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post #1 of 68 Old 06-08-2020, 09:43 AM - Thread Starter
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Storm Audio ISP MK2 Processor official thread

The Storm processor thread has been in the 'Receivers, Amp, and Processors' forum on AVS for the last few years. Given the price, and more importantly, performance of the Storm processors and amps, the thread belongs in this forum. As I've spent quite a bit of time now with the new MK2 processor and recently posted a detailed writeup of it in that forum, I'll begin the thread with that content for those here who may not have seen it. You can see older posts here:

Storm Audio thread in Receivers, Amps and Processors

Disclosure: I'm a Storm dealer.

Here are some thoughts on the MK2. I can get deeper into the SQ and anything else should anybody want more info. Believe it or not, I was trying to keep it brief:

STORM AUDIO MK2

We talk a lot about features in these forums. Features, specs, DAC chips used and other often arcane details as we try to separate one processor from another.

Hey, it’s a forum of A/V geeks and aficionados, and this is a home we need. But moreso than any other component, trying to evaluate a processor by looking at line items misses the point. Processors require far more interaction and provide more feedback to the user than any other component — we constantly engage with them as we operate our systems which is why understanding how a processor works and feels in use, is critical in evaluation, and something I will try to get across here.

My first processor was the B&K AVP2000. I’ve owned, sold/sell or spent significant time with pieces by ADA, Marantz, Anthem, Theta, Trinnov, Datasat, Onkyo, Yamaha, Denon, Meridian, Classe and others.

Here’s what I want from a SOTA processor:

- Phenomenal sound
- Logical, well thought out ergonomics that make it easy and even fun to use
- Enough power and features so I can really fine tune the sound and easily evaluate changes made
- Seamless, quick action in operation, aka, it just works
- No obvious path to obsolescence in a changing landscape, particularly regarding HDMI


Here’s what I can’t tolerate anymore

- Unintuitive, cumbersome or crude interfaces. Processors are as much or more software- than hardware-driven. Twentieth century interfaces are inexcusable. Power features that are a PITA to implement are rarely worth the time.
- (Lack of) Stability, reliability, rock solid operation. When I (or my clients) finally sit down after a long day, I don’t want to have to get up and reboot. No. Nor do I want any HDMI bugginess. Yeah, HDMI sucks. The design priority is copy protection, not operational ease and stability. But that said, it’s 2020 and it’s enough already; you should have it figured out.


The Storm ISP 16 MK2, with some comparisons about moving to it from the MK1: (note that these comments also apply to the 24 and 32 channel versions of the ISP, and that the 16 is upgradeable to either of those iteraations)


SETUP

Changing from the MK1 to the MK2 was a breeze. Downloaded my MK1 setup, uploaded to the MK2. Bang, done; a five minute operation. All my inputs, Dirac configs and so forth now on the MK2. This is a machine that just works. For those setting up from scratch, see notes below on the software; it is the best UI in the industry and makes setup easy and efficient.


IN USE

Seamless. Every operation is quicker moving from the MK1 with its original HDMI card to the MK II with the latest, house designed, eARC card. Whereas with the MK2, switching inputs might mean some seconds of delay, with the MK II switching time is brief, and unlike many processors, 100% reliable.

Codec switching and profile switching on the MK2 is now as immediate as advertised. Sometimes I like to compare Dolby Surround to Auro on certain mixes. While this is certainly doable on the MK1, the several second gap upon switching makes comparison more difficult. With the MK2, you can hear, see and feel the soundstage change around you as you toggle back and forth. Profile switches, which can include things such as different Dirac curves, channel balances and so forth are similarly immediate.

A digression; I’m not a purist. While some may only listen to a Dolby mix in Dolby as an example, I have no problems playing around and trusting my ears. I do have the benefit of being involved in a few hundred sound mixes, but really it’s less about experience than not being dogmatic, enjoying a pretty incredible machine, and trusting my ears. I think Auro is underrated on these forums, particularly as implemented on the Storm. It is clearly the best two channel upmixer (Dolby and DTS are very poor at this) available, at the least acceptable on most music, and for certain genres such as electronica, almost always an improvement over stereo in a good surround system. Further, I find it with certain TV series and movies, an upgrade over Dolby. Try it with a show like Netflix’s ‘Dark’, a very well mixed Atmos soundtrack. Which sounds better, straight Dolby or Atmos with an Auro overlay? On my system anyway, the Auro mix provides clearly more immersion into the atmosphere of the show which the immediate switching on the MKII makes crystal clear.

