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StormAudio, Grimani Systems Show That Home Theater Audio-over-IP is Real and Requires no Compromise at CEDIA Expo 2023

Gone are the analog interconnects of yesteryear in this ground-breaking all digital home theater processor.

StormAudio, Grimani Systems CEDIA Expo 2023

At CEDIA Expo in Denver last week, A/V processor manufacturer StormAudio teamed up with speaker maker Grimani Systems to show that Audio-over-IP (aka “AES67”) is real and can greatly simplify the set-up and installation of complex home theater systems with no compromise in sound quality. The companies brought in home theater seating manufacturer RowOne, screen maker Seymour Screen Excellence and a projector from Barco Residential to provide the video and seating for the audience. As in the Trinnov room, the MadVR Envy Extreme processor was used with the Barco projector to provide HDR tone mapping and enhanced visuals. As in 41 other booths at CEDIA Expo 2023, a Kaleidescape media server was used to provide the content with 4K HDR video and Dolby Atmos immersive surround sound.

The demo system was comprised of 23 speakers (including six subwoofers) in an 11.6.6 configuration with a single CAT cable in place of the traditional tangled web of interconnects we usually see between processor and amplifier. The demo highlighted the launch of StormAudio’s new ISP EVO 32-channel AoIP surround sound preamp/processor — the first all-digital immersive audio processor to reach the CEDIA channel — networked to a Grimani Systems 16,800-watt 23-channel active loudspeaker system.

20230908_090238-Storm-Audio-isp-evo-900px
A standard off-the-shelf network switch is used to route digital audio signals to each of the 23 amplifiers used in the StormAudio/Grimani Systems demo.

Although the speakers were “active,” the amplifiers were separate from the actual speaker cabinets, so traditional speaker cable was used between the amps and speakers. This configuration is not only easier to manage, by centralizing all the components into one rack, but it also means only thin speaker cables needed to be snaked through the walls (instead of both power cables and network cables to each amplified speaker). And unlike analog connections, it doesn’t matter which network cable goes where. Each pre-defined amplifier identifies its specific channel from the network stream and sends the appropriate channel to the correct speaker.

With up to 24 channels of decoding and up-mixing of the most popular immersive surround formats, including Dolby Atmos, DTS:X Pro, Auro-3D and IMAX Enhanced, the Storm EVO ISP processor provides up to 32 channels of post-processing. This comes in handy for room correction and calibration as the processor includes the latest version of Dirac Live Active Room Treatment as well as the state-of-the-art StormAudio Expert Bass Management system, which features multiple bass zones and selective bass routing.

Just 4 cables - that's all the StormAudio EVO ISP processor needs to connect to a source and amplifier.
Just 4 cables – that’s all the StormAudio ISP EVO processor needs to connect to a source and amplifier. One HDMI cable for the Kaleidescape media server, one network cable for networking, one network cable for audio and one power cable for… well… power. A standard inexpensive network switch is used to separate out the 23 channels of digital audio, sending the appropriate channel to each amplifier.

StormAudio managing director Olivier Thumerel explained that the key to the design is that in utilizing only Ethernet cable, a network switch, and speaker cable for its audio connections, this not only highlights the simplicity and efficiency of an IP-based setup, but eliminates common industry issues like ground-loop hum while allowing for advanced features such as remote setup, debugging, calibration, and monitoring. According to Anthony Grimani, of Grimani Systems, “Having worked on more than 1,000 systems, I can confidently say that this is the future of audio for theaters, media rooms, and commercial spaces.”

StormAudio-demo-crew-CEDIA-Expo-2023-900px
“Are we having fun yet?” (Answer=”YES!”) Pictured (left to right) – Oliver Thumerel from StormAudio, Anthony Grimani from Grimani Systems, Chris Seymour from Seymour-Screen Excellence, and Todd Girdis from RowOne.

I had been looking forward to seeing Seymour’s Adjustable Ratio Theater (ART) 4-way masking system in action, but apparently the team ran into some last minute control issues with that so they opted not to show that feature in the demo. I did see a separate demo of Seymour’s automated screen masking system and it was incredibly fast at switching between various aspect ratios. If you want to deploy a mixed ratio home theater which is equally adept at displaying widescreen 16:9, CinemaScope 2.37:1 and even 1.33:1 content, you should check out Seymour’s automated masking screen solutions.

Check out this video to see what went on behind the scenes to get this demo together (you can even see the 4-way masking screen in action):

RowOne Seating provided two different styles of seats, the company’s previous flagship model power reclining seat the Cortes, with power headrest and powered recline in the rear row as well as the company’s latest patent-pending low-back, zero-clearance power incliner, the Calveri in the front row. The Calveri is specifically designed with a low headrest so that those who sit in the chair, and in the row behind it, will not have any of the image or sound blocked in any direction while enjoying the action.

As for the demo itself, it went off without a hitch, with several clips from Hollywood blockbusters highlighting the system’s articulation, low bass extension and wide dynamic range. Visuals were spot on with the Seymour screen letting us see every last detail in the 4K video, without muddying up the sound from the speakers behind it.

The Bottom Line

While the end consumer probably doesn’t care much whether the connections are digital or analog, custom installers do. By switching over to a networked digital connection, complex home theater installations can happen quicker, and both debugging and system optimization can be performed remotely, saving the installer travel time and resources. And in a business where time is money, I expect this audio-over-IP solution to prove very popular.

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