Not too long ago, I wrote an article on why I no longer watch movies at commercial cinemas in Canada. I have to go to the U.S. in order to enjoy the great sound of commercial cinemas, including 7.1 and Dolby Atmos.
It's sad, actually, when a location as large as the Greater Toronto Area doesn't offer reference-quality audio, even for something as simple as 5.1 surround, let alone Dolby Atmos. Rest assured, I have tried multiple cinemas in the GTA merely and found that in every theatre, including the VIP class, the audio is only acceptable, at best.
As I'm currently traveling in Jakarta, I've visited various cinemas and watched the exact same movie in order to make a true comparison among them. I went to what people in Jakarta consider to be one of the oldest digital cinemas (housed in a dilapidated mall) as well as the newest cinema (pictured above).
Let's start with the old cinema, which is configured with Dolby Atmos, Constant Image Height screen with JBL speakers, and a Barco projector. Upon entering the theatre, I was already amazed with the sheer size of the screen. It is slightly larger than the size of an UltraAVX screen in Canada. With a gap between the screen and the speakers, I was able to peek and see that the front speakers were installed using an infinite-baffle configuration, which will completely obliterate any cavernous-sound effect and boomy bass from the front speakers, an issue that seems to plague all the theatres I've been to in the GTA.
The screen is a curved cinema scope in 2.4:1 as opposed to the 16:9 screens used in the GTA. This way, the viewing experience is cinematic as opposed to having black bars at the top and bottom of the screen, as if you're watching an oversized TV. Stadium seating includes plush captain chair-types seats, and the set-up is slightly wider than UltraAVX.
Once the movie started, that's where the fun began. The theatre sounded good with great SMPTE EQ curve (I measured it using the full version of Studio Six Digital's AudioTools app with calibrated AudioControl microphone). No boominess detected, no shrill high frequency, and as predicted, no cavernous midrange. The soundstage was gigantic with full envelopment all around. If anything, my only complaint is that the surround backs are a tad too loud by a couple of dBs. The average loudness was also at 85dB, which wasn't too loud, unlike the theatres in the GTA. Also worth mentioning is that the ticket was a mere $3.50. To put this in perspective, however, the VIP-class in Jakarta is priced at $20, about the same price as in Toronto.
From there, I moved over to the newest theatre, Flix Cinema, which is located at the PIK Avenue Mall. Although very new, a movie ticket is priced at $10 (without Dolby Atmos). Inside the theatre is motorized leather seating that far surpasses even the best VIP cinemas in Toronto. The sound was designed, installed, and tuned by Kek Chung Sie of KC Sound using Alcons Pro Ribbon speakers. For those who aren't familiar, Alcons Pro Ribbon speakers are considered to be one of the highest end speakers (if not THE highest end) with the characteristic of extremely wide imaging to the point that the speakers "disappear." Because of the cost constraints, infinite baffle was not installed in this theatre. And I was worried that might result in the creation of booming bass and hollow cavernous dialogue sound.
Kek Chung Sie of KC Sound (left) and David Susilo
When the movie started, it was clear from the first minute or so that this is definitely the best sounding commercial cinema I've ever experienced in the world. That includes theatres I've experienced in Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, Germany, Holland, Spain, the U.S., and Canada in at least the past decade or so. And that also includes THX and IMAX cinemas.
The high frequencies are smooth and rolled off as per the SMPTE curve, with bass response being just right without any hint of boominess. It was always tight and taut, without any lingering unwanted harmonics. Dialogue was clear and the channel separations were seamless, with no way of telling where one speaker started and the next speaker continued the panning.
The only drawback, if any, is that the theatre configuration is only 7.1 instead of Dolby Atmos or DTS:X. Regardless, I'd take an amazing 7.1 configuration over mediocre Dolby Atmos / DTS:X any day.
I recommend that anyone who is into watching movies at the cinemas and/or into high-end home theatre visit the Flix Cinema Platinum theatre for what I would deem the best sounding movie cinema experience.
Photos by David Susilo