An exclusive new cinema has opened in South Korea featuring a high-end Bowers & Wilkins and Classe system. As the images here attest, it’s a stunning looking installation, but after reading the details on the equipment that’s involved, we’re certain you’ll believe us when we say it sounds out of this world too.
The world is becoming ever more conscious of sound quality. In every country that Bowers & Wilkins has a presence, people increasingly know good sound when they hear it, and they strive to hear it whenever they can. This is no more true than when watching a movie, and a new Bowers & Wilkins custom theatre installation in South Korea is a perfect example of the lengths to which people will go to achieve the best possible sound at the movies.
CJ CGV is the largest operator of multiplex movie theatres in South Korea. When an opportunity arose for CGV to create a ‘state of the art’ movie theatre on the 11th floor of CGV Cheongdom Cinecity, a new flagship multiplex building in downtown Seoul they didn’t just take the opportunity, they ran with it just about as far as it is possible to go. Now, ‘state of the art’ is undoubtedly a cliché, but just occasionally clichés are justified, and if you read on, and glance at the pictures, you’ll perhaps agree with us that this is one of those occasions.
However, before we get on to describing the Bowers & Wilkins and Classé audio system installed in the CGV theatre, a little more scene setting is probably appropriate. The term ‘movie theatre’ can describe everything from a thousand seat commercial venue to a home installation. This new CGV theatre has feet in both camps: it’s an extreme high-end home movie room blown-up to the scale of a small commercial movie theatre. It is designed for just 24 people, although each sumptuously upholstered seat, and foot stool, looks easily able to offer space for two. The theatre will be used not only for private screenings and corporate events, but also for public screenings – at a not inconsiderable ticket price. CGV plan two movie screenings every day. The cinema also boasts its own private catering kitchen, dining, lounge and karaoke areas.
When it came to specifying the audio systems for the theatre, CJ CGV’s technical manager, Junghoon Lim, already a Bowers & Wilkins fan, knew that his company’s aspiration for the movie theatre to be perhaps the best in the world would demand something special. He turned to Bowers & Wilkins and the CT800 series for a solution. The CT800 series is unique through combining genuine cutting edge Bowers & Wilkins speaker technology with the kind of power handling and sound level capability needed to fill a very large space at the kind of volume that modern movie soundtracks demand. There are few, if any, other speakers systems that can pull-off such a trick.
The complete Bowers & Wilkins system installed in the movie theatre reads like the ultimate dream shopping list of a home movie enthusiast. For the front channels we installed left, right and centre CT8 LR full-range speakers, each one augmented by two CT8 SW subwoofers. The CT8 LR features twin 250mm carbon fibre/rigid foam sandwich cone bass drivers, a 150mm Kevlar® FST™ midrange driver, and a 32mm aluminium dome Nautillus™ tube loaded high-frequency driver. Integration of the drivers is semi-active via the CT8 XO active crossover/equaliser.
The performance of the CT8 LR is such that it wouldn’t disgrace many of the world’s finest music recording studios, and here, given space to breath, it is truly in its element. The front channel CT8 SW subwoofers, six in all, each feature a 380mm carbon fibre/rigid foam sandwich cone bass driver, again driven by separate amplifiers. They integrate perfectly with the CT8 LR adding immense power and dynamics to both music programme and movie sound tracks effects. Do the maths and the total low frequency cone are of the left right and centre speakers and subwoofers adds up to a staggering 43 times the cone area of a pair of Bowers & Wilkins PM1 hi-fi speakers. No surprise then that the system has dynamics, bandwidth and headroom to spare, and we’ve not even begun to describe the movie surround channels.
And speaking of the surround channels, the CGV movie theatre installation comprises six CT8.4 full-range speakers. The CT8.4 incorporates a 200mm carbon fibre/Rohacell® sandwich cone bass driver, a 150mm Kevlar® FST™ midrange driver and a 32mm aluminium dome Nautillus™ tube loaded high-frequency driver. Having drive-unit technologies and system voicing so closely related to the CT8 LR means that the surround channels integrate seamlessly with the audio from the front and centre channels. There is no sense of the audio character changing as soundtrack elements pan from front to surround. And there is no sense either that the speakers in the CGV movie theatre could ever run out of level or bandwidth.
Because the system is using a commercial Dolby cinema processor, we could not incorporate the LFE channel into the main channels like we would normally do with a CT800 installation. We needed a separate 0.1 solution for the LFE channel, so six CTSW15s were chosen to augment the system and provide the LFE. The system uses eight discrete PCM channels for the audio, provided from a commercial sever linked to the projector and as such the front channels need to be full range with the 0.1 only used for LFE. All channels are calibrated to the industry standard Dolby X-Curve (SMPTE 202M-1998) the CT8.4 provided a perfect match for the surround channels, without the need to augment their bass output.
Of course any speaker system of such quality and capabilities needs an amplifier or two, and the system in the CGV movie theatre has eighteen. The left, right and centre channels are driven by 12 separate Classé CT-M600 600 Watt mono power amplifiers, while the surround channels are driven by three, 2011 Home Theatre Review.com award winning 300 Watt per channel, Classé CT-2300 power amplifiers and finally the, CT SW15, LFE channel is driven by three Bowers & Wilkins 1000 Watt SA1000 power amplifiers. The total amplifier power available to the audio system adds up to a staggering 12 kW.
The amplifiers are housed in well-ventilated racks on the balcony. This is maintained at an appropriate temperature because this is also where the projector is, and the projector requires a significant flow of cool air through it to stop the lamps from overheating. The balcony is open so that customers can see the technology used in the theatre.
As you might imagine, the end result of such a combination of high-end speaker technology and brute force in the CGV movie theatre is well worth a trip up to the 11th floor. So if you’re ever in Seoul and feel like catching a movie, you know where to go.
Possibly the finest cinema in the world – all the images here.