Those that read my Reviews know too many times I have said this is the one or crown this one king. Well, I am here yet again to say my ears have been enlightened with this insanely high end combo from Datasat Digital Entertainment. Their RS20i Home Cinema Processor and RA7300 7 Channel AMP have transformed my basement into a real live commercial theater venue. Actually it's even better than most local cinemas. There's a reason many of your top Hollywood blockbusters have DATASAT at the end of their credits. I am sure by now you know that Datasat purchased the Cinema Division of DTS in 2008. Any movie fan will tell you that Digital Theatre Systems is legendary for their exceptional soundtracks. They burst onto the scene (no pun intended) in 1993 with one of my all time favorites, Jurassic Park.
I have never had something to Review that each time I turned it on I couldn't find a single flaw anywhere. This Datasat combo nails it. I will immediately point out that it nails it with Auro-3D. I originally got it without it. I was impressed to say the least and after listening to it "plain" a few weeks later adding Auro-3D (and getting the DIRAC LIVE calibration- more on that soon) really made it open up a whole new gear that I didn't know was there. My room was and still is set up for ATMOS so I had been using the Height sound that came with the RS20i. After trying Auro-3D with their awesome demo disc I was convinced I wanted to add the T (Top Ceiling) speaker in the center of my room. No pun intended I will say it was the cherry on top! The plane taking off sounded so life like as it roared directly over our heads in the T speaker! If you are ever lucky enough to get to hear the demo disc there is a tractor pass moment that sounds eartacular! It truly sounded like it was driving right around the room. My Wife Jaclyn and heard it and the cool fireworks demo and said I never thought the sound could be any better than it was until just now. I completely agreed! Annabelle using Auro up mix was too scary (pic very bottom) to comprehend. Horror movies cannot be watched alone anymore. Especially in complete darkness...
To learn more about AURO-3D technology tap below:
So I was able to appreciate the RS20i even more from day one to the present by advancing in baby steps. First I tried it with what it came with. Then a few weeks later added AURO-3D and had John from CDMI (pic below) come out and perform the DIRAC LIVE procedure. He was very knowledgeable and helped set up AURO-3D demos just recently at their show. I decided to get it added to my RS20i after Aaron from Audio Video Interiors of Chicago (Oakbrook) suggested it and John while doing DIRAC pulled me aside and promised it would be next level. Datasat sent the firmware on the spot and the rest is history. John did make an interesting point when he told me that too many people put their energy (and funds) into getting very expensive speakers when the Datasat combo could make a home theater in a box kit sound terrific. So what makes Dirac so magical? For one it is unique in providing true working impulse response correction. It also does mixed phase correction. The sound output from a speaker is best described as mixed phases. Dirac Live is one of only a few that will do a mixed phase correction which will make the clarity of a sound event better detailed and more enhanced. Early reflection reduction also helps with less smearing and shifting of the sound. I will say after going a few weeks without the calibration after having it done bass was much tighter and the room just lit up with detail and clarity. I was told each speaker was getting approximately 20,000 individual measurements. I am used to Audyssey XT32 which was always pretty good and the even better Room Perfect on the McIntosh MX151. The Dirac Live Room Optimization was definitely superior to all.
