May 23, 2012
by Lisa Montgomery
Most times when people build a home theater they envision a space where movie viewing is the main event. The owner of this 475-square-foot media room, however, was more concerned about audio. “He’s what we consider to be an avid music listener,” says custom electronics (CE) professional Jason Voorhees of Cantara in Costa Mesa, Calif. “And he likes to play his music loud… very loud.”
Puny little speakers were not going to deliver the decibels this owner demanded, so Cantara went with a commercial-grade Digital Cinema speaker line from QSC. Nine speakers and four subwoofers easily fi ll the space. “The loudest we’ve played it is 118 decibels; after that, it hurts,” says Voorhees.
Just because a system can rattle the rafters doesn’t mean it sounds good, though. Proper engineering of the space and careful calibration of the equipment were critical for audio perfection. The team at Cantara followed standards set forth by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) on proper speaker positioning. The standard provides calculations on where to place each speaker in relation to the screen, the seats and other elements so the audio sounds exactly how it was intended to be heard by its producers. “With the speakers positioned properly, sound from recordings of a concert or the score of a movie move across the room as they’re supposed to,” says Voorhees. In this case, the QSC Digital Cinema SC-1250 center-channel speaker was placed behind the screen, which features microperforations to let the audio pass through unaffected. The remaining two SC-1250 front-channel speakers, along with four Triad InWall Silver subwoofers, flank each side of the screen. Six QSC Digital Cinema SR-8100 surround speakers were planted in columns between translucent onyx stone backlit by LEDs.
After the speakers were in place, Cantara calibrated the audio equipment. This procedure involved using microphones to take readings of the speakers’ response levels. Based on this data, Cantara was able to tweak a QSC digital signal processor’s equalization curve for each speaker and subwoofer to compensate for anomalies in the room. Finally, the audio engineers at QSC visited the theater to “give it their blessing of audio perfection,” says Voorhees.
While audio may be the heart of this home theater, heightening the owner’s sense of sight and touch was important to the overall experience, too. A 150- inch diagonal screen from Stewart Filmscreen and an M-Vision Cine-260 projector from Digital Projection International (DPI) combine to create stunning visuals. Most of the content comes from DVDs and Blu-ray discs rented from Netflix, which the owner pops into either a Samsung or Oppo Digital Blu-ray player, which share a Middle Atlantic equipment rack with a host of other A/V gear in a small closet.
As for the sense of touch, ButtKicker tactile transducers from Guitammer Company were placed underneath six of the theater’s seats to shake, rattle and roll the chairs in sync with the movie action. The equipment, particularly the audio components, makes a serious statement in this oceanfront abode, but there’s also a lighthearted side to the theater.
For example, when there’s no music or movies playing, a karaoke system often takes center stage. The owner just touches the karaoke icon that’s displayed with other entertainment options on the screen of a portable AMX 5.2-inch Modero touchpanel, and the lyrics pop up on the 150-inch Stewart screen. A wireless microphone handles the audio. In addition to preparing the room for karaoke, the AMX system sets the mood for movie-viewing by turning out the lights, or for TV watching by leaving most of the lights on at a dim level. At any time, the owner can use the panel to access video captured by his home’s surveillance cameras and to control the lights and heating and cooling in other areas of the house.
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.