Controlling the processor through the browser-based GUI is similarly slick. The logical layout puts all the information you need for a given operation on a single screen in an intuitively organized manner. You see a complete picture of where you’re at and what you can adjust. Few, if any, processors give you so much control over so many parameters to hone the sound of your system. If you are a tweaker, this is your processor. How does a 12db slope to my subs sound vs. a 24db slope? Butterworth vs. Linkwitz-Reilly? I can switch instantly between the two, it’s easy. And for ‘regular folk’ who just want the most kickass sound you can get in your theater, basic setup including Dirac implementation is simple. The clear layout of the input screen, for example, makes initial setup a quick, painless and confident experience.

Even for non-tweakers, it’s a piece of cake. I had created a ‘Stadium’ mode for a heavy duty sports fan client. In broad strokes, I upped the level of the surrounds, made Auro at its largest setting the default and put this into a preset — it’s cool and immersive, puts you inside the stadium. He saw how straightforward the process was and created his own ‘seating offset mode’ to rebalance the presentation for when he sits off-center. The interesting thing here is that this non-techie guy did it himself in about five minutes. He fun with the process and the instant ability to assess changes made.

This is the best software in a component class the requires user interaction. It enhances the user experience, enjoyment of the piece, and rewards those who want to dig deeper and experiment with even better sound.

One other point that bears repeating: from the initial software release thru the frequent upgrades that have added functionality, this is the most stable processor I’ve encountered. In two years of use, I had to reboot the MKI exactly twice. The MK2 has been thusfar flawless. At the end of a busy day and you finally sit down and power up — the Storm just works, no headaches. Unfortunately this isn’t necessarily the norm with processors at any price level.

SOUND

This is a smooth-sounding processor, while at the same time being highly resolving, dynamic and dimensional in its presentation. There’s a great sense of ease. The Storm makes your theater sound bigger than it is, and combined with its high resolution makes you feel closer to the movie. It’s like you’re standing in the scene, hearing everything the characters hear. In a properly setup theater it delivers an immersive, transporting experience.

I A/Bd the MK1 and MK2 by using a passive A/B switch to toggle between them. As I no longer have a 5.1 switchbox, I did this comparison using two channel music, with room correction off. While not ideal from a surround decoding and presentation standpoint, it does indicate what the innate sound quality of the units are.

Storm makes no claim about the sonic difference between the two, and I could not discern one. After level matching, I switched back and forth while playing well recorded tracks that I’ve played on hundreds of systems over the years. I could not identify any differences in sound. When I realized that I was outputting from the MK I using the improved output stages I installed (four channel upgrade module) — the same as those that are standard in the MK II, I switched the left/right outputs in the MK1 to original stock outputs (a less-than-a-minute foray into the browser UI to remap). So now, ‘stock MK1’ vs. MK2, perhaps a very slight uptick in body and harmonic decays around voices and instruments in the MK2 at lower volumes, but nothing I'm confident I could identify reliably, nor the reason to upgrade to the MK II for MK I users.

To contextualize the sound quality of the MK2, I ran it against my two channel rig that runs in parallel on the same system; the combo of a PS Audio Directstream DAC ($6K) feeding a VTL 6.5 II preamp ($15K). Putting aside all the processing, switching, software and so on in the Storm vs. that combo, we’re talking $10.5K/channel of sound vs. around $900/channel.

‘So in the maracas there was a little more definition’ Where music sounds smooth and dynamic through the Storm, it gained texture and depth via my two channel rig. Switching between was not a night and day difference, the Storm sounds really good but the PS/VTL just gives you more. More of the club ambience and sense of space on some live recordings I played, more of the subtle harmonic decays that add palpability and depth making the music a physical presence in the room. About 80 percent of my clients are happy with the Storm for music, for the other twenty we’ve installed a separate two channel pathway. Yes, there are diminishing returns spending more money (in almost any product category), but in audio, despite what often gets floated on AVS sometimes, you generally get what you pay for. And should you enjoy multichannel music and concerts, there is no better processor out there.