Back of RS20i:
Back of RA7300:
So let me tell you about my Auro-3D experience. They describe their technique as a means of delivering audio that wraps you in a cocoon of life-like sound. I have to say that is very accurate. Starting with their demo disc we were all more than impressed. From the "Can I have your attention please?" to the Turbo and other movie and music demos it was the best placed sound I have ever heard. I already mentioned the realistic tractor pass and fireworks display but those deserve another plug! Of course it helps the RS20i is processing it. So how do Blu-ray movies sound? Let's just say I have had a very hard time listening to other components and without Auro-3D. Horrible Bosses 2 had some amazing sound moments. It's the little things that bring you more into a movie. Like when Jamie Foxx is eating Twizzlers in the car. You definitely hear every bite perfectly. It is like he is in the room eating them next to you. And if you are one of those people that get annoyed when people chew with their mouth open (like my Wife) then this scene will kill you! My other favorite I use a lot is Darkness Falls. The creepy narrator's voice never sounded better. The hairs on your neck will jump off when he starts explaining about the tooth fairy. Sunshine also has an excellent beginning with spot on crystal clear dialogue. The start of Jack Reacher which allows you to hear the shooter breathing behind you then the "in your room" gunshot was incredible. Auromatic (up mixed) does an amazing job. TRON has some great demo scenes. I learned this from Noah at Audio Video Interiors Chicago. When he first does battle. You hear every detail as the ladies walk towards him and assemble his outfit. You hear the patter of their heels like you are right there. The fight sequence also sounds stellar. The Equalizer has some amazing rain moments. There is a scene when they were outside that on the Integra and Marantz you could not hear the thunder gently in the background but with the RS20i you can. Also when the machine saw is on it certainly pierces your ears like it is in the room right next to you working. Guardians of the Galaxy has a standing ovation type soundtrack. Music is neatly placed and gels perfectly with the movie. Right at the start when Chris Pratt is dancing and they show the title of the movie it feels like you are somewhere even better than a commercial theater. That is pure ear candy. Fury had explosions and bullets flying around the room. Tanks were in the room! Big Hero 6 3D (had to buy 3D version overseas- thanks Disney) also sounded incredible. Whiplash completely turned our theater room into a "Lincoln Center" with its amazing jazz band performance. The ending is for sure Demo worthy. See, hear and feel it! With other Receivers and pre-pros I used to say sound came from speakers here and there. Not with Auro up mix and the RS20i. Instead I say all around because it truly gives you the enveloping sense that the sound events could come from anywhere at anytime. You completely forget where your speakers are. With an outstanding image and now even more immerssive sound there truly is no reason ever to pay for another movie ticket...
So let's finally discuss the RA7300 and what makes them so special.... This 7 channel "Monster-Heavy" amplifier by far weighs more than any other component I have ever had. They recommend two people lift it and I was surprised when my Wife and I were able to get it in the rack. Maybe her CrossFit classes are making her a beast? The RA7300 is rated at 300 watts per channel 8ohms and 450 watts at 4ohms. It has a signal-to-noise ratios of 127db. What separates it from the other high end models is its noise floor. I should actually say lack there of. Each channel has its own power supply on a circuit board which will minimize crosstalk, noise and distortion. They claim it reduces noise by 50%. I believe them. When I started Oblivion and heard Tom Cruise say "Earth" and begin to narrate you hear absolutely nothing else. And when he chomps on his toast it is clear and distinct. I was always shocked how good that moment sounded with the McIntosh MX151. Then I heard something so clear my jaw hit the floor. You hear him thanking her for the coffee. Now that credit obviously goes to the RS20i as well. I am hearing things in the movies we have never heard before. Sometimes very slight but add enough small details here and there and you become more than immersed. Last comment on the RA7300. Just make sure you have two power chords ready. Yes, this Monster needs two!
Finally let's discuss Datasat's RS20i Home Cinema Processor. They claim it is the most versatile, customizable and feature-rich audio processor available today for high end cinema and two channel music. I know companies have to market their products to (no pun intended) sound incredible but in this case I have to say word for word Datasat is right on. The RS20i processes 16 channels. It does the current sound formats besides Dolby Atmos which is coming early Summer. I don't think there has been an official word on DTS X yet but I can't see them not adding it. As mentioned before I ended up getting the Auro-3D update. Those that have heard both demos at their show have all said it blows away Atmos. I can't wait to compare but with the VOG addition with Auro I don't think I will be able to go back to Atmos. It has made that much of a difference.
