The NEW HPS-4000® Sound Systems
Since the founding of High Performance Stereo in 1979 and the introduction of the HPS-4000 sound systems, we have led the cinema industry with many of the most important innovations designed to improve the quality of the sound of motion pictures in theatres. Innovations such as modern fully horn loaded three-way as well as four-way speaker systems, three-way surround speakers, accurate formulas for placing surround speakers and, of course, the first digital sound presentations of a feature film in commercial cinemas.
As a small company with limited marketing resources, HPS® has been privileged to install HPS-4000 sound systems in hundreds of the worlds finest motion picture theatres, but not thousands. However, our smaller size has been the most important reason behind our ability to innovate and improve. We have been able to operate unconstrained by a large overhead, forcing us to sell (by necessity) more conventional products and motivated by the obsessive drive to make large numbers of deals in order to survive. As with many small companies, we have been able to be more nimble and concentrate on quality.
In 2003, we introduced project 440 to the cinema industry. This was the result of a new amplifier from BGW systems in California. BGW got its start in cinemas by making the amplifiers for Universals Sensurround® system. Employing the latest in solid state devices as well as new circuitry, the VX-440 amplifier was a significant step in the development of professional power amplifiers, delivering superior bass and clarity. However, as good as the 440 was and is, it remains, like all professional amplifiers, what is called an unbalanced amplifier, where there is one amplifier per channel. In fact it certainly seemed to take this type of amplifier as far as it was reasonable to go.
There is another kind of power amplifier called a balanced differential amplifier. Following the death of BGW founder Brian Wachner, BGW was acquired by Morris Kessler and his company, Amplifier Technologies, Incorporated. ATI specializes in designing and manufacturing balanced differential amplifiers. Although more than just the obvious two amplifiers per channel, Morris Kesslers designs have proven that a truly balanced differential amplifier can be a lot more.
BGW and HPS continued using the VX-440-HPS (a custom version made exclusively for HPS) unbalanced amplifiers with great success. No other competitor we could find was offering an amplifier with equal performance. However, we began to wonder if it might be possible to break the price barrier and bring the advantages of balanced differential amplifiers to the professional and cinema worlds.
After two years of discussion and three years of development, including a full year of testing, High Performance Stereo installed the very first multichannel balanced differential VXi amplifier from BGW in Classic Cinemas Elk Grove theatre in Elk Grove, Illinois. Indeed, this was the very first professional installation anywhere that we know of to use balanced differential amplifiers. Available in up to 16 channels in a five unit high chassis, these first of their kind amplifiers can honestly be described as a major breakthrough.
Prior to the VXi introduction, balanced differential amplifiers cost $5,000.00 to $6,000.00 per channel. By comparison the VX-440-HPS amplifiers cost around $500.00 per channel. Such a ten times cost differential made the use of the superior balanced differential amplifiers impossible in professional installations. In addition to the unparalleled performance of the VXi balanced differential amplifier, it is being offered at a cost per channel that is actually less than the unbalanced VX-440-HPS units.
The price barrier has been truly shattered while maintaining all the greater sound quality. The VXi comes with the best bass we have ever delivered. The greater control of the loudspeakers low frequency drivers can result in an important improvement in the lowest frequencies. Our speakers are now delivering an additional half octave of the deepest bass that no previous amplifier allowed. The VXi also comes with a noise floor of -124 dB, a quietness never before available in a professional amplifier.
With the success of the new tweeter, HPS asked Pablo in 2004 if he would tackle the midrange. In the speaker world, there is no greater challenge than creating speakers for the middle frequencies. This is where human hearing is most sensitive. The midrange compression drivers used in the all the speakers employed in HPS-4000 systems have always used a phenolic diaphragm. Known for its nearly indestructible strength, it is also felt that this material delivers the most natural sound quality, especially noticeable with hard to reproduce voices and strings. Yet with these wonderful qualities, phenolic is historically known to be most difficult to work with. Some wont even try.
Once again, Pablo agreed to help. It turned out to be one of the most difficult challenges he and his team of engineers have ever faced. In 2014, after ten frustrating years, over thirty different toolings, the purchase of a twenty times microscope to assure perfection in every phenolic diaphragm and a development investment of $150,000.00, HPS received the prototype of the new A-55-G midrange compression driver.
Not only does the A-55-G feature a smoother frequency response and wider bandwidth, it also has lower distortion than any other driver of its type. It can only be described as a stunning achievement in loudspeaker technology. We are calling it the Stradivarius of midrange compression drivers.
So it is by a wonderful coincidence that High Performance Stereo is now bringing both of these extraordinary new products to the cinema market at the same time. The combination of the new lower distortion midrange driver and the power of the new BGW balanced differential amplifier delivers such a remarkable new clarity, beauty and realism to sound reproduction that we feel as though we can say that we have reinvented the HPS-4000 sound systems. And so we are doing just that.