The Cat's Meow

Normally in this blog, I profile a specific product or product line that can be considered "ultimate" in one way or another. But when it comes to a California company called CAT MBX, this approach doesn't work so well. An offshoot of California Audio Technology, CAT MBX designs and builds ultimate home theaters from scratch, customizing the speakers, electronics, and projection system for each venue. The company's "product" is the entire theater, which is unique for each client.

Of course, the first step in creating the ultimate home theater is design. CAT MBX engineers work closely with the architect to optimize the acoustic performance based on room dimensions, wall densities, location and specification of acoustic materials, seating locations, speaker placement, amplifier requirements, source equipment, power and cooling requirements, wiring, and other such considerations.

A CAT MBX audio system typically includes 10 to 100 (!) subwoofers to provide deep, clean bass without untoward resonances. The company's proprietary Bass Management System (BMS) optimizes the performance of all subs for any given room, providing exceptionally even bass response at all listening positions and volume levels while reducing ear fatigue.

Five different power amps are available, ranging from a 150Wpc 7-channel model ($3750) to a 600Wpc dual-mono monster ($19,700). The top two incorporate CAT's "extreme power reserve" (XPR) technology, which provides over half a farad of filter capacitance per channel, allowing them to power the most demanding drivers.

After installing the audio equipment, CAT MBX engineers tune the system for the room or other setting. In addition to home theaters, the company has installed systems in recording studios, outdoor venues, yachts, and aircraft.

The visual side of the equation receives no less attention. At the top of the CAT MBX projector heap is the Model 4, a 3-chip DLP with a resolution of 2048x1080, the same as you see in digital cinemas. It also provides D-Link decryption in order to display DCI (Digital Cinema Initiative) files. Other standard features include 3-kilowatt xenon lamp, dual power supply, custom lenses, anamorphic lens with sled, and custom irises. The projector is fed by an outboard processor via two dual-link DVI connections, each of which provides a higher bit rate than standard DVI.

The end result is undoubtedly astounding—and I would expect no less for the kind of money you'd have to spend for it. The speakers alone can run anywhere from $100,000 to over $10 million (not including shipping, installation, or calibration), the projector is over $200,000, and the amps can easily run into hundreds of thousands of dollars. I have yet to experience a CAT MBX theater, but I will certainly jump at the chance whenever it arises.

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David Budo's picture

Interesting. I guess if you want a theater and have money to spare, but understand little, or nothing about AV, then this would be an interesting way to go. I like their approach to bass distribution. I think there are more efficient way of going about it, but 100 subwoofers is a nice number to be able to throw at visitors. Thanks Scott for this. I find this much more interesting than their ridiculous $1.25 million stereo speakers.

Scott Wilkinson's picture

David, you're welcome. I always try to present interesting items in this blog, so I'm glad you found it so. I do agree that 100 subwoofers seems like overkill, but I subscribe to the notion that multiple subs can even out the bass in a room more effectively than one.

David Budo's picture

Oh, I definitely agree. It is normally better to have multiple subs in any room than one. The only time I'd consider having one sub in a room is if I had a Danley TH 221, aka "The Cinemonster". I think you could get by with one of those bad boys. If you want to check out a company that truly embodies "Ultimate AV", Danley Sound Labs is one to look into. They're a pro audio company that makes amazing speakers and subwoofers for live events, commercial theaters, churches, etc... Now people are starting to use some of their equipment for dedicated home theaters. I'm one of those people interested in some of Tom Danley's creations. The dynamics and clarity they offer cannot be reproduced by hifi speakers.

Scott Wilkinson's picture

I've been meaning to check out Danley, and this gives me more reason to do so. But even with the Cinemonster, physics leads me to believe that multiple sources of bass energy in a room can be made to sound more even than any single source, no matter how good or powerful.

David Budo's picture

I agree. All my theater plans include more than one sub, but that Cinemonster is the only sub I'd think of using as a single. Mind you, two of them, would probably be bass heaven. It is supposed to be the equivalent of four TH 50's. To put that into perspective, four TH 50's are used in the Chicago IMAX with flat response down to 10hz at over 125db. That's something special.

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