That's what happened to me too, when I saw Dark Knight in IMAX. Before then, I could always equal or trump what I heard at a theater, IMAX included.
I notice you have Blu-ray and HD DVD players, but--cool as your pre/pro is--it doesn't decode the new lossless surround schemes--uncompressed PCM, Dolby TrueHD, and DTS-HD Master Theater.
I have reason to believe your problem is with the source material, not your hardware. It was quite obvious to me that the surround sound in IMAX Dark Knight was totally uncompressed.
If you're using the coax or toslink digital outputs from your Blu-ray and HD DVD players into your Sunfire, you're not getting the full resolution of the TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Theater soundtracks; you're getting a down-converted DTS datastream that doesn't tax the bandwidth limitations of a SP/DIF digital connection, albeit with an incremental sound improvement over the sound of std-def DVD owing to the faster data transfer in HD DVD and Blu-ray.
Before doing such a dramatic upgrade, see if you can borrow a Blu-ray machine with internal processing and plug the analog outputs into the Sunfire's multichannel analog inputs. Then select a Blu-ray or HD DVD disc with particularly good soundtrack, select the best resolution the disc has to offer (e.g., TrueHD), and see how your system sounds.
Compared to lossless surround, Dolby Digital 5.1 and even DTS sucks. The surround channels are noticeably compressed, limiting both their frequency response and dynamic range. It's not worth upgrading the downstream hardware until you can hear what your current system can do with a true uncompressed surround source.
And, although I haven't gone 9-channel, I'm running 7 omnidirectional or bipolar Mirage speakers in my system, with two subwoofers. I have a total of 26 drivers and 1625 high current RMS watts in an 18x20 room. The soundfield is completely seamless.
My experience playing the HD DVD of Polar Express was enlightening when it comes to the increased audio bandwidth of Dolby TrueHD. When I turned up the volume to +4 (I usually listen at -8), my home system was every bit the equal of the IMAX dynamics in the first scene where the steam train rolls up. My stepson came running out of his room to see if something had crashed into the house!
Johnnyb53.....I have the entry level Sony Blu Ray player that has the 5.1 analog outputs. I use the player for processing thru the analog outputs, and frankly I'm not that impressed. It doesn't sound bad....just that it doesn't distinguish itself from the digital outputs. Actually, I've always thought the digital processing of my processor sounded quite good. I tried the analog outputs of the Blu Ray player to see what all the fuss was about. Well, I'm not impressed so far. I'm sure I could improve the sound If I had the $2000 Denon or Marantz Blu Ray players with their souped up internal processors and the 7.1 analog outputs.
I don't have the dough to pony up for a new processor to digitally take advantage of the new hi-def surround codecs. I just bought my current pre-pro two or three months ago. I'll give it a year while things shake out a bit and maybe prices drop a little before I get another pre-pro. Also, I want a pre-pro that will run 9 speakers in theater mode via HDMI. The only one that I've seen capable of doing that is new $7500 Denon processor. Sorry, but that's a little too rich for my blood right now. My Sunfire currently will run 9 speakers via toslink or digital coax, although it can only output a 5.1 signal to those 9 speakers and it is not capable of playing any of the new lossless hi-def formats.
I think for now, I'll go back to a digtal coax cable for my Blu Ray player and let the Sunfire processor distribute the 5.1 signal through out the 9 speakers digitally.
Your Sony Blu-ray player has 5.1ch analog outs, but it's not internally processing the TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Theater codecs. That's why you're unimpressed and it's why I suggested borrowing a Blu-ray player with internal lossless audio decoding. They're just starting to come out now, and the cheapest one is the new Panasonic DMP-50 at $700.
Of course the prices will come down. You may want to get another pair of Kappas and go 7-channel, but you won't achieve what you REALLY want until you get a higher bandwidth audio signal going to the amps. After all, the IMAX surround is 6-channel. It's 12,000 watts, but it has to fill a 450-seat theater.
On paper, my 1600w, 26-driver surround system should equal in an 18x20 room what 12K watts does in an IMAX theater. Most of the time it does, but the deck is stacked against us until we can get lossless surround sources.
I'm with you--the stuff's too expensive and feature-deficient to adopt right now. I'm not spending $700 to get the Panasonic and I'm sure as hell not tossing my Boston Acoustics AVP7 pre-pro out in favor of an Integra 9.8 pre/pro. I'll just wait until Oppo or somebody offers an all-in-one Blu-ray player with internal hi-def audio processing for $400 or less, and then I'll bite. Until then, I'll wait.
