I Tried A Soundbar For The First Time

Over the by 20 years, I’ve intentionally avoided calling whatsoever product the “Best” I’ve ever heard for the uncomplicated reason that it’s not a statement with any degree of longevity. But could a soundbar arrangement from Theory Audio Design move the needle enough for me to reconsider everything that I know about environment sound at dwelling house?

Equally much as I love music, movies accept ever been my passion. I ain more than 3,700 different titles and I am confident claiming that I may exist the simply person in New Jersey to have seen every new film release during the pandemic at his local AMC. How ofttimes have I attended films since theaters reopened locally on the Jersey Shore in the summer of 2020?

According to my bank records, I’ve watched more than than 44 movies solitary (or with my kids) at my local AMC and merely x of those films were classics from the 1980s like the twoscorethursday anniversary showing ofThe Empire Strikes Dorsum.

I watch a lot of movies. I skipped two days of school in 1983 (I was thirteen) to be the offset person in line to seeThe Render of the Jedi. The subsequent grounding that lasted until January 1984 was well worth it.

Being stuck at home during the lockdowns forced us to dwelling house school 3 children on Zoom for almost 5 months, leaving us with but a few hours at night (utterly exhausted) to enjoy new movies or television programs on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Disney+, and Vudu.

So much for cutting the cord.

My family doesn’t share my intense passion for older films; Kurosawa, Wilder, Fuller, Hitch, Scorsese, Ridley Scott, Woo, and Kubrick all take me someplace new every single time I watch i of their films.

Our basement home theater space tin be a lonely place at night. I watch lone considering the pic watching feel allows me to experience a different sense of focus; my mind is e’er working, possibly too hard on things that don’t need to be fixed at that very moment. The manic side of me doesn’t want drugs, alcohol, gambling, or online fights with woke idiots who have never picked upward a book or watched a decent picture show in their lives.

Films bring me a sense of calm. I need it after ten hours of writing and editing all day long.

A huge part of that feel is the audio.

A part of me understands why some people don’t savour home theater. They think it’s a gimmick; a parlor trick to get between you and your wallet. When information technology comes to older films that don’t have any special effects, I would unremarkably agree that a solid ii-channel system is all yous really need.

But that office of me that has to watchThe Ten Commandments,Star Wars,Yojimbo,Das Kick,Blade Runner, and2001: A Space Odysseymultiple times every single year – it badly needs a surround audio system tofeelthat I’thou part of the action.

I’ve had the opportunity to savour private showings at the Dolby Theater in NYC where Atmos-encoded content tin can really mess with your head, but it’s never been that way at dwelling.

Nothing has delivered the gravitas of the archetype theaters of my youth; the Eglinton, Hyland, Hollywood, York, and University that fabricated Toronto such a great identify to experience movies growing upwardly.

Until now.

Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.

Soundbars. People love them. I’thousand not entirely sure why.

Strip away the slim course factor, wireless sound connectivity, and affordability – what do you accept left?

A box made of plastic with tiny loudspeaker drivers trying to replicate the dynamic swings, detail, scale, and emotional impact of movie soundtracks that were recorded and mixed for playback in cavernous movie auditoriums with screens that average anywhere between 45-50 feet in width.

How wide is your Boob tube or projector screen at habitation? Put away the tape measure.

Soundbars may offering convenience and affordability, but they certainly don’t offer a true cinematic experience.

Paul Hales and I discuss the limitations of soundbars, and other loudspeakers in an interview that you can find here.

And delight don’t confuse “loud” with “dynamics,” considering they are not the aforementioned thing.

Meet the new boss. Definitely non the same as the old boss.

Theory Audio Design might be a new brand in the residential home theater space, but its origins in the larger pro audio and commercial world give it a different advantage in this category. That level of sonic performance also comes with a serious price tag – but every bit I discovered, it might be the most affordable style to reach commercial theater level sound performance in a package that you can buy today.

The Theory Audio Design v.2.2 system (the systems tin be configured for ii.0, two.1, 3.0, 3.1, three.2, 5.i, etc.) doesn’t come up in exotic wood finishes or with cheap looking grilles; this is pro audio level loudspeaker technology designed to work at home in your living room, den, bedroom, or dedicated abode theater space.

The first affair you lot’ll notice when you carry these very heavy loudspeakers into your listening space is that they are built to a much higher standard. Bend with the knees. You lot’ll exist deplorable if you don’t. Non once ounce of inexpensive plastic anywhere to be found.

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Do you like Porsche? I’ve always been a 928 GTS person myself. Ane can tell that Paul Hales views his products through the same lens.

The Theory 5.ii.2 is built for people who don’t mind paying for quality if it’s the real thing.

