On a recent trip out west, I had the opportunity to stop in and visit with the guys at Pro Audio Technology, a relatively new manufacturer (they were founded in 2004 as Professional Home Cinema, LLC) of high powered audio equipment. Size isn’t necessarily everything, but to give you a sense of the types of products PRO Audio manufacturers, one product in their lineup is the LFC-24sm subwoofer, a massive 24-inch, 2000 watt driver that weighs some 88 pounds. And to back up that size and weight, the sub is capable of greater than 129dB of output.
That’s just one product in their expansive lineup though.
To get a sense of just how powerful PRO Audio’s products can be, you have to experience a demo. And there’s no better place to do just that than in PRO Audio’s Lake Forest, California-based headquarters where the company recently opened a gorgeous showroom that can make any visitor feel right at home while simultaneously blowing your socks off.
PRO Audio President and Product Designer Paul Hales was kind enough to spare more than a few minutes of his day, giving us a full tour of the space and ran us through an impressive demo that packed quite the punch. He also took the time to answer a few questions and let us in on what it’s like designing a space that looks and feels like home—but also hides a 23-channel home theater experience.
A full slideshow of the PRO Audio Experience Center is at the bottom of this post.
Dealerscope: What was the inspiration behind building out a demo room like the one here in your office?
Hales: By far the most powerful sales tool an audio manufacturer (or reseller) has available, is exposing the client, first hand, to a well-engineered A/V system. This is especially valuable when the customer is considering making a significant financial investment. Though the manufacturer can provide a dealer, or the dealer’s client, with multiple reasons why one speaker might be superior to another, just like a picture “tells 1,000 words,” so too does a well-crafted audio demo.
Additionally, with the introduction of immersive audio formats, our dealers have found there has been a significant opportunity to reinvigorate their clients’ interest in home theater and audio. The evolution from 5.1 to 7.1 surround sound was incremental. However, the step from 7.1 to immersive audio—especially high-channel-count Dolby Atmos—is massive and easily heard, further reinforcing the importance of the demo.
It was recognizing these factors that led to the birth of the PRO Experience Center. We have provided our reps, dealers and international distributor partners, a comfortable and inviting space where they can bring their customers to hear the audible difference a PRO immersive audio system has to offer. The results have exceeded all expectations. Potential clients hear the difference, become genuinely excited about audio again, and most importantly want to own a PRO system—and usually a large PRO system!
How much technology is packed into that space?
Powered by the next-generation Altitude32 AV Preamp, the immersive system at the heart of the PRO Experience Center features 11 listener-level loudspeakers, eight independent overhead ATMOS loudspeakers, and four massive subwoofers, all working harmoniously to create an enveloping 11.4.8 3D audio adventure. The 23 loudspeakers are driven by 35 channels of PRO PMA and DMA amplifier/processors which produce 14,850 watts of total system power. Unlike anything achievable by current consumer-grade audio gear, the 23-channel system in the PRO Experience Center is valued at over $100,000 and yet it is nearly invisible – disappearing completely into the décor.
Why pack that much power into a single demo?
There is no such thing as too much power! In order to achieve a truly immersive audio experience, a high speaker count and the appropriate amount of power to drive those speakers is absolutely necessary. This is why, for example, the Dolby Atmos spec calls for a minimum of eleven speakers, (three fronts, two side surrounds, two rear surrounds and four top surrounds), plus subwoofer(s).
However, the more speakers you add, the more immersive the listener’s experience becomes. Because they are completely surrounded by the audio, they easily hear everything from minute details of the high-frequencies to the slam and rumble of the bottom-end. Though 23-channels may not be necessary, the goal is to make the listener forget where they are and feel as though they are participating in the movie scene or actually at the concert they are watching.
What kind of thought went into the actual design of the room—having the pool table and bar in the back, etc.?
We purposely steered clear from designing a dedicated theater room and instead wanted to create a space that replicated everything people love about entertaining—from the addition of a pool table to the under lit bar and cozy seating area. In general people are more likely to see the value in a multipurpose space that is comfortable and fun to hang out in—two elements that the PRO Experience Center delivers in spades.
Creating a warm and inviting atmosphere was essential and we were careful to avoid the look of a “theater.” We designed the space to feel like a classy and stylish man cave but with a warm palette, comfortable furniture, and low lighting that appeals to everyone. Upon entering the space, guests are wowed and immediately relaxed. Invariably, they ask us if we ever go home.
Rather than designing the room around the system like many audio centric people preach, we designed the system around the room. Despite the fact that it’s a multipurpose space, when a guest is sitting on the couch watching a movie, it doesn’t matter that they aren’t in a dedicated theater, because the sound is so authentic. We design our speakers to fit into any space, hidden in the walls, ceiling and behind the screen, with little need for aggressive acoustic treatment.
The PRO Experience Center confirms that you can still have the ultimate immersive audio experience without compromising the atmosphere or décor of your home.