I love speakers—in fact, listening to great audio qualifies as a lifelong obsession. When I was in high school, do you think I went home and did my homework? No way! Instead, I headed to my local audio shop and spent my afternoons listening to music on high-end systems.
The days of listening to Apogee speakers powered by a Conrad-Johnson amp are long gone, but my appreciation for high-end sound remains. As I delved into reviewing speakers here on AVS Forum, I started to think about the need for reference-quality processing and amplification. My best amps—a pair of Crown XTis—are workhorses, but they don’t sport audiophile specs. With efficient speakers, I can hear a hiss when I use the Crown XTi. I knew I needed something better to serve as a reference system, but I did not know where I’d find it.
About a year ago, I wrote an article about Theo Kalomirakis’ Roxy 2.0 Theater. At the time, a Crestron PSPHD served as his theater’s pre/pro. I was interested in the PSPHD because I had never seen or heard of it before. A quick glance at its specs revealed it was a reference-class device. Besides, it’s what Theo used in his theater, which sounded absolutely amazing to my ears.
Crestron automation controls many aspects of the Roxy 2.0 Theater, including the lights, curtains, multiple AV sources, and the movement of the anamorphic lens. The seamless operation of the various components is an integral part of the Roxy 2.0 experience.
Until recently, I was only vaguely aware of what Crestron does. I knew it specializes in home automation, including lights, security, shades, climate control, and whole-house audio. I didn’t know that it’s product lineup features an audiophile-grade pre/pro and amplifier designed for home-theater applications.
A Procise system is an expensive piece of kit—well outside of my means. The PSPHD and ProAmp combo I have costs about as much as a brand-new compact car. Luckily, Theo knows the folks at Crestron, and when I expressed interest in checking out Procise for myself, he put me in touch with the company. I took the opportunity to I ask for a review sample. At first, I thought I was going to simply review the Procise system and return it. Instead, I pitched the idea of using it as my reference system.
Crestron agreed, and this past February it installed a PSPHD along with a ProAmp 7×250 in my studio. As its name implies, the ProAmp is a 7-channel amplifier with 250 watts/channel output into 8-ohm loads and 450 watts/channel into 4-ohm loads. If you need more juice, the company also makes a ProAmp 7×450. Crestron even included its uber-fancyTSR-302 touchscreen networked universal remote to control it all.
Crestron’s TSR-302 touchscreen remote controls the system.
The combination of the PSPHD and ProAmp is reference-class all the way—both on paper and in practice. Crestron usesProcise in its Theo Kalomirakis Reference Theater, located in the Experience Center at its New Jersey headquarters.
The TK Reference Theater features a Procise PSPHD and multiple ProAmp 7x450s—a more powerful variant of the ProAmp 7×250 I’m using—to power its Pro Audio Technologies speaker system. I’ve heard the theater on two occasions, and each time it blew me away with the dynamics it achieved. If I pushed my studio’s system to those levels, my neighbors would surely call the cops.
In terms of specs, the Procise system is in the same league as similarly priced high-end brands such as Krell, McIntosh, and Classe. The PSPHD’s THD (0.002%), frequency response (20 Hz to 20 kHz, +/- 0.2 dB), S/N ratio (122 dB with HDMI), and other specs are considerably superior to what’s found on mainstream AVRs and pre/pros.
The PSPHD uses a PC interface for adjusting parameters. It offers useful optimization options such as Audyssey MultEQ XT as well as global and channel-specific 6-band parametric EQ and global graphic EQ. Its front panel features twin monochrome dot-matrix screens that offer numerous graphical display modes. I especially appreciate the power-meter function—available for all seven channels—which is handy for pushing a speaker system to its limits.
I’ve already used the Procise system in two recent reviews of SVS Prime Bookshelf and Satellite surround speaker systems. Now, I’m embarking on a month-long speaker-review spree. Crestron’s system will provide audio processing and amplification for the Thiel TT1, Klipsch Reference Premiere RP280F, PSB Imagine X2T, and GoldenEar Triton Five towerspeakers in 2-channel setups.
Thiel’s TT1 tower is next up in the review queue.
Furthermore, I have matching surround systems to go with each of those towers, which will let me do separate reviews of 5.2 or 7.2-channel configurations. In addition, you can look forward to a bookshelf-speaker shootout between models from Klipsch, Pioneer Elite, PSB, SVS, and others (TBD).
Crestron’s Procise PSPSH/ProAmp system is a potent combination that yields powerful, pristine audio. However, it’s not exactly a new product—it came out in 2010, so it lacks HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2. Nevertheless, I’m not concerned with what the current PSPHD lacks in terms of support for the latest and greatest video formats—I sought the system as a reference for audio, not video. Besides, the company offers UHD/4K multimedia solutions in its DigitalMedia product line that go far beyond what any multi-zone consumer AVR or pre/pro can handle.
In order to understand what Crestron is all about, I took a tour of the company’s R&D, testing, and manufacturing facilities, all located in Rockleigh, NJ. Despite the company’s size, and the fact that it builds all its products on-site, it does not resemble a factory. The company is more like a giant engineering lab that happens to produce products on an on-demand basis.
Crestron’s products do not come cheap, but I commend the company for keeping all its operations in the same place to this day. North Jersey is an expensive place to do business, but it’s also in the center of the East Coast megalopolis—the talent pool is deep. During my tour of Crestron’s facilities, I saw an amazing amount of investment in R&D. It has specialized 3D printers, a 4K-certification lab, a special chamber used to test for FCC compliance, a UL-certification lab—everything needed to develop products in-house.
That engineering-centric company culture was a critical catalyst in the genesis of Procise, which was the brainchild of the company’s recently deceased founder, George Feldstein. Mr. Feldstein did not want to rely on some other company’s products for high-end audio processing and amplification, so he tasked his engineers with building a top-tier AV system.
According to Crestron, the team that designed the Procise spared no expense to achieve reference-quality audio performance. The results are self-evident when listening to the system; the PSPHD and ProAmp are effectively transparent. No matter how attentively I listen, I detect no coloration of the sound and no hint of distortion.
I feel lucky to get my hands on such a high-performance sound system. With it, I expect to review quite a few speakers over the course of this year. My current loan agreement with Crestron lasts until the end of 2015; it’s going to be a fun one. If you have any questions about the capabilities of the PSPHD or ProAmp, please feel free to ask in the comments or send me a PM.
Finally, I welcome any suggestions for future speaker reviews. Whether it’s a tower, bookshelf, or a surround package, please let me know what make and model speakers you would like to see reviewed.