CONCLUSION


For those with the MK2, reasons to upgrade are the smoother and quicker operation of many functions, the addition of OSD and eARC, and future capabilities. The software platform has continuously and meaningfully improved over the last two years — something unfortunately unusual among components that promise software improvements — and it will continue to do. This year alone will see several updates. The greater processing power in the MK2 allows for several features now, such as more discrete processing channels, and the DTS X: Pro and IMAX Enhanced codecs, and potentially many more in the future (including sound quality) that the MK1will not be capable of. Simply put, the MK2 will take you deeper into the future than the MK2, and is quicker and more feature-rich operationally in the present. It is selling well, and for very good reasons.

IMO, the Storm MK2 is the complete package; state-of-the-art sound, processing, user interface, features, ergonomics and stability. It’s a component that isn’t fully appreciated until you use it everyday, then you realize what a completely realized and holistically functioning and performing piece it is. The software and hardware merge seamlessly into what is the best processor on the market.
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Last edited by rblnr; 07-03-2020 at 07:52 AM.
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post #2 of 68 Old 06-08-2020, 11:25 AM
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Has the receiver version gotten the MKII treatment? It's not showing on their website.
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post #3 of 68 Old 06-08-2020, 12:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CP850-CLED View Post
Has the receiver version gotten the MKII treatment? It's not showing on their website.
No, the receiver version is not available as a MKII product.
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post #4 of 68 Old 06-10-2020, 11:01 AM
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I do have the StormAudio Mk2 on order now! Like that this has a new thread !
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post #5 of 68 Old 06-10-2020, 01:07 PM
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I HATE this thread, lol .

edit: now back to work so I can continue to save for my dream room and have an excuse to finally buy this damn thing.

P.S. whomever removed me from the Christie Eclipse thread has ensured I won't have one from the evangelist member (whose name will be unmentioned) in there. But, despite my attempts to quantify the unit's heat output and applicability to a home-theater use-case, the projector remains a consideration. More, if things go well with my contract, that may be sometime next year. So, since I can no longer see that thread, and even if I could I wouldn't bother to go back to discuss anything with anyone therein, maybe someone in this thread, someone having a more logical head, can assist when it comes time? Feel free to reach out via PM if you have access to someone like that. I won't bug them until I have dollars in hand. The thread starter knows me...he can vouch for me as a real-life person rather than a forum persona. Of course, he may have found me annoying as well, lol .

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post #6 of 68 Old 06-10-2020, 01:21 PM
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^ I would edit that post again, but...I won't, the edit time is....well, it is what it is .
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post #7 of 68 Old 06-12-2020, 03:46 AM
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“I think Auro is underrated on these forums, particularly as implemented on the Storm. It is clearly the best two channel upmixer (Dolby and DTS are very poor at this) available, at the least acceptable on most music, and for certain genres such as electronica, almost always an improvement over stereo in a good surround system. Further, I find it with certain TV series and movies, an upgrade over Dolby. Try it with a show like Netflix’s ‘Dark’, a very well mixed Atmos soundtrack. Which sounds better, straight Dolby or Atmos with an Auro overlay? On my system anyway, the Auro mix provides clearly more immersion into the atmosphere of the show which the immediate switching on the MKII makes crystal clear.“

@rblnr how are you managing to overlay Auro on to an Atmos stream? I have the Mk2 and it won’t accept any other codec on an Atmos stream other than straight Atmos.
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post #8 of 68 Old 06-12-2020, 08:01 AM
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Hello everyone, I would like to ask if Storm MK2 can be JBL M2 crossover? Also want to ask if any friends have compared it with Trinnov?
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post #9 of 68 Old 06-12-2020, 09:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Wk19821982-av View Post
Hello everyone, I would like to ask if Storm MK2 can be JBL M2 crossover? Also want to ask if any friends have compared it with Trinnov?
I have been told, "yes" but that it is just "close enough". Which is to say, I have not heard that Storm's x-over features allow it to exactly replicate what, say, the iTech series amps would implement.

I, too, have M2s and one of the reasons I am looking to this unit is to handle the requisite crossovers. I wanted to test out the x-over functionality, but I'd certainly love for someone else to take the first jump .
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post #10 of 68 Old 06-12-2020, 02:25 PM
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I have been told, "yes" but that it is just "close enough". Which is to say, I have not heard that Storm's x-over features allow it to exactly replicate what, say, the iTech series amps would implement.



