The best-sounding home theater I've ever heard

The Audiophiliac checks out the Datasat RS20i surround processor.

Steve Guttenberg
Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
Steve Guttenberg
3 min read

Datasat RS20i Datasat/Brooks Ayola

When I dropped by Lyric Hi-Fi & Video (New York City's oldest high-end shop), I wasn't looking for anything in particular. There's so much to see and hear, but then I was hooked into auditioning the Datasat RS20i surround processor with a full complement of Focal Electra series speakers, plus a pair of JL Audio F113 subwoofers. I've heard a lot of maxed-out home theater systems, but this one took multichannel sound to the next level.

The effortless scale of the presentation, seemingly unlimited dynamics, pants-flapping deep bass, and vivid transparency were all astonishing. Of course, the sound serves the film, and with "House of Flying Daggers," a Blu-ray I've used in countless home theater reviews, I was taken aback by just how much new information the system was revealing. We played the "Echoes Dance" scene and each drum beat was not only viscerally felt in my gut, the tautness of the drum heads was newly apparent. I was also more aware of the palace's acoustics, and the sound of the drums reverberating in that space. The sense of "being there" was a huge thrill.

Datasat Digital Entertainment may be far from the most familiar name in high-end audio, but it used to be known as DTS Digital Cinema, and the name change dates back to 2009. Founded in 1993, DTS pioneered theatrical digital surround-sound systems for movie theaters. I was a projectionist at the time and as I recall, my theater's sound was transformed with its first DTS processor. Today, over 30,000 cinemas worldwide use Datasat electronics.

Now, with the Datasat RS20i you can have a professional-quality decoder in your home system. The price is $19,000 (£19,000 in the UK), but if that's too steep, consider Datasat's more affordable home model, the LS10, which runs $11,000. Right, the best gear is expensive; how could it not be? The RS20i accepts up to 85 digital and analog inputs and has 34 audio outputs. The processor features 31 bands of third octave and three user-adjustable bands of parametric equalization for every channel. The RS20i also supports up to four subwoofers. Three expansion slots allow for the easy addition of extra channels in the future. Matching Datasat multichannel power amplifiers complete the line.

The RS20i and LS10 are made in Chatsworth, Calif., and the company will fly one of their technicians out to a RS20i owner's home to calibrate their system (that's not included in the component's price).

The Rolling Stones' "Sweet Summer Fun" Blu-ray documents the band's London Hyde Park 2013 show. The band was definitely showing its age; Mick Jagger still jumps around a lot, but his voice shows signs of wear and tear. The Blu-ray sounds fabulous and it's probably the best-recorded live Stones video. "You Can't Always Get What You Want," with full choir, raised goose bumps and when Keith Richards makes his guitar intro I was totally there. That's it, you feel like you're in the presence of live musicians and singers, and it doesn't get better than that.

Datasat is drawing upon its considerable cinema theater sound expertise to take home theater sound to the next level. Based on the demos I heard at Lyric Hi-Fi & Video the competition has a lot of catching up to do.