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Does THX Certification Matter?

by Sean P. Aune | January 12, 2010January 12, 2010 5:24 pm PDT

We’ve all been in the theater and had that THX logo come up, followed by the tag line that says “The Audience Is Listening”, although it maybe should say “The Audience Is Now Deaf.”  We’ve all dreamed of duplicating that theater experience in our homes, and then you see the THX logo on home audio equipment, and think you truly can do it.  But can it possibly duplicate that theater sound?

The short answer is that it indeed can … if you have the wherewithal to hire someone to set it all up correctly and want to make sure every piece of equipment is also THX certified.

On the off chance you are unfamiliar with what THX is, it is a sound certification service that is short for “Tomlinson Holman’s eXperiment”. It is an odd coincidence that it was Tomlinson Holman, an employee of Lucasfilm in 1983, who created the system, and it just so happened that George Lucas’ first film was named THX-1138.

The sound system was created at the request of George Lucas before the release of the third Star Wars film, Return of the Jedi,  so that theaters could make sure that the sound would be presented in a uniform manner at the best venues that showed it.  THX is not a method of recording, nor even playback, but just a way to make sure that sound will be reproduced as close as possible to the way the sound engineer intended it to be heard.

maxelladTHX certification on a device means that it has been run through the THX process, which a company has to pay to do, to earn the right to put that logo on their device.  A product may very well meet or exceed the requirements for the process, but if a company doesn’t pay for the testing, then it can’t display the logo.

If you do choose to purchase items that have been certified, then you can be assured that all of your THX marked items will work together well, but if you use an item without the logo, it’s still going to work, it just isn’t guaranteed.

The problem is that your average consumer thinks the moment they see the THX logo, something magical is going to happen and it will be like the old Maxell ads of the man being blown back in his chair by the amazing sound of his stereo.  Without some major tweaking, which is usually best down by a THX certified installer, you’re never going to get the true quality of the system from just placing the speakers around your room as you see fit.

There have been many to raise this question before us if THX was worth it, and even to go so far as to wonder if it was a scam to make the consumer think they are getting more for their dollar.  We would never go so far as to say it is a scam, but we would say there are many high quality pieces of equipment out there that don’t carry the THX certification logo.  If you find yourself debating two pieces of equipment, and one of them happens to have the THX logo and costs a bit more, then we say skip it.  If it’s the same price, then why not go for it?

We will say that we think you can live without the THX certified QuietHome door pictured below, though.

thxdoor

Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...

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