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Tech Showcase: High-End Audio 2020

Some recent entries to this vibrant category.

The resurgence of high-end audio continues with customers knowing the value in having their home theaters sound as good as they look and renewed interest in 2-channel stereo listening. Plus, with more labels singing on to Dolby Atmos Music, it is only a matter of time before immersive music listening becomes a priority for homeowners. To help bring those sounds to life, here are some new additions to the high-end audio product category.

JBL HDI_3800

JBL Synthesis HDI Series
The new JBL HDI (High-Definition Imaging) Series of loudspeakers features five models that combine JBL compression driver technology with JBL’s High-Definition Imaging waveguide geometry, resulting in high frequencies with incredible dynamics, accurate reproduction, and a lack of power compression, according to the company.

The triple 8-inch, 2.5-way HDI-3800 floorstanding loudspeaker serves as the flagship for the range, which also includes the triple 6.5-inch, 2.5-way HDI-3600 floorstanding loudspeaker, the 6.5-inch, 2-way HDI-1600 bookshelf loudspeaker, the quad 5.25-inch, 2.5-way HDI-4500 center channel loudspeaker, and the 12-inch, 1000 watts RMS HDI-1200P powered subwoofer. The four full-range models are based upon JBL’s 2410H-2 compression driver, benefiting from advanced research and applications from JBL Professional’s D2 range of transducers. At the core of the 2410H-2 device is a lightweight, polymer, annular diaphragm that improves high-frequency extension by reducing diaphragm mass.

Related: The Latest Speakers, Soundbars, and Subwoofers

Theory Product Family

Theory Audio Design System
Founded by Paul Hales, owner of audio manufacturer Pro Audio Technology (PRO), Theory products marry PRO’s acoustic performance and professional features with contemporary design at a lower cost. Speaker models in the Theory line-up consist of three soundbars (sb65, sb75, and sb85) designed to match with 65-inch, 75-inch, and 85-inch flat panel TVs and an all-purpose on-wall loudspeaker model (sb-25) with dual 5.5-inch carbon fiber woofers, as well as two subwoofers (sub12 and sub15) with 12-inch and 15-inch drivers.

At the core of all Theory systems lies a 9-channel Amplified Loudspeaker Controller (ALC-1809). With 1800 watts per system and 96 kHz/32-bit digital signal processing, the ALC-1809 combines the functionality of five products in one: a multi-channel DSP processor, high-power multichannel home theater and distributed audio amplifier, multichannel mixing amplifier, multichannel bass manager, and high-resolution loudspeaker processor, all of which fits into a single 1U unit.

AudioControl Maestro-x9

AudioControl Maestro Series Preamp/Processors
The Maestro X9 and Maestro X7 support the most sought after immersive surround formats, such as 9.1.6 Dolby Atmos, Auro 3D, DTS:X, and IMAX Enhanced, with 16-channels of balanced and unbalanced output. Both models offer a full complement of inputs for connection to the latest audio/video components, including seven HDMI 2.0b inputs that fully support 4K UHD and HDR playback. The new Maestro Series processors house the very latest in audio and video processing technology, featuring Dirac Live room correction with bass management and ESS Sabre DACs. Enthusiasts will enjoy easy-to-use app-based control, Google Cast, Airplay 2, aptX Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi streaming connectivity options, and integrators will appreciate the intuitive web-based configuration along with control drivers for popular smart home platforms.

Sonus faber Gravis III

Sonus faber Gravis III Subwoofer
The Sonus faber Gravis III subwoofer is the intermediate model in the Gravis collection, completing the Olympica Nova line introduced in September of 2019. Aesthetically, Gravis III follows the style of the previous products, with a black leather covering and discreet Piano black wooden finish. However, the subwoofer’s top finishes of Wengè and Walnut matte create the connection to the newer Olympica Nova collection.

The removable fabric grille with metal pins covers a 10-inch (250mm) ultra-long throw driver that includes a Trilaminated sandwich cone diaphragm with a layer of honeycomb in between, managing the driver’s excursion and resistance flexing. According to Sonus faber, the stiffness of the cone merged with its extreme lightness allows the subwoofer to produce the tightest and most accurate bass reproduction possible. The Class AB amplifier can produce 600 watts into an 8-ohm load. A wide frequency range is provided through the included digital signal processor, implemented in the input preamp stage, that allows adjustments in order to optimize dynamic impact and sonic reproduction depth.

StormAudio MK2

StormAudio MK2 Processors and Amps
StormAudio’s MK2 line-up of processors and amplifiers now include new features. The MK2 line-up keeps the company’s promise to deliver modularity and flexibility with 16-, 24- or 32-channel analog preamp/processors and a digital AES 32-channel machine, as well as 8- and 16-channel amps. The line-up already supported Dolby Atmos, DTS :X, Auro-3D, and Dirac Live Room Calibration, as well as StormAudio’s own web-based remote monitoring tool, StormMonitoring. However, now installers can look forward to DTS:X Pro, IMAX Enhanced, Auro-3D Version 2, eARC HDMI, 24-channel (13.1.10 Dolby Atmos and DTS:X Pro) decoding, rapid codec switching (as much as 50 percent improvement), and advanced bass management, including the recently introduced Dirac Live Bass Control module carried across the new 4.0 firmware package.

