DIY Theater Keeps Sound From Waking Kids
Soundproofing key for DIYers with two small children.
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March 09, 2009 by Krissy Rushing

What do you do when you want to really crank it, but have two small children with early bedtimes and sensitive ears? Why, install a home theater, of course. “We could never turn it up loud because the kids would wake up,” says Chico, CA-area homeowner James Bennett. “So we started poking around to figure out how to solve that problem and found the AVS Forum. We were in the process of building a new house, so we designed a room off the living area as a home theater.” 

While the house itself took a year to build, the theater took nine months. James had a contractor build the shell with staggered-stud construction. Getting the room design right is key before you start installing your equipment and theater seats. For that reason, HT newbie James enlisted the help of Dennis Erskine of Design Cinema Privee, who drew up the plans for the theater and offered some advice on equipment. 

With plans in hand, James and his wife, Kristi, were now left to their own devices for getting the room up and running, which was surprisingly simple. “There were a couple of places where we should have run a little more wire and didn’t, but for the most part, it was pretty straightforward,” he says. Easy for him to say, considering his day job is VP of research and development for a software company. Of course, a little attention to detail didn’t hurt either. “I made sure to measure twice, cut once. There is acoustic insulation on the bottom of the walls, and we had to make sure all the tracks lined up, and then put the batting and fabric in. That was probably the biggest challenge.” 

Another obstacle was finding the time to actually get all the work done. James worked on weekends and enlisted the help of his wife, who made all aesthetic decisions and worked side-by-side with James on the weekend to complete the theater. Meanwhile, he handled the electronics, which include PSB and Triad speakers, and a Panasonic PT-AX100 projector and Prismasonic anamorphic lens, along with a 2.35:1 SMX DIY screen. 

Thanks to the acoustic treatment, staggered-stud construction, a little Green Glue, and an acoustic seal on the door, the sound doesn’t go anywhere near the kids’ rooms, fulfilling the Bennetts’ ultimate goal. But keeping the sound out of the kids’ room doesn’t work the other way around and keep the kids out of the theater. “The first year we had it, the kids were in there every single night,” says James. And who can blame them, with those comfy Berkline recliners to sink into? 

Another goal was to make the theater look spectacular. “The joke was, we wanted it to look like we didn’t do it ourselves,” James says. With its dramatic red velvet curtains, Moulin Rouge and Pirates of the Caribbean posters, and mulberry-colored half walls all contribute to its professional look. Mission accomplished.

Click here to view additional photos of the Bennett theater.

Quick Hits
Dimensions: 18 wide x 20 long x 9 high
Starting Budget: $20,000
Ending Budget: $20,000
Length of Project: 9 months

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Equipment List

Projector: Panasonic PT-AX100
Anamorphic Lens: Prismasonic HE-1500M
Graphic Eye 3106
Xantech IR Remote Repeater
Screen: SMX
GOM Fabric (Carina, Anchorage-Mulberry)
Speakers: LCR = PSB Stratus Gold
Side and Rear Surrounds: Triad InWall Bronze/4
Subwoofers: 2 Triad InWall Bronze/6 + ButtKickers
Speaker Wire: Liberty THX
Seats: Berkline 45004
Outlaw 1050 Receiver (used as preamp)
Emotiva MPS-1 7x150 Amplifier
Oppodigital 971
Rack: Middle Atlantic AXS-29
PureAV Power Conditioner
Niles: GXR2 IntelliControl (iPod, XM, AM/FM, Satellite)


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