Tag Archives: home theater

3 Video Games That Have Killer Sound

What sets video games apart from listening to recorded music and movies is the organic, three-dimensional experience – and no two gaming experiences are identical. Everything from the echo of the character’s footsteps in a hall to a grenade detonating off in the distance make the listening experience of video games unique and engaging.

A resounding problem that we have encountered and continue to hear from our customers is that the default speakers in computers, TVs and cheap gaming headsets are not capable of capturing the wide range of ear tingling sounds that today’s game developers are spending time and money to deliver. Gaming soundtracks have become (and are continuing to become) a transformative part of the addictive gaming experience.

We asked our biggest gamers at Klipsch HQ to outline three games that have the range, detail and quality of sound that are known to capture their audiences. If you know of others you like please let us know in the comments section.

So crank up your Reference home theater system, soundbar or KG-300 gaming headset and double tap into these games with kickass sound:

Mass Effect

By David Wilkes – Klipsch Acoustics & Electronics Engineer

The sound quality of Mass Effect evolved with each game making it one of the best video game soundscapes ever.

 

For most games, every single aspect plays an equal role in the game’s enjoyment factor. The sound quality of a video game is, in my opinion, the most important by far. Environmental sounds, weapon feedback, even nuances in voices can make or break a game experience.

With that criteria in mind, I feel only one game series has far surpassed the status quo in every regard: Mass Effect. Mass Effect 1 (ME1) started the trend with unbelievable environmental effects: you can sense that you’re in an enormous open courtyard, clinging for life in a blizzard, on a spaceship hurling through space or that you’re on an uncharted world with minimal atmosphere, which normally would give you very little feedback. In ME1, they’ve been able to create the sound of…absence.

However, ME2 and ME3 took a great thing and made it extraordinary. Both games use an updated sound engine compared to ME1, so the aural experience is now off the charts. The ambient effects in both games give every single “space” a distinct feel.  Each alien race in the game, particularly English speaking ones, has a specific trait which only high resolution systems can reproduce. Said nuances quickly become indicative of that race’s signature demeanor. One in particular sounds very soft with a pleasant reverb so you associate them with kindness. Another has a low frequency metallic undertone so immediately you learn they are business first, kindness never.

For the ultimate experience of what video game audio can be, the first chapter of the final mission of ME3 is your ticket. It’s worth playing through the entire series (yes, you read that right) just to see how far gaming has come.

Final Fantasy

By Greg “Doom” Niehaus – Klipsch Quality Analyst

Final Fantasy has one of the best cinematic soundtracks of any video game series.

 

When I think about game audio that has had an impact on me, I tend to lean heavily toward the Final Fantasy series. While it is difficult to compare the overall game audio of the series to some of the more recent games we have seen, one element outshines even the most meticulously polished audio in any series: the music. Final Fantasy has long had a tradition of using its fantastic music to set the tone of the story. Even the magnitude of individual encounters will often be greatly enhanced by the background music used during battle.

The first memory I have of a truly cinematic experience in a video game was in Final Fantasy VII. Not because of the three dimensional graphics that were new to the series, but because of the score. Going back and listening to the original game music, I can still feel the same energy and emotions that I encountered when first playing through the game. Even now when I play the most recent Final Fantasy MMO (FFXIV), I have moments where the music immediately triggers a change in mood. Where in one instant I was calmly traversing the world, the music generated by an encounter ensures that I am prepared to either fight or flee in the next instant.

While some may view this as a fan being a fan, or perhaps simple nostalgia, a lot of the world seems to agree that it is not. Even disregarding critical praise, it is possible to find elements of the series influence in the physical world. Most gamers can instantly recognize the Final Fantasy “Victory Fanfare” (I also happen to use it as my ringtone). In a more surprising example, the 2004 Olympic Women’s Synchronized Duo Alison Bartosik and Anna Kozlova used music from Final Fantasy VIII for their routine (they won bronze).

The name Final Fantasy was chosen for the first in the series because the studio making it feared that it may be their last game. A couple decades later it is rightfully still one of the biggest franchises in existence. I would like to think that this is due at least in part, to the impact of its music on the players.

Bioshock

By Andrew Doerr – Klipsch Acoustics Engineer

Bioshock’s ability to give an immersive soundstage through it’s environment and charters is top-notch.