Definitive Technology D17

Definitive Technology Demand Series Tower Speakers
The Demand Series D15 and D17 tower speakers feature an annealed 1-inch aluminum dome tweeter, which is laterally offset and coupled with a 20/20 Wave Alignment Lens. This allows for more precise imaging by eliminating undesirable symmetric diffraction from the corners of the front baffle, resulting in a refined and balanced listening experience, according to the company. Definitive Technology’s patented Balanced Double Surround System (BDSS) midrange/woofer promotes greater excursion and delivers superior mid-range detail and punchier bass. In addition, a linear response waveguide extends both on-and off-axis frequency response, while improving dispersion for more natural mid-range timbre and precise imaging.

The tower speakers boast a patented 5.25-inch and 6.5-inch mineral-polymer BDSS midrange/woofer, respectively. New to the Demand Series, each tower features dual 5.25-inch and 6.5-inch carbon fiber bass drivers alongside dual 8-inch and 10-inch side firing passive radiators. The new dual integrated side-firing passive radiators produce extended low-frequency reproduction from a smaller enclosure design. Definitive Technology also added a larger spider to increase linearity for deep, tight and clean bass response.

McIntosh MC901

McIntosh MC901 Dual Mono Amplifier
McIntosh has announced the MC901 dual mono amplifier. The MC901 is a monoblock amplifier that drives a single speaker. What makes the MC901 so unique, according to the company, is that it’s two amplifiers combined into one. Adding to the uniqueness is that each amplifier is of differing design philosophies: the MC901 consists of a 300-watt vacuum tube amplifier attached to a 600-watt solid-state amplifier on one unified chassis.

The 300-watt vacuum tube portion powers the speaker’s mid and upper drivers via eight KT88 output tubes, plus four 12AT7 and two 12AX7A signal tubes; the solid-state section delivers 600 watts of dedicated power to the power-hungry woofers. The 300-watt vacuum tube amp in the MC901 uses McIntosh’s patented Unity Coupled Circuit output transformer to deliver its full 300 watts into almost any speaker regardless if it has 2-, 4- or 8-ohm impedance. Similarly, the 600-watt solid state amp delivers its full 600 watts into a 2-, 4- or 8-ohm impedance speaker via McIntosh’s Autoformer technology.

Meridian DSP750

Meridian Audio DSP750 In-Wall Digital Active Loudspeaker
Meridian’s DSP750 in-wall digital active loudspeaker features three new high-performance drive-units, Enhanced Bass Alignment, and a CLASS-M DSP engine that provides thermal and dynamic bass protection for detailed and accurate sound. The DSP750 has an aluminum enclosure to minimize unwanted resonances and coloration, separate mid-range driver enclosures to eliminate interaction with the bass drivers, Centre Elevation technology for immersive sound that appears to come from the center of the screen, and five drive-units powered by a bridged pair of Dynamic Hi-Res amplifiers; each pair capable of delivering over 100 watts into 8 ohms. The DSP750 delivers a maximum output of 120 dB and bass extension down to 30 Hz. Its built-in custom tweeter with a beryllium dome and diffraction expansion technology ensures wide sound dispersion for lifelike sound, capable of playing over 40 kHz. The loudspeaker has two 100mm midrange drivers, producing uniform and lifelike stereo image over a wide listening area.

Island Prestige by L-Acoustics

Island Prestige by L-Acoustics Creations
L-Acoustics new division, L-Acoustics Creations, is devoted to extraordinary sound spaces, offering its pro audio, concert-grade technology for specification in private residential, architectural, and cultural settings for the unrivaled expression of sound. Island Prestige by L-Acoustics Creations is a self-contained, oval-shaped personal auditorium capable of delivering audio in the proprietary BluSpace standard to match human hearing performance on multiple levels: spatial perception, dynamics, and audible frequencies.

With 20,000 watts of power, Island is can deliver the SPL and visceral bass and dynamics of a live performance with ample headroom resulting in no perceptible distortion. Removable lounge elements and back rests provide ergonomic comfort and flexibility of configuration for a wide range of entertainment use scenarios from listening to music, to movie viewing, even as a small “dance floor” area with highly directed audio that allows conversations and other activities to take place with minimal noise leakage in another part of the room.

Paradigm Soundbar

Paradigm Millenia LP Trio Soundbar
Paradigm Electronics has announced the Millenia LP Trio 3-channel passive soundbar. Measuring less than two inches deep when installed, the Millenia LP Trio features three S-PAL aluminum dome tweeters with patented PPA (Perforated Phase Alignment) lens technology and six anodized aluminum unibody cone bass/midrange drivers. The rigid, mineral-filled ABS cabinet is sealed and features three sets of low-profile push style binding posts. The speaker’s frequency response is 160–21,000 Hz (115 Hz DIN). Ideal for on-wall applications, Millenia LP Trio includes a low-profile wall-mount bracket. For freestanding configurations, two L brackets with adjustable feet are included to allow the speaker to sit on a shelf.