Product Review (May 2002) - Checkpoint Tools
Sound Alignment - System

Setting up a home theater speaker system can be a daunting task, especially with today's highly directional THX speakers. Proper placement and positioning is critical to ensure the best performance from your loudspeaker investment. To simplify the task, a company called Checkpoint Laser Tools located in Torrance, California provides laser-based alignment tools to simplify installations. These tools include an arsenal of cleverly designed products with exceptional build quality. Checkpoint was founded by Jim Webb, a truly innovative individual who has a very diverse background that includes everything from real estate to high performance Indy Car racing. As a result, the products are not only well engineered, but offer innovative features that help the installer get the job done right.

Our system consisted of a trio of M&K S-150THX front channels that are know to have a narrow vertical dispersion for the upper frequencies. In fact, M&K endorses the SA-S tools as does THX. The M&K SS-250 Surround rear channels are similar in design to the front channels, but also incorporate side firing drivers for a spacious surround effect. The result is a seamless sounding system with matched timbre across all channels. The rear channels are mounted on tilt/swivel wall brackets for maximum flexibility.

We started with the Frontal Layout Plot to help us map out our listening space. The diagram helps determine optimal listening angles as well as providing a guide for symmetry. This is one of three plots available from Checkpoint. The Intermediate Plot provides some rear layout orientation while the Center Plot gives the installer a full 360 degree layout around the listening position. Each layout plot is available in bound pad packages of 50 sheets from Checkpoint. Using the plot sheets in conjunction with the SA-S laser alignment tools gives the installer professional installation capabilities.

The P-770 laser tool attaches magnetically to the Base Plate (#369) installed by the user on the front of the speaker baffle. Also available are solid brass Stackers (#367) discs that vary the plate height in 1/8 (.125) inch increments. These discs are used to extend the attachment of the SA-S Base Plate away from the surface of the speaker, providing clearance from speaker frames or other surface mount protrusions. Once the P-770 is attached to the Base Plate, the laser will give the installer a visual point for accurately pointing the speaker. This was especially useful for our angled center channel, which has a front baffle angled slightly downward. The mounted P-770 on the front baffle allowed us to accurately point the speaker directly at the listener.

There are many accessories available for the P-770 Laser Alignment tool, some of which are shown in the accompanying photo. An accessory kit (#1303) is available that includes one 2-Way Beam Splitter (#360, allows projection of a forward beam and 90° perpendicular beam simultaneously), one Line Lens (#361, generates a visible line with an approximately 105-degree spread), one Protractor Plate (#358, 360-degree/engraved/anodized), and one Lens Adapter Base (#362). Each part in the kit can be purchased separately. The true power of the P-770 is fully realized with these accessories and is a must for any serious installer.

The Two-Way Beam Splitter projects a forward beam just like the standard output, but also projects a 90° beam. This side firing beam can be rotated a full 360° to reference any point perpendicular to the main beam making this accessory very useful for front projector and screen installations.

The Line Lens projects a line similar to the dispersion of sound projected from the front baffle of a loudspeaker. The projected line can be rotated 360° producing a cone similar to the projection of sound. Using this visual aid, the installer can see the path the audio would take through various obstructions.

The R2 Series Rotary Base System is an extremely well built product with a precision bearing rotary dial plate with fully machined components including adjustable legs with interchangeable brass and rubber tips. The Rotary Base is designed to be used on any surface and fits any standard camera, video, light stand or the Checkpoint professional survey tripod. The bull's-eye vial system provides precision leveling from any surface with a protractor dial for measuring angles. The built-in thumbscrew brake and tension system allows for micrometer type adjustments. The unit is designed to accommodate the 880, 770 and 660 series laser tools. This tool is a must when using the degreed layouts from the plot sheets.

One of the many clever tools available from Checkpoint is the Heads Up Target balloon and the two-piece Target Base Valve. The grided balloon provides a target reference point for the laser. In addition, side grids simulate the ears of the listener for a more accurate pointing reference. The balloon is easy to inflate by simply twisting the valve and blowing into it or using an optional CO2 canister. The closed valve could then be attached to a standard 1/4"x20 tripod mount set for the appropriate height of the listener. We were able to align all of our speakers to the exact seating position defined by the balloon.

