Starke Sound always puts on a great demo, and CEDIA 2017 was no exception. The company built a blacked-out, acoustically treated room in its booth on the show floor and installed a 7.3.4 Dolby Atmos system. The source was an Oppo UDP-203 UHD Blu-ray player feeding an Integra DRC-R1 11.2-channel pre/pro. Two Starke A7 Mark II 7-channel power amps—in their US debut—drove three Starke IC-H5 Elite floorstanding speakers in the front LCR positions, four Starke IW-H5 Elite wall-mount speakers—also a US debut—in the side and rear surround positions, and four Starke IW-H3 Be ceiling-mount speakers in the overhead positions.
The subwoofers included two Rythmik Audio FV25HPs in the front of the room and one Starke Sub36 at the back. Why not use multiple Sub36s? Because of the somewhat flimsy room that CEDIA provided. As the Starke engineers were calibrating the sound in that room, they decided the system would sound better with the Rythmik subs, which they had brought along as backup.
All in, the audio system racked up a total cost close to $70,000.
On the video side of things, an Epson Pro Cinema 6040UB projector was firing onto a Spectro perforated acoustically transparent screen measuring 150″ diagonal with a 16:9 aspect ratio. The HDMI cable from the player to the pre/pro was a 20-meter Fibbr Ultra Pro. SommerCable provided the XLR and speaker cables, and Haikoustics supplied the power cables. Not counting the pre/pro, the video system was worth right around $10,000.
Unlike the original A7, the A7 Mark II—seen in the photo above—is entirely modular. Each amp channel is a completely separate monoblock unit that installs into a mainframe box, which makes servicing much easier. Other upgrades include more power—480 watts/channel into 4 ohms versus 450 W/ch. (The A7 Mark II provides 240 W/ch into 8 ohms, but all of the speakers in the demo have a nominal impedance of 4 ohms.) Amazingly, all that power is entirely class A except for the highest output levels, which occur less than 1% of the time with most content, when the amp slides into class-AB operation. Other improvements include more shielding on the power supply, reduced crosstalk, and gold-plated beryllium-copper terminals.
The demo I heard started with a clip from Unbroken, which was part of many demos at CEDIA because of its highly effective Dolby Atmos soundtrack. As a squadron of bombers drop their load on a Japanese installation during World War II, they are shot at from the ground and fighters in the air. The sound within one of the bombers as it flies and of bullets flying all around really puts you in the center of the action.
The entire soundscape was rendered artfully by the Starke Sound system, which created a cohesive, seamless aural image that didn’t localize to any particular speaker. It was loud—I was told the system was set at 1 dB over reference level—but it was so clean that I didn’t mind the volume. As anyone who reads my articles knows, I generally rail against audio that’s played too loud, so I was quite surprised that I didn’t feel the need to run out of the room!
Next, we listened to “Bailando,” a music video by Enrique Inglesias on a Dolby Atmos demo disc. Again, the soundstage was completely seamless, with a liquid quality that was very appealing. The clarity and cleanliness was startling, even at a fairly high playback level.
There were many fine audio demos at CEDIA this year, as there are every year. Of the ones I heard, I thought the Starke Sound demo sounded the best. Well done!