As you can see from the GUI screens above it is pretty easy to navigate around. I actually spent a good hour "practicing" when I first got it. Before I knew it I became a Jedi Master. Now there is no physical remote that comes with it. No worries there. Just download an App like VNC VIEWER and off you go. I have it on both my iPad (pic above) and my iPhone (pic below). The cool thing is you can even tweak it wherever you are in your home. Before I was running Auro I was doing Height sound for everything. It was fun making the adjustments and changing my speaker labels to reflect it. Speaking of speaker changes you can assign them anyway you want. For the Super Bowl I made it so my Height 2 speakers (ones in back) were mimicking the Height 1 speakers (in front). That added to the feeling of being there with the crowd noise. And I was able to make those changes while sitting on the couch upstairs. Of course I switched it back to normal after the game. Now with Auromatic I replayed parts of the game and was able to get that being there feeling too. The VOG speaker would drop some crowd noise and PA sound. That was really cool. Some may find all of this distracting at times but when you are at the game there is sound around you the entire time in all directions.
"With an outstanding image and now even more immerssive sound there truly is no reason ever to pay for another movie ticket..."
"The ultra high-end bar has been raised."
As for setting up the RS20i it is really simple. I highly suggest a nice label maker and to make notes as you do. I used my smartphone and made notes throughout the process. On the back of the unit (pic above) you can see how the RS20i uses DB25 connectors. There are also two optical and one Coax input. You get four HDMI inputs and one out. On top of everything else there is RS232, 12v triggers, an Ethernet port, pair of RCA inputs, a XLR for a mic and some general purpose connection. It does have cooling fans and others have said they believe this unit runs loud but to be honest I have not experienced excessive noise at all. Maybe since we don't sit on top of it but even standing close I struggle to hear it. Inside there are eight Analog Devices 400MHz DSPs and Burr-Brown PCM4104 DACs. Back to hooking it up... I went straight into my Amps (RA7300 for my main 7 speakers and a Parasound A51 for my Heights and T speaker) and was very happy the DB25 to XLRs were long enough. Each set has a 1-8 number on each wire. I also labeled which set was Top and which was Bottom. I then went around the front and started doing level testing just to make sure all were in the right spot. As I did I then custom named each channel (pics above) and then labeled my inputs. I have two Martin Logan BalancedForce 212 (here) subwoofers (in spots 4 and 13) and then another sub line (in spot 14) which is dedicated for the pair of Dayton APA150s which run the Aura Pro Butt kickers in the seats (Reviewed here). The RS20i can support up to four subwoofers. I am technically running 12.3 (15 channels) omitting the Height Center which in the Bass Management menu I have Phantom HC selected. If it seems complicated it truly isn't. Just tap the Surround button on the main screen and make your sound adjustments. Changing sound formats is a seconds thing unlike other models that make you go deep into their set up menu. Then tap the Set Up and it just gets easier from there...
Pic on the right shows the now famous Demo
"Tractor" moment on the Auro-3D disc. This demonstration is the best "IN YOUR ROOM" sound I have heard in my theater... On the left is the actual scene. Keep in mind it sounds 100 times better live in person!
So now after spending about four weeks with the RS20i (about the last two with Dirac and Auro-3D) I am 100% positive this Home Cinema Processor should be used as the baseline for all other components to be judged. The Demonstration I did last night for a few people ended with everyone's jaws on the floor. They all agreed most commercial theaters can't touch it. Detail and clarity were both mentioned a lot as everyone glanced around and above them during the demo. I also heard those are cool looking! I have to agree. They really are conversation starters. Datasat says that home theater should not be a compromise. Today, video and audio technologies are moving towards a fully immersive environment
where we are at the very center of the action. The enjoyment of movies, music and live events is being transformed. Designed for high-end home theaters the RS20i and RA7300 set the standard for sound reproduction. I feel so strong about this amazing Datasat combo with Auro-3D I have to repeat what I said above. With an outstanding image and now even more immerssive sound there truly is no reason ever to pay for another movie ticket. The ultra high-end bar has been raised. All you need now is the popcorn...
