Speakers in Movie Theaters - AVS Forum
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Speakers > Speakers in Movie Theaters
ssampath's Avatar ssampath 10:43 AM 11-22-2004
I was at the movies yesterday - The Incredibles - and was thinking my
relatively inexpense NHT speakers sound better than the speakers there ?
This was in Santa Clara CA for people from the Bay area.

Sure it is a much bigger room but what kind of music systems do they
use in theaters ? For $10.00 per head should I expect sound at least
as good as what I have at home ??

sam

JimRoberts100's Avatar JimRoberts100 10:49 AM 11-22-2004
Horn speakers almost exclusively. Klipsch and JBL share the most theaters in the US.
ssampath's Avatar ssampath 11:00 AM 11-22-2004
Quote:
Originally posted by JimRoberts100
Horn speakers almost exclusively. Klipsch and JBL share the most theaters in the US.
Those sound like good speakers - how come the sound was not great.
They must have designed the theater for good acoustics and all.
It is just very loud.

sam
drdoan's Avatar drdoan 11:11 AM 11-22-2004
Many theater owners don't spend the time and expense of maintaining the sound quality of the original setup. That is why THX certified theaters will sound great if you can find one. I have heard fantastic sound in one theater of a theater complex and lousy sound in another theater in the same complex. I don't think the speakers are at fault. If more people complained to the management of those theaters, perhaps they would calibrate their systems more often. Dennis
Alimentall's Avatar Alimentall 11:46 AM 11-22-2004
Most speakers in a theater look to be no more than $300-$400 each, which would buy you something in a small speaker, but they're basically large boxes with cheap drivers. But they play loud.
JimRoberts100's Avatar JimRoberts100 12:05 PM 11-22-2004
I can guarantee that the following theater speaker costs more than $400.

http://www.jblpro.com/pub/cinema/5674.pdf
Artisn's Avatar Artisn 12:07 PM 11-22-2004
Look for THX certified theaters.
bpape's Avatar bpape 12:15 PM 11-22-2004
I love the specs on those JBL's. 45-12.5k +/-3db. Down 10db@35Hz. Would ANYBODY outside of HTIB land settle for home speakers with that response - even if they WERE $400/pr?

I understand that in a theater, the goals are different. However, that looks pretty anemic to me.
JimRoberts100's Avatar JimRoberts100 12:18 PM 11-22-2004
That linked speaker does not include the subwoofer. It is used for the right, left, and center channels mounted behind the screen. And by the way - It is a THX certified speaker.

Here is the subwoofer for a theater system.

http://www.jblpro.com/pub/cinema/4645c.pdf
filecat13's Avatar filecat13 12:25 PM 11-22-2004
Quote:
Originally posted by bpape
I love the specs on those JBL's. 45-12.5k +/-3db. Down 10db@35Hz. Would ANYBODY outside of HTIB land settle for home speakers with that response - even if they WERE $400/pr?

I understand that in a theater, the goals are different. However, that looks pretty anemic to me.
You're not looking at the whole system, and you're right, those are not meant to be home speakers, so why make the negative comparison?
filecat13's Avatar filecat13 12:27 PM 11-22-2004
Jim, I see you beat me to it.

Movie house sound is a far more complicated beast than home theater sound. I think my HT sounds much better than any normal theater I've been in, but if you put my system in a movie theater, it would totally suck, even with its superior response curve.
bpape's Avatar bpape 12:29 PM 11-22-2004
Relax. I was just commenting on the differences. Not knocking JBL - just noting the drastic difference between them and what people would shoot for in a home environment.

Yes. The sub does go deeper. -3db instead of -10@35Hz and -10@22Hz. Like I said before, I understand there are different priorities in a large theater environment.
riffman's Avatar riffman 01:39 PM 11-22-2004
Quote:
Originally posted by Alimentall
Most speakers in a theater look to be no more than $300-$400 each, which would buy you something in a small speaker, but they're basically large boxes with cheap drivers. But they play loud.
uh yeah...try adding a zero there skippy.... :) well..for some of them...

and a lot of the newer theaters are using the 36 and 4632 screen array systems now...a bit higher frequency response...

at one point, i was thinking of going with actual cinema speakers in a large room for HT....they seem to have pretty good prices here:
http://www.cinequip.com/
Tom Brennan's Avatar Tom Brennan 02:08 PM 11-22-2004
Good theatre speakers are far superior to home type speakers in terms of dynamics and low distortion. IMO the finest speakers ever made were the old Altec VOTs, many of which are used in homes by people who will brook no compromises. I think the old tar-filled multi-cell horns of the large-format VOTs sounded better than the CD horns used today by JBL and EV. And the horn-loaded upper bass-lower mids of the VOTs were superior to the direct-radiating bins common today. My opinion.

Compare an Altec 515 woofer or 288 treble driver to hi-fi grade drivers and the cheesiness of the hi-fi stuff will be immediately apparent.