 

Of all the forms of entertainment available to the modern consumer, video games have a distinct advantage in one particular aspect: immersion. However, just because the gaming medium has this capability to immerse the player doesn’t mean all games excel at it.  Occasionally you will find a series of games that have mastered this ability – and Bioshock is one of those series.

Fully immersing a player in an artificial world demands perfection in all facets of video game design. The obvious elements are graphics, gameplay, storyline, level design and so on.  However, the one aspect that is occasionally overlooked is audio. And interestingly enough, it is the audio that can make or break that coveted immersive feeling. Bioshock’s sound design has been carefully crafted so that you are never pulled out of the experience. There are two key elements of immersive sound that Bioshock does well and each has an underlying theme.

First, the environment. The first two Bioshock games in the series are set in an underwater city – making for a difficult soundstage for the gaming developers to design. The creaking of buildings being strained by ocean currents, the dripping of water leaking in and somehow they even portrayed the immense weight of all that water above you in the eerie soundtracks and ambience. It’s not just cheesy water effects, it’s a well thought out sonic environment that never lets you forget you are underwater. And even though no such place exists, you believe that it does through the creative and accurate sounds.

Bioshock Infinite (the third Bioshock game) takes place in a city floating up in the sky and the same theory applies – constant wind and strange, open echoes of gunshots and slamming doors.  The game never lets you forget you are not on solid ground.  Again, no such place exists, but for a few hours you believe it and that’s the power of immersion.

Second, the characters. Many of Bioshock’s characters have magical powers and unrealistic feats of strength. And with a good sound design you believe that these creatures are real – and not only real but terrifying too.

The best example is Big Daddy from the first Bioshock game. Even though this beast resembles nothing human, the essence that this creature once were human is hidden in the sounds it makes. It’s chilling but effective, drawing from what we can relate to.

That’s not all, these enemies are extremely tough and the sound they make when moving and attacking is so haunting that you dread the moment you realize you have to fight one.

Big Daddy from Bioshock - another reason why it's in our top games with killer sound - The Klipsch Joint

Big Daddy from Bioshock – just another reason why it’s in our top video games with killer sound

So how does this make a difference? To me, with a detailed sound design, Bioshock has made the imaginary a reality because for the duration of the game you believe that an underwater city does exist, that these monsters are real and the world you are in is spiraling out of control.  And that is successful immersion.

Therapy Through Klipsch Speakers

Shaun Ivy is a passionate audiophile and a member of Klipsch forums, known there as “wakejunkie”. He is part of a close-knit group of audio enthusiasts who are both the company’s biggest supporters and biggest critics of Klipsch speakers.

He has actually been mentioned on this blog before for receiving the spoils from Michael Stevens’ divorce sale coup, which included Reference RF-7 II floorstanding speakers. As Michael’s best friend, Shaun received them at a “yard sale price.”

Unfortunately, Shaun has had three strokes recently. The doctors gave him a ten percent chance of surviving the first one. Surviving the second one put him at one percent.

Surviving three strokes? Well, it’s a miracle that Shaun is still here.

Prior to suffering his first stroke, Shaun reached out to Klipsch to talk about a different set of speakers he received through a special garage sale find. (Yes, he has two different kick-ass Klipsch speaker setups and, yes, you should be jealous.)

Where Shaun is from, vintage Klipsch speakers are a rare find, but he is always on the lookout for a deal. One day, he just happened to be scouring the yard sales and came across a pair of Klipsch Heresy II speakers. He was excited to say the least.

The owner’s wife was running the yard sale and ran inside the house to ask her husband the price for the Heresy speakers. Shaun was expecting $200-$300 for the pair…

“When she said $25 I about fell out. It was hard to keep my composure. I quickly and quite happily paid her for the speakers and a 50 cent blanket to wrap them in.”

That’s not a typo – $25. He got them in excellent condition with only a couple minor surface imperfections on the cabinets. Everything else, including the cones and grilles, was in perfect shape. They even have sequential serial numbers, dating them to be crafted in 1988.

These speakers replaced a pair of Klipsch Synergy B-2s in Shaun’s living room. They serve as the perfect complement to his separate home theater room, which boasts the aforementioned RF-7 II speakers, a custom-built RF-7 II center channel and four RS-35 speakers to go along with a 130” transparent screen.

Shaun Ivy's Heresy II Speakers

Both these speaker setups have been a welcome retreat for Shaun during his recovery from a multitude of strokes with the speakers in constant use.

“Klipsch therapy has top notch healing abilities.”