With Odell's Anhydrous Butterfat Topping!
EQUIPMENT USED FOR THIS REVIEW:
Sony VPL-VW1100ES, Datasat RS20i pre-pro & RA7300 AMP, INTEGRA DHC-80.6, Marantz SR 7009 Receiver/pre-pro, DVDO Mini 4K Scaler, Simplay Labs DVDO DUO VP, DirecTV Genie, Xbox One, Sony FMP-X1 4K server, Monster Power HTS 5100, Oppo 103D Blu ray, Monster/Optoma/Sony 3D glasses, Parasound HALO A51 AMP, Antec Component Coolers, Vutec SilverStar Curved 3D Screen, Speakers: MARTIN LOGAN STAGE X Center, THEOS (Left and Right), VANQUISH (HEIGHTS & ATMOS & T), AXIS (Backs), Subwoofers- Martin Logan BalancedForce 212 X 2, Dayton APA150 Sub AMP x 2, 8 Aura Pro Bass Shakers, 8 Black Seatcraft Venetian Home Theater Chairs, Remote: Harmony 1100. Monster 1000 HDX Ultimate HDMI cables top to bottom. And two Monster 35 foot HDX Hyperspeed HDMI cables.
Thanks again (as usual) to Audio Video Interiors Chicago (Oakbrook) for their awesome assistance every step of the way. From the Dirac Live calibration to the Auro-3D update. If you are ever in their area (by Oakbrook Mall) stop in and check them out. They have a Datasat RS20i in store! You can also have a nice lunch at Ditka's Restaurant (love those Pot Roast Nachos) which is within walking distance. Give Noah and Aaron a call at (630) 607-0054 and tell them hello from me.
To learn more about Datasat and their
ultra high-end products click ----------->
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And as always I need to thank my fun and supportive Wife for letting me spend hours downstairs listening to the same movies over and over again. Also for watching movies with me. This "hobby" is definitely better when your partner is involved too.
Coming soon... I plan to
check out the new Sony 350ES 4K projector and the Marantz AV8802 13.2 pre-pro.
Those are the really cool Super Hero Build-A-Bears Jaclyn got me for Christmas. They make great movie watching companions...------------>
I do plan to update this Review when ATMOS is installed in the RS20i. I have already received about a dozen inquires so to answer your question YES, I will... And I am excited to try it as well. Can't wait! : )
ANNABELLE really made the hair on our necks stand up! I highly recommend it in a darkened environment. And with friends!!!!
Adding the 'T" speaker proved to be a really cool addition to the complete immersive sound experience. The Martin Logan Vanquish (Review here) makes a great T and Height speakers. The speakers not only look elegant but they are feature rich and easy to put up. Notice they even come with a carry handle (pic lower left) so you can safely lift them and bring them to their install location. You can even set what type of speaker they are! Thanks to Angel ----------------------------->
from Audio Video Interiors Chicago for doing excellent work!
UPDATE AT BOTTOM!
So it was an awesome day when I was able to get my hands on the much anticipated Dolby Atmos card for the RS20i. The install of the card was super easy (pics above) followed by the USB firmware update. Then fishing around the Set Up menu I was able to find the options for Atmos and Surround (Atmos up mix) which allows 7.1.4 or 5.1.6 configurations. I of course experimented with both. And still am as of this writing. I decided the best speaker configuration for my 12.3 set up was 5.3.6. Top was merged or mirrored with Top L and R Middle. then mirrored the Backs with the Top Rears. Presto we were cooking with gas! I then set out to compare it to the new McIntosh flagship MX160 which does both Atmos and Auro-3D. Below is an excerpt from all my notes taken from my Wife and good friends who helped me critically listen to both units at their best...
