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Theory Audio Design Promises Thrilling Sound And Designer Looks

by September 11, 2018
Theory Audio Design

Theory Audio Design

Update: Theory Audio 9CH System Demo Sets the Bar in Soundbar Performance

Industry veteran Paul Hales has an impressive resume dating back 30 years with the development of his first commercial loudspeaker at age 22. Since then Paul has lent his design talents to Samsung, BMW, and Dolby, among others. In 2004, Hales and his company Pro Audio Technology (formerly called Professional Home Cinema) have been building high-performance loudspeakers and DSP amplifier/processors for residential systems of the highest caliber, catering to Hollywood big-shots and some very fortunate home theater enthusiasts. Pro Audio Technology is known for robustly-built products that deliver exciting sound with high maximum output level and unbridled dynamics. But with sheer performance and custom-installation as the company’s sole objectives, Pro Audio Technology has less to offer customers who desire smaller, freestanding, aesthetically pleasing audio products. Now Hales is ready to address that need with a new company called Theory Audio Design, which aims to provide “large-scale sound to residential and commercial installations where aesthetics and compact size are paramount.” The first products from Theory Audio Design will include in-wall speakers, on-wall speakers and soundbars, subwoofers, and amplified loudspeaker controllers, which combine multichannel power amps with a powerful DSP processing engine. These new products are slated to ship early next year, but Hales is offered a sneak peek to attendees of the 2018 CEDIA Expo in San Diego, where his new company made its debut to the rest of the industry.

The new loudspeakers from Theory Audio Design all feature a 1.4” compression driver with an aluminum diaphragm and a proprietary waveguide. This high-sensitivity driver delivers sound pressure levels of 110 dB with a 1-watt input. The different models pair the compression driver with 5-inch, 6-inch, or 8-inch reflex-loaded carbon-fiber woofers. The on-wall speakers and soundbars feature custom extruded aluminum enclosures in black or white, with rounded edges and machined aluminum accents. At just 3.6” deep, they look more like lifestyle audio products than high-performance gear. Trim options include carbon fiber, brushed aluminum, matte pewter, gloss paint, and brushed stainless steel. But Hales claims that the new Theory speakers deliver professional-quality results, thanks to engineering and driver components borrowed from Pro Audio Technology’s arsenal. On the electronics side of things, Theory Audio Design will offer a pair of amplified loudspeaker controllers, which perform everything from bass management and parametric EQ to amplification with up to 1,800 watts of power on tap.

A press release announcing the new company and its presence at CEDIA included the following product details:

Theory loudspeaker models consist of three in-wall and four slender on-wall models, featuring dual 5-inch, 6-inch and 8-inch woofers. For tight, deep bass, Theory offers two subwoofer models sporting 12-inch and 15-inch high-power drivers. Three soundbars round out the loudspeaker line designed to pair perfectly with today’s 65-inch, 75-inch, and 85-inch flat panel TVs. Two innovative Amplified Loudspeaker Controllers (ALC) provide the power and brains behind the beauty. Listeners will recognize Hales’ signature sound quality immediately, providing thrilling dynamics and room-shaking bass without sacrificing décor or precious floor space. Flexible by design, Theory on-wall and soundbar models offer installers quick and easy installation on any surface, with an innovative T-slot mount system that accommodates a variety of mounting bracket styles, including Z-Clips, yokes and ball mounts that can be positioned anywhere along the length of the speaker to perfectly align with architectural structural elements.

At the core of every Theory system lies a 96kHz / 24-bit DSP processing engine called a Loudspeaker Controller. Theory’s ALC-1508B and ALC-1809B eight and nine channel Amplified Loudspeaker Controllers create an entirely new product category by combining the functionality of a multichannel DSP processor, high-power multichannel home theater and distributed audio amplifier, multichannel mixing amplifier, high-resolution loudspeaker processor, and for the first time, multichannel bass management – all packed into a single, stylish, 1U package. The fan-less, 1U ALC-1508B and ALC-1809B models offer two and three 300W high-current amplifier channels for subwoofer drive respectively, plus six 100W bridgeable amplifier channels to drive full range loudspeakers. As such, the ALC-1508B can support 5.1, 5.2, 7.1 surround sound formats while the 1809B, with its additional 300W channel, adds support for 5.3, 7.2 and the new 5.2.2 Dolby Atmos format. Both Amplified Loudspeaker Controller models include 80 user-programmable parametric EQ filters (10 per channel), plus gain adjustment, source signals for system diagnosis and delay of up to 75msec per channel for on-site system-wide optimization and calibration.

At the heart of the ALC lies a 96kHz/24bit DSP engine for all Theory and Pro Audio Technology loudspeaker and subwoofer products, with over 160 IIR filters, 8 FIR filters, intelligent power-limiting, and delay. It is this processing engine that makes Theory’s thrilling sound possible. The ALC-1508B and ALC-1809B each include a full 8x8 matrix mixer, mic input, all-channel priority ducking/paging, four stereo plus mono-sum inputs, bass and treble controls and up to 75msecs delay per channel – useful in today’s large distributed outdoor systems. The ALC ducking feature and mic input enables priority paging in commercial distributed audio installations. In residential systems, 8x8 automatic ducking allows new voice-activated control devices such as Amazon Alexa to page any or all of the audio zones within a distributed system. When Alexa speaks, the currently playing audio is immediately reduced in volume, or “ducked”, allowing Alexa to speak clearly over distributed loudspeaker system. When Alexa is done talking, the audio content gradually rises to full output once again. Since any or all inputs can duck any or all output channels, complex systems with many distributed voice control devices can speak over the audio system globally or locally or any combination in between. For the first time in a residential multichannel amplifier, the Theory Amplified Loudspeaker Controllers can steer low frequency energy of any of the eight balanced analog audio inputs to any of the two or three subwoofer amp channels enabling distributed bass management in home theater and distributed audio applications. Full range speakers can easily be bass-managed to nearby or local subwoofers.

Seven of these new products are expected to ship during the first quarter of 2019, with more to follow later in the year. Future Theory Audio Design products will include in-ceiling speakers, in-ceiling subs, and additional DSP loudspeaker controllers without the built-in amplification. If Paul Hales has truly succeeded in squeezing professional audio performance into these new smaller and more design-focused products, Theory Audio Design has the potential to become a major player in the world of premium lifestyle home entertainment.

“With Theory, my goal was to bring the thrilling sound for which my products are known to a broader audience, and that is exactly what we’ve done,”

- Paul Hales.

Will you be adding Theory to your list of audio companies to check out? Share your thoughts in the related forum thread below.

About the author:
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Jacob is a music-lover and audiophile who enjoys convincing his friends to buy audio gear that they can't afford. He's also a freelance writer and editor based in Los Angeles.

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