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A Journey through Audio Video experiences in the UK

Charl recently had the privilege to travel to London, and took the opportunity to visit a few Audio Video Experiences not available in South Africa. He shares his thoughts below.

Waterloo BFI IMAX:

The image above does not do it justice. The screen at the BFI IMAX is simply the largest screen I’ve seen (and in the UK!), coming in at an eye-watering 20m x 26.5m. They use two Imax Laser projectors to light it up. The cinema also features Imax 12 channel surround sound.

I’ve unfortunately never been inside the V&A Waterfront IMAX while it was still around, so I have no direct comparison to draw on apart from the ‘wannabe’ Cape Gate IMAX.

I’m a quality over quantity guy, and even though the size is impressive, the quality was not. I could visually see the perforations in the screen, which has the purpose of letting sound through. The image was dull and washed out due to the sheer amount of light required to fill such a monstrously sized screen. It is a perfect example to showcase the importance of screen size and projector light output pairing.

Sound-wise was nothing to write home about. It is loud but not very defined or immersive.

It is an example of how we have been spoiled with exceptional Home Theatres that exceeds the quality one can experience in most commercial Theatres.

Leicester Square Dolby Certified Cinema

Charl outside the Dolby Odeon Cinema

In stark contrast to the BFI IMAX, the first thing I noticed was how small the Projection Screen was. Having said this, the light output was far superior! When the demo clips started playing, they switched off all the lights in the cinema, and we were all transported into the void. No other visible light sources were present other than the screen and the occasional person messing around on their phones. The Dolby Vision black level demo was spectacular, with the true black level being imperceptible from the rest of the void, something I have never seen before.

Dolby Odeon Projection Room

Before the movie started, the electronic masking system changed the aspect ratio of the screen from 16:9 to cinemascope. Colours were vivid, but not oversaturated, flesh tones were pink and didn’t have an orange/blue tint. Dark scenes had all the shadow details, and in some bright scenes I had to squint. At no stage did I feel like the projection screen was too small. This was one exceptional projection system!

Dolby Odeon Projection Screen

The sound was accurate and articulate with the standard Dolby Atmos envelopment we’ve come accustomed to in the Home Theatre experience. What didn’t catch my ear, was the ‘trouser’ shaking infrasonic bass!

Dolby’s standards for Cinema is something we should strive towards in Home Theatre.

Habitech

Habitech Sign

Who is Habitech? An excerpt from their website: “Habitech is a leading value-added distributor of specialised products and systems to the custom installation industry.”

Numerous people in the industry have said that their demo facilities are unrivalled in the UK. Kyle from their team gave me the tour through their demo facilities, and I was blown away by the experience.

Samsung's The Wall

As you enter the facility, you are greeted by Samsung’s “The Wall” Television. It is a modular system made up of multiple smaller panels so that one can build out a television in the size and aspect ratio you desire. It was impressive visually. Next to it, there are two Wisdom Audio’s L75 Line Source speakers which I didn’t demo as I’m familiar with them.

Habitech Speakers

Next to that room was their Sonance speaker experience, where you can play any combination of speakers by itself, or with any other speaker. This flexibility helped gauge individual speaker performance or assist with how well it integrates with another speaker/subwoofer. What impressed me with this setup, was the use of Dante/AES67 for switching outputs. It was fast, seamless, flexible and can easily be expanded. I am convinced that this audio over IP solution is the future of Distributed Audio.

Sonance Motion Flex Room

Welcome to the Sonance Motion Flex room. There are five pairs of speakers embedded in these walls, as well as a 15” subwoofer. Sonance has every right to be proud of these speakers, they are a no-compromise, completely hidden speaker solution, and I have fallen in love with them!

Sonance Theatre

The first Home Theatre for a demo was the Sonance Reference II Cinema which features a 7.1(4).2 configuration. They use the Sonance R2 LCRs for the bed channels, two VP86 for Atmos, two R12 In-wall subwoofers and two i10 subwoofers. For projection, the Home Theatre had the newly released JVC NZ7 Projector. The room was designed well, and the sound was great, but the JVC Projector stole the show.

Wisdom Flagship Theatre

The final Home Theatre for a demo was the Wisdom Audio Reference Cinema in a 9.1(4).4 configuration, featuring the newly released JVC NZ9 Projector. This room performed as expected: Crisp and agile sound from the Wisdom Audio planar magnetic speakers and eye-popping clarity from the JVC Projector. Just superb.

The final room has two experiences. The first is a stereo environment featuring Wisdom Audio’s very best speakers, the LS4 Line Source speakers. It is paired with the STS subwoofer, which is masterfully calibrated. I can’t even begin to explain how well it sounds, it’s something that needs to be experienced. It is the pinnacle of audio fidelity.

Wisdom Media Room Wide

Finally, we come to what was my biggest surprise and favourite experience from the entire visit: The no compromise “Media Room”.

During the demo, I had no idea this room houses a hidden Wisdom Audio 7.1(2).2 solution! It’s well hidden behind a fabric wall, which I needed to inspect to confirm. The cinema features Wisdom Audio’s inwall P4i speakers for the bed channels, two P2i speakers for Atmos and two S90i Subwoofers.

Wisdom Media Room Fabric Walls

Kyle played a few movie demo clips, and the first thing that struck me was the spatial resolution with only two Atmos speakers. He then moved on to my first experience of Spatial Audio. Apple launched this service last year, and it is essentially music mixed for Dolby Atmos. And OH BOY, I’ve been missing out.

Conclusion

It was a fantastic opportunity to experience some of the Audio Video solutions in the UK. The experience enabled us to grow in our ability to provide world-class experiences and expand our horizons on what is possible to provide to South African consumers.

Stay tuned for an upcoming post where we share our thoughts on Wisdom Audio, and why they're our choice for the best possible audio experience.