Hitting the Sweet Spot


Photography by Phillip Ennis Photography

Apr. 18, 2011 — by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Bill Alexander, owner of Eagle Eye Audio Video of Centerport, NY, has a fairly simple philosophy when it comes to equipment selection: “If this were my home theater, what would I do? The goal here was to spec in great equipment, but not the esoteric stuff where you’re paying a lot more money for an extra two percent of performance.”

For high-performance speakers that didn’t break the bank, Alexander turned to Tannoy, a British speaker manufacturer known for its trademarked Dual Concentric driver design (the high-frequency drivers are nested within low-frequency drivers, rather than stacked or aligned horizontally). This, Alexander says, makes for an extremely phase-coherent sound source: “They’re spectacular for dialogue, and really image better than anything else I’ve ever heard,” he says.

Three Tannoy Definition DC12i loudspeakers serve as left, center, and right channels beneath the screen. Above and to the right and left of the screen, two of the company’s iw6 TDC in-wall speakers serve as the front presence channels—a feature unique to Yamaha receivers and surround-sound processors, including this room’s RX-V3900 7.1-Channel Network Home