The point of this blog post isn’t to pat our backs and scream “KLIPSCH SPEAKERS SAVE LIVES!” Not at all. The point is that the audiophile community is a special one, full of people that care about each other.

Michael posted a topic regarding Shaun’s medical issues and the thread is flooded with people offering their thoughts and prayers. Some of these people Shaun knows very well and some of them he doesn’t. Either way, their comments go a long way towards helping him on his road to recovery.

Shaun Ivy Forum Post

Some people are claiming that great audio doesn’t matter anymore. Well, we call “bullshit.”

When people like Shaun get so much joy out of their systems, it matters. It matters just about as much as anything.

Rock on, Shaun.

 

Do you have a unique story about your Klipsch speakers? Did you get them in an unbelievable deal? Post a comment below and/or email alex.leopold@klipsch.com

Best Home Theater Speaker Systems: 4 Things to Know

If you’re wanting better sound quality from your entertainment system, chances are you need to add a home theater system. The truth is that even the best high-def TVs are seriously lacking when it comes to speaker capability since they’ve become so slim over time. At the end of the day, they simply can’t deliver the clarity of voice in the softest whisper, or those deep, explosive lows that’ll bring your favorite action movies to life. The same goes for the full-range sound effects that only surround sound speakers can deliver.

Before deciding on which home theater speaker system is right for you, here are four things to consider:

1. The Perks of All-In-One Setups

Some of the best home theater speaker systems are considered “in the box” setups. All this means is that the manufacturer has taken the time to pre-package the essential equipment you really need. A good system will include a pair of floorstanding speakers or bookshelf speakers, a center channel speaker, two rear surround sound speakers and a subwoofer. This system set up is also known as a 5.1 system (five speakers and one subwoofer). As you’d expect, higher quality systems typically include two additional speakers for superior surround effects (making it a 7.1 system). Perhaps the biggest benefit of an all-in-one setup is convenience – simply make one purchase and you’re done. Going the pre-packaged route is also easier to install and usually more cost effective than buying pieces individually. The good news is that many of the best in the box setups are crafted with furniture aesthetics in mind, so your system won’t be an eyesore. If you need help choosing speakers, check out the Klipsch Reference Speaker Selector.

2. Building Your Own System

While a pre-packaged setup is ideal for some, others may prefer to build their own system from the ground up. (We’re looking at you, audiophiles.) It may be a bit more involved, but taking a do-it-yourself approach comes with some perks. For starters, you can tailor your system to meet your individual needs. One hardcore movie buff may be more choosy about their center channel speaker, for example. But another music lover might just be looking to customize their entertainment center with a pair of killer floorstanding speakers. Building your own system a la carte gives you the freedom to mix and match products as you see fit.

3. Understand the System Layout

Klipsch Home Theater Systems

Center speaker should be place directly under the TV screen and facing listeners. However, you can get creative with your subwoofer placement.

Before choosing your home theater speaker system, take a minute to assess your living room. In order to optimize your new system’s sound quality, it’s important to understand how to physically lay it all out. The center channel speaker should be placed right below or above your TV screen and positioned to face listeners. If you choose to position it on a stand, rest the speaker’s edge on the end of the stand. This will help prevent dialogue from sounding wonky. The floorstanding/bookshelf speakers should then be positioned on either side of the TV (at least six feet apart). Just be sure to keep them at an equal distance from the screen for the best sound delivery. As for the surround speakers, place these guys slightly above and behind the viewing position – about three feet above the listeners’ heads should do it. They should also be placed equally on each side. Things are a little more flexible when it comes to the subwoofer. While corners make for a good location, feel free to give it a try along a wall or next to a front speaker. If you haven’t already, check out our Klipsch WA-2 Kit that makes your subwoofer wireless, allowing more flexibility to find the perfect spot for your subwoofer.

4. A Killer Soundbar Might Be All You Need

A soundbar, while not as powerful as a full-out surround sound system, still represents a step up from your TV’s default speakers. For the electronically challenged, a soundbar’s super simple installation is enough of a draw. What’s more is that they actually do produce pretty killer sound in a compact, single-speaker device (which is perfect for small spaces, by the way). For one thing, the right soundbar can deliver strong virtual sound. What’s that, you ask? It basically simulates surround sound. A benefit to this system is that it’s sleek, not bulky and comes with minimal wires. If you snag one with Bluetooth connectivity, it’ll also seamlessly play your favorite music right from your smartphone, tablet or computer. Despite it’s crowd-pleasing features, some may prefer to add a subwoofer to their soundbar to add low bass frequencies. Plus, a soundbar’s easy plug and play function does not limit the system to your living room’s home theater setup. You can easily move it to the bedroom, kitchen or covered porch. Check out our Klipsch R-10B and R-20B models.

