July 28, 2008
by Rachel Cericola
When Jeff bought his 1921 Georgian colonial nine years back, it needed a bit of a makeover. When we say “a bit,” the home was basically gutted. However, the end result included a new master suite, a guest suite, an exercise room, and more. Change is good; more room is even better. The upgrade doubled the size of the house, taking it from 3,000 to 6,000 square feet.
Of course, this addition included the perfect spot for a home theater. Instead of burying his new addition in the basement, the theater room was actually added to the main floor. “It has three outside walls,” Jeff says. Another bonus—and a selling point for Jeff’s wife—the theater size allowed for an even heartier master suite directly above.
Not that his wife needed much of a sales pitch. Frankly, she was sick of seeing Jeff’s speakers and other equipment hogging her family room space. “It looked like a huge mess,” Jeff says.
Now all he had to do was design the perfect theater space. “I knew I wanted the theater to perform like no other,” Jeff says. He began interviewing local home theater outfits, but was not convinced that any of them could make his home theater dreams come true. “All simply wanted to sell equipment and paste some acoustical panels on the wall,” he says. “
“‘The more expensive the equipment, the better the experience’ was the theme of these dealers.”
Instead, Jeff decided to take matters into his own hands. He scoured the web, read F. Alton Everest’s “Master Handbook of Acoustics,” and discovered the AVS Forum. At that time, the site was still in its infancy, but he found plenty of info on acoustics, room design and theory.
It was also in the forums where he touched base with Dennis Erskine, president of Design Cinema Privee and former AVS moderator. “His approach instilled confidence that if I was going to invest the time and money toward a reference performing a room, he was the guy to design it and deliver the goods,” Jeff says. Erskine coached Jeff, who conveyed the messages to his builder. “Dennis was always available at critical junctures in the process and we ended up with a great result.”
While some design theater rooms around a movie or as an homage to a certain era, Jeff’s theme was a bit more simple: performance. “The room was built from the ground up with few restrictions to size, so well regarded room size ratios were employed, acoustical treatments through the entire room, and specialized equipment was installed that allows for superior dynamics, dialog intelligibility, and reference level volume levels,” he says. Erskine suggested an ultra-quiet HVAC system as well as a double-studded construction, which helped contain the sound. This is good, considering Jeff says that his bass response is solid to 10Hz, while the LCRs and subs can easily surpass 120db.
There are no complaints—at least none we’d be able to hear. Powered by 80 amps of Equitech balanced power, the room is capable of cranking out about 1.2kW of amplified power.
While the builder took care of the room construction, Jeff was very hands-on with installing the equipment. However, he did need to call in help when it came to his Sony Qualia projector. “It was one of the first HDMI-equipped 1080p projectors,” he says. “I wanted an expert installation with no mistakes. My dealer had to fly in to install it.” Four years later, Jeff is still singing praises about this purchase. That said, a trip to the CEDIA (Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association) tradeshow later this year will be spent browsing for a new projector—likely a new 4K digital cinema model.
While there is plenty of soundproofing to protect his house from the A/V, Jeff decided that the rear of the room would be the best spot to shield his equipment from theater guests. The glare was a concern, and after all that hard work, he didn’t want the equipment distracting the experience. For easy access, everything is controlled by an RTI RF remote system with RS-232 control. “I installed it all myself and programmed the touchscreen remote as well—all 60 pages of commands.”
Over the past 15 years, Rachel Cericola has covered entertainment, web and technology trends. Check her out at www.rachelcericola.com.