Johnnyb53.....Um, er......you're right. I went back to read up on my player and it does not decode the newer hi-def codecs. Thank goodness you corrected me before I went out and incorrectly and ignorantly bad-mouthed the new formats.
Now, with the Panasonic DMP-50 that you mentioned, it has 5.1 analog outputs. I put on a disc with a 7.1 hi-def soundtrack....if I go thru the 5.1 analog outputs to my processor's analog inputs, will the blu ray player send a signal to all nine of my speakers or just five of them?
I run a IMAX theater so I can tell you exactly what they are doing. It sounds like you were in a smaller joint venture theater (Regal or AMC), because a traditional stand alone IMAX does not use multiple arrays of speakers. Typically they use 6 Full range speakers that are IDENTICAL and ONE huge subwoofer dead center screen. Mine has 8 18" drivers and you can walk inside it. IMAX found that multiple subwoofers actually cancel each other out. The six speaker locations are L-C-R LR RR and Top Screen. Top screen is rarely used. It works well for rocket launches. Some movies have no top screen content at all. The source is is either 6 channel 35mm analog mag tape or 6 channel digital files. All tracks are full range, and there is NO processor. The sub bass track is summed off all 6 channels. All amps are also IDENTICAL except for wattage. Older theaters use modified Bryston amps. All drivers have electronic crossovers. Each 4 way speaker is quad amped. The new theaters are using class D amps. I can't recall the make. I think they sound more digital though. The speakers are custom designed, but they use Electro Voice and JBL drivers. To me they sound like big boxes with horns. Dynamic, you bet. Hi-fi, not so much.
So basically they have been doing a variation of 5.1 for 40 years now. I doubt all those speaker arrays were running for Batman. Those arrays came with Dolby surround. I could be wrong. Not all theaters have the sound system supplied by IMAX. That is an additional cost.
If you add side or rear channels it will make your surround more seamless. Matching amps and speakers are key. Proper speaker placement, acoustic treatment and set-up will make your system sing. I see these basic concepts ignored over and over by pros and joes.
I LOVE THIS FORUM!!
Thank you Steuspeed! Invaluable info. Yes it was at a joint venture theater. The full sized IMAX theater here in Los Angeles is at the Univ of Southern Calif Museum of Science and Industry. I've never heard of them showing a comercial film there....I've seen several nature-type doucmentaries there over the years. Nothing in those documentaries to challenge the sound system like the Batman soundtrack though.
You need to see Batman at the REAL IMAX. Multiple scenes are shot in real IMAX and will fill the entires IMAX screen. This is a first for a Hollywood style film. I would be interested in your feedback between the two venues.
The IMAX screen I saw was six stories high. You could tell when the IMAX shots were on the screen.....the on-screen image filled the entire screen. The 35 mm portions of the movie of course were letterbox style, still outstanding though. Even though the aspect ratios changed periodically during the movie...it was done seamlessly. My buddy didn't even notice that the aspect ratios went back and forth.
How much bigger is the screen at a real IMAX theater?
That sounds like a big retrofit. Some JV theaters don't have that kind of ceiling height. You would have to go on-line and check screen dimensions. The Boeing IMAX in Seattle is 62' x 82', so you may have seen all there is to see. I have 79' dome. We are not running Hollywood movies.
" I've stayed awake nights trying to figure out a way to replicate the incredible sound that I heard in that theater" (Mitch4t)
There's really a lot more to great sound coming from these "IMAX" systems, than simply MORE SPEAKERS. You are usually dealing with VERY high efficiency, pro, active speaker systems (I think IMAX theater use an "active" speaker array" of some sort - I used to know the names) in these large, acoustically advantageous movie venues, as well.
The fact that there are often "more speakers" in the theater is usually required for better, and more approximate coverage for hundreds of seats. Yes, the multiple speakers makes for even more dynamic ease through out the space - but the real advantage with the speaker technology there is the ulta-high efficieny and power for those systems! These active horn sysms dynamically stomp the living bajesus out of what you find in most passive home systems, indeed! You're looking at some 115-118+ db of efficiency, couple with "active" speaker desings (drivers coupled dirrectly to the amplifiers, with active cross-overs), added with bass management to boot! We are talking serious dynamic realism and capabilities, which make standard home stuff pale in comaparison in reality. That, and they area also using master audio for the sound.