Theory sb75 Soundbar

Theory Audio Design SB75 Three-channel Sound Bar

The soundbar utilizes six v” carbon cobweb depression frequency drivers and three 1.4” polymer compression commuter tweeters. Theory rates the power handling at 200W per aqueduct (AES method), with a 4-ohm impedance. The soundbar’s rated frequency bandwidth is 58 Hz to 23 kHz with a maximum output of 117 dB per channel. The sensitivity rating is 94 dB.

Weighing in at 68 pounds, you will need more than 1 person to aid you mount it or identify on the brackets if being gear up-up on a credenza. Dimensions are 9.five″ H 10 66″ W ten three.8″ D.

Theory sb25 On-Wall Multi-Utilize Loudspeaker

Theory Audio Design sb15 Subwoofer with sb25 Speakers
Theory Audio Blueprint sub15 Subwoofers with sb25 On-wall Speakers

I was surprised by the depth of these loudspeakers which were conspicuously designed to be used in wall-mount applications. Like the soundbar, they are designed to exist powered by the Theory ALC and operate like an active loudspeaker.

The sb25 are the equivalent of a single channel on the soundbar, with the same specifications for the drivers and overall performance. They weigh 27 pounds and are 21.5″ H ten 9.five″ W ten iii.8″ D.

If you’re interested in a 2.0 or 2.1 organisation, the sb25 offering the same sonic signature and explosive dynamic capabilities of the larger soundbar in a smaller loudspeaker. The build quality on these loudspeakers suggests that they volition survive longer than their owners.

Theory sub15 In-Room Subwoofer

Theory Audio Design sub15 Passive Subwoofers
Theory Audio Pattern sub15 Passive Subwoofers

This is a ported sub with a 15” Theory driver featuring a 3” voice ringlet. The rated frequency bandwidth is 22 Hz to 125 Hz with 500W (AES) /chiliad W (continuous) power handling.

Each subwoofer weighs 76 pounds and the cabinet measures 21.3” H 10 23.5” W x 19.8” D.

One matter I learned during the set-upwardly is that the sub15 are far easier to configure than other subwoofers in the same cost category. Theory hasn’t fabricated these subwoofers idiot-proof merely combined with the ALC – installation required only small adjustments in regard to placement away from the wall and corners.

Theory Sound ALC-1809 Amplified Loudspeaker Controller

Theory Audio Design ALC-1809
Theory Audio Design ALC-1809

The core of every Theory Audio Design loudspeaker organization is the ALC-1809 which automatically configures itself for high-resolution DSP of the Theory loudspeaker models that y’all select; it sets the sound levels, delays, bass management and betoken routing inside the organization. The ALC-1809 offers ix high power amplifier channels, 8 balanced audio inputs, and 32-bit/96kHz DSP processing.

It also offers 8×8 matrix bass-direction, eight×8 matrix mixing, 160 parametric EQ’south (20 per channel), automatic sound betoken ducking for intercom and paging (perfect to let Amazon Alexa and other voice administration to page whatever or all of the distributed audio organisation channels), Internal band-limited and full band pink noise and sine sources, and up 75msec of delay per aqueduct. All of this is packed in a fan-less 1U chassis.

Theory Audio Design ALC-1809 Rear
Theory Sound Design ALC-1809 Rear


Do not be intimidated by all of the boxes, manuals, and the very sleek set-up interface that Theory Audio Design take created to run the system. It’due south actually quite easy to use and very intuitive. Paul Hales did give me more than 1 private tutoring session with the system and you should expect nothing less from the dealer who installs it.

One thing that did surprise me – the Theory Audio pattern 5.2.2 system does not utilize a mic to run a room analysis and system calibration. You lot simply mensurate the exact distance from each loudspeaker to your listening position and enter the distances into the interface.

Theory Audio Design ALC-1809 with Configurator

You select your configuration from the menu on the left side of the screen and everything adjusts itself. Remember to apply each step as you get during the ready-up process. Just click on the button on the right side of the screen so that the calculations tin can be fabricated by the software.

I used the v.two.2 system in my 33’ 10 14’ x 9’ home theater room in the basement and the 3.ane organization in our living room to meet if the system would exist as well much for the 21’ x sixteen’ ten ix’ space that is our master movie/tv set watching infinite.

This is The Way

It should surprise no i that I began my critical listening with multiple episodes ofThe Mandalorian; and non just because I have been obsessed withStar Wars since 1977. During my listening sessions with the Sennheiser AMBEO and Enclave Audio CineHome Pro abode theater systems, I found myself slightly underwhelmed watching the series.

The AMBEO does a lot of things really well, but a $2,500 soundbar has to elevate the feel to another level and I never really felt that it did. It does deliver a very transparent sounding experience with a lot of detail; the spaciousness of the audio really depends on the content you lot feed it.

