It's possible to bridge the gap between space-consuming home theater systems and no outboard speakers at all.

AN ORDER FOR HIGH-DEF AUDIO, HOLD THE BIG BOX

Lee Adams | soundmatters, inc.

AN ORDER FOR HIGH-DEF AUDIO,
HOLD THE BIG BOX

by Lee Adams, Vice President of Marketing, soundmatters, inc.

It's possible to bridge the gap between space-consuming home theater systems and no outboard speakers at all.


There is a commonly held opinion among audio enthusiasts that great sound emanates only from speakers with large cabinets spread throughout a room. Well the times they are a changin', as illustrated by a new wave of home audio products designed to bring rich, high definition audio to any listening environment without the clutter of big boxes and gobs of tangled wires.

It's true that the rapid evolution of home entertainment products and availability is broadening the audience, appreciation, and expectations for good sound, as is the proliferation of big-screen HDTV monitors that practically demand sonic reproduction that is on a par with these products' stunning video. Every year, thousands of consumers invest in 5.1-channel (or greater) home theater systems of varying price points, with yesterday's breakthrough technology tomorrow's bargain-basement add-on.

The many magazines and webzines catering to sound fanatics may lead readers to believe that the world still lusts for big-box systems to fill every room in the house, but the fact of the matter is most people probably don't want audio equipment to dominate their homes. And the question of whether or not to invest in a sonic expansion is hardly relegated to a battle-of-the-sexes -- or budget -- so much as it is a preference to enjoy both high-definition sound and an uncluttered environment.

Until a couple years ago, the line separating great audio and domestic tranquility symbolized an either/or scenario, but, today, things are very different. Instead of settling for the painfully inferior speakers that come standard with nearly every TV, no matter how high the video definition or the price tag (and the speakers on flat-screen models are particularly bad), companies like soundmatters® are making it possible to bridge the gap between space-consuming home theater systems and no outboard speakers at all.

At soundmatters, our founder, Dr. Godehard Guenther, saw an opportunity to create a speaker system so small that it nearly disappears in the room, but fills the listening area with dynamic, full-range audio that is usually associated with full-sized multi-box products.

Dr. Guenther developed a diminutive enclosure (16.7" W x 2.5" H x 9" D) to house two full spectrum drivers and one mini-subwoofer that incorporate his patented Linear Magnetic Drive™ technology. Using this design as a platform, he then incorporated amplification, and advanced digital processing to extract all spatial information from Dolby® encoded software, as well as any standard CD or television audio feed.

The product, dubbed MAINstageTM, uses special algorithms to create a spatially- correct theater sound experience from multichannel DVD software and cablecasts - something that factory-standard TV speakers just can't accomplish, no matter what type of gee-whiz technology is touted on the box.

But what about performance? The MAINstage achieves a frequency range of 50Hz - 20kHz, with honest bass that remains tight, not "boomy." Until MAINstage, the only path to this level of performance was littered with numerous boxes and a morass of cables.

It is virtually impossible to extract the same type of full range audio from a TV speaker - or, say, a portable CD player - that can be achieved with products like MAINstage. Even if the drivers are up to the challenge, it is necessary to develop custom processors to match the enclosure, which is something that television manufacturers can't justify because, frankly, it is not their forte. Instead, consumers who care about sound quality are obligated to invest in outboard speaker systems, but these products no longer have to consume significant amounts of real estate.

The selection of small, high definition audio systems will soon be growing exponentially, with a variety of shapes, sizes, and custom technologies to fit a multitude of applications, while staying true to the "keep it simple" mantra behind most of these products. For example, soundmatters recently announced an upgrade to the original MAINstage, called MAINstageHD, with advanced speakers and twice the power of the original model, reaching 80 Watts RMS for a stronger dynamic range and deeper three-dimensional image. Likewise, there is a new stealth outboard subwoofer, SUBstageTM, featuring a radically thin footprint that complements current trends in flat panel television displays while providing deep, resonant bass response down to 35Hz. And, finally, the upcoming FLATstageTM is, as the name implies, a high performance solution for consumers who want to enhance the sonic output from their flat-screen television monitors with a surround sound wall panel with the equivalent of an integrated slim-line 12" FlatMagicTM sub for bass response flat to 35Hz.

With every new model, soundmatters is responding to consumer and dealer requests for space-saving alternatives to thin-sounding HTIB products. As the trend toward flat-screen television monitors exemplifies, consumers are hungry for high performance that does not originate from big boxes. Just as the CRT gave way to LCD and plasma televisions, space-saving models like MAINstage are certain to satisfy demand for room-filling sonics without the room-filling boxes.

soundmatters, inc. (www.soundmatters.com), headquartered in San Francisco, CA, is dedicated to developing consumer electronics that enhance, rather than complicate consumers' lifestyles. For further information, high-resolution images, product samples, and interviews with company executives, please contact Adam Sohmer, SOHMER ASSOCIATES, 718-499-9161 (voice/fax), 347-512-0066 (cell), adam@sohmerassoc.com.


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