#4 Surround Sound System
When it comes to listening to audio, like real estate, its all about location. Where do you want to be? Right in the middle of it. To accomplish that, every audiophile needs a truly versatile surround sound system. Whether you want to lose yourself in a concert-like experience, or watch movies that sound like you are live on set, the critical selection of your equipment can make the difference between a system that sounds good, or one that blows your mind.
There are a number of packaged systems that are sold at big box stores as a unit that are supposed to be “good enough” to do the job. However, the problem is, a surround sound system has several critical elements - and as it turns out, the recommended solution for each of these elements do not emirate from the same source.
The critical elements of a surround sound system are divided into 2 sections. Section one includes the AV Receiver, the Surround Processor, and the Power Amp. Section two includes all the speakers, including Front Left and Right speaker, Center Channel Speaker, Surround Speakers, the Subwoofer, Back Surround Speakers, and Front Height and Width speakers.
Each of these sections has a pair of leading contenders that are each very capable of doing the job at state of the art levels.
For section one, the co-kings-of-the-hill are the Marantz SR8012 and the Concert AVR-9.
The Marantz SR8012 is a whopping 11.2 channel AV amp with 8 HDMI inputs with support for HEOS wireless multi-room and network streaming. The video is processed with a true 4k and HDR passthrough and can feed up to 3 simultaneous video outputs. But lets talk about audio. To start with, not a lot of receivers can deliver 11 channels of sound. But when each of those channels boasts a power output of up to 205 watts, thats an entirely new level of performance. Let that sink in for a minute. Thats 2.25 kW of audio power you can pump into your home theater via your chosen speakers. That would move enough air to create a perceptible breeze in your viewing room!
The audio playback formats supported are wide, and dynamic firmware allows for upgrades to new formats with the same hardware in the future. Currently, they include FLAC, WAV, and ALAC formats are supported over the network or via USB source. The system is also pre-configured to accept Apple Airplay and Bluetooth.
The SR8012 offers Immersive 3D sound with effects from overhead – Dolby Atmos (up to 7.1.4 or 9.1.2), DTS:X™, and Auro-3D built-in. But in addition to fantastic clarity and sound quality, the SR8012 also gives you a great deal of control over the properties of your sound. Audyssey MultEQ XT32, LFC, Sub EQ HT, Dynamic Volume and Dynamic EQ are all at your fingertips making you the “audio director” of everything you feed through your system.
Audio Control AVR-9
This AV beast is a 7-channel 200 watt per channel AV receiver with 4 Dolby Atmos preamp outputs. It can be used with its built in amplification, or combined with the Audio Control 2-channel Bijou 600 or Ralto 600 standalone amps. The AVR-9 has 7 HDMI 2.0a inputs, 4 COAX SPDIF and 2 Toslink digital audio inputs, 6 stereo analog inputs, USB input, and an Ethernet connection.
It is compatible with leading control systems such as Control4, Crestron, RTI, and Savant. In addition, the AVR-9 comes with the new ‘Dirac Live for AudioControl’ room correction system - one of the most effective and flexible room calibration systems on the market today. The surround modes include Dolby Atmos; Dolby True HD; Dolby Digital Plus; Dolby Digital EX; Dolby Digital 5.1; Dolby Pro Logic IIx; DTS-HD Master Audio and the system is DTS:X™ ready.
If you choose to use an external amplifier (like the Bijou 600), you can seamlessly split and control a single 200 watt channel into 2 x 200 watt channels (at 4 ohms), or stack it to a 400 watt mono block to power an even larger individual speaker.
Which one of these solutions is best? Well, that depends. If you need 11 channels, its a no brainer, you go with the one that has 11 channels! On the other hand, the Dirac Live room correction system is really impressive, and the way it is integrated into the Audio Control AVR-9, is pretty seamless. If you are working with a HEOS multi-room audio distribution system, then the Marantz is likely going to be your selection due to its built-in Heos networking. The point is, both systems are top of the line and have their advantages over the other, but in reality, its the AV equivalent of picking between a Ferrari or a Lamborghini. There aren’t too many complaints about either one.
The Speaker Sets
Now, for the output section - KEF or TOTEM. Once again, we are in a situation that is an embarrassment of riches. We won’t attempt to go over every potential combination of surround sound speaker sets from these two giants of the industry. Even if we did, the speaker selection is really dependent on the room they are to be installed in. Suffice it to say that these two contenders each have several full lines of state of the art delivery systems for the carefully crafted sound you are now feeding them.
TOTEM offers a complete line of elegant surround sound speakers for rooms of all sizes, including Bookshelf, Floor Standing, On-Wall, Architectural, along with the appropriate Center Channels and Subwoofers for each. Regardless of the mounting preference, each comes with the unique TOTEM realistic 3D sonic experience and Industry unique Borosilicate dampening.
Likewise KEF provides a stunning variety of speaker designs that could be confused for modern art exhibits. Whether you are looking for tall, floor-standing speakers like the Muon or Blade / Blade 2 series, or the compact LS50, or the retro-industrial style Reference and R Series, KEF consistently delivers new, patentable technologies to your listening experience. The Uni-Q point source driver array, the “tangerine” segmented waveguide, the brilliant Z-Flex surround…the list goes on.
The options are in fact so numerous that it is best to consult a professional audio design engineer to custom prepare the speaker selection for your target room. If you live in the Huntsville / Madison / Decatur Alabama area, AV Enthusiast can consult with you and present the ideal setup to match your specific listening room and AV priorities.