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Home Theater

Do Home Theaters Still Rock? Why not Play it Loud?

The consumer audio industry offers many products that are capable of delivering high volume levels, but are installers utilizing these products' full capabilities?

Gibson reports that back in 1970 the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association measured a Led Zeppelin performance of "Heartbreaker" at 130dB. Are installers offering their clients home theaters capable of approaching that level of volume?
Robert Archer · February 16, 2012

A couple of weeks ago Gibson ran down its list of the 10 loudest bands of all time and of course it included iconic rockers such as Motorhead, The Who, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Kiss.

It made me think back to some seriously loud home theater demos, and how installers can lower the sonic boom in people’s houses like these bands do onstage.

In some ways the home theater market mimics the testosterone-driven mindset of Motorhead’s wall of Marshalls (amplifiers) backline through speaker systems from companies such as JBL Synthesis, Pro Audio Technology and others.

Installers can also assemble high-decibel (dB) home theaters using efficient speakers from companies like B&W, RBH Sound, Klipsch and others, in tandem with powerful amplifiers from companies like Krell, Bryston, McIntosh, Classe.

I once remember reviewing RBH’s modular T2 speaker system that employed its 92dB efficient T-1 enclosure mounted atop its 1010SEN woofer module. With my fairly modestly powered Bryston 9B-ST home theater amp I was able to push 105dBs of clean power before the 9B ran out of gas. The experience reminded me of when I saw Iron Maiden back in high school. Despite my sitting in the nose-bleed section of the Worcester Centrum (in Central Massachusetts), Steve Harris’ bass and the twin guitar attack of Adrian Smith and Dave Murray’s guitars left me deaf for a couple of days.

Now I know 105dB is far from the wall of sound that is Iron Maiden or the 136dB Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley and the guys in Kiss makeup have reportedly hit, but it’s still pretty loud.

And I can recall attending system demos conducted respectively by Pro Audio Technology and Wisdom Audio that hit above 120dB.

I’m also sure that many installers still take pride in designing and installing home theaters that would make Lemmy Kilmister’s (Motorhead) ears bleed. The only question I have about these ear-splitting theaters is ... are they part of a bygone era or are homeowners still asking for home theaters with some muscle?

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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

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  Article Topics

Home Theater · Speakers · Amplifiers · Blogs · Gibson · Jimmy Page · Motorhead · All Topics
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