Dynamic Scaling: Though it can be difficult to tell this from photographs alone, the Image T6 system is surprisingly large (or at least the main speakers and subwoofer are), and it produces quite a big sound to match—one that can take most dynamic swings in stride, even on action films played in fairly large rooms.
During my tests, especially on certain action films, I found that when push came to shove the first system element to show signs of distress was the SubSeries 5i subwoofer, where bass could start to sound loose and then a little ragged on vigorous, over-the-top action sequences. But in all fairness, let me add that these problems typically surfaced at listening levels that would have many systems begging for mercy.
There are, of course, size/performance tradeoffs to be reckoned with when considering the Image T6 system. Some prospective buyers will no doubt favor more compact systems (e.g., the Paradigm Special Edition system recently review in The Perfect Vision), following a “less can be more” mentality. But others will appreciate the generally larger, more expansive sound of the Image system, and will appreciate the fact that its tall tower-type main speakers cast sonic images that are more realistic in overall scale, particularly in terms of image height.
For a good indication of what the Image T6 system can do, try watching the third and fourth chapters of The Hurt Locker, where the central character Sergeant James (Jeremy Renner) goes on his first patrol with Sergeant Sanborn and Specialist Eldritch of Bravo Company. In this section, James dons his heavy bomb squad suit to check out and then disable a reported IED (improvised explosive device). In Iraq, we learn, almost nothing is ever straightforward and danger can come from anywhere and at any time, so that street scenes can shift from almost eerie quietude to unimaginable violence in a split second. To dramatize this dichotomy, the soundtrack shifts back and forth between the almost unnatural stillness that James experiences within his suit to the sharply focused sounds of street noises and frantic military communications outside.
As James slowly walks toward the location of the suspected bomb, for example, we hear his breathing within the enclosed helmet and the raspy, crackling sounds of his comrades’ voices through his earpieces. But we also hear the hard, sharp bang of the smoke grenade that James detonates in order to conceal his movements from potential terrorist observers. Of course, the smoke grenade obscures his teammates’ visibility, too, so that we hear their increasingly frantic voices—both as heard in the open air and through James’ headset—as they struggle to track his movements and to watch guard over him. What makes this segment work is the juxtaposition of sounds, which the Image system captures beautifully, where we experience both the otherworldly quiet of the bomb suit’s interior as set against the increasing sharp and frenetic noises outside.
After an altercation with a crazed Iraqi taxi driver ratchets tension higher still, the final third of the scene begins to unfold as James walks down a deserted street toward the bomb. Again, we hear James' breathing from inside his helmet, the crunch of his footsteps on the gritty pavement, while from the outside we hear the soft, low moan of a gust of wind whistling down the street to emphasis how alone and exposed James truly is. The Image system made that gust of wind, which whirls from one end of the soundstage to the other, seem like the loneliest and most foreboding sound in the world.
Once James reaches the half-buried IED, the sound designer turns a veritable sonic microscope on the scene, letting us hear the sounds of James’ surgeon-like hands sweeping debris from the shell casing and ever so carefully removing its detonator, clipping the firing wires with a decisive “clink” of his Leatherman tool. Then we can hear James’ relief as he heaves a big sigh and says into his helmet mic, “We’re done.”
Only he isn’t done, because a few seconds later he unearths a wire that leads to a second and much more complex explosive device. In a split second, the scene shifts from one of relief to a life-and-death race between James, who struggles to “make haste slowly” as he works to disable the bomb, and the Iraqi terrorist/observer, who is attempting to work his way down from his balcony perch high above to the street level firing wire, where he hopes to detonate the bomb. To describe this race, which seems to take place in slow motion, the sound designer lets us hear James’ clipped breathing, the sound of his hands working to remove detonators and clip their lead wires, as set against the sound of the Iraqi’s footsteps slowly but surely coming down the stairs to the street below. The vividness and clarity of the Image system makes the inherent tension in this portion of the soundtrack an almost palpable thing, so that we feel intense release as we hear the “clink” of James’ cutters snipping the final lead wire just as the Iraqi emerges on the street. Triumphantly, James grins as he holds out the disabled detonator toward the terrorist, who freezes for an instant, then turns and makes good his escape in an alleyway—dropping the small battery with which he had hoped to explode the bomb, which lands on the stairs behind him with a hard, flat “clack.”