Cinema Product Reviews

Dolby Cat701 Penthouse Reader
Manufacturer:  Dolby Labs
Grade A
Reviewed August 2000 by Joe Redifer

If you play Dolby Digital films, then you will need the cat701 penthouse reader.  Nothing is better at reading Dolby Digital films.  And since just about every movie, trailer, and ad now has Dolby Digital on it, you might as well have the best reader available.

The 701 introduces a cool red LED to the penthouse reader, ensuring longer life and higher accuracy.  Gone is the bright as hell slide projector bulb and the constantly failing power supply.  The units come pre-adjusted and so far I have not needed to touch the alignment on these units.  I find that they play consistently well, and do not need adjustments every time you move a print, unlike the Christie readers reviewed above.  In fact, they don't need any adjustments at all.

The unit is still around the same size as the older 699 and 700 readers but much, much lighter.  But like the 700, it does not come standard with the top two rollers, which allow the normal entry point toward the left side of the reader.  (Note the picture above has one of these rollers installed for 70mm bypass.)  I liked those rollers the cat699 model had.  They looked rather cool.

There's really not a ton to say about this reader, other than it works, it works very well and is extremely reliable, unlike Christie's basement reader.  The video cable that goes to the DA20, CP500, CP650 or anything else that Dolby comes up with in the future is still a little too thick and stiff in my opinion.  (There's a joke there, but I don't dare touch it! - Was that just another joke?)  The cable would be nice if it was thin and flexible like the DTS timecode cable, but I guess that the DA20 needs too much information. Ideally the connector on the reader end should have a socket where the operator can easily move these readers around via Kelmar "dockers".  Unfortunately, only DTS and SDDS feature such an easy connector, so Dolby gets an "A" instead of an "A+" on their rating here.

Bottom Line:  The best reader for Dolby Digital film.

--Joe Redifer
Dolby Labs can be contacted at

Joe Redifer has been a projectionist for the last few years.  He learned at Mann Kipling, went on to the UA Greenwood and finally spent 2 years at Mann Chinese.  At the Chinese, Joe performed most of the daily maintenance on the equipment.  Joe is not a technician and has no test equipment, but is an experienced projectionist.  These reviews are representative of the performance of the equipment/services from his perspective.

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