I, too, have M2s and one of the reasons I am looking to this unit is to handle the requisite crossovers. I wanted to test out the x-over functionality, but I'd certainly love for someone else to take the first jump .
The StormAudio has a variety of crossover slopes and types plus PEQs, delay, & Q factor settings etc, so provided you have the technical details of what crossovers, delays and any other compensations iTech amps have got preprogrammed for the M2s then you should be able to recreate.

Limitations would be if iTech amps have more PEQ filters available per channel for whatever speaker tuning they might do as part of the crossover. StormAudio has 20 per channel so expect that would be plenty.

The hard part will be getting enough details about what's included in the preconfigured crossover / speaker tuning.
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post #11 of 68 Old 06-12-2020, 04:38 PM
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*snip* The hard part will be getting enough details about what's included in the preconfigured crossover / speaker tuning.
I believe that is the "hard part". I'm unsure official design details are released and I believe the processors lock the user from these details; one just loads the profile. Thus, I think all "we" have is that which has been reverse engineered by measurement.

That said, I also think both the Crown and BSS units have slightly different implementations due to their DSP capabilities. So, "close enough" may indeed be "good enough" assuming there is already variance even among "official" implementations.

Honestly, I was simply leery of using "hacked" crossover values on speakers having the M2's...caliber. I wasn't prepared to go first without a demo and I wasn't going to push for a demo when I was on the fence. If they gave me a demo, I probably would've ended up buying it and it'd have been a waste in my current (primarily 2ch) room, lol...so, probably for the best!
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post #12 of 68 Old 06-12-2020, 04:52 PM
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I believe that is the "hard part". I'm unsure official design details are released and I believe the processors lock the user from these details; one just loads the profile. Thus, I think all "we" have is that which has been reverse engineered by measurement.



That said, I also think both the Crown and BSS units have slightly different implementations due to their DSP capabilities. So, "close enough" may indeed be "good enough" assuming there is already variance even among "official" implementations.



Honestly, I was simply leery of using "hacked" crossover values on speakers having the M2's...caliber. I wasn't prepared to go first without a demo and I wasn't going to push for a demo when I was on the fence. If they gave me a demo, I probably would've ended up buying it and it'd have been a waste in my current (primarily 2ch) room, lol...so, probably for the best!
yes, always a tough call and a very slippery slope.

You can always tweak the crossovers through use of measurements you may even end up with a tuning that is better than the pre-baked ones as those will be limited to the DSP capabilities of the Amps.

Personally I have the MK1 ISP and I have just ordered the MK1.5 upgrade but when setting up my system again in the new house will be using my QSC Q-Sys Core for the active crossovers in my screen speakers.

For the surrounds I'll just roll passive crossovers as I think going active on all channels is just too much overkill.
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There are many JBL M2 digital crossover response plots on the Internet, I don't know if they are available. http://www.audioheritage.org/vbullet...response-plots
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post #14 of 68 Old 06-12-2020, 08:34 PM
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If you can, you can directly use any power amplifier without crown and BSS
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post #15 of 68 Old 06-13-2020, 06:55 AM
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What sample rate is Dirac running with the new processor? What is the MSRP of the various new models?

Never become so involved with something that it blinds you.
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post #16 of 68 Old 06-14-2020, 12:03 AM
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yes, always a tough call and a very slippery slope.

You can always tweak the crossovers through use of measurements you may even end up with a tuning that is better than the pre-baked ones as those will be limited to the DSP capabilities of the Amps.

Personally I have the MK1 ISP and I have just ordered the MK1.5 upgrade but when setting up my system again in the new house will be using my QSC Q-Sys Core for the active crossovers in my screen speakers.

For the surrounds I'll just roll passive crossovers as I think going active on all channels is just too much overkill.

What was the reason for you going on MK 1.5? I'm not sure yet if I should go to 1.5, AURO-2 is the only thing I miss.
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What was the reason for you going on MK 1.5? I'm not sure yet if I should go to 1.5, AURO-2 is the only thing I miss.
The extra decoding and DTS-X Pro I guess but also future software based feature upgrades that may require the new hardware.

Had the spare cash at the moment so best to get now.
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post #18 of 68 Old 06-14-2020, 05:50 PM
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Hello everyone, I would like to ask if Storm MK2 can be JBL M2 crossover? Also want to ask if any friends have compared it with Trinnov?
Yes, the StormAudio ISP MK2 can be digital crossover for JBL M2 speakers. I have attached the StormAudio document that provides the required filters.
Attached Files
File Type: pdf stormaudio_jbl_m2_xover_filters.pdf (584.4 KB, 52 views)
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post #19 of 68 Old 06-14-2020, 05:58 PM
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What sample rate is Dirac running with the new processor? What is the MSRP of the various new models?
All processing is done at 48 kHz for the greatest precision in the bass region where you need the most correction.

