THX Certification

I understand that THX certification is a high honor for home-theater gear, but how important is it? I often see reviews of speakers, receivers, and TVs with very high ratings, but they don't have THX certification. (GoldenEar's Triton Two tower speakers come to mind.) Is this because the product isn't quite up to THX standards, or is something else going on?

Mark Nott

THX certification assures that a product meets or exceeds certain performance standards, as established by an extensive battery of tests. However, this does not mean that products without THX certification can't also meet or exceed these standards. With certification, you know the product performs up to THX standards; without it, you don't know—unless the product has been reviewed by a reputable outlet, such as Home Theater magazine or HomeTheater.com.

When thinking about THX certification, it's important to remember that there are several certification categories for audio products that relate to the size of the room in which they will be used. I/S (Integrated System) certification applies to small apartments and living rooms; Select, Select2, and Select2 Plus pertain to small home theaters; Ultra, Ultra2, and Ultra2 Plus apply to large home theaters.

Also, THX certification means that certain features are included, depending on the category. For example, Re-EQ compensates for excessively bright soundtracks intended for large commercial theaters in which the speakers are farther away from the listener, and the front speakers are behind a perforated screen. THX Loudness Plus, available in Select2 Plus and Ultra2 Plus certified products, adjusts the tonal characteristics of the sound when you listen at lower volume levels, which can otherwise cause some parts of the sound to be less audible than others.

Another thing to keep in mind is that THX charges for its certification service, and not all manufacturers choose to pay that fee. Does this mean THX-certified products cost more than non-certified products? I don't see a clear correlation in this regard—for example, among HT's Top Picks for AVRs, the Onkyo TX-NR609 ($599) is THX-certified (Select2 Plus), while the Arcam AVR600 ($4995) is not. I have little doubt that the Arcam would pass all the appropriate THX tests (probably in one of the Ultra categories), but the company chose not to submit that product for certification, which means it doesn't have the corresponding THX features, either.

If you have an A/V question, please send it to askhometheater@gmail.com.

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COMMENTS
mailiang's picture

As Scott mentioned, many high end manufactures do not offer THX certification, this includes brands like Arcam, Rotel and NEC. The fact that they may not want to pay a fee, may also lend itself to a philosophy that their name alone should set the standard for the best in audio quality. McIntosh is probably the creme dela creme when it comes to producing ultra high end audio gear, which they have done quite successfully for over half a century. Making use of the THX certification process for them would probably be considered blasphemy lol.

Ian

Goyoishere's picture

I have always understood THX as a sort of a purchased "George Lucas stamp of approval." It doesn't necessarily make the product any better, but used as a name recognition tool to get more sales. I have seen that most people, including salespeople, don't know what THX is.

LordoftheRings's picture

Ian,

There are several McIntosh THX certified products out there.
Just a few examples:
1. C39 AV Processor
2. MC7106 6-channel power amp
3. MX134 Audio/Video Controller
4. MC7205 5-channel power amp
5. MX130 Preamp Processor
* Several speaker models ...

Also, McIntosh is very good stuff, but Ultra High-End?
Let's say a solid foundation with good build quality and a distinctive look...

THX certification is a very good assurance; in particular for proper bass management in several excellent products.
...Lexicon, JBL, Anthem, ADA, Arcam (P1000 & P7), Classe, Denon, Onkyo/Integra, McIntosh, Marantz, Meridian, NAD, Klipsch, Parasound, and some other high-end companies of that caliber.

Plus with THX certification, if you check at the right places;
you will see the hundreds of tests done for preamps, amps, etc., and that they are very important at the end of the journey: sound and picture quality and integrity.

Cheers,
Bob

P.S. Might as well have it even if you don't need it ... :)

mailiang's picture

Bob,
I find that very surprising and I did also check out their site, along with NAD's and Rotel's, which were some of my dealers favorite lines, and I don't recall ever seeing or recently finding, any mention of it, but thanks for the heads up. Concerning your other comment, I have worked with techs who consider McIntosh as 'ultra high end', using their amps, preamps and processors exclusively in $100,000.00 plus custom HT installations. However, since cost verses quality can be some what subjective, I'll refrain from getting into a discussion concerning semantics. Although THX is widely received as a formidable tool for certifying AV equipment, I personally wouldn't put too much weight on it when it comes to the needs of the 'average consumer', but like you said, it doesn't hurt to have it.

Regards,
Ian

LordoftheRings's picture

Yes Ian, McIntosh as I just said have several products which are THX certified (multichannel amps, surround processors, Universal DVD players, loudspeakers, ...). And quite a few too. Just Google. :)

And same with Nad and Rotel (surround processors, multichannel amps). And all those other brands I mentioned above; even Arcam, Meridian, Lexicon, Classe, Anthem. Parasound, ...

THX is high-end man! :) But not Ultra high-end. Only Ultra2 Plus! :)

Bests,
Bob

___________________

* Scott, is that the Onkyo TX-SR805 A/V Receiver on the picture above? ...Looks like it to me as I used to own it.
Incredible power! ...Into 4 Ohm loads (2-channel Stereo)! And even with all channels driven simultaneously (into 8 Ohms of course).