And, yes, the theaters are dealing with some rather sizeable acoustical advantages, as well.
I think you can add up all the variables that comprise the sound you hear in your playback system, acoustical issues, setup options, speaker technologies, bass management and power distribution and efficiency (receivers are more limited than separates amps in terms of power delivery, IME), among other things, and you start running into limitations with most typical home setups - not to mention lack of understanding from most people who setup their own systems, for less than balanced speaker and seating placements, settings, phase issues, etc.(not specificially you or anyone, but most, for sure).
Basically, I'm saying you need to consider what's behind producing "great sound", in-whole, and not just the shear number of speakers in a system - full range, or not.
Actually, that brings up another issue. Simply running large full range speakers in your typical domestic acoustic home spaces, is not simply going to give you advantages. Infact, often if offers dis-advantages along with it. So consider. Full range from passive speakers is often more in-efficient than crossing over to active subs, as is usually the case! Infact, in those EXTREMELY large movie venues, even those otherwise full range 15-18" horn speakers cross over to dedicated subwoofers, for good reason! EFFICIENCY!
I would rather like to see you make sure that you have all your current speakers and your system properly setup, to assure relatively flat response from your listening area, proper phase between subs, speakers, and seats, proper balance of sound, speaker aim, soundstage width/perspective and acoustics. With a proper foundation securely anchored, I think you can then consider more speakers (as long as you can set them up balanced for good sound and coverage, is the key - Note: you can place speakers so they don't properly cover an even tonality and response from all seating positions, real easy)
That all said, you should be able to try experiementing with additional "matrixed" front and back effects speakers to your hearts desire, for maximum envelopement, yes!
Balance is the key however, so remember. You mix that with proper setup, bass management, speaker settings and locations, flat response, perfect phase, efficienc system, acoustics, etc, and you have one heck of a system potential!
So I say "go for it", if you've laid the proper foundation, bassically...you can build your sonic pool of sound from there.
If you want to get additional speakers with your current setup connect Y splitter interconnects to the signal out on your processor to connect 2 amps/speakers to 1 channel. I did this to have 2 center channel speakers under an 8 Ft screen to fill up the center and keep the volume down. I don't have any comment on how this would work on the surrounds
Naked.......Great post, I appreciate it. Now I can sleep peacefully now that I know what I'm up against.
Somec.....I had already been contemplating just what you mentioned in order to get addional surrounds for more area coverage. My center channel is 25.5 ft from my listening chair, the fronts and rears are 30 feet away. I'm sure with an addional four speakers that I'd get much better coverage. Currently, I have to crank it up pretty good for sufficient area coverage.
The IMAX screen I saw was six stories high. You could tell when the IMAX shots were on the screen.....the on-screen image filled the entire screen. The 35 mm portions of the movie of course were letterbox style, still outstanding though.
Then you saw it in a real IMAX theater. And while the image quality in letterbox was good, I noticed quite a drop in resolution compared to fullscreen IMAX shots. And I could be wrong, but I think the letterbox portions were shot in 70mm.
Concerning your question about plugging the DMP-50's 5.1 outputs into the Sunfire, AFAIK the analog inputs are a bypassed analog pass-thru, so you also bypass any of the Sunfire's internal digital processing. So if you want to send that 5.1 signal to 7 or more speakers, you'll need to do it with Y-adapters.
And once again, I need to follow a poster's link to his System pics and equipment list before I start pontificating on how to fix it. Your viewing/listening area is huge and unbounded. In that case, you could use extra speakers or wall in your viewing/listening to get boundary reinforcement.
Still, I don't think we can equal the soundtrack performance of "Dark Knight" at home until we have an uncompressed audio surround source. As Steuspeed said, except for rocket launches, IMAX surround is essentially 5.1. But they have an uncompressed audio source and use both prodigious power and highly efficient horn-loaded speakers to achieve an exceptional dynamic range. And they have a subwoofer enclosure you can walk around in.
Mitch: That is a very large room, can you hangar a plane in there? Don't know if this thread is dead yet or if this is helpful, but, any though on using both the XLR and RCA outs simultaneously on a processor. I e-mailed Meridian last year and they said its OK but the volume levels will be different, which requires an attenuator.
