As most integrators know, an active speaker is one in which the crossover uses “active” or powered electronics and amplifiers are built in to the cabinet of the speaker. This paradigm has become quite common for recording studio monitors and sound reinforcement speakers. There are a few examples of esoteric hi-fi speakers as well.
Why did we at Grimani Systems choose to build our speakers this way when virtually all other manufactures of cinema loudspeakers do not? Well, there are some compelling reasons. It’s a mystery to us that more in our industry have not taken the lead from the professional side of the business – then again, we have a background in professional audio.
First and foremost, the reason for putting the amps in the speaker is stability and reliability. If you’ve ever had to grab a flashlight and squeeze behind an equipment rack that was stuffed into a closet and try to decipher the silk screening on the back of an amp and/or inspect a connector as you troubleshoot a problem – and who hasn’t – you understand where we’re coming from.
Every separate box with cables that link to other boxes creates a potential failure point or a potential miswire. While you were trying to squeeze your hand into a tight spot to plug or unplug something behind a rack, ever unplug the wrong thing or plug the connector you’re working with into the wrong spot? Ever come back to a job months or even years later and find that somewhere along the line someone (an installer for some other company usually) had to move some of your stuff around and didn’t get it put back exactly right? Ever bring a beautifully wired rack out to a job site and then have to start tearing it apart because no matter what you do, you can’t seem to get the hum out of the system? Yeah, us too.
The principals at Grimani Systems have been in front of and behind many hundreds of audio and video systems from modest home theaters to world class multi-room recording studios to commercial cinemas to arena sized sound reinforcement systems, and, of course, LOTS of private screening rooms. We nearly always find some kind of error.
Frequently we were called in to find and fix known errors. Often we find errors that were not known but were causing some performance degradation. We all know that our clients are paying for the best performance possible, and we all take pride in our work and want them to have it. But, when we send out that junior guy to a clients residence to make some space in a rack to install a new cable box or something, we all have that niggling question in the back of our heads of whether he really got everything put back properly. After all everyone makes mistakes…
So, we engineered our loudspeaker system so that virtually NONE OF THIS CAN HAPPEN.
The Grimani Systems C1 cinema package has 13 speakers, over 16,000 Watts of power, 29 channels of amplification, and 10 sophisticated DSP units feeding each of those 29 amp channels separately. Everything is networked and programmable. It’s as complex as cinema audio systems get.
How many rack spaces to you need for all those amps and processors?
How many interconnects have to be wired?
How much speaker wire do you have to pull and terminate?
How many hours will you spend troubleshooting a ground hum or something?
Over the years the system will be in service, what are the chances of someone accidentally pulling a speaker cable out and sticking it back in backwards (or some such thing)?
Take a minute. Think about that…
I can hear your one objection: “But, when one of these things breaks, I’ll have to go behind the stretched fabric! It’ll be hard to service.” Well, we’re proud of the fact that we didn’t go out and invent new electronics to make this system happen. We’re repurposing known quantities from a closely related industry. Our amplifiers and DSP are made in Europe by a world leading professional audio company. If you think peeling a little fabric back is a pain, what do you do if an amp fails and you’ve flown the speaker 100 feet in the air over a basketball court?
These amplifiers not only have world-class performance, but world-class reliability. There are over 400,000 channels of these amplifiers in use world wide in professional sound applications. You can’t do that without class-leading reliability and performance.
“What if we need to make a change?” The system is programed wirelessly, even over the Internet if needed. We can revoice the system remotely if needed.
“What about upgrades?” Software and firmware upgrades are also done over the network.
“There must be someway to screw up the install?” Yeah, there is. If you can’t manage to plug the AC power in to the outlet or plug the CAT5 cable into the proper jack on the back of our processor, you would have an error. We’re hard at work engineering a solution for this.