May 03, 2010
by Steven Castle
Just call this home theater “The Wave.” And by wave we refer to the distinctive wood ceiling piece that acts as an important acoustical element. The wave also refers to this theater system’s powerful sound waves that are controlled by a creative blend of design and acoustical innovation.
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The homeowners’ intent was not to have an acoustically perfect home theater. “They just wanted a kickin’ theater, with really high performance and a pretty basic decor package,” says Ed Condiracci, project manager with high-end electronics system company EDG in Piscataway, N.J.
With the back of the space open to a sitting area and game room, it is not an ideal sonic shell, Condiracci admits. “We solved the issue of the open back with horsepower.”
And by horsepower, he means studio-grade-quality Genelec speakers. Though just to say the three Genelec HT210B front speakers and four AIW26 surround speakers are powerful thoroughbreds is not giving them credit for their sophisticated design and nuance.
“The [front speakers] are active speakers with their own built-in amplifiers and active crossovers, and that makes them really efficient,” says Condiracci. “Their numbers in terms of watts per channel are not that impressive.” But with their high efficiency, they sound like they put out a lot of juice. “They help create a very simple system, with a Lexicon processor connected straight to the powered Genelecs.” No separate amps are required for the front speakers, though four matching Genelec amps power the side surrounds.
The Genelecs may be at the heart of this powerful home theater system, but this room’s soul is composed of acoustical treatments that create a decor of their own.
EDG collaborated on the design with RPG Diffusor Systems and theater set designer Brian Webb. The ceiling and scooped bass trap in the front of the room were largely the result of Webb and Jeff Madison at RPG, and the style really wasn’t altered much since the early design meetings, according to Condiracci.
“We had talked about a motorized curtain between the home theater area and the back of the room,” Condiracci says. “but the room and layout didn’t fit that.”
The wavy ceiling piece is designed largely to diffuse sound with its uneven surface, but it also plays other important acoustical functions. And above that is an isolated ceiling that uses 5/8-inch QuietRock soundproof drywall to prevent sound from leaking into the living space above.
The scoop below the screen helps tie the room together visually—and serves as a giant trap to absorb excess bass. Hidden behind it are the system’s two subwoofers, which straddle the centerline of the 132-inch-wide Stewart Filmscreen screen. More traditional acoustical treatments are hidden behind the theater’s fabric walls. They include broadband absorption panels in areas prone to first reflections and combination panels to offer a mix of high-frequency diffusion and mid- and low-frequency absorption.
Lest we forget, there’s also a three-chip DLP Runco projector with an anamorphic lens to produce superwide CinemaScope images. And let’s face it: When the lights go down, the real stars of the show are the projector and speakers.
This room’s stunning acoustical features simply help those Genelecs complement the Runco’s video and allow the systems to perform to their full potential.
If sitting in the motorized CinemaTech seats gets old, the owners can hang out in the back of the room, which is equipped with its own Runco 50-inch plasma.
The casual area in back also provides great sightlines for viewing sports. But to ensure an engaging surround field, EDG placed a second set of surround speakers toward the back edge of the theater. The casual back-of-the-room space has its own speakers, but the two audio/video systems are controlled separately by a Crestron home control system—and it’s easy to figure out which system takes audio priority.
Hint: It’s the one with the really cool acoustical treatments.
Several individual elements within the wave ceiling help balance the sound and eliminate direct reflections that can muddy the audio reproduction:
—The shape of the wave provides mid-frequency diffusion.
—Four-inch wide planks provide high-frequency diffusion, thanks to the depth and shape of the grooves separating them.
—The planks are perforated to help absorb bass by passing it into the cavity above them.
—Fiberglass filling in the cavity enhances the bass absorption and dampening, working with the perforations to provide even bass response for all seating areas.
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