June 01, 2007
| by Steven Castle
Some people just have to have a home theater—and Florida homeowner Sean Tierney is one of them. “Basically, the reason I have a home theater is that I’m tired of disruptive people at traditional movie theaters,” Tierney says. “I purchased a home about a year ago, and we had empty room upstairs that I thought would be perfect for a home theater.”
The 14-by-28-foot room is above a garage and has a sloped ceiling with a flat portion in the middle. It’s a bigger space than Tierney had for a more modest home theater system in a previous home—and his audio/video experience paid off in planning this new one. He also got a little help from his friends.
“We knew the design of the theater,” he says. “And a friend of mine is an interior designer, so he put together some ideas.”
The next step was to bring in custom electronic company Integrated Electronic Interiors, which had worked on Tierney’s previous theater. “They wanted the most seating that they could do,” says Integrated’s Anika Ruff. So an arrangement was decided on, with four seats in the front and two in the rear on a riser, all slightly angled inward and with an aisle down the middle. The overall effect provides a more casual feel than stacked theater chairs. “I liked the seating that way, instead of in traditional rows,” Tierney says.
This time around, Tierney also decided to spend about $10,000 more on audio and video equipment. That translated nicely into a Runco DLP HDTV projector, a 106-inch Draper fixed screen and a JBL 7.1-channel speaker system driven by a Denon receiver.
“The sound is powerful,” says Tierney. “The overall fullness of the sound and the real deep bass sound comes through—you can actually feel it. “And the speakers aren’t distorting. This model of projector is a much higher grade [than he previously had].”
The three JBL front speakers are concealed behind grille cloths in the custom cabinet in the front, along with two JBL subwoofers. The four surround speakers are positioned on the sloped ceiling and aimed to provide better directionality, an effect the homeowner seems to like. “The ceiling [effect] really worked out well, so the speakers can direct the sounds back toward us,” he says.
The Denon receiver and DVD player are stored in a cabinet in the back of the room and operated with a Universal Remote Control MX-950 that uses RF (radio frequency) to operate the components without a direct remote signal.
The fabric walls between the columns cover custom-made absorptive acoustic panels to help control the sound, and the ceiling was painted black. “We did that in our previous room as well, and it really makes the star lighting pop.”
To incorporate the fiber-optic star field, the flat part of the ceiling was actually lowered by about 4 inches, and the fiber-optic wire had to be inserted into the drywall and then raised into place. “That was the most challenging thing,” says Ruff.
Integrated Electronic Interiors actually went so far as to incorporate a shooting star, using fibers that turn on and off in a series from one side to the other about every 30 seconds. Tierney says the star field is nice to have, even when a movie is off and the family is just using the room to relax. He can manually turn it on and off if he likes, but it’s usually on and is a part of a master ON button.
One hitch in this new and improved theater is how dark the room gets with the black ceiling and cherry wood: When everything was off, the homeowners couldn’t even find the remote.
“The sconce closest to the door had to be rewired to be on a hard switch, and we put a manual dimmer on it,” says Ruff.
It seems sometimes you can do too good a job on a home theater. But at least this homeowner isn’t putting up with the crowds at the Cineplex.
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Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates