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.