Christie Vive Audio System at NAB 2014

Digital to Analog Converter

The Dolby 3D laser-projector demo in the Christie booth was accompanied by the company’s Vive theater-audio system, which replaces the traditional horn-based speakers with line arrays using ribbon tweeters mounted directly in front of cone mid-range drivers. Vertical line arrays typically provide wide, even horizontal dispersion while limiting vertical dispersion, allowing fewer speakers to be used to cover an entire theater.
In the Christie demo, there were five LA-1 speakers—three for the front LCR and one in each back corner for the surrounds. In fact, Christie claims that side-surround speakers are not needed with this system, even in a large theater. In addition, there were two S118 18″ subwoofers and two S115 15″ subs, and all speakers were driven by the company’s class-D amplifiers with a total of 7680 watts calibrated to cinema-reference level.

In this photo, you can see the center-channel speaker below the screen and the right-channel speaker in the upper right. On the floor, you can see one S118 (next to a portable air conditioner—it got rather warm in there!) and one S115 sub in the corner. The second S118 is partially visible in the lower left, and another S115 can’t be seen in this photo.

During the movie clips, the sound was excellent—surprisingly, not too loud, but clean and clear with good imaging and dialog intelligibility. After the movie demo I attended, which happened to be at the end of the day, I was invited to stay for an audio-only demo, which I was happy to do—until the playback began.

The demo started with the multichannel SACD of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, one of my favorite discs of all time. But it was so loud, I could tolerate only a few minutes. I didn’t have my earplugs with me (big mistake!), nor did I have my professional sound-level meter, but using the Audio Tools SPL Graph app on my iPhone, I measured an average level of 101.8 dBC over about three minutes. Yikes! Before I left the room, I noticed that the sound was quite bright, even harsh, though the imaging was very good, and the bass was pretty tight. I have no idea why that demo seemed so much louder than the movie clips, which I didn’t measure.