As I made my way through The Venetian at CES 2016, I kept an eye out for the Starke Sound suite. I was looking for something new at the show, and I had heard about this new speaker company putting on a highly impressive Atmos 5.1.2 demo.
When I walked to the door, I was greeted by Scott DeLoache, Chief Design Director and Dan Wiggins, Chief Technical Officer and Starke. Respectively, they are the architect and the engineer behind the speakers. And then there were the speakers themselves, indeed they are hard to miss due to their bold design and generous dimensions. The new company's gear didn't just include speakers. There's also a subwoofer, as well as an amplifier. This is no ordinary amp. Rather, the A7-450 is a 450 W per channel, seven-channel pure class A amp that’ll cost you $13,000. In the demo I attended, the company used two of the amps to power nine channels in total, in a 7.2.4 speaker configuration.
The front end of the Starke system.
The speakers in the system included a pair of IC-H5 Elite (IC stands for in-cabinet) speakers, which run $11,600 per piece. The center was a IC-H5C Elite and cost $10,800. The side and rear surrounds were IC-H3 Elite speakers, which sell for $5,400 each, and the two Atmos elevation channels were IW-H3 Elites (IW stands for in-wall) that retail for $5,200 each.
The IC-H5 Elite specs include a +/- 2dB frequency response of 28 Hz to 30 kHz, 4 ohm impedance, 92 dB anechoic sensitivity (2.83 v at 1 m), and 60-500 watt power handling. The driver compliment consists of a 1" Beryllium dome tweeter, twin 4" carbon fiber midranges, and three 8" aluminum woofers along with a 12" passive radiator. Crossover points are 290 Hz and 3000 Hz.
Starke's IC-H5C Elite specs include a +/- 2dB frequency response of 32 Hz to 30 kHz, 4 ohm impedance, 92 dB anechoic sensitivity (2.83 v at 1 m), and 60-500 watt power handling. The driver compliment consists of a 1" Beryllium dome tweeter, twin 4" carbon fiber midranges, and dual 8" aluminum woofers. Crossover points are 290 Hz and 3000 Hz, and overall it's a very close match for the IC-H5 towers.
Specs for the IC-H3 Elite speakers are 38 Hz to 22 kHz +/- 2dB, 4 ohm impedance, 90 dB anechoic sensitivity (2.83 v at 1 m), and 40-300 watt power handling. The driver compliment consists of a 1" dome tweeter, twin 4" carbon fiber midranges, and dual 6.5" aluminum woofers. Crossover points are 300 Hz and 2900 Hz. The IW-H3s used for the elevation channels feature the same specs.
Starke’s subwoofer is the SUB36, which sells for $3500 and features three 12" drivers—two active and one passive. It has an 800-watt amp. The demo system also featured an sub from another manufacturer, which can be seen in the photo. Regardless, the system sure could boogie—we reached and exceeded reference levels in no time at all while playing various Atmos clips from Dolby’s latest demo disc. From the staccato gunfire in John Wick to the laser blasts and explosions of Star Wars: Battlefront, not to mention the various elevation effects in Dolby’s own clips, the system showed of its home theater chops. Furthermore, the system was barely flexing his muscles while offering dynamic performance typically associated with horn-loaded pro audio offerings. Perhaps its output is achieved with brute (yet simultaneously delicate) force instead of ultra-high sensitivity, but in the end it's the result that matters.
Clearly, the prices of Starke’s offerings position the products squarely on the high-end of the audiophile and AV enthusiast spectrum. But, what you get for the money is a speaker system that shares none of its components with other speakers—Starke designs and builds its own drivers. Furthermore, the crossovers are things of beauty—check out the photo below.
Now, a system that runs $98,300 for speakers and amplification had better sound great, but the icing on the cake was that the pre/pro was a comparatively humble Onkyo PR
-SC5300. Anyhow, if Starke Sound wanted to make a strong first impression, it succeeded.