Best of CES: StormAudio I.ISP 3D.16.12 Master Integrated Preamp Processor

StormAudio AVR

Recently, I wrote up a press release about the StormAudio I.ISP 3D.16.12 Master integrated AV processor/receiver that’s available through custom-install channels. Thanks to its extreme specs, it qualifies as one of the most badass AVRs around. In that article, I promised to visit the company at CES and dig deeper into what its new line of AV processors—and particularly this mighty AVR—are all about. Now, I’m glad I did.

It was not until I had a sit-down session with StormAudio Senior Vice President Yves Trélohan that I fully understood how capable the company’s gear is. Parent company Auro specializes in immersive audio, so it’s no surprise that’s the focus of this new gear.

Based on what I saw and heard, the French-made I.ISP 3D.16.12 Master sits above the flagships of the major AVR makers in terms of specs, capability, and flexibility. Unsurprisingly, it is more expensive than those AVRs, but also costs a lot less than Trinnov and Datasat 16-channel solutions that require external amps for all channels.

With 16 channels—12 of which are amplified—the I.ISP 3D.16.12 is the company’s latest product and builds on the AV processors it launched at CEDIA. Its twelve class-D amplified channels are all spec’d to deliver 200 watts into 8 ohms—that’s all channels driven—from 20 Hz to 20 kHz, with 0.1% distortion. That figure doubles to 400 watts per channel going into 4 ohms. There’s no mass-market AVR that can claim to pack so much firepower into its chassis. Four balanced outputs can be used with external amps and/or subs to bring the total channel count this unit offers to 16.

StormAudio made the I.ISP 3D.16.12 Master explicitly for space challenged high-end installations. Spaces like New York condos and luxury yachts may not be able to accommodate a tower of amplification. Yet the price of the system is not so high that it qualifies as unobtanium. StormAudio’s AVR brings a lot of power and flexibility to the table to justify the $15,900 cost. Chief among them is setup flexibility that is as fast and intuitive as any I have seen.

Using an iMac, Trélohan showed me how remarkably quick it is to create a custom configuration with StormAudio’s gear. It took him minutes to hammer out multiple complete system configs using the software interface. Every setting you’d want was there on the surface and could be adjusted intuitively. I can only dream of having all those settings at my fingertips when dealing with mainstream AVRs and pre/pros.

StormAudio Config
StormAudio software setup is fast and intuitive.

When a StormAudio processor ingests an immersive format like Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, or Auro-3D, it will render the result to as many speakers as you have got. It can natively handle up to 16 channels, That makes a system—four elevation and four overhead speakers—possible. You can dedicate the external amplification to the LCR mains while using the built-in amps to run all the surrounds and elevation channels; that’s plenty of power for most installations. There’s no voodoo here; with this rig you can render immersive audio in an optimal manner and pack tremendous punch into a compact rack.

Audio processing comes courtesy of six SHARC DSPs. Two are used for decoding audio, two are used for for post-processing including bass management, and two are used to implement room correction.

For home theater owners who want to go beyond what this ultra-AVR offers, StormAudio offers AV processors that render up to 16 immersive audio channels and output up to 32 channels (with post-processing). Furthermore, depending on the model output can be either balanced analog or digital (with AES); perfect for systems that use active speakers with built-in DAC capability. The Four StormAudio processors are as follows: ISP 3D.16 Elite ($11,500), ISP 3D.32 Elite Analog Edition ($15,900), ISP 3D.32 Elite Digital Edition ($15,900) and ISP 3D.32 Elite Reference Edition ($19,900) i.e. “the whole enchilada.”

Notably, the Reference Edition earned a CES 2017 Innovation Award and offers 32 balanced analog outputs as well as 32 digital outputs in the same chassis! Check out this pic of me and Yves chillin’ by the company’s flagship processor.

stormaudio processor
Gotta give the credit where the credit is due. Me and Ynes and the ISP 3D.32 Elite Reference Edition.

StormAudio Flagship
Look at all those outputs! The ISP 3D.32 Elite Reference Edition is ready to rumble.

After considering the thinking behind its design, I get why StormAudio decided to create a super-AVR. When combined with the powerful yet intuitive software the company offers, the I.ISP 3D.16.12 is a system the easily earns a Best of CES designation.