Published in Editorials

Finding Audio Nirvana In Your Living Room Takes Time and Lots Of Moving Furniture

by on11 November 2012 2945 times
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You know that place in your living room where the sound from the television or the music from your stereo is just right?  Where, if you’re anything like me, you find yourself leaning toward it, ever so slightly, during the good parts of a movie or standing in it when you’re playing good music.  That’s called the sweet spot.  No really, that’s a technical term.   The sweet spot is the place where the sound waves from whatever your audio setup includes come together like they’re supposed to.  It’s the spot where your 24-speaker 22.2 surround sound system does its job best, delivering the highs and lows in perfect balance.  I’ve been known to move my recliner to that spot in my living room when I was watching a movie alone.  The sweet spot in my house is a one-person affair. 

For those who put forth the effort, the sweet spot can be hard to find and harder still to focus on a given area.  Even for the true audiophile with money to spend on truly high-end audio equipment, it can mean hours of trial and error for himself or for the setup crew.

Enter the engineering folks at THX.  These people are no strangers to sound and its effects on the masses, as anyone who has been to a movie in the last twenty years knows.  They are turning that expertise to the consumer arena with a speaker system called the Steerable Line Array, that can produce up to eight sweet spots in a given area, all of which can be defined by the user after installation.

The Steerable Line Array is a single system made up of 92 speakers in a six-foot-long array, contained in an enclosure with a 1.4-inch gap along its front.  In a typical installation, that gap is all that would be visible of the system, the rest being hidden behind a wall to blend with the environment.  Normally a collection of that many speakers with that much power would never fit in a space that small due to the need for cooling equipment, but the Steerable Line Array contains 92 separate 100-watt amplifiers, one for each speaker.  These amps only activate when that particular speaker needs to fire, and each only draws one tenth of an amp when inactive.  

When the system is installed, the user maps the listening enviroment using a smartphone or computer app, and tags individual locations as sweet spots, within the limits of the system’s range.  After that, the system uses a dual-core processor to decode audio signals and direct the sound to the predetermined spots accordingly.  As if all of this weren’t amazing enough, future iterations of the system plan to utilize infrared sensors to locate people and change sweet spots on the fly.

The Steerable Line Array has been around for a while now, and we the consumer will have to wait and see what effect the recent acquisition of THX by Disney will have on it.

Where is the sweet spot in your listening area? Tell us in our Forum

Last modified on 11 November 2012
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