That beingness said, the AMBEO doesn’t deliver the dynamic punch that I would expect from a production in this price range. Dialogue (with Dolby Atmos engaged) felt restricted to the front surface of the enclosure and never actually engaged me. When I disengaged the Dolby Atmos setting, the AMBEO opened up and became far more spacious sounding, but I had to raise the volume to become more immersed in the dialogue.

The CineHome Pro (reviewed here) is a wireless home theater arrangement that does non offering the technical sophistication of the AMBEO, only I enjoyed watching television and movies through it more than. It’s less expensive, and surprisingly more engaging at moderate listening levels. Not a unmarried person in my family disagreed with my assessment that information technology offered greater dynamics, cleaner sounding dialogue, and a more engaging experience compared to the Sennheiser soundbar.

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Simply none of that could have prepared me for the changes to come with the Theory Audio Design system.

I’1000 a unproblematic man making his fashion through the galaxy…

Star Warsfans can get very weird; I wear Han Solo t-shirts under $200 apparel shirts in synagogue and so don’t think that I’m judging anyone. I could feel the collective squeal when Boba Fett appeared in Season 2 ofThe Mandalorian. Nosotros’ve waited near 30 years for the franchise to do something worthwhile that would redeem the infamous bounty hunter’s lame death inReturn of the Jedi.

At that place is a moment in Season 2 (Affiliate 14:The Tragedy), when the Razor Crest gets destroyed by a blast from Moff Gideon’southward light cruiser.

The impact through the Theory Audio Design 5.2.ii system was a completely different experience; and not just because of the visceral impact from the 2 sub15 passive subwoofers. Consumers go excited by all of the wrong things when they purchase a home theater system; the obsession with volume (which is not the same thing as dynamics) and room-shaking bass response.

Stop pretending that your living room home theater system (which does not utilize professional acoustic handling products) needs to audio similar your local AMC or Cineplex.

Unless y’all have the upkeep to build a dedicated home theater in your abode, the products that you can purchase from All-time Buy or Amazon are not going to deliver an “authentic” motion-picture show theater experience.

The Theory Audio Design organisation was the first that I’ve e’er tried in twenty+ years of reviewing dwelling house theater products that delivered the scale, dynamics, and detail of the all-time movie theaters that I’ve spend the meliorate part of 43 years escaping reality in.

The sub15s delivered the appropriate amount of bass when the Razor Crest detonated all over the hill; as opposed to other subwoofers that I’ve tried equally function of home theater systems that delivered a lot of “boom” and “sizzle” but without any texture, articulation, or speed.

I didn’t merely hear the ship explode; I felt it in my legs and chest from almost 13 anxiety away. I’ve experienced similar bass response from SVS subwoofers, simply information technology felt disconnected from the residual of the soundtrack. There was no cohesiveness to the audio, and it obscured the detail that I wanted to discern from the LCR loudspeakers and the environs channels.

Subwoofers provide a foundation to the sound; as opposed to only adding a momentary rumble in your listening space. Products like the sub15s add an important layer to the overall sound that can’t be replicated by a tiny powered woofer in a box that came with your soundbar.

The Theory Audio Blueprint products convey their pro audio/audiophile roots in that regard.

Paul Hales ran a very successful loftier-end loudspeaker company for many years and delivered loudspeakers that were big on transparency, coherency, and particular retrieval.

He also spent a few decades in the pro audio world where scale, dynamic capabilities, and tonal accurateness are very important.

The ability to deliver world-grade functioning in all of those categories is why the Theory Audio Design system is not simply the best home theater arrangement (with the Acurus Muse processor) below $20,000 that I’ve ever heard at home, merely likewise the easiest to integrate into both living room scenarios and dedicated home theater systems.

A review of the Acurus Muse is forthcoming and was a major contributor to the sound of the organisation.

I ended upwardly watchingRogue I,The Empire Strikes Back,Revenge of the Sith, andSolo through the Theory Sound v.ii.2 system and the consistency of the sonic functioning was the underlying theme.

During the Battle of Scarif inRogue One, Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus engage in a suicide mission confronting a platoon of Royal Death troopers; information technology’s actually i of the few moments of gravitas in the entire franchise where we truly experience a sense of loss at the deaths of central characters.

There is then much going on in the both the scene and in the background; X-Wings and Tie-Strikers chasing one another over the watery surface of the planet, Imperial Death troopers dying from the penetrating blasts from Malbus’ heavy repeater cannon, the screams of the Rogue One assault squad members dying from the impact of the Imperial AT-ACTs, and Chirrut’south chanting – it’s about as well much for any loudspeaker organization to convey with whatsoever degree of separation, clarity, and detail.

The Theory Audio Design organization reproduced this middle-racing sequence so well, I found myself lost in a film in a manner that I’ve not experienced in many years; simply fully immersed in the boxing itself and aware of the smallest details that made information technology feel real (even though at that place was nobody else in my dedicated home theater room).

