Photos by Tony Cordoza As I unpacked Athena Technologies' Audition Series home theater speakers, I recalled that Athena was the Greek goddess of wisdom, reason, and purity. Was it wise and reasonable, I wondered, to expect purity of sound from a six-piece system that costs less than $1,500? If anyone could make such a system, though, I figured Athena could.
High-tech wonders like the DVD and Dolby Digital get much of the credit, but the home theater revolution owes just as much to a more mundane development: compact, affordable subwoofer/ satellite speaker systems.
Dolby Atmos, the latest, “object-oriented” surround sound solution magicked up by the San Francisco technologists, has earned enough ink here and elsewhere that many of us are passingly familiar with it already. Briefly, then, object-oriented means that instead of panning discrete effects or overall mixes to left, center, right, or various surround channels, sound designers and producers can now direct sounds through a virtual listening space, letting the computer work out the details. Ultimately, of course, whether at the theater or at home, sounds still emanate from physical loudspeakers driven by physical amplifier channels, so there’s a certain amount of semantics at play here. But Atmos is scalable: A commercial theater can have as many as 64 discrete, individually addressable loudspeakers, including multiple “height” speakers in the ceiling.
Photos by Tony Cordoza For half a century, British speaker maker B&W has been very successful following a strategy of incrementally improving its designs year after year. Building on solid foundations is hard to argue with.