Cinepro Mighty System Theater
Cinepro's demo at the 2007 Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association (CEDIA) show in Denver made a powerful impression on my eardrums. I'm no power-hungry audiophile—far from it—but I immediately understood what Cinepro is all about.
The speakers and electronics are designed with the same priorities—extremely high volume capability and low distortion. That's why the Cinepro Mighty System Theater came on like a professional studio monitoring system, only better. The sound, even cranked way, way up, is super-clean, so it never grew harsh or hurt my ears. In order to hear the Mighty System Theater at its best, Michael J. Panicci, Cinepro's president, Constantine Gus Cossifos, Cinepro's vice president, and Bob Stevens, one of Cinepro's custom installers and owner of Real Life Designs in Hamilton, New Jersey, arranged for an evaluation at a customer's home theater. And what a theater it was.
Stevens not only dialed in the technical details just right, he made the room feel right. Even before I heard a sound, I knew the room's acoustics were well tuned. The speakers, subs, and electronics were all discreetly hidden, so it was easy to focus on the sound. Cossifos explained that close to 90 percent of Cinepro speakers are installed this way—in or behind the wall. The rest are used away from the wall. I plopped into a big, comfy theater chair and listened to some CDs. The sound was strikingly immediate. The bass seemed a tad lightweight, but as I sampled more music, I started to reconsider that judgment. I think the system initially threw me off track because the bottom end was so tight and defined. The Cinepro system's low bass is so remarkably free of boom or bloat that it can seem lean at times. Or, put another way, the Cinepro sub doesn't sound like a subwoofer; it sounds real. Ditto for the 1080p image on the theater's massive Da-Lite screen. It was that good.
Before I go any further, I should properly introduce the complete Cinepro review system. The front left, center, and right speakers were Evo Mighty LCRs, and four Evo 1 surrounds completed the speaker array. There was a Dual 15-inch Isobaric subwoofer planted under each of the front left and right speakers. A Cinepro DTP-8 processor fed a pair of 3K6 Mk.5 six-channel amplifiers, and a Cinepro RPC-30240 regulated power conditioner supplied juice for the system.
The Evo Mighty LCRs stand at a very manageable 24 inches high; they boast twin 8-inch woofers flanking a 1-inch soft-dome tweeter. Don't judge this little guy by its size; it was designed to crank out a claimed 115-plus decibels (albeit at an unspecified distance), and because the review system's Evo Mighty LCRs were biamplified, they were each powered by close to 1,500 watts. When we played the now-famous drum-circle scene from House of Flying Daggers, I could feel the Cinepro system's power moving my face. My entire head was vibrating. It was that tangible; the sheer physicality of the drums was awe-inspiring. I've played Daggers on countless systems, and nothing has ever come close to the Cinepro's sound.
The speaker cabinets' rounded corners and machined-metal rear panel leave no doubt about the Cinepro's build quality, but the look is very plain, even austere. My guess is that Cinepro puts the money where it counts: into the sound-producing parts of their speakers. The Evo 1 surround is a little prettier than the Mighty LCRs. It uses a pair of 6-inch woofers and a pair of 1-inch tweeters, deployed for dipole dispersion. The Dual 15-inch Isobaric subwoofer is a rather large beast, and its 165-pound mass commands a certain respect. The weight, by the way, is even more impressive when you realize that the sub does not come with a built-in power amp. (Each sub was driven by one channel of the 3K6 Mk.5 amps.) The review speakers' basic-black finish looks durable, and you can get yours adorned with real-wood veneers or your choice of custom paint finishes.
The DTP-8 pre/pro isn't exactly loaded with all the bells and whistles you'd expect in a top-flight pre/pro. It has just a pair of component inputs and no HDMI connectivity. The DTP-8's prime directive is sound quality, including a mission to preserve the signal's full dynamic range. The 3K6 Mk.5 amplifier is rated at 455 watts per channel into 8-ohm speakers and 760 watts into 4-ohm speakers. And because the Cinepro speakers are all rated at 5 ohms, we're talking about a lot of juice for these little guys. The amp's rear panel is fitted with a pair of large cooling fans, so even after mercilessly cranking the system for hours on end, the amps never got more than slightly warm. The speakers, sub, and electronics are designed and made in the United States.
Turn It Up!
The Cinepro Mighty System Theater comes on like gangbusters, and I've never had this much fun listening this loud before. And that really makes a difference; the experience is much more visceral when the sound is cranked to 11. Yes, the Cinepro gear sounds fine at more moderate volumes, but Cossifos kept nudging the volume up. The man's a glutton for high-decibel sound.
The Cinepro Mighty System Theater brought out the headbanger in me, so I happily cranked the hell out of the Rolling Stones' new The Biggest Bang four-DVD concert boxed set. Charlie Watts' spry drum solo on the beginning of "Midnight Rambler" was as real as I've ever heard drums sound over a home theater system. The dynamic crack of sticks against skins was superb; the cymbals crashed and sizzled the way they do live, and the kick drum? The Cinepro sub transmitted every thundering beat with taut precision. Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood's intertwined guitars spit sparks, and Mick Jagger's vocal chops were in great shape. More than anything, the band's swaggering grooves knocked me out. I've seen the Stones many times, and the Cinepro Mighty System could easily play as loud in this room as any of their live shows sounded in an arena. It definitely sounds better than any concert PA system I've heard. You don't just listen to a Cinepro system with your ears; it's more of a whole-body experience.
Next up: the Apocalypse Now: The Complete Dossier DVD. The opening whoppa-whoppa sound of the helicopters circling the home theater sucked me in, and the Doors' orgasmic music took on an urgency I've never heard before. I was so much more aware of the sound in the scene with Martin Sheen holed up in a Saigon hotel room. Every squeak of the furniture, the flies buzzing around the room, and the traffic outside the window were all eerily realistic. Dialogue tonality was right on, and the later battle sequences, taken at a healthy volume, added much to the experience of watching the movie. With this much power on tap, you get more involved in the emotions of the film. CDs were almost as revelatory. The detail was pushed forward, and I could hear even the smallest dynamic shadings on my acoustic jazz CDs. The apparent resolution is incredible.
As hard as I pushed the Cinepro Mighty System Theater, it never sounded like it was close to running out of headroom. Thus, even when the going got rough, the sound remained absolutely pristine. The Cinepro Mighty System Theater wasn't as dimensionally involving as I'd like; imaging was nicely focused, but the soundstage was a little shallow. The system all but begs for loud playing. Eased back to a more moderate level, it's a bit like driving a Ferrari in rush-hour traffic in Manhattan. The power is there, just waiting to be used.
This is to say that, if you're not one to indulge in über home theater blasts, the Cinepro Mighty System Theater's intoxicating power might be too much of a good thing. Cinepro gear is not for the faint of heart—or the budget challenged. The as-described 7.2-channel Cinepro system retails for—gulp—$60,985. A 5.1-channel single-amped system would come in for a somewhat more real-world sum of $34,990. You can, of course, buy the speakers or electronics à la carte, and I'm sure they would still sound great. However, I have a feeling that the synergistic sound of the Cinepro Mighty System Theater is greater than the sum of its parts.
• You don't just listen to a Cinepro system; you feel it
• Designed with custom installation in mind