A/V trends and the superyacht industry

In an age where having the largest TV screen or best surround sound system isn’t enough to impress the discerning owners and guests of today, developments and trends in the A/V industry are becoming increasingly important. As each day goes by, audio visual equipment is something, which is always developing and advancing, which begs the question, what will the superyachts of this year and next be including in their new A/V systems?

A/V screens

4K television, more commonly known as Ultra High Definition (UHD) is the most obvious current trend in the A/V industry, and the next few years is set to see more of the same.

James Ward, director of A/V specialists Electric String explains, “For video, whilst 3D never really took off, the phrase on everyone’s lips is now 4K or UHD (Ultra High Definition); technically they are slightly different but from an end user point the badges are interchangeable.”

However there is still a lack of 4K content available to the end users, as Mark Wilson, owner of electronic and AV company Navicomm describes, “The most obvious current trend to an end user is 4K, which offers a picture resolution four times that of current 1080p HD resolution, giving a stunning and rich picture quality as you can see with the TV sets in shops running 4K demo material. 4K TV sets have reduced in price massively in the last 12 months so more people are now opting to purchase 4K TV's, however there is still a lack of 4K content available.

“Reports state that Sky UK is currently testing a 4K broadcasting service, which could be launched later this year and I have read suggestions that the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo could be broadcast in 8K so the next few years are likely to see the large TV manufacturers competing in the resolution stakes.”

4KTV resolutions

OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diodes) TV's are also starting to appear in the market and could offer a better alternative to LED TV’s for superyachts in the future. According to Mark, OLED TV's are brighter, more efficient and importantly for yacht installations, thinner than traditional LED TV's.

However they may not be suitable for the superyacht industry quite yet, “Currently OLED technology is being used in the curved TV's that you see, which aren't really suitable for yacht installations, but I believe we will start to see more flat panel OLED TV's appear as OLED technology offers several advantages over LCD technology”, Mark comments.

The advantages offered include a faster refresh rate, better contrast and colour reproduction, as well as being considered greener, as they draw less power. The TV’s are thin and light, with the OLED TV's of today just 4mm thick, offering a better viewing angle - almost 180 degrees.

OLED technology and TV screens

Another important issue which could change A/V equipment in the future could be video distribution systems. As Mark says, “The most important factor in terms of what equipment will be used in the next couple of years will be with video distribution systems, as there are many new formats that are being implemented that could have a huge effect on what equipment will work with each other.”

A new HDMI 2 standard has been released, but it’s reported that there are still some discrepancies in how manufacturers are implementing the specification in their products.

Mark continues, “Then you have the new HDCP2.2 (content protection protocol) to contend with as you need to be sure that all devices in the line from the video source to the receiving display meet the specification; failure to do so could result in no picture at all as the digital handshaking between the devices would fail. These issues are primarily a factor with HDMI matrixes, which are used to distribute HDMI signals to the TV's, they need to be able to receive signals from the video source and display these signals on the TV.”

Lighting is also still of major importance in creating a pleasing A/V system for the superyacht owner, if not more important in some cases, than the AV system itself.  James explains, “Users are also demanding more convenience now that they are comfortable with more traditional technologies.  The entertainment arena is becoming a much more personal affair with tablets and smart phones adjusting people’s views on how A/V can be delivered and connected. 

An A/V system on a superyacht

“Wireless connection is a must rather than an option, multi-format transmission is highly important and the ability to bring everything together coherently on a device, which can both deliver and control the content distribution is highly desirable.”

DOLBY Atmos is an exciting A/V technology that is also coming to fruition, currently proving popular in residential cinemas. DOLBY Atmos was a speaker surround sound configuration for commercial cinema applications, however Atmos technology has rapidly found its way into the residential cinema market with many mid-high end AV receivers now implementing the Atmos format allowing users to create a commercial cinema effect in their own home cinema.

Traditional surround sound systems consisted of either a five or seven channel speaker configuration plus a subwoofer; where as Atmos adds another dimension by adding the element of height with either ceiling pointing or in-ceiling speakers.

Mark explains his experience of recently witnessing Atmos, “Having recently sat in demo Atmos cinema rooms at a trade show I can confirm that the effect is very impressive, you get a real 3-dimensional sense as the sound effect surrounds you immersing you in the scene you are watching.

“As to whether Atmos will be implemented onto yachts, this would depend on the location on board, as it only really lends itself to a cinema environment so you would not really get the full benefit if you are using it as everyday TV viewing as only Atmos encoded Blu-ray discs will give you the full effect.”

Home entertainment systems

There is a perception that Atmos would not be suitable at all for superyachts, however, James continues,  “People often think that Atmos is a hardware requirement needing lots and lots of speakers and so couldn’t be applied to superyachts.  It’s not.  Atmos is a digital encoding technique which removes the individual channel encoding of a traditional surround system and instead creates a single mix with audio objects encoded in specific audio locations for recreation by the physically installed system.”

Though a complete Atmos system would not be practical for a superyacht in many ways, it could still be implemented as James finishes, “An Atmos system can be implemented on a more traditional 7.1 setup, providing that the audio processor is capable of decoding the Atmos information.

“One of the key aspects is the addition of speakers above the seating position to allow better placement of the audio objects and give a fully immersive system.  From an installation point of view this can be as little as another two speakers, giving a 7.1.2 system.  In retrofit where speakers cannot be installed in a finished ceiling, there are options for Atmos certified speakers to give the sound from above without physically being located there.”

Whenever installing A/V systems for a refit or new build, the importance of choosing a system without the future of A/V technology in mind is dangerous.

“When planning a refit or new build it is advisable to employ an AV specialist to specify and design a system that meets the client’s requirements whilst taking into consideration future technologies that are around the corner,” Mark says.

“Failure to specify a system that is at least accounting for future technologies could leave you in a position where you have a lot of issues, especially during a long build time between specification and installation where by the time the TV equipment is installed, new standards and protocols could leave you with a non-working system.”

For more information, visit Electric String or Navicomm.

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