THX – How Does It Help?
THX is a set of standards created by the world’s leading film makers, designed to ensure you enjoy their movies precisely as the director intended. If you are about to buy a home cinema, finding expert, independent advice is almost impossible.
THX – Why Is It Necessary?
Star Wars was released in 1977, the same year that video recorders became available. Being able to watch whatever you wanted, whenever you wanted helped kick-start the modern home cinema industry.
George Lucas, creator of Star Wars quickly realised that most people watching his films at home weren’t enjoying the experience they should.
Even when played back on very expensive audio systems, film tracks simply didn’t sound the way they were intended to.
This led to one of the film industry’s most respected audio engineers, Tomlinson Holman being asked to create a set of criteria for surround sound components to ensure films viewed at home would meet the standards expected by the film maker.
THX – What Do They Recommend?
The THX certification programme includes product choice, the design of the listening room, product placement and the calibration of all the audio and video components making it the most complete home cinema solution available.
In higher quality home cinemas, the weakest components in the audio chain are typically the type and quality of loudspeakers that are used. The THX programme requires speaker systems to fulfil a wide range of criteria including:
FULL BANDWIDTH (20Hz – 20 kHz)
To ensure that the lowest frequencies in a soundtrack are reproduced – something that few of the most expensive of hifi loudspeakers are capable of.
“REFERENCE” VOLUME LEVELS
Films are intended to be replayed at a very high “reference” volume levels with minimal distortion.
A speaker system capable of reproducing these volume levels will comfortably be able to reproduce all the sounds in a movie soundtrack including all the explosions and gunshots in the latest Blockbuster.
FLAT FREQUENCY RESPONSE
Hifi loudspeakers are typically voiced to make music sound more engaging rather than for strictly accurate response. All THX approved speaker guarantee even frequency so that all programme material is reproduced faithfully.
Satellite speakers don’t reproduce bass which makes them far more consistent wherever they are placed than larger full range loudspeakers. This also ensures that the same volume level can be achieved from much smaller speakers that are easier to place around TV’s and projection screens for optimal imaging.
IDENTICAL FRONT SPEAKERS
The only way to guarantee a perfectly even front “soundstage” – where sound pans seamlessly between the front speakers is to use three identical satellite speakers all orientated the same way.
WIDE DISPERSION SURROUND SPEAKERS
The rear speakers in 5.1 & 7.1 systems must create a much wider spread of sound than front speakers to create a convincing 360 degree sound field. To do this requires a different dispersion characteristic than a conventional speaker.
The use of separate subwoofers to reproduce low frequencies is a more affordable and more consistent method than using larger loudspeakers. Being able to reposition one or more subwoofers in a room to the location that best suits the room acoustics in a way that floor standing speakers cannot is an essential part of any THX surround system.
THX – Which System Do I Need?
There are three levels of THX approved surround sound speakers each of which will reproduce sound with the same fidelity, clarity and detail as the sound engineer heard in the studio. The different speaker systems are intended to match the size of room and the listening distance you will be sat away from the screen.
THX ULTRA 2
This approval is given to THX’s reference quality home cinema systems for use in rooms up to 3000 sq foot (e.g. 25′ x 15′ x 8′) and a viewing distance of 12 foot or more from the screen.
Download the fact sheet about M&K’s reference quality THX ULTRA 2 system – as used by the world’s leading film makers.
For rooms up to 2000sq foot (e.g. 20′ x 14′ x 7′) and a viewing distance of 10 – 12 foot from the screen THX SELECT speakers are the perfect choice.
Download the fact sheet on M&K’s THX SELECT loudspeaker system.
For smaller room sizes up to 1000sq foot (e.g. 14′ x 10′ x 7′) and a viewing distance of 6-8 foot from the screen, the new THX COMPACT category are ideal.
Download the fact sheet on the world’s first THX COMPACT approved speaker system – from M&K.
The Star Wars Challenge
In many ways it was George Lucas who kick started the world of home cinema. With the release of Star Wars came a film that finally made the most of surround sound and created one of the most absorbing movie experiences ever.
The film was released in 1977, the same year that VHS video tape arrived and made recording and the playback of films at home a possibility. George Lucas was one of the first Directors to embrace the idea that people wanted to watch his films in the comfort of their own homes.
The superb soundtrack of his film quickly highlighted the poor quality of the sound systems found in both homes and in commercial cinemas.
Lucas sought the help of the world renowned acoustician Tomlinson Holman to address the shortcomings of surround systems. The result was the first independent, expert review of surround systems ever which led to the creation of the THX programme.
Holmans’ recommendations for accurately reproducing film soundtracks at home included the use of three identical front satellite speakers, one or more subwoofers and wide dispersion rear speakers.
The first speaker system to meet these criteria was produced by M&K, the company who had pioneered the sub/sat speaker systems for use in the recording industry. Later, the M&K 150 THX approved speaker system was chosen by the Star Wars team in the production of their movies.
M&K Sound & Star Wars
“For over 15 years we’ve trusted M&K for our sound design rooms and editing suites. We couldn’t have produced Star Wars without them. M&K continues to be our monitor of choice.”
Rik McCallum, Producer of Star Wars 1/11/111
Mistakes In Episode 1
At Skywalker Ranch where the soundtrack for Star Wars Episode 1 was being edited, errors that had been made in the recordings in England were clearly audible.
To fix the problem M&K shipped a 150 loudspeaker system to the UK studio so they could more clearly monitor their mixes. – Now they could hear what they were doing!
With the release of a high definition surround soundtrack on Blu Ray, the full quality of the originally soundtrack can now be enjoyed in the home – with the right speaker system.
Using the same loudspeakers at home that were used in the production of a movie will bring you closer to what the director intended than any alternative. To hear Star Wars at its best, book a demonstration at your nearest M&K centre.