This is one of the most exciting hands-on experiences I’ve had all year. It is the first StormAudio I.ISP 3D.16.12 to go out to a reviewer. And just in case you are wondering what that means, here’s the scoop: The I.ISP 3D.16.12 is a $15,900 (MSRP) 16-channel integrated AV processor that features twelve 200-watt amplified channels. Yes, it’s a beast.
AV receivers and processors are the literal brains of many home theater systems. They perform the decoding that brings digital home entertainment to life. And in the case of integrated units, they also act as the heart, pumping the electrons that bring speaker systems to life. With this in mind, if someone asked me to describe my dream AVR, the end result would look a lot like the spec sheet of StormAudio’s powerhouse AV integrated amp offering, the 16-channel I.ISP 3D.16.12.
The I.ISP 3D.16.12 was first introduced at CES 2017, where it was love at first sight for me. Between its 12 amplified channels and the availability of Dirac Live room correction on all 16 channels, packs a tremendous home theater punch into a single chassis.
The twelve class-D amps in are rated to deliver 200 watts per channel with 0.1% THD from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz, all channels driven. That’s a ton of power and for space-challenged installations this device can replace a whole rack of amps. For this reason, the I.ISP 3D.16.12 is not equipped with preamp outputs for the twelve amplified channels. The remaining four channels do feature balanced XLR outputs.
The I.ISP 3D.16.12 has a dozen powerful amps that provide more than enough wattage for many systems.
Most impressively, this processor includes Dirac Live processing for all channels, and is capable of processing and powering six elevation channels, for next-level 3D audio immersion. This integrated AV processor can handle Auro-3D, Dolby Atmos, and DTS:X with ease.
Granted, this processor is aimed at the custom install channel, and designed to be a workhorse, but it offers incredibly flexible configuration options that will surely pique the interest of hobbyists who like to get their hands dirty. That flexibility is certainly one of the reasons I asked to review it. Once I got a peek at the browser-based configuration options, I was sold. And now that I have had a change to configure a theater with it, my expectations have been exceeded!
The I.ISP 3D.16.12 offer highly flexible configuration options.
This I.ISP unit is the first to go out to a reviewer, so the purpose of this hands is to get a conversation going. There is going to be news this week at CEDIA regarding additional features that StormAudio will offer in an update. So for now, I’d like to solicit questions in the comments, that I can answer in a post-CEDIA update to this article.
Prior to departing for CEDIA, I had the opportunity to install, calibrate, and use the I.ISP in a 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos configuration. In this case, there’s no external amplification needed, it can handle the whole rig and provide more than enough power to get the most out of the Klipsch Reference Premiere speaker system I used with it, inluding four RP-280FA towers.
The I.ISP aced the bass produced by the four subs (including dual GoldenEar SuperSub XXLs) that I use to render the deep stuff. Going beyond this number of speakers will require waiting until I get back from San Diego, but I assure you I look forward to that.
In it’s current application, I could clearly hear (and feel) the effect of having all that extra power on tap, as compared to the Denon X4300h I have been using. The extra horsepower translates directly into high-impact immersive listening.
But there’s more to the sound than just raw power, after all I use a 7-channel amp to supplement AVRs. With the StormAudio I.ISP, the exceptional room correction Dirac Live provides surely adds to the impressive end result, which is sound that evokes the experience provided by processors that cost considerably more than this integrated unit.
Indeed, despite the use of relatively mainstream speakers, the overall sound achieved by the I.ISP reminded me of sitting in a six-figure system demo room at CEDIA. In particular, the tactile nature of sound effects in movies was more pronounced, which I would a tribute to the dynamic ease that the abundant amplification offered.
To put it bluntly, it’s not simply that you could feel the explosions, any decent sub offer can deliver that experience, it’s that the tactile nature of that feeling had a tangible realness to it.
The measured results of the system confirmed that the excellent sound I heard was no fluke, response closely tracked the default Dirac Live EQ curve within my sitting area. Post-CEDIA I will post some measurements with and without Dirac to demonstrate it’s effectiveness in this application.
I recently obtained a Kaleidescape Alto 4K HDR player and used it to download the Ultra HD version of Wonder Woman. While assessments like this are always subjective, my impression is the sound quality is the best I have achieved in my theater so far.
At this point it’s worth noting that while the I.ISP contains some very impressive amplification capability, it’s the system’s flexible architecture that makes it so appealing. To that end, the company’s AV processors go beyond the 16 channels offered by the I.ISP, all the way up to 32. But that approach requires outboard amps, whereas the I.ISP truly does have what it takes to power a killer system all on its own.
Soon, I will show you how easy it is to create highly customized and optimized system setups with the StormAudio’s interface. It’s super slick and I can say that my first exposure to its capabilities has spoiled me. Stay tuned for more, it’s already up and running in the 7.1.4 configuration, which will morph into a 7.2.6 system (with five physical subs). This is serious business!
Importantly, Dirac and StormAudio are both present at CEDIA 2017. I expect to hear news from both companies at the show, as well as discuss my experience so far, so please consider this hands-on to be a work in progress.
To be continued…