We truly underestimate the importance of calibration and dynamic capabilities in that regard when it comes to the dwelling house theater feel.

Not just in the big flourishes that make blockbuster films likeRogue Ane orAvengers:Endgame and so exciting to spotter on the big screen, but the quieter moments in motion picture and idiot box that convey emotion, setting, and atmosphere.

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We’ve been watching a lot of television series on Netflix and Amazon Prime during the pandemic and the manner in which the Theory Audio Design organization enhanced the experience tin’t exist overstated.

I’thousand a item fan ofThe Killing,Hana, andBosch; three serial that put a lot of emphasis on setting and are very dark, moody, and tense dramas.

Boschis based in Los Angeles, and the city plays a very important role in the story. The show’s potent dialogue propels information technology forward, but there a lot of moments where the sounds of the city are used to create mood and build up the tension; when Harry is home solitary overlooking the millions of people below from his drinking glass home on the hill and trying to push button through the smog in his head and figure out the instance.

Even using just the sb75 3-channel passive soundbar with one of the sb15 subwoofers in our living room created a completely unlike experience watching all of these shows.

The power to hear music playing softly in the background, or identify outdoor sounds at varying distances — that’due south not something you lot become to experience very often with traditional home theater systems. It creates some other level of realism that immerses 1 in the storytelling.

The tonal balance of the entire system is extremely neutral; merely it never strays into the analytical camp. Not for a second. Dialogue is clean, bold, and you lot are able to discern every nuance in a character’due south voice. If you’re looking for a warm and fuzzy presentation that volition make everything sound rolled off – this is not the organisation for you.

If you want to actually hear how a show or picture was recorded and mixed – this is the perfect system for you lot.

Even older films benefitted from the tonal remainder, detail, clarity, and depth of the audio.

A re-create of Criterion’sWar of the Worlds landed on my doorstep and I was curious to see how the restoration would agree up; the latest version features both a 4K digital restoration, uncompressed monaural soundtrack, and a new alternate 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack.

The motion-picture show doesn’t go very exciting until the Martian invaders decide to go “Thanos” and vaporize all of humanity, which is exactly when the Theory 5.2.two system decided to create this massive soundstage in our living room and scare the crap out of the domestic dog who hid under the sofa to escape the hulking alien ships and their green death rays.

Double Indemnity andStalag 17are two of my favorite all-fourth dimension films and it was astonishing to me how much more cinematic they felt through the Theory 5.2.2 arrangement: a rather impressive feat considering the historic period of both films and the average audio quality of the films on Blu-ray.

Just what about music?

I’m going to salve that for a follow-up piece almost multi-channel music, simply I will share this trivial tidbit about the sb25 surface mount loudspeaker – there may not exist a amend pick for a wall-mounted loudspeaker that tin practise both music/movies without compromise.

I’ve had a hazard over the by few years to heed to nigh 2 dozen loudspeakers designed for this type of placement and the Theory Sound Pattern sb25 might be ideal for those who only accept room for this type of loudspeaker in their den or sleeping accommodation, just do not desire to sacrifice audio quality because of a lack of space.

Theory Audio Design 5.2.2 Surround Sound System with SB85 Sound Bar


I will never exist able to afford the Theory Audio Blueprint 5.2.ii. system; a reality that makes me rather distressing. It has completely moved the bar for me in regard to domicile theater audio and I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to try it. Paul Hales and his very talented (clearly) group of engineers have adult a modular system that can be used with both movies and music and in a multitude of configurations that will completely modify your perception of how movies and tv set tin audio at home.

I almost want to pack-up my existing home theater organization and pretend that surround sound does non exist and enjoy films in stereo only. That’s how large of a gap exists between my existing $ten,000 home theater fix-up and this system.

Using a race automobile analogy – similar pulling upward side by side to Ayrton Senna at Monaco in a ‘70s AMC Gremlin.

People spending $100,000 on a defended home theater will point to a dozen different loudspeaker options that audio sexier on paper, but relieve your coin folks for a better projector, screen, article of furniture, and proper acoustic room treatment products.

The Theory Audio Pattern 5.two.2 surroundings organization is unmatched below $twenty,000.

I wish I had 3 extra kidneys to sell. And one kid that I wouldn’t miss.

For more information: www.theoryaudiodesign.com

System Reviewed:
5.ii.ii ATMOS Sound System with 75″ Soundbar and Dual 15″ subwoofers

  • Loudspeaker Controller:
    1 x ALC-1809
  • Soundbar:
    ane 10 sb75
  • Environment Loudspeakers:
    4 10 sb25
  • Subwoofers:
    2 x sub15

Larn more: 6 Questions for Paul Hales, President Theory Audio Pattern

I Tried A Soundbar For The First Time

Source: https://www.ecoustics.com/reviews/theory-audio-design-surround-sound-system/