MSRP:
Processors
ISP.16 Analog Mk2 - $15,000
ISP.24 Analog Mk2 - $18,000
ISP.32 Analog Mk2 - $20,000

ISP.32 Digital Mk2 AES - $19,000
ISP.32 Digital Mk2 AVB - $19,100
ISP.32 Digital Mk2 AES67 (Dante) - Not yet released

Amplifiers
PA 16 - $13,000
PA 8 Ultra - $11,000
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post #20 of 68 Old 06-29-2020, 12:45 PM
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I did receive my StormAudio ISP16 MK2 PrePro on Saturday. It is setup and working really well. It is Very impressive PrePro. I will write review at end of week or so. Watching several movies today . Fun fun fun !
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post #21 of 68 Old 06-30-2020, 06:07 AM
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@Bigmoviefan : what speaker setup are you running? Have fun with your unit, can't wait to read your impressions!
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post #22 of 68 Old 07-01-2020, 02:08 PM
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I do have my StormAudio isp16 Mk1 for sale if anyone is interested ! Just send me a private message if you are interested .
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post #23 of 68 Old 07-02-2020, 04:47 AM
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I do have my StormAudio isp16 Mk1 for sale if anyone is interested ! Just send me a private message if you are interested .
I am close to buying the MK2 16 channel to upgrade from my Datasat LS10. How is your impression so far?
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post #24 of 68 Old 07-02-2020, 07:37 AM
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I know people who have gone from Datasat to StormAudio and none of them regrets it. Trinnov and Storm set the tone in the professional league.
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Is DTS:X Pro actually running in the Storms yet? (I was under the impression it was arriving by firmware update for the Mk2s around the end of this year)
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Is DTS:X Pro actually running in the Storms yet? (I was under the impression it was arriving by firmware update for the Mk2s around the end of this year)
No, DTS:X Pro is not yet on the ISP. It is scheduled for release in this quarter per StormAudio's firmware roadmap.

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post #27 of 68 Old 07-02-2020, 03:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by desertdome View Post
No, DTS:X Pro is not yet on the ISP. It is scheduled for release in this quarter per StormAudio's firmware roadmap.
Thanks, I misinterpreted the first post.
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post #28 of 68 Old 07-03-2020, 07:38 AM - Thread Starter
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Many might find this interesting -- the background of how the current HDMI card was developed. As users know, it is flawless in operation.

This from a Storm engineer:

Two years ago, considering the issues we had with the design we were using (7+2 board, same as Trinnov) and the impossibility to solve them all, we decided to move on our own and specify a new HDMI board for our ISP that would meet the need for a full 7+2 HDMI2.0 matrix with ARC/eARC feature. Our vendor research lead us to Cypress in Taiwan, being an expert in HDMI devices based on the Panasonic solution. We designed the board with them, under our specifications within 6 months (and a lot of effort in firmware development) and we introduced it as a primeur on the Focal Astral 16, so a bit more than a year ago now and then on all our ISPs last September. As we spent money and time in developing this new module with Cypress, we had an exclusivity agreement that would last one year, before they could make their own module to sell to the competition. Amongst them is of course Trinnov and what they have recently announced is actually that they will integrate the Cypress version of the module they made for us, in a slightly different form factor, but with all same features and of course same chips from Panasonic.

I think the story illustrates the caliber of hardware/software engineering horsepower and product development people Storm has on staff. Very few, if any, manufacturers in this space have the ability to initiate and help create their own solution, and do it so well. And again, few, if any manufacturers are so singlemindedly focused on creating and constantly improving (note the relatively frequent, meaningful software updates and hardware improvements) an absolute state-of-the-art processor.

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post #29 of 68 Old 07-03-2020, 08:45 AM
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Since installing the new HDMI card, I haven't had a single problem, the card runs excessively.
High praise to StormAudio
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post #30 of 68 Old 07-03-2020, 12:54 PM
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So the Focal Astral 16 has the internal amplifiers AND the new HDMI Board. Interesting!.

https://www.focal.com/en/home-audio/...fier/astral-16

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