When you think of home theatre audio, international mega-brands like Yamaha, Sony and Bose may come to mind. But it’s actually in South Australia where you’ll find the best in audio innovation, and a little Aussie battler called Krix breaking records and setting new standards.
In late 2018, at the Melbourne International Hi-Fi show, audio specialist Krix pulled-off an astonishing world first. A 24.10.10 Dolby Atmos surround sound home theatre experience. That’s 34 speakers and ten subwoofers. Via a series of film snippets and video game demos, attendees had their minds blown and ears enlightened in ways no other human has had the joy to experience.
If you, like us, are still tinkering with the levels and shifting furniture in an attempt to get a 7.1 setup firing, then the logistics of making 44 speakers work in harmony is enough to make the knees quake. So how did they do it? And who the hell is Krix, anyway?
“We actually started back in the late seventies,” Michael Cox, marketing manager at Krix, revealed to Maxim of his company’s humble beginnings. “Our founder, Scott Krix, had been tinkering with electronics from an early age, building speakers for family and friends that could compete with and even outperform the international brands. He eventually opened a hi-fi shop, the Acoustic Foundry.”
But it was in 1978 that the foundations from which Krix was driven to excel and innovate were truly laid. “The nearby Capri cinema asked Scott to build a speaker system for their theatre. However, there was a fundamental problem with the way the sound moved throughout the room. To fix this, Scott devised the world’s first infinite baffle wall; a wall which would fill the area between the speakers that sit behind the cinema screen.”
“The innovation gained huge attention and by the nineties, Krix speakers were in 90% of the major cinemas throughout Australia. By the time surround sound made the big jump from cinemas to residential homes in the late 90’s, Krix was well-placed, releasing numerous models to fill the need.”
Since then the company has continued to grow and evolve what is possible with home audio experiences. Look at Krix’s concealed architectural speakers, for example. Or the renowned Series X range, which has “made it possible to have effortless, clear and hugely powerful cinema sound at home!”
Despite 40 years building from the ground-up a reputation for innovation, it’s still hard battling the big boys from way down there in the bite. “The Krix staff really do share a passion for great sound and bringing smiles to people’s faces when listening to music or watching a movie becomes an experience. But it’s a struggle battling the cost of overseas manufacturers. Being geographically isolated does present added costs in doing business.”
Which is why a demonstration in raw power was in order.
Q: If you were an Aussie bloke looking to set up a home theatre in their house in 2019, what setup would you go for?
It would depend on a few factors, with room size and budget being important considerations.
For speaker configurations, it’s hard to go past the latest immersive audio formats such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. These formats give an additional layer of sound from above, pulling you right into the action on screen. For example, you can hear helicopters fly past overhead, or raindrops falling around you. Many people these days are opting for 7.1.4 systems (or more) in dedicated home cinema rooms.
Regarding speaker choice, there’s no “one size fits all”. When choosing speakers for a multi-purpose room, more emphasis may be placed on speaker size, or the timber veneer finish as much as a high level of speaker performance. For dedicated home theatres, it’s more about the outright performance and massive dynamic range of the system when the lights go off. The good thing about Krix is we have speakers at each end of the scale and everywhere in between!
Q: What are the biggest mistakes people make when they are buying a sound setup for their home?
There’s plenty around, but the one I see most is that someone may buy a piece of equipment because they saw it on special, or a friend was offering it cheaply; a set of speakers or a cheap AVR receiver for example. The problem can be that this specific piece of equipment may not really suit what they wanted to achieve, so they end up making some big compromises in performance or spending even more money to make it work. A great home theatre system is the sum of its parts, and it’s always best to think of the room as a whole, to ensure good synergy between components and to make sure you’re getting your “WOW” moment when it’s all turned on.
Another mistake we suggest avoiding is buying speakers based on other people’s ears and not your own. Go out and audition, that’s half the fun!
Q: Where do you think home theatre setups and speakers in general are going over the next five to ten years?
I think the growing trend of having a dedicated home theatre room will continue, more and more people are seeing the value in having a space within your home to sit back, unwind and enjoy a movie. These dedicated rooms can generally house more speakers, so the immersive sound formats will continue to grow as people embrace them. Done correctly, having more speakers positioned around the room will provide a more immersive and involving experience.
We’ll also see the evolution of video formats as well as new standards in audio and video coming into play from the usual players (Dolby, IMAX, etc.). The good thing from our point of view is that speakers tend to last a lot longer than electronics – invest in good quality speakers and they’ll last a lifetime.
Building a 24.10.10 System
“Originally we were planning something small scale,” Cox explains of how the Krix world first came about. “When one of the ballrooms at the expo became available, we reached out to our friends at French company Trinnov Audio – who have developed the most advanced audio processors available to home environments – and began to think of something bigger. It came to light that if we did a residential 24.10.10 configuration, it would be the first time anyone had ever attempted it. It was all we needed to hear.”
Of course, there is a reason why nobody had attempted it before. Six months of planning was required to get together all the moving parts. A projector, 250-inch screen, video and audio processors, source players, brackets, cables and, of course, it all had to be compatible – “everything in the chain needed to ‘play nice.’” Then there was seating, rigging, lighting, automation, curtains, keeping the crew housed and fed, marketing, ticketing, freight and storage.
“There was around 18 pallets worth of equipment, not including the truss-work, racking, platforms and flooring that all had to be packed down within four hours of our last demo. We finished with one minute to spare!”
Then of course there were the speakers; the Krix speciality. But nobody had ever had to calibrate a system like this before. “We spent a lot of time looking at the correct speaker choice, arrangement and positioning to ensure we would fill the very large room evenly and consistently. Then Trinnov’s advanced microphone measures test chirps and tones, and then adjusts and calibrates the audio to provide a final, equalised result. This system can locate a speaker to within 10mm in a room – it’s world-leading technology.”
With that the stage was set and Krix’s world first went off without a hitch. The little Aussie battler showed every other player in the home theatre space how to get a world record done! Now all you need to do is work out how you’re going to fit 44 speakers in your man cave!
Our Pick of Krix
Having experimented with the installation and sound setups of the Krix speakers, here are our tips for the best of its range.
Home Theatre: The MX-30 is a fantastic and unique concept. The left, centre and right speakers, with two subwoofers, are joined together in the one unit. This is then embedded in the wall behind your projector screen. Mixing short throw sounds with a range of pinpoint frequencies, it then fills the entire room with sound.
In-Ceiling: If you’re looking for some subtle, but powerful, in-ceiling speakers, we like the Atmospherix A20. They’re a cinch to install and have a great magnetic cover that hugs the gyprock. The speaker is fully enclosed, stopping sound from escaping into the roof cavity or subfloor, plus by angling the speaker, sound doesn’t bounce off floors and benches.
Outdoor: We‘re fans of the Tropix. It’s a beefy looking speaker that offers meaty sound, especially bass. The strong bracket makes it easy to fix off to walls or poles, and the ability to rotate it allows you to point sound in the right direction (and away from neighbours). Purpose built to handle Aussie weather extremes, too.
By Chris Stead
For the full article grab the March 2019 issue of MAXIM Australia from newsagents and convenience locations. Subscribe here.