Believe me, if I could'a gotten the sound of my 600 pounds a pair A5s from a pair of little NHTs I would'a used the NHTs.
riffman's Avatar riffman 03:03 PM 11-22-2004
I agree Tom....except now you have me longing for my old VOT's that I blew up. I was a stupid kid in a band that didn't realize what i had... :( So, thanks a lot!! :D
Tom Brennan's Avatar Tom Brennan 03:22 PM 11-22-2004
Riffman----I feel your pain. I moved from my house into a condo down by The Lake. A5s are out and Klipsch Hereseys are in. The Ks are nice little speakers but..........
riffman's Avatar riffman 03:25 PM 11-22-2004
Bummer! But I don't feel toooo sorry for you...Condo by the lake and all. lol. :D
Alimentall's Avatar Alimentall 03:27 PM 11-22-2004
Quote:
Originally posted by riffman
uh yeah...try adding a zero there skippy.... :) well..for some of them...
Well, the fronts might be $1000 or so each. But the sides/rears? Those are generally cheap speakers. IOW, if it weren't for the raw number of speakers, most higher quality home theaters cost more per speaker than a theater. I don't blame the theaters so much though, most people wouldn't notice better sound and the studios take all the money for themselves, leaving them overpriced popcorn and soda to pay the bills.
JimRoberts100's Avatar JimRoberts100 03:34 PM 11-22-2004
Quote:
Originally posted by Alimentall
Well, the fronts might be $1000 or so each. But the sides/rears? Those are generally cheap speakers. IOW, if it weren't for the raw number of speakers, most higher quality home theaters cost more per speaker than a theater. I don't blame the theaters so much though, most people wouldn't notice better sound and the studios take all the money for themselves, leaving them overpriced popcorn and soda to pay the bills.

I doubt that the following THX certified JBL speaker is cheap.

http://www.jblpro.com/cinema/JBL_8340A.pdf

edit: The above speaker is available online for $312 each. (Suggested retail $466)

Some people might call that cheap. Some people might say that they spent less on their home surround speakers as well.
Tom Brennan's Avatar Tom Brennan 03:52 PM 11-22-2004
Joel-----I respectfully submit that as far as the cost and quality of theatre loudspeakers is concerned you don't know what you're talkin' about.

A single JBL 2446 2" compression driver costs about $500. This driver handles from 500hz on up and weighs 30 pounds. Seen any 30 pound hi-fi treble drivers lately Joel? With 4" titanium dome diaphragms and 4" edgewound voicecoils? Hmmm?

The 2226 15" driver used in many theatre systems goes for about $325 each. Now we're talking a pair of 2226s in a basic THX bassbin. The 2226 has a 4" edgewound voicecoil, an alloy chassis and very high powerhandling combined with very low dynamic compression. A driver of superb engineering and build quality.

Of course we still need a horn for the 2446. Price some 2" throat JBL CD horns Joel. They're very dear. And cabinets and crossovers are needed.

Yeah Joel, if you can put such a system together for $1000 a channel gimme a call, I'll be your first customer.
drdoan's Avatar drdoan 04:05 PM 11-22-2004
And when those drivers are set up properly, it is a wonderful sonic experience. Dennis
bpape's Avatar bpape 04:26 PM 11-22-2004
Theater speakers are certainly more capable of delivering very high SPLs with less power and playing at high levels with less distortion - that is their design goal.

Comparing a pro, high power tweeter to a hi-fi tweeter is apples and oranges IMO. They are designed for 2 different things. Personally, I'll take a Dynaudio Esotar for extension and accuracy over raw power handling, bullet proof design, and extreme efficiency - in a home theater. In a real theater, obviously they won't do the job - not designed to.

Ever seen this 'hi-fi' woofer? http://www.acoustic-visions.com/~aco...ire_tumult_15/

Here is the spec sheet for the Altec 515 - down the page a bit.

http://nleinternet.net/alteclansingu...ers/lflit.html

That driver is for home use and is certainly no slouch in power handling, construction, output capability, etc. Yes, some of the hi-fi stuff is schlock. Others are not. It's tough to make general statements like that.

But that's all off topic since we're talking about MOVIE THEATER speakers ;)
riffman's Avatar riffman 04:29 PM 11-22-2004
Quote:
Originally posted by Tom Brennan
Yeah Joel, if you can put such a system together for $1000 a channel gimme a call, I'll be your first customer.
I'm you're second one....oh...and try to find EAW cinema stuff for that price too...I'm kind of partial to their sound over JBL....

Ok...see now I feel bad...we should probably stop picking on Joel. Sorry man...but the fact of the matter is, they ain't crap speakers.

Ok..to get back ON topic, :) .....I have been very displeased with the theaters around here in general (GKC Theaters). The sound is very poorly blended....almost no surround tracks at all. So the crappy sound has to do with the theaters apathetic nature.

If you want good sound, i would suggest a THX theater or one that has the ALL HORN (WOO HOO!! Big horn freak here) HPS 4000 Sound system. its sweeeeeeeet...... :D
http://www.hps4000.com/pages/theatres_.html
Tom Brennan's Avatar Tom Brennan 04:37 PM 11-22-2004
Riffman---Drive up 55 to Downers Grove. The Tivoli Theatre there is a large old restored house with a HPS 4000 system and real 70mm projection. When the restored Lawrence of Arabia was shown there several years ago it was, to use an overused term, awesome.

Did you catch Lawrence earlier this year in Champaign, at Roger Ebert's fest? Awesome. ;) Ebert brought in 2 crack projectionists from Hollywood and the sound was from A4 VOTs with newly diaphragmed 288s.

Do you have Kerisotes theatres down by you? The ones up here have excellent projection and sound. EV.
riffman's Avatar riffman 07:43 PM 11-22-2004
Ah man!! I wish I would have known about Lawrence! That would have ruled!!!

I'm not familiar with Kerisotes...that doesn't mean that they aren't down here, it just means I don't know about them. :) I'll have to search for them....and you can be sure I'll be making a road trip soon! The girlfriend is itchin to go to Ikea anyway...we'll make a trip of it! :D
Woochifer's Avatar Woochifer 08:18 PM 11-22-2004
I think you're talking about the AMC Mercado, and I agree that the sound that you get in those theaters is pretty lousy. Dialog intelligibility is terrible considering that the theater is only about six years old, and the surround speakers are mounted in some weird overhead position so the surround effect also sounds strange. (Why that theater is among the top grossing theater complexes in the U.S. is beyond me) Someone I know who works as a sound engineer speculated that some AMC theaters sound the way they do because a lot of them use composite screens that are less acoustically transparent than what you typically find in other theaters. (He also mentioned that the new HPS-4000 installation over in Waikiki is the best movie theater sound system that he's ever heard) Those composite screens are supposedly better for image quality and brightness, so you might have a trade off.

For my general moviegoing, I just go to the Century stadium theaters. The newer ones are THX auditoriums (though far from the best ones I've ever heard) and you get more consistently decent sound in those theaters. At least there I can understand the dialog, and the surround effect is more convincing. However, for long-awaited blockbusters, I will head over to the Century 21 (an old dome shaped Cinerama theater) for its big screen, even though its sound system is only so-so.

As far as why your system at home sounds better, the answer's pretty simple -- because it can! With a movie theater, the sound system needs to fill a much larger space AND make sure that the sound is halfway decent for the 90% of the patrons not sitting right in the middle of the theater. You're going to have compromises along the way when trying to please this many people.

A home theater only has to play for a smaller sized room, so no need for ultra efficient speakers and tons of amplification. Also, you can optimize the speaker positioning so that the imaging is spot on for your listening position. No need to worry about how it sounds to people in the 19th row seat 20. Listening to a great soundtrack like "Master and Commander" on a properly positioned 5.1 home theater setup, there's simply no way that a movie theater can duplicate the kind of imaging and spatial cues that a good home theater will create with that soundtrack.

Home theaters though do have their tradeoffs as well. For one thing, most small-to-medium sized rooms will create acoustical problems in the bass. Large movie theaters don't have this problem. Also, there are some ambient sounds that a big flank of surround speakers can simply do better than any 5.1 or 7.1 setup can sound off.

Most rooms are not optimally shaped for a home theater. You get doorways, alcoves, bookcases, etc. that are situated for decorating appeal, but not for maximizing acoustical performance. Also, most people have to live life in the rooms where they have their AV equipment, which means that you cannot just put the speakers and subwoofers where the sound is optimal, if that also means blocking an entrance or in a walkway where the kids or pets or drunk roommates run around.
Gig103's Avatar Gig103 09:10 AM 11-23-2004
Help, what is a horn speaker vs. a traditional speaker?
Tom Brennan's Avatar Tom Brennan 09:27 AM 11-23-2004
Gig-----You ask a question with an answer that is huge and could go on for hours (at least if I were the speaker).

Tell ya what, go to this website and look around, you'll learn alot.

www.audioheritage.org
DMF's Avatar DMF 10:30 AM 11-23-2004
Good site, but you could give a quick desciription.

A horn speaker is like a regular speaker with a megaphone welded to the front of it. The horn "magnifies" the sound. There's a lot more to it, but that's the essential difference.
Raichu11cz's Avatar Raichu11cz 12:28 PM 11-23-2004
Harkins Theatres recently opened a new complex in Oklahoma City. We watched Ray and National treasure in their "Cine Capri" theater room. They use Klipsch speakers throughout the theater, but these were the pro series and there was a noticeable difference. (saw Ray twice, once in the Capri, once in the normal rooms)

I have a klipsch set-up at home, and recognized the sound immediately. Awsome. Though they are not THX certified, they do frequently calibrate their theaters, especially the Cine Capri.

That room only shows one movie a week, all week long. The manager, told me that it is recalibrated for the particualr film they are showing as to maintain the proper sound and picture focus. That was great news, and it was cool to see someone actually removing the speakers from their mounts to check the conections after someone complained of static comming from a speaker they sat by.
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