To what end this impressive assemblage of audio gear? Riddle claims three advantages: unprecedented dynamic range, complete freedom of movement in the room without losing audio fidelity, and the ability to reprogram the system’s DSPs remotely through the Internet to suit the owner’s (presumably changing) taste.
There’s no question that Riddle’s system delivers on the first two claims, and it delivers in a spectacular — not subtle — way.
Riddle first played a recording of a radial-engined World War II fighter plane passing by (an F4F Wildcat or F6F Hellcat, I gathered). I’ve heard these planes many times at air shows; even from several hundred yards, the noise from their huge 1,200-to-2,000-horsepower engines hits you in the chest like you’re standing right in front of Gene Simmons’ bass amp. Through the Infinite Environments system, I felt like an enemy soldier ducking for cover as the plane passed just 100 feet overhead for a strafing run. (Indeed, Riddle says the U.S. military is already using a similar system for combat simulation.) It was frightening as hell — but still I demanded he repeat the demo immediately.
Then Riddle asked me to step outside the building into the parking lot while he cued up a drum kit recording and cranked up the sound. Incredibly, the sound in the parking lot — about 50 feet from the door of the home theater room, and passing through the front door of the building — was incredibly loud yet free of distortion. We went back into the room and Riddle reduced the volume, but still the bass drum kicks and snare hits were about as loud as they’d be if you were standing right in front of a real drum kit with the late Keith Moon or John Bonham on the stool. “It can hit 140 dB in your listening chair,” Riddle said, and I believed him.
At Riddle’s insistence, I wandered around the room to check out the system’s dispersion. Normally when you walk around in a home theater, whatever speaker is nearest you dominates the sound mix. But with this system, I had to get within a few feet of one of the front speakers for the channel-to-channel mix to go awry. This is the first home theater system I’ve heard that really delivered a consistent mix of sound across a large number of seats. Credit the floor-to-ceiling line arrays and the DSP, I guess.
Riddle doesn’t have a website but suggests interested customers visit eBay, where he sells as “davidriddle” to get more information.
Brent Butterworth and Geoff Morrison combine their years of gear testing and knowledge in one überblog of irreverence and techiness.