Salute,
Bob

Scott Wilkinson's picture
I got that graphic from the THX website...I don't know which Onkyo AVR it is.
LordoftheRings's picture

I just checked; it is the Onkyo TX-SR806 receiver. 100% certain. :)

* It adds THX Loudness Plus over the 805.
But 13.4 pounds lighter overall (50.9 lbs for the 805 versus 37.5 lbs for the 806)!
And certainly not in the same league as the 805 regarding 'true' (measured) amplifier power.
This is an examplary case where the THX badge should have been Select2 Plus instead. But they certified it Ultra2 Plus!

I have a theory... :)

mailiang's picture

From McIntosh:

Good Day Ian,

THX certification is designed to ensure a minimum quality level in Home Audio products. McIntosh products are at a level far beyond, and we do not benefit from having them certified by THX.

Chuck Hinton
McIntosh and Snell Tech Support

Sorry Bob. I was correct after all.

Regards,

Ian

LordoftheRings's picture

The fact remains that McIntosh have several THX certified products.

THX sells! And McIntosh took advantage of that fact.

Ian, don't need to be sorry because of a McIntosh tech representative thinks that "their products are at a level far beyond THX certification". That is one guy's opinion, no more no less.

As to be correct; we are all correct, even THX. :)

Cheers,
Bob

P.S. And why McIntosh would have the MC7205, MC7106, C39, MX130, MX132, MX134, several speakers and subwoofers with the THX Ultra badge? ...I guess that it was then and now it's now. ...Money savings? Just sayin'.

mailiang's picture

Bob,
In the 25 years that I was in the consumer electronics business, I personally never came across a McIntosh product that was advertised as THX, but you are right, at one time it was so. As far as their products having higher standards then THX, that's debatable, but their reasoning now supports my earlier comment about how high end A/V producers set their own standards, which they feel is paramount for their success.

Regards,
Ian

albert26's picture

Ian ,,who care's,,,,,,it's 2012 not 1996,,in my trained ears with all of CEDIA credentials,,THX does not sound good,,sorry,but you sound correct,,never saw any Mac with that cert,,,
Brian
www.Floridahometheatersplus.com

mailiang's picture

Brian,
I did check and as I mentioned to Scott, the models that Bob mentioned were THX Ultras, but they have been discontinued.
Always a pleasure reading your rants lol.

Ian

figuredmaple's picture

Even though the Anthem MRX receivers are not THX certified, I just needed to read the positive reviews here by Mark Fleischmann and Fred Manteghian before I bought one. The Anthem MRX sounds great and outperforms my previous receiver that is THX certified.

albert26's picture

Im so glad that there r plenty of people, that have nothing better to do than argue about a 1996 Certification from George Lucas studio's,,,,some one get me a time machine,,most AVR's sound better with no THX on,,Dolby Digital,DTS Master,Dolby True,,is what consumers should b looking for,,also read the latest
Sterophile & c what they say about Rotel vs, Anything else,
Anthem,Arcam,AAAAAAAAAA,,where will they b in 5 years,sameplace as Denon 100yrs old or Rotel,get a life guy's, go back to work.
Just kidding
Brian
www.Floridahometheatersplus.com

LordoftheRings's picture

Again for people who do care (I do);
THX certification is good, very good, because it has hundreds of tests that were performed in the preamp & amp sections, and you are certain to have the proper bass management as I said before.

And all those high-end companies (including McIntosh) that I mentioned before (Lexicon, Meridian, Classe , Anthem, Parasound, etc.), at one point or another have some of their products with the THX badge of certification.

And how many receivers and pre/pros (few of them that I owned in the past) don't have the proper bass management? Many, that's how! Yamahas, Denons, etc. The Emotiva UMC-1 pre/pro? Do you think it has the proper bass management? Is it THX certified? Should it be? ...I'm sure that would help, and perhaps we would see reviews of it, like here at Home Theater.

Anyway, I wasted a lot of money in the past only to find out too late that the bass management was not properly implemented! And with pre/pros and receivers you don't want that! No sir!

You can say all you want against THX, but the fact remains that it is a big assurance that the product is conform to audio/video standards that will provide the best guaranteed performance.

Do you need the THX badge? No. But over the years I learned to appreciate it more and much more.

It don't matter what I'm after; Onkyo/Integra receivers or pre/pros, Classe pre/pros, Meridian pre/pros, JBL Synthesis setup, etc., I look at that THX badge on the front panel.
And in my own room it means THX Ultra2 Plus. Voila! :)

Bests to all,
Bob

gamest's picture

I have to say I have owned a lot of THX equipment over the years. I would deliberately spend a little more to have that comforting THX logo on the front of my speakers, preamp, projector and so on. It always helped in resale value, as my non-THX Rotel amps did not sell but my Rotel THX amps sold fast. However, as you go into the mid and to what I consider high end, it has had less an impact on me. My Bryston 9b-ST for example, I again payed a little more for the one with a THX logo on it than the just the ST logo. In this case, I am thinking to myself why did Bryston even bother with THX? Placing a THX logo on a Bryston is like placing a "certified FAST twin turbo 12V supercharged bla bla" on a Lamborghini? It is sooooo not needed because of their reputation, but then again I did buy the one with THX LOL. I guess their is also the technical aspect of a THX preamp works better with THX amp due to the standards. In the end it is really about how it sounds and I have owned bad THX equipment "it does exist" and so you move on and try something else. Whatever makes you happy, and for me most of time it has been in THX related equipment.

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