"...And while the image quality in letterbox was good, I noticed quite a drop in resolution compared to fullscreen IMAX shots. And I could be wrong, but I think the letterbox portions were shot in 70mm."
The letterbox portions are shot with 35mm and blown up using IMAX DMR re-mastering proprietary process. Basically they are trying to eliminate film grain. The aspect ratio remains the same, thus the letterbox effect on a squarish IMAX screen.
I always wondered if you had a super large room what all the speakers would sound like, but my idea would be to add a second Processor so all channels could be time set properly minus the fronts on second unit but also thought about what would happen with the ability to give the second Pro's a tweaked sound a bit different from main for the rear speakers but it would be cool to try.
Somec...the XLR + RCA outs is a great idea! I'll call Sunfire tomorrow and get the skinny. The volume levels shouldn't be much of a problem, I should be able to correct any volume differences with an SPL meter.
Mitch4t? I'm sorry, you said your room is how large? You sit 25.5 feet from the center channel?
Ok, yeah, especially if you have a much larger than normal space, you might want to consider higher efficiency, high sensitivity speakers in an all out HT system! Passive traditional speakers have enough trouble delivering realistic dynamic contrast and impact to a system - as is most always the major factor holding back perceived accurate sound reproduction, with even the most expensive consumer hi-fi speaker systems.
For you, I'd be looking at more efficient horns, active speaker systems - or at least ones with powered woofers, and multiple mid/bass/tweeter drive units for efficiency.
Hope this helps
Naked.......the room is 70' long x 22' wide with a 22' high ceiling. It's a very serious sized room. The projector has a throw of 28 feet...it has to be that far back to fill the screen with a 16 foot wide image. Very nice picture I might add. Any closer than 22 feet and I start to get pixelization and screen-door effect.
I'm outa HT money right now and I've got to use what I've already got. The only thing my finances will allow is to consider upgrading my Blu Ray player. I have four pairs of Infinity Kappa 9 speakers that I can use as surrounds. Of course, they are among the most inefficient, power sucking speakers known to man. But, I have enough Sunfire Signature amps at 1200 wpc (4 ohms) and Carver Silver 9t amps at 900 wpc (4 ohms) to drive them with.
When I get some money, I'll do a makeover and get more efficent speakers next time around. I have tons of equipment that I need to sell off.
Chad: Good idea using 2 processors. One of my DVD players has 2 digital coax outputs, and all players do optical and coax out or is there another piece of equipment to purchase? Thanks
I can see the merits of using two processors, however, that would mean two volume controls. It seems a little more trouble than it's worth. I think the simplest solution to add more speakers would be to go with y-connectors out of the processor's outputs. That way all the volume would be controlled by one unit.
The only problem with that is you wont have the proper distance and delay of all speakers in the space, I know 2 units has its issue but again just thinking outloud. The same remote would likely control both units so volume would not be perhaps as big an issue as you assume, once its properly calibrated both would receive same command.
I personally don't like the idea of trying to "sync" two processors, simply to achieve more speakers in the system. I especially am always going to be a fan of QUALITY over quantity, first. I would either rather see you properly place speaekers, and maybe split a pair of rear sides if you must. That shouldn't cause you any problems - with around an equa-distant setup, having one pair just infront of you and one pair slightly behind your main seating area. Not going to be such a big deal with the dealys really (I mean any seat closer to one side of the room or the other is not ideally in a perfect time dealy spot in relation to one left or right side/rear speaker anyway. There's always some level of compromise, ideally.)
A possible other consideration would be some 11.2 processor like what Yamaha does, with "matrixed" front and rear effects speakers.
I just think trying to do multiple pre's, simply so you can slightly adjust another pair of side/rear speakers doesn't make so much sense for the effort. You will eventually get em out of sync anyway. And all that for, what, one extra pair of speakers???
WIth all this talk about Y-adapters, let's remember that Mitch4t's Sunfire Pre/Pro has NINE channels of pre/outs (plus sub outs), not 5 or 7. That makes them all controllable and calibratable from his single pre/pro. The 8th and 9th outputs are a synthesis of any other two channels you assign it (such as to fill in the front sides between front L-R and surround L-R, or between surround L-R and rear surround L-R.
If you look at Mitch's system, you'll see he has a humongous amount of space to fill. Most of the rest of us try to achieve that seamless soundfield with an accessory called "walls." :)