Tell us how you plan to or have set up your home theater speaker system in the comments section below. We’d love to see some pics too!

Soundbar vs Surround Sound

Trying to decide between using a soundbar or a home theater system for your home? We’ve listened to your requests and put together this overview to ease your mind and open your ears to the difference in set up and sound quality.

As you know, soundbars are all the rage with their sleek design, easy installation process, wireless set up, and ability to produce a form of surround sound. Does this mean you’ve found a replacement for a separate-piece surround sound system with front, rear, and center speakers? No, of course not. Nothing can replace a full-blown Klipsch home theater setup…BUT a soundbar can be the ideal solution for those seeking an upgrade to their wimpy TV speakers.

Let’s break down the pros and cons of each so you can decide what’s best for you.

Soundbar Overview

Pros:

  • Easy installation and connectivity
  • Minimal wires
  • Modern design
  • Great for small-medium living spaces
  • Excellent virtual sound, which simulates the surround sound experience

Cons:

  • May need to buy separate subwoofer (although many Klipsch systems include a sub, such as our HD Theater SB 3, R-10B Soundbar and R-20B Soundbar)
  • The placement of the soundbar creates specific “sweet spots” in your listening experience
  • Does not produce complete surround sound, especially in larger living environments

Surround Sound System Overview

Pros:

  • Full range surround sound
  • Able to place speakers in multiple stations for optimal acoustics
  • Maximum bass
  • Audiophile theater system presentation

Cons:

  • Most quality systems require running wires from the receiver to each individual speaker
  • Takes up more space
  • More involved installation process
  • More expensive

Q: Does Bigger = Better?

Big speakers may provide the look of a major sound producing machine, but remember, looks can be deceiving. While it is true large speakers have the ability to produce eardrum pounding sound and are an excellent choice for a large room, soundbars and smaller speaker systems are more than capable of producing quality sound. Make an informed decision and learn how to ensure a quality set up by reviewing the following section.

How Do I Compare a Soundbar to a Surround Sound System?

As with any audio product, there are varying levels of quality and associated performance depending on the device. The best soundbars will overpower and outperform the run-of-the-mill surround sound system. So, the question is, what performance standards do you look for? We’ll make this part easy on you. Just refer to the below list on how to understand the specs to find the quality speaker system you desire.

  • Sensitivity

The speakers’ effectiveness of converting power (watts) into volume (decibels). The higher the sensitivity, the less power the speaker needs to deliver the effective sound. To put it quite simply – a higher sensitivity rating = loud, clear, high quality sound.

Speaker

Sensitivity Rating

Power Needed To Produce High Volume

Speaker A

85 dB

100 Watts

Speaker B

89 dB

50 Watts

Speaker C

92 dB

25 Watts

*less power to produce higher volume is key for speaker longevity

  • Frequency Response

The range of frequencies that are audible to humans lies between 20 and 20,000 Hert (Hz). Some of the lowest frequencies (below 35 Hz) are more felt than heard (like an earthquake in an action movie), and are produced by the subwoofer. Review the frequency response range to understand what kind of listening experience you will gain with the associated highs and lows that the speaker produces.

  • Power Handling

How much power, in watts, a speaker can handle before it is damaged. Simply put, the higher the power handling, the more likely you are to piss off the neighbors.

  • Impedance

How much electrical resistance is presented against the current flowing from your outputs. Impedance will fluctuate since the speaker will produce sounds at varying frequencies, but all manufacturers will publish a nominal impedance figure. 8 ohms is the norm, though some speakers can handle a 4ohm load (just make sure your receiver matches this load).

SUMMARY

Hopefully this helps to answer some of your questions on how to choose the right speaker system. Remember, much of it comes down to personal preference, but be sure to do your homework when it comes to reviewing the specs and associated performance standards of each sound system. We’re sure that either choice will amplify your current set up and make PWK proud.

5 Movies With Kickass Surround Sound

Whether you’re a hardcore audiophile looking for the ultimate sound experience or a casual movie watcher out to make movie-watching at home more immersive, it’s tough to find the perfect soundtrack to show off your surround sound home theater system.

Sure, you’ll probably want to hear a few big explosions, but to truly get the best out of your home theater, you need a film with a wide and nuanced aural range, not to mention one that takes advantage of the directional effects made possible by a surround speakers.

The good news is we’ve already spent a ton of time searching for that perfect soundtrack for you. From trade shows to dealer events, customer demos to new product testing, this is what we like.

The Dark Knight

If you buy one movie for your surround sound system, let this be it. From the bank heist opener all the way to the end credits, the sounds of The Dark Knight envelop the viewer and integrate seamlessly with the films visuals to create an impeccable home theater experience.

Hans Zimmer’s almost oppressively dark score sets the perfect backdrop for Christopher Nolan’s Gotham, and the film’s dialogue is crystal clear throughout. If it’s pyrotechnics you’re looking for, well, The Dark Knight’s got that too. Particularly impressive is the film’s truck flip scene during one of the Batman’s epic battles with the Joker.

The Dark Knight – Batman vs. Joker Scene (truck flip)

This movie is the real deal. With audio engineering that never draws attention to itself, The Dark Knight is ideal to show off your home theater and have a great movie-watching experience in the process.

Wall-E

Pixar has long had a reputation for producing not only great-looking children’s films, but great sounding ones as well. Wall-E hits the mark in both regards. For those who have followed the company, it should come as no surprise that Pixar, originally part of Lucasfilm, puts a high premium on the quality of sound in its films.

The world of the lonely robot is unbelievably immersive and nuanced, and uses the directional possibilities of the surround sound system to their full potential. In addition to the sound effects in film, the soundtrack and score are top-notch both in terms of suitability for the film and recording quality. The film’s opening song creates a truly beautiful moment.

Wall-E Opening Scene

This is the perfect movie for kids and their audiophile parents to watch together. While it may be the unbelievably detailed CGI visuals many viewers notice first when viewing Wall-E–and they do look great–any true audiophile will immediately struck by the enormous attention to aural detail evidenced by the soundtrack of Wall-E.

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Russell Crowe’s nautical adventure as Jack Aubrey is one of the best-sounding movies out there, truly taking advantage of the possibilities of surround sound to create an enveloping maritime atmosphere.

From the creaking of the boat’s planks to the subtle sound of the sea’s water against its hull, the level of detail represented in the soundtrack’s quieter moments is only eclipsed by the intensity of its battles, with floor-shaking cannon fire and roaring explosions.

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World – Final epic battle

Master and Commander’s soundtrack is arguably one of the most enveloping you’ll find.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Regardless how you feel about Shia LaBeouf and the Transformers franchise, there’s no denying this movie sounds great. The action scenes in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen are made unbelievably intense by the impeccable sound engineering.

And, despite the power and intensity put forth by the film’s soundtrack as the giant robots smash each other to bits, the films’s soundscape is also impressively nuanced.

While your ears are being bombarded by the sounds of the on-screen destruction, you’ll still be able to pick out individual helicopters, explosions, and firearms within the cacophony.

Transformers Revenge of the Fallen – Shanghai Scene

While it may not go down in history as a cinematic landmark, it’s clear that Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen sounds great. If you’re in the mood to see some great-looking and great-sounding computer-generated action scenes, this movie is where it’s at.

The Hurt Locker

A departure from the rest of the films on the list, Kathryn Bigelow’s Academy Award-winning The Hurt Locker’s more serious and contemporary subject matter is enhanced immeasurably by the film’s startlingly realistic soundtrack.

While the film’s expected wartime sounds are both extremely powerful and extremely detailed–each weapon fired and specific type of explosion has its own unique sonic signature–it’s some of the film’s quieter moments which truly stand out in terms of sound design. The characters’ breathing as they deal with the extreme stresses of the Iraq War is a constant barometer of their internal state, and the chime-like sound of shell casings hitting the rocky ground provides one of the film’s most powerful moments.

"The Hurt Locker" – Official Trailer [HD]

The soundtrack of The Hurt Locker is truly enveloping, and only serves to intensify the impact of an already impactful film. If you’re looking for a surround sound experience with emotional weight, The Hurt Locker is the perfect choice.


If you’re like us, you’ve put a lot of time, sweat and money into your set up. Show it off with any of these films. Agree or disagree? Have suggestions of your own? Leave us a comment.