So I am adding an Atmos update to my original Review this weekend but for now I have to say I am super impressed with the sound quality. We compared it to the McIntosh MX160 and after several very careful A/B demos we have decided to keep the RS20i. I need to thank my Wife and some good friends for spending time here the last couple of evenings. I owe them more than all the popcorn I made them.
Some of the Demo material:
Mad Max Fury Road:
-Demo unit A: sound was so pronounced and detailed it was like you were there as the narration began. Entire room was intense and more involvement in top and height speakers.
-Demo unit B: sound was excellent and made you feel like you were at an IMAX style presentation. Still great just not next level.
-Demo unit A: scene when Emily Blunt is in the shower. Water sounds placed all around the entire room. When she is staring at herself taking deep low breaths it sounds like she is in the same room. She also mutters to herself to stay calm. That is more detailed. Also planes and helicopter moments make you feel drawn more in as if you could be on them.
-Demo unit B: same scenes... Water sounds good just not as detailed and not all over the room. Mainly in the front. Units were both calibrated and using the same sound codecs. I actually tried both Auro-Matic and Dolby Surround.
Also you hear her to tell herself to stay calm just not with the same clarity. Though I admit mostly everyone would be satisfied with Demo unit B. The planes and helicopters sound good and do put you at the movies feeling just not like you're there. Still excellent and better than most units on the market.
-Demo unit A: sound was crisp and detailed. Hail Mary pass from Aaron Rodgers had perfect collision sound from players as it was caught. Peyton Manning yelling Omaha sounded clear and distinct. Crowds and PA were placed perfectly in the speakers.
-Demo B: Dolby Surround works well and you hear everything just about as good as Demo A. This is where the units are definitely more alike than different. Same for shows and movies on DirecTV.
Other Blu Ray titles... Whiplash, Oblivion etc...
-Demo A: Whiplash is reference material and still using Auro-matic puts you in the auditorium with them. The ending is top notch as the actors square off on stage. Oblivion is still an example of hearing things that you don't with other units. Like Tom Cruise uttering things under his breath in the beginning. Amazing!
-Demo B: Does a great job with this movies and the vast majority won't look back. It's like my good friend Troy said. You can be in a bar and pick up a girl who is a solid 9.5. You're more than happy to be with her. That is unless you get a moment with a perfect 10. Once you experience that it is hard to even settle in with a 9.5! If you never have that 10 then Demo B would be more than satisfying.
The Wedding Ringer:
Demo A- Doug falls through his desk you hear every shard of broken glass as it breaks then hits the floor. Feels like it happened in the same room with you. As he yells for help he really sounds like he is in your house somewhere. Also followed by intro at the Wedding a Reception with the chorus Tonight's going to be a good night... You hear the crowd perfectly yell YEAH as they're singing along with the song. Right above you as if you were sitting at a table watching a drunk fun crowd. Which reminds me we have 5 weddings coming up!
Demo B- definitely not bad just not as detailed. Clarity is strong and again it's like you're at a venue not your home. If I didn't do an A/B I would be in bliss with it. Just compared to Demo A it's close at times other just not up there.
And as my Wife pointed out. If we kept the Demo B unit I will always wonder what this or that would have sounded like with the Demo A unit. It is a curse. Lol
Yes, the RS20i represented Demo A. Playing a title in Atmos with the ability of sprinkling a Top speaker (no pun intended) is the absolute pinnacle of sound we have heard up to date! Now I need to sell my like new MX160...
So what is next? After waiting for so long for the Atmos Card and HDMI upgrade the last thing we have left is the DTS: X addition. Yes, we almost forgot about that over the long wait. I am hoping the speaker configuration for it will allow the best of both worlds of Auro and Atmos. Until next time. Bye for now.
Double click here to add text.
I know eventually soon I need to stop experimenting and just enjoy the movies. Through more experimenting I also liking what I am hearing so far mirroring the Backs with the Surrounds. With more and more 7.1 soundtracks out there this this configuration has yielded excellent results so far.