Storm season is once again upon us with the weather bureau predicting a stormy week for NSW next week. While I do enjoy a good storm, I'm not so enamoured with the collateral damage of a nearby lightning strike. Therefore the point of this blog post is two-fold, firstly to save you the heartache that accompanies the destruction of your beloved Hifi/Home Theatre system by a wayward lightning bolt, and secondly to expose you to a new avenue for improving the performance of your system.
There are two main objectives of a good quality power protection system. The first and most obvious, is protection, to stop your precious audio and video equipment from being turned into an expensive pile of molten carbon and plastic. The second, and less considered, is power filtration, to improve the quality of the power being fed to your gear. Power is the first input to any home entertainment system; it flows through the system, used by each component in turn to create the signal that moves the speakers’ drive units and delivers the pixels on the screen. What we see and hear is fashioned from, and by, mains electricity – it’s the ‘raw material’ from which the ‘art’ is created. Your musical or cinematic enjoyment will be reduced by mains noise contamination.
Let's take a closer look at the how's and why of 'Protection' and 'Filtration':
Joules is the measurement of absorption of a surge protective product. If Joules is likened to a sponge, the bigger the sponge, the more it can absorb and the better the power protective product. Joules are sacrificial; they cannot regenerate or be used again so once used up, the device can no longer absorb any excess energy. This can be catastrophic for protection on 'big ticket items' as the power protector is no longer a 'protector' it is effectively turned into a basic power strip. As power boards commonly sit behind cabinets, shelves or under desks however, unfortunately it is not commonplace for a board to tell you it is no longer protecting. Thor's Power Check Technology is unique and is critical to protecting any connected equipment. Thor's Power Check Technology shuts off a circuit automatically once the surge protection properties are used up, instantly alerting the user that the board needs to be replaced.Filtering & Conditioning
Power line noise is a natural by-product of the distribution and use of electrical power. It is present in every electrical circuit and can pose huge problems with performance, reliability and longevity of any digitally sensitive circuit. Let's throw a few analogies around, who doesn't love a good analogy. A high performance sports car will not perform to it's maximum unless it is run on the very best available fuel. It can have gold plated fuel lines, platinum spark plugs and a state of the art fuel pumping system, but if the fuel tank is full of vegetable oil the performance potential will never be realised. Similarly, your HiFi system is unable to function to it's maximum potential because the fuel supplied to it from the mains is contaminated. HiFi source components are very sensitive to electrical pollution because the audio signals they process are at a very low voltage, and this signal must be amplified in order to drive the speakers. This causes a cascade effect within the electronic circuitry, resulting in a polluted amplified signal.There are a number of benefits you will realise from a good power conditioner:
•Improved front to back layering and an extended and involving soundstage
•Effortlessly natural and open sound and far more 3D vocal image
•More attack and definition on the instruments and a Vanishingly quiet noise floor.
•Greater overlaying of harmonies, textures and detail
•Greater focus and bass articulation
Thor- Thor make a great, affordable range of power protection and conditioning products for all budgets and applications. If you have unreliable power quality or are in a lightning-strike prone area, then there is a Thor product for you. Thor Technologies is 100% Australian and proud of it. All research, development and engineering is undertaken in Australia, even today their hardwired range is still 100% manufactured here. They really stand behind the products they sell, and all products are designed specifically for australian conditions and have a clamping voltage of 275V. You can rest assured that A Thor product will catch the spike and stop it before the smoke gets out, guaranteed. Check out their website, give us a call or drop into the store to learn more.
Isotek- Where Thor is a product for everyone, the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker, Isotek build more esoteric products, aimed at the purist audiophile. Isotek's primary focus is on improving sound quality, their products are more about chasing the ultimate in audio performance, power protection is an added bonus. They claim to deliver the world’s best power cleaning solutions for lovers of high-quality sound. All Isotek products are designed and hand crafted in the UK. Check out their website, give us a call or drop into the store to learn more.
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We've been hearing a lot about Dolby Atmos of late, so I thought it was time to investigate this mysterious new format a little further. Will this be another failed home theatre marketing gimmick , think 3D, or will it genuinely improve the movie viewing experience with a more immersive sound field.
So what is Dolby Atmos?Atmos is the latest surround encoding format from Dolby, it differs from current surround formats in that it is based not on traditional speaker channels but on “audio objects” which Dolby’s director of sound research, Brett Crockett, describes as, “Any sound heard in a movie scene—a child yelling, a helicopter taking off, a car horn blaring. Filmmakers using Dolby Atmos can decide exactly where those sounds should originate and precisely where they move as the scene develops. The Dolby Atmos system has the intelligence to determine what speakers to use to precisely recreate movement in the way the filmmakers intend.”
How many speakers do I need?
7.1.4 – A traditional 5-channel layout with additional surround back channel and 4 in-ceiling height speakers
7.1.4 – A traditional 5-channel layout with additional front width channel and 4 in-ceiling height speakers
7.1.4 – A traditional 5-channel layout with additional front height channel and 4 in-ceiling height speakers
9.1.2 – A traditional 5-channel layout with a combination of either surround back, front width or front height and 2 in-ceiling height speakers
Creating overhead sounds is a “key element” in Atmos’ ability to recreate a realistic sound environment, and placing speakers overhead – in the ceiling – makes the most sense to accomplish this. Crocket explains “For the best Dolby Atmos experience, we recommend four overhead speakers for most homes.” If overhead speakers are not an option then Dolby are partnering with a number of loudspeaker manufacturers to create new Atmos speaker modules that will allow you to recreate the overhead speaker effect from a traditional floorstanding speaker. These speaker modules will fire sound upward, where it will reflect off the ceiling to simulate an overhead effect.
It is unlikely that your old receiver or processor could be firmware upgraded to support Atmos, so this will require a replacement. Existing Blu-ray players, however, should be able to pass the Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital Plus bitstream that will include the Atmos information.
Is there source material available for playback?Dolby introduced Atmos to the world in 2012 and so far roughly 70 films have been made using this new audio technology. They are working with studios and production houses to help create Atmos soundtracks for a range of movies and TV programming. Crockett claims that we will start to see Dolby Atmos titles on Blu-ray and streaming video services this fall. “We invented new scalable algorithms and extensions to Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital Plus, which is used by leading streaming video providers,” .
So there you have it, Dolby Atmos is coming to a Home Theatre near you, whether you need it or not. We look forward to hearing how it enhances the movie watching experience, but remain a little cynical after previous attempts by marketing departments to sell us the next big thing. Hopefully our cynicism is misplaced. If you would like to know more please give us a call. Stay tuned.
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The heart of the Mid-Fi room is our Nexus comparator, which lets you compare our full range of speakers, amps and source components simply by pressing a few buttons. Currently on the comparator are the full range of NAD integrated amps and CD Players, a selection of Yamaha integrated amps, receivers and CD players, a Naim Nait 5si integrated amp, Creek Evo 50 integrated amp, Naim UnitiQute, Cambridge Audio Minx and a Sonos Connect/Arcam Sonlink DAC combo. Also present are turntables and phono stages from Project, Rega, Musical Fidelity and NAD. In the speaker department we have a range of floor standers and bookshelf models from Cambridge Audio, Bose, Q Acoustics, Richter, Bowers & Wilkins, PSB, Epos, Ellipson and JBL.We also have a number of our recommended packages set up in the Mid-Fi Room for demos. There is a Naim UnitiLite paired with JBL LS40 Bookshelf speakers, a Yamaha AS-500 and Subsonic XM3 combination, a Yamaha and Focal Dome combo, and one of our favourites - the Richter Wizard and Mystique package.
While we encourage you to bring along some of your personal favourites for your test-drive we are quite proud of our digital music collection, which has been carefully curated by our in-house music guru Nathan. We can demonstrate a variety of music formats with various bit rates and codecs from a range of sources: Naim UnitiServe, Music M8 server, iPod, Hard Drive and Laptop PC. Hi-res digital music is here and it sounds superb, and above all it is easy to access and manage. We can also help out with advice on networking and getting your music into the digital realm.Finally, in our Mid-Fi Room we have a great range of cables and interconnects for all budgets and tastes. No use investing in all of that superb equipment if you can't piece it together with great cables.
So the next time you're in the hunt for some new kit drop into our store take a look around our Mid-Fi Room. It can get pretty busy, and we like to spend plenty of time with our customers, so be sure to make an appointment so you can take your time and audition our selection of great affordable hifi in a relaxed, no pressure environment.