A Cut Above
Custom-made seating, custom-made speakers and a custom-crafted alder-strip ceiling grace this 42-by-33-foot entertainment pavilion, which is accompanied by the dulcet tones of an audiophile-grade music system. Photo by John Birchard.
Here's one cool entertainment pavilion for movies, music and all that jazz.
All you really need to know about the owner of this entertainment pavilion is that after the $1.3 million construction, he was standing in the room while some jazz by Duke Ellington was playing, and he found himself tapping his feet and saying, “Ah, now that’s a cut above.”
“The homeowner wanted this to be cutting-edge forever,” says Eric Hudgens of custom electronics company Tailored Technology. “And custom is important. He wanted things that others don’t have.”
This home theater certainly has things that others don’t. Just look up at the striking ceiling of alder strips expertly joined to a furniture fit. Then there’s the custom-made furniture, loudspeakers and amplifiers. There’s a Kaleidescape video server system and a Faroudja three-chip DLP projector. There’s high-end audiophile equipment, such as a Wadia CD player, a Theta Casablanca audio processor, a Theta DVD-Audio and Super Audio CD (SACD) player, a Threshold 500-watt stereo amp, two 1,000-pound JBL professional subwoofers, and a $25,000 Basis Audio turntable with a one-of-a-kind phono cartridge made in Switzerland.
A turntable? Yes, a turntable. As in a record player—for playing the vinyl jazz albums in the owner’s collection. Along with a Sony DAT (digital audio tape) professional player. And a Revox reel-to-reel tape recorder and player for his collection of live recordings of Count Basie, Duke Ellington and other jazz greats of the owner’s acquaintance.
But perhaps the ultimate thing the homeowner has that others don’t is this stunning piece of property in the redwoods on the California coast about three and a half hours north of San Francisco. “The couple spent years looking for a property to build their retirement estate, and they settled on 32 acres of gated redwood forest,” says Hudgens.
Their 7,700-square-foot dream home was built, but something was missing—namely, a lot of their friends from the Bay area, including some notable musicians who were reluctant to make the journey. So the homeowners had the entertainment pavilion built. And because the space would be a separate structure from the house, our audiophile homeowner could have the sound system of his dreams.
The 42-by-33-foot pavilion not only houses a great audio system, home theater, and the homeowner’s record and reel-to-reel tape collections, it’s also center stage when their musician friends show up to spend a night or two. The carpet near the front of the theater even comes up for some dancing. “They wanted a multipurpose venue for music, film and live entertainment,” Hudgens says.
No expense was spared for the pavilion’s construction and design. The wooden-slat ceiling alone is a marvel of craftsmanship, with its many angled joints fitting to furniture-grade specifications. The sloping fan like ceiling isn’t just for show, however. Acoustic specialists Charles M. Salter Associates had a hand in the design, which features an invisible backing of a 1-inch-thick black duct liner that helps absorb unwanted sound. The 1-inch alder slats were placed on top and held together by wooden dowels. The uneven surface of the many slats and gaps create a diffusive surface that helps scatter other sounds throughout the room.
The tall front speakers that are visible and the in-wall speakers in the side soffits and above the screen are all custom made. Fabric panels were placed in numerous spots to create a uniform look.
Behind the 10-foot-wide Da-Lite screen is an industrial-grade Faroudja three-chip DLP projector, with a 400-pound mirror custom made by Da-Lite. The projector is so bright, reports Hudgens, that a person can sit there in the summer with the windows open and still see a bright picture on the screen.
Beneath the floor and firing up through 3-foot-long slot like vents are two 18-inch, 140-watt JBL subwoofers that each weigh 1,000 pounds. They are suspended in a concrete chamber beneath the floor and hang on straps so they are acoustically isolated and don’t cause vibrations in adjoining structures. “It took seven men and a crane took to get them in there,” says Hudgens.
“The bass will scare you to death,” he adds. “We cover up the slots in the floor with wooden caps when there’s dancing.” However, Hudgens recalls an evening when his team fired up the system after working through the night on it but forgot to remove the caps. “We heard this terrible sound and ran out of the equipment room, and the subwoofers had blown the caps right up out of those holes. They even heard it in the house about 100 yards away.”
A recent upgrade to the system included the Kaleidescape video server system, which stores DVDs to hard drives for instant access and offers an innovative, easy-to-use interface of DVD covers for easy search and selection.
Everything is operated through the AMX controller, including the Vantage lighting system and the blackout and acoustic shades that drop from invisible perches above the windows. Each of the shades can be controlled separately. And a motorized screen descends for slide shows shown through a slide projector—remember those?—and even that is operable via the AMX system.
Several detached buildings support the pavilion, such as one that houses a diesel-engine emergency power generator for insurance against the coast’s frequent storms. And, lest we forget, there’s also a full kitchen and bar with a pizza oven and commercial popcorn maker in the pavilion. Even the snacks here are different—and, you could say, a cut above.
- Theta Casablanca III audio processor
- Theta Casablanca Six-Shooter for SACD/DVD-A
- Faroudja DVP-4000 video processor/universal transport
- Faroudja LD-1000 laserdisc player
- Kaleidescape Kserver-2500 media server/player
- Kaleidescape Kreader-2000e media reader
- Autopatch matrix switcher
- Pass Labs Ono custom phono stage
- Basis Audio Debut turntable
- Threshold 500-watt stereo amp
- Faroudja DLP 3-chip projector
- AMX control system
- Sony Professional PCM-R700 DAT recorder
- Revox Studer A700 10.5-inch reel-to-reel tape recorder
- Wadia 16 CD player
- Sony VCR, DVR
- Pass Labs 200-watt Class A mono amplifiers
- Pass Labs 120-watt Class A stereo amplifiers
Systems Design & Installation
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Charles M. Salter Associates