It’s been 18 years since Rick Ho installed his first home theater. At the time, the system he put in was as state-of-the art as they got, consisting of a 100-inch motorized 4:3 screen, a CRT video projector, cabinet speakers, a laserdisc player and a VHS VCR. “It was all analog back then,” Ho says.
Of course, it didn’t take long for those technologies to become sorely antiquated.
Over the years, Ho, who now operates London Audio in London, Ontario, would visit the 13-by-25-foot lower-level theater of his inaugural client several times to update, revise and spruce up the old system with new equipment.
“We pulled out the Tannoy speakers and replaced them with THX models from Krell, we went through several generations of surround-sound processors and eventually upgraded from basic cable to digital satellite service,” he recalls. “After that, we hit a wall.”
That “wall” was the beastly JBL CRT video projector that still occupied a sizeable portion of the ceiling. “Until we got rid of that thing, the owners would never be able to have high-def entertainment,” Ho explains.
Another feature the homeowner would never be able to have if the CRT projector stayed, was a super-wide, wall-to-wall video screen. “He’d been asking for that for a decade,” says Ho.
Unfortunately, Ho would have to wait a few years until technology caught up with his client’s vision. And when anamorphic video equipment finally hit the market, Ho knew exactly who his first customer would be.
Unlike the equipment swaps of the past, though, this update would require a complete redesign of the room. Because the CinemaScope Stewart Filmscreen screen was too wide to squeeze into the original display location, Ho shifted everything 180 degrees. What used to be the back wall would now be covered with a 137-inch diagonal screen, and the old locations of the left and right speakers would now be home to three KEF THX speakers.
The elaborate wooden entertainment cabinet, which was originally built to hold the owner’s extensive collection of video editing equipment, would stay, but the number of components would be pared down significantly. A single iMac now does what used to require a dozen or so different components, and a Blu-ray player provides the high-def video the existing laserdisc player and VCR couldn’t.
Another significant change, says Ho, is the owner’s attitude toward visible electronics. “When we first put together the theater, he wanted everything hidden, but over the years decided that high-quality audio performance was more important.” The floor-standing Vienna Acoustics front speakers Ho added to the ‘scope video arrangement would provide the audio thump the owner wanted.
Last but not least, the old gray-scale Crestron IR remote that the owner had been using since Day 1 was retired in favor of a modern Wi-Fi color touchpanel.
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Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.