Starke Sound at LA Audio Show 2017

starke sound

It seems the world can never have too many audiophile shows. This month, a new one debuted—the Los Angeles Audio Show. As with most such events, this one focused on 2-channel audio; for example, see my write-up of the ELAC Adante speakers being demonstrated there. But there was also a very impressive home-theater setup with speakers and power amps from Starke Sound.

The room was put together by The High End Zone, a New Mexico-based audio/video dealer that sells products from Starke Sound as well as other high-end brands. It resembled a commercial cinema with an 11.8.8 Dolby Atmos system with three IC-H5 Elite floorstanding speakers ($13,920/pair) in the front LCR positions. (Actually, there were two speakers in each LCR position for redundancy in case of a problem; only one was active in each position at any given time.) The surrounds were eight IW-H5 Elite wall-mounted speakers ($12,960/pair), and the overheads comprised eight IW-H3 Be ceiling-mounted speakers ($7240/pair). Bringing up the bass were six SUB36 powered subwoofers ($2750 each) and two new Rythmik subwoofers (model number and price TBD).

starke sound
The overhead speakers were aimed to create a bubble of sound around the entire seating area.

Powering the main speakers were three Starke A7 Mark II 7-channel amplifiers ($7900 each), which pump out 480 watts/channel into 4 ohms. The decoding was performed by a fully loaded Trinnov Altitude32 ($31,500) fed from a Kaleidescape Strato 4K/HDR server ($4500). Also on hand was an Oppo UDP-205 UHD Blu-ray player ($1300).

On the video side of things was a JVC DLA-RS4500 laser/phosphor-illuminated projector ($35,000) firing onto a Seymour-Screen Excellence RF 160HD Enlightor 4K acoustically transparent screen measuring 160″x90″ ($6360). Also in the system were acoustic treatments from several companies, including ASC, Haikoustics, and Delta with cables from Metra (HDMI, XLR) and Sommer (speakers) as well as a Crestron control system. All told, the system cost was nearly $250,000—and that doesn’t include the labor, which was Herculean!

Curt Hoyt, 3D audio consultant and partner at Trinnov Audio, designed and tuned the room. “I provided consulting to Starke Sound that included detailed design and programming to produce optimal coverage for many listeners with Dolby Atmos playback. The front speakers are rated for 107 dB at 1 meter, and the system overall hit peaks of 105 dB. There were four pairs of overhead speakers located on each of the cross trusses, including a pair on either side of the truss supporting the screen. They were positioned to provide maximum “in-the-bubble” effect across all seats.

“There was a total of eight subs placed in three locations. The room had front and side coupling walls, a distant rear wall, and open left side, so I maximized the sub gain by placing two large subs in the front right corner, four subs together midway along the right wall, and two subs on the left side along the curtain, which had the least effective coupling to the room.
 
“It’s a tribute to Starke Sound’s fundamental design philosophy and over-engineering the output of their systems that the speakers easily carried the show without failure. The guys who sell Starke products in China told me their demos run as high as 120 dB SPL. I guess they like it loud!”

Thankfully, the sound at LAAS didn’t get near 120 dB, but it was pretty loud. (I didn’t have my measurement gear with me; I’ll have to remember that next time I go to an audio show.) I saw several clips from various movies, including Passengers, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Shallows, and Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk in UHD/HDR and Dolby Atmos. All looked and sounded spectacular, though I thought the black level could have been deeper. The immersive soundfield was exceptional, and the sound was very clean, clear, and powerful throughout the audio range.

As far as I can tell, the first LA Audio Show was a big success. I was glad to see one room dedicated to immersive sound, and I hope that home theater becomes an ever-increasing presence at LAAS and other audiophile confabs in the future. For this year, The High End Zone put on quite a show, and I commend the efforts of all involved!