The LG-120 is a precision machined and anodized laser tool that spreads an adjustable beam angle anywhere from 15° to 120° wide. Calibrated markers on the barrel are set at 15°, 30°, 45°, 60°, 90° and 120°. We set the angle to 15° while aiming our main speakers at the listening position. Imagine being able to visually adjust the target area of your directional loudspeaker. We did just that with our M&K THX speakers. The result was a properly adjusted speaker baffle. Another practical use for this product is the ability to predict the desired screen width for a front projection display. In our case we easily determined the size of our Stewart Filmscreen based on the projector distance.

Among the set of tools provided to us for review was the Inclo-Matic digital inclinometer fitted with a laser. This tools has many uses including setting the precise tilt angle of surround channels. The digital inclinometer runs on a 9 volt battery and the laser uses two AAA batteries.

Full SA-S certification is available by attending the SA-S design/use lectures at selected trade shows and scheduled events. If you're interested in training, contact Checkpoint directly for registration and certification information. The seminar is designed to train professional installers and dealers on the complete, advanced application of SA-S alignment equipment including documentation. This comprehensive system of specialty alignment tools, accessories, and procedures help qualify and enhance the professional in both products and supporting services.

SA-S is a comprehensive system designed to help the installer or enthusiast get the most out of a home theater setup. Audio is the primary focus of this system, but the tools lend themselves well to video projector setup and screen installations as well. The SA-S is one of the most efficient ways to enhance your sound system setup. While the product is geared for the professional, audiophiles will quickly become addicted to the tools.
- Kevin Nakano

Review System

Preamplifier/Processor: Parasound AVC-2500U THX-Ultra DTS/DD Preamp/Processor
Power Amplifier: Parasound HCA-2205ATTHX-Ultra Five-Channel Amplifier
Front Speakers: Miller & Kreisel S-150THX (L+R) and S-150AC (Center) Speakers
Rear Speakers: Miller & Kreisel SS-250 Tripole® Surround Speakers
Subwoofer: Two Miller & Kreisel MX-350THX MkII THX-Ultra Push-pull Subwoofers
Room Treatments: Echo Buster panels and Bass Buster towers
Display: Pioneer Elite PRO-610HD 58-inch HD-Ready TV (ISF calibrated)
Scaler: Focus Enhancements CenterStage2
Set-top Box: RCA DTC100 HDTV/DSS Satellite Receiver
DVD/CD/SACD Player: Sony DVP-NS900V DVD/CD/SACD Player
DVD Audio/Video Player - Kenwood Sovereign DV-5900M 400-Disc DVD Changer
Laserdisc Player : Pioneer Elite CLD-99 and CLD-D704 Laserdisc Players
A/V Cables: Ultralink Platinum and Advanced Performance Series Cables
Audio Analyzer: Sencore SP295 Audio Analyzer
Video Generator: Sencore VP300 SDTV/HDTV Video Pattern Generator
Color Analyzer: Sencore CP288 ISF Certified Color Analyzer


Review at a glance
Sound Alignment - System


MSRP: $249

#358 Protractor Plate: 360-degree/engraved/anodized
MSRP: $19.95

#360 2-Way Beam Splitter Lens
MSRP: $69.95

#361 Line Lens
MSRP: $59.95

#362 Lens Adapter Base
MSRP: $16.95

#367 SA-S Stackers
MSRP: $12.95

#366 SA-S 770 Pro Vial Switch
MSRP: $21.95

#369 SA-S Base Plate
MSRP: $16.95

#374 R2-D1 770/880 Rotary Base (Tabletop)
MSRP: $129.95

#375 R2-D2 770/880 Rotary Base (Tripod/Tabletop)
MSRP: $149.95

#1303 SA-S Accessory Kit
MSRP: $166.99

#1330 770 SA-S ST Kit
MSRP: $159.95

Company Information
3112 Kashiwa Street
Torrance, CA 90505-4011
Tel: 310-891-1550
Fax: 310-891-1551
Source: Manufacture loan

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