In comparison to HDTV, smartphones and web-based technology, it’s easy to think that there hasn’t been a lot of technological advancements in surround sound in the past two decades. I mean, after we learned to use fire and realized that multiple speakers were better than two for watching movies, any further improvements were just in the details.
But still, how does a high-quality home theater system from 1993 compare with one from the present day?
In 1993 Electronic House wrote about an “ultimate sound experience with B&W 7-piece THX home cinema Loudspeaker series that retails for $7,000.” The system consisted of three FCM-8 two-way monitors with 6 ½-inch woofers, two SCM-8 dipole surround speakers (53 pounds each) and two PCS-8 12-inch subwoofers (88 pounds each). Our ears might have been happy, but our backs ache just thinking about it.
So what would a comparable system consist of today? B&W doesn’t do THX any longer, but audio industry veteran John Nicoll of Nicoll Public Relations put together a system for us starring B&W’s mid-line CT700 series speakers. Nicoll’s suggested system consists of three CT7.4 LCRS speakers for the front channels, two CT7.5 LCRS speakers for the surround channels and two CT SW12 12-inch subwoofers.
All cones in the CT700 models utilize Blue Kevlar to eliminate reflections from projectors or other bright light sources. And all but the subwoofers employ B&W’s Nautilus tube-loaded tweeter design to absorb unwanted back waves from their high-frequency drivers and promote clarity and detail, as well as its FlowPort turbulence-canceling cabinet vents for improved bass definition and dynamic agility.
The two-way CT7.4 LCRS (35 pounds) use dual 6-inch Kevlar mid/bass drivers with a 1-inch cloth-dome, Nautilus-loaded tweeter, while the CT7.5 LCRS (25 pounds) substitutes a single 7-inch Kevlar mid/bass unit. The compact, closed-box CT SW12 (a much more back-friendly 33 pounds) utilizes a single very long-throw 12-inch driver composed of a paper/Kevlar composite.
“I put together a system as close to the original THX Home Cinema System as I could,” says Nicoll. “The major difference is that the two rear speakers are not dipoles.” Dipole speakers use two sets of drivers that fire out of phase to create a diffuse and ambient sound.
And the cost?
“Total cost of this system would be $6,200 (less than the $7K for the original THX system) but the outcome is a more versatile, refined sound system incorporating all current B&W technological advancements,” Nicoll states.
The price list from B&W’s 1993 THX Home Cinema System.
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Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates