Home Theater

Hands On: Datasat Brings Commercial-Cinema Audio to Home Theaters

Datasat, known for com­mer­cial-cinema audio, offers $19k RS20i pre­amp/ processor for home theater, featuring powerful Dirac Live room equalization.


Datasat's RS20i preamplifier/processor (pictured above) carries an MSRP of $18,995 and the companion RA7300 seven-channel amplifier carries an MSRP of $13,995.

Photos & Slideshow

Robert Archer · April 25, 2014

Datasat is breaking into the residential space from the commercial theater industry, with the release of its state-of-the-art RS20i preamplifier/processor and a line of companion amplifiers.

We put the new products to the test.

Features
It might be easier to list what the RS20i pre/pro doesn’t offer, though it’s important to note the product shies away from extraneous “bells and whistle” features. For starters, it offers plenty of connections for video sources, including cable/satellite boxes, gaming consoles, streaming media players, Blu-ray disc players, and legacy devices.

The unit also features what may be the best room equalization technology on the market: Dirac Live. This powerful software enables a variety of setup and calibration methods to fine-tune any residential audio installation. The calibration kit includes a microphone preamp, cabling, microphone stand, choice of Earthworks calibration microphones, and carrying case.

As for the amplifier, the RA7300 is a massive hunk of metal that provides 300 watts to each of its seven channels at 8 ohms and 450 watts into 4 ohms. The RS20i is a 4U-high unit and the RA7300 is a 5U piece.

Setup
Unpacking the pre/pro isn’t so bad for one person, but the amp’s heft realistically requires two people to install. DataSat sent Mike Skrzat and Steve Evanitsky to my home to set up, configure, and calibrate the products.

The RS20i basically uses a card-cage design that allows for a choice of hardware configurations. After using the supplied DB-25 output dongles to connect to the amp, they plugged in the HDMI cables from my cable box, BD player and Apple TV to the RS20i’s HDMI inputs. Next they hooked the speaker cables to the amp and set up the calibration hardware. They concluded by putting the pre/pro on my network via Cat 5 to my network switch.

After doing a basic setup that included naming sources, setting volume levels, checking for software updates and configuring the decoding options, Skrzat moved to the Dirac software starting on his PC laptop. After choosing the configuration option (7.1) he ran pink noise, selected the “measurement” button, and measured three seats to keep the system’s sound focused. Next the software measures seating distance from the speakers, and Skrzat then set bass management.

It took a couple of hours to complete the setup and calibration. I like how installers can generate “before” and “after” graphs to document the calibration. In cases like mine, dealers can program a “Dirac On/Dirac Off” button to compare the differences. Setup and configuration times will vary because of environmental conditions within the room, the level of EQ that’s applied, and any sonic preferences a client wants from the Datasat components.

What blew me away is because of the processing horsepower and versatility of the RS20i, Skrzat was able to set bass management and EQ curves for each speaker. My room is split and treated using a “live end, dead end” setup for my guitars and recording activities on one side and theater on the other. My left front speaker sits in the “live end,” while my right speaker sits in the treated side a few feet from a corner.

Based on these conditions Skrzat applied different bass management and EQ curves to the speakers. The same goes for my rear and surround speakers, and results of the software’s ability to fine tune for these conditions produced sound quality levels I’d never experienced in my home theater.

Performance
Comparing the sound of movies with and without the software was quite noticeable. With the software on during The Empire Strikes Back, for instance, I was able to hear much more background details — robot talk, computers buzzing, etc. During music playback like the Warren Haynes concert on Palladia, I thought the drummer’s kick drum sounded incredibly tight and fast. Overall I found the EQ’s most telling enhancements impacted dialog articulation and the octave-to-octave smoothness of low frequencies.

My kids loved watching movies like Despicable Me 2 and Planes with the Datasat equipment. Well-recorded movies like illustrated punch and slam of the bottom end, detail of the midrange, warmth of the top end, and overall lightning-fast transients that are really unmatched in my A/V reviewing history.

My only criticism involves the control options, where I’d appreciate an IR remote. Not having a system from a company like Crestron or some IP-based control solution meant I had to download a VNC app for my iPad. The app went buggy after a week, and IR would be a nice fallback.

Conclusions
Datasat has redefined home theater performance for me. Applying its professional cinema technologies and solutions into a line of residential products should benefit installers as the theater market continues to make its comeback.

I’ll add that in most cases Datasat’s products will provide far more processing horsepower, setup options and sheer amplification than most people need. However, for those seeking the utmost theater experience, Datasat exists and is ready to help dealers with training, field support and of course a benchmark line of products.



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  About the Author

Bob is an audio enthusiast who has written about consumer electronics for various publications within Massachusetts before joining the staff of CE Pro in 2000. Bob is THX Level I certified, and he's also taken classes from the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) and Home Acoustics Alliance (HAA). Bob also serves as the technology editor for CE Pro's sister publication Commercial Integrator. In addition, he's studied guitar and music theory at Sarrin Music Studios in Wakefield, Mass., and he also studies Kyokushin karate at 5 Dragons in Haverhill, Mass. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Robert at robert.archer@emeraldexpo.com

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  Article Topics


Home Theater · Audio/Video · Multiroom Video · News · Media · Slideshow · Audio · Datasat · DTS · All Topics
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