July 07, 2011
by Steven Castle
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.
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