While shopping for AV receivers, you’ve undoubtedly come to recognize the THX logo. As a consumer, you likely have a vague notion that THX certification is good—but what does it mean?
THX stands for Tomlinson Holman’s eXperiment. THX is an industry standard for sound reproduction that was developed at Lucasfilm studios during the making of Star Wars. THX certified theaters, for example, are theaters that THX approves for accurately reproducing sound as the audio engineer intended.
For home audio equipment, such as an AV receiver, THX certification means the same thing. Home theater systems with the THX logo meet certain standards laid out by THX and are deemed appropriate for playing back THX certified movies and video games as the producers intended.
In order to be THX certified, manufacturers begin sending their equipment to the THX labs during the early development phases of the product. The THX testing lab then analyzes the equipment and produces a comprehensive report that outlines its performance based on hundreds of data points. THX then gives the manufacturer feedback on how they can improve the performance of their product and receive THX certification. Ultimately, THX certification is pass or fail—there is no A, B or C rating for THX certification. Either it meets their standards or it doesn’t.
Price also does not play a factor in THX certification. For example, a THX certified AV receiver that costs $1,000 meets the same standrds—in THX’s book—as an AV receiver that costs $3,000.
Furthermore, the format does not matter for THX certification. A Dolby Digital surround sound system can be THX certified just as easily as a DTS system.
So what makes one THX certified AV receiver more expensive than the next? Usually, it’s in the features. THX certified AV receivers may have other high end features, such as extra listening modes, video processing and calibration technologies incorporated. AV receivers that are on the higher end can also be upgraded when a new firmware is released. In addition to THX certification, there are a number of THX playback features—such as THX Loudness Plus and THX Listening Modes—which improve the performance and functionality of an AV receiver.
THX Loudness Plus means that the receiver is designed to maintain the integrity of the sound, even if it’s played at levels lower than the reference level. For example, you may not want to watch a movie at the same volume as you would in a movie theater when you’re watching at home. THX Loudness Plus ensures that you don’t lose any of the nuance when listening below 0 db.
THX Listening Modes allows you to reconfigure your 5.1 surround sound based on the type of media you’re listening to. For example, THX Cinema Mode is ideal for movies, where there are ambient noises from all angles for an immersive experience. THX Games Mode accurately plots “action” noises based on where they come from within the game. Lastly, THX Music Mode places the mix further behind you, to make it feel as if you’re actually in the studio.
By understanding THX certifications and standards, it makes it easier to compare AV receivers. With a THX certified model, you know what to expect in terms of performance and features.