chance of failure. Grimani Systems’ design allows a digital audio signal to be fed directly into the loudspeaker, where it meets an electronic crossover in the digital domain. There’s a built-in EQ and three power amplifiers inside the speaker, as well. Compare this with traditional sound systems over the last 50 years that require a back-end of power amplifiers with wires that lead to wooden boxes (the speakers) that contain a combination of woofers, midranges, and tweeters, plus a passive crossover circuit. According to Grimani, his digital speaker systems were designed to solve 50 audio issues that have plagued traditional speakers.
During his CEDIA demo, Grimani demonstrated his “50 solutions” by asking a visitor to pick any number out of 50. He would then walk over to his chart, state the problem at that number, and explain how his company’s design solves it. For instance, number 39 on the list says that speakers are commonly connected out of polarity somewhere within the system, which robs them of performance. The solution? The CinemaOne and CinemaTwo Audio Ensembles, Grimani noted, are not sensitive to polarity errors because they are all digital and network-connected.
Grimani provided anecdote after anecdote from his real-world, in-the-field experience of working with temperamental loudspeakers, and how those frustrating situations influenced his new designs. For instance, he said, he’d never seen one system where everything works perfectly when it’s time to turn it on. “It could be that the speaker is blown out of the box, incorrectly placed or hooked up, rattling, and so on,” he said. “Before you can turn it on and be impressed, you have to fix or repair something. It would be like buying a nice car and having to go through six recalls before you can drive it. It’s inappropriate.”
But Grimani and LaCarrubba didn’t just want to make a system that sounds fantastic, without also being easy to install and reliable, ensuring a healthy profit margin for dealers.
“When I talk about retaining profit margin, just think about when a system is hooked up incorrectly or is broken. It’s the integrator that gets squeezed by having to keep sending techs and installers to the site,” he said. “With technology and systems in their current state, the integrator typically absorbs this cost.”
Grimani Systems is already shipping its first two systems. During early installations of the products, Grimani says his process has been working out as advertised. So well, in fact, that from speaker installation and wiring to starting up the speakers takes four to six hours instead of the usual two to three days.
Grimani really likes using lists to prove his points. In addition to the previously mentioned “50 Things…” he also compiled one with 10 ways that integrators can benefit from his company’s approach to loudspeaker design. One item on it is that traditional home cinema audio systems take the better part of a large rack to house associated electronics like crossovers, filters, amplifiers, and more. That amount of gear produces a lot of heat and requires numerous connections, including multiple runs of cables between the rack and the speakers. This takes lots of time to set up and then debug, because mistakes are more common when there are that many connections, and you have a bigger chance of something going wrong. By housing the electronics in the speakers, however, Grimani Systems reduces the amount of rack space to a 2U high Network Adapter box. The unit includes a surround adapter and a network control box that feeds all the speakers with Cat-5 or Cat-6 cable. Integrators simply connect the network cables from the surround adaptor to the speakers, and they’re done.
Inside its designs, Grimani Systems uses Category cable instead of speaker wire because “everyone knows how to terminate a network cable.” On the other hand, finding a tech to properly connect and solder balanced audio cables using XLR connections “is getting to be harder and harder,” Grimani said, “and that results in poor audio connections.” In Grimani Systems designs, Cat-5 cables send digital audio and network to each speaker, which means that the speakers become IP addressable and integrators can ping each one from within the house or from their office.
Grimani Systems’ Beta speaker
Another reason for the change to Cat cable, Grimani said, is that in “our day and age of high-tech sophistication,” stripping wire pairs to jam them into a screw-down connector or push terminals is “old school. Moreover, we often see technicians invert the wires by mistake when reaching deep into the back of a cabinet, a wall, or a speaker baffle,” he noted. “We wanted something easier, newer, and foolproof. So we used standard RJ45 connectors with Cat-5 or Cat-6 wiring to carry the digital audio and networking signals to the speakers. Then, we just ask the integrator to pre-wire the room with network cabling to each of the speaker locations, and terminate them with good-quality Keystone wall-plate connectors. It’s incredibly simple.”
A key part of Grimani’s CEDIA demo was impressing listeners with his speakers’ very wide sweet spot. If you moved around in any direction within the room, it still sounded very good. This was made possible by a waveguide in the speakers (called the Conic Section Array or CSA) that the company invented to help improve audio coverage to more seats in a large home theater. Grimani Systems’ hope is that integrators can sell clients on larger theaters where all seats reside in within the sweet spot and as a result not only preserve budgets, but, more importantly, offer a better experience for family and friends.