There are demos, and then there are DEMOS–the other-worldly experience that invades your senses and transports you into another time and place. It’s the kind of experience that can make the client of a custom integrator sit up and demand, “I need this in my home!”
At the newly opened PRO Audio Experience Center in Southern California, integrators and their clients can experience this magic together first hand. And it’s one that’s replicable, explained Paul Hales, founder of PRO Audio Technology and longtime audio designer.
“Our dealer/integrators can replicate our experience center in the client’s home,” he said. “Today’s movies require huge dynamic range…we provide accuracy, timbre quality, durability, and much more: a blending of professional and residential audio power.”
Benefitting from a convenient location in Lake Forest, CA (in Orange County, next door to integration veterans AudioVisions), the PRO Audio Experience Center theater room dimensions are 22 feet wide (not including the bar) by 35 feet deep and 10 feet high. The more than $100,000 in audio gear on display includes a PRO Audio Dolby Atmos 23-channel (11.4.8) system consisting of six SCRS-26im in-wall loudspeakers on the sides, two SCRS- 25ica angled in-ceiling loudspeakers on the rear wall, four SCRS-25ica angled in-ceiling plus four SCRS-5iw in-wall loudspeakers for the ceiling channels, two LFC-24sm 24-inch for the main subwoofers, two LFC-14sm compact 15- inch surround subwoofers, and DMA and PMA amps totaling 14,850 watts.
Other gear includes a 12-foot Stewart Filmscreen made of THX-certified MicroPerf material with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, a Runco XTremeProjection Series projector, and an OPPO BDP-105D. The system is controlled via Crestron, and a Trinnov Altitude 32 AV preamp is the heart of the system that provides such an otherworldly experience.
Physically, the room is reminiscent of an upscale family room or living room, with a sofa, loveseat, wet bar, and billiard table, replete with rich fabrics and wall coverings; it was easy to get comfortable and relax.
Hales started off the demo with a recording of Lindsey Buckingham on his Taylor guitar to demonstrate that although the system can play at very high volume levels, it can easily handle the sensitivity of a more nuanced recording. The sound quality was highly articulate down to a whisper with Buckingham’s live Saban Theater 2011 recording from Songs from theSmall Machine. Every note was crisp, soft, and elegant, just like his purposely hesitant vocals while singing “Never Going Back Again.” It may be a cliché, but it really was better than being at the concert.
To demonstrate the full power of the system, Hales switched over to the movie Mad Max: Fury Road. Starting with the opening chase scene, the power behind the sound was evident as the audio performance matched the level of intensity I was witnessing on the screen.
“You have to have this dynamic range to do these scenes properly,” Hales explained during the clip. “We are hitting a very high SPL with very low distortion, so the audio can be played this loud without it being fatiguing or annoying.”
Hales called Dolby Atmos “probably the most exciting advancement” since he began his career. “It is truly exciting and what it does for the movie-going or music-listening experience is truly different. It is not just for audiophiles; everyone can hear the difference. It really does have that ‘wow’ factor.”
While custom high-powered home theater is a focal point in Hales’ business, distributed audio is equally important. In fact, the company is bringing the new SCRS-6c-iw in-wall or in-ceiling loudspeakers and LFC-210im in-wall subs to CEDIA 2016.
“CEDIA is our most important show and the CEDIA member is our most important expanding dealer,” Hales said. “Our sound quality can be experienced in every room of the house, and we are trying to make the integrator’s job easy to fit the components in existing spaces, as their clients traditionally do not want the speakers and electronics to be seen. A big challenge is existing ceiling and wall depth. We produce a full family of products to address this, with some of our speakers being 4 inches deep and able to fit between two-by-fours.
But no matter which of the company’s systems the integrator uses for his or her client, PRO Audio Technology believes that it can provide high value with twice the sound power of its competitors. They are also so confident in their product reliability that they offer a 10-year warranty.
The company’s components and loudspeakers are purpose-built from the ground up, completely in the U.S. Specifically, the speakers are built to order in North Carolina by folks “who are not just factory workers but people who truly love good audio at a facility that has been producing speakers for 40 years,” Hales said. And the electronics are produced in Silicon Valley and also made to order in small quantities.
Another benefit of working with PRO Audio Technology is the company’s PROCertified service, which provides dealers with design and development assistance for 3D audio systems, from the initial concept stage through final commissioning and calibration. Historically, the company has helped dealers design the right system for their clients’ overall room dimensions and budget. This gives the dealer/integrator peace of mind for one fixed price; there is no complex invoicing. As PRO Audio Technology does not formally publish retail pricing, dealers can get whatever margin they deem appropriate… there is no customer price shopping online. But no matter what the price, when experienced, this system will sell itself.
Based in Los Angeles, Maureen Jenson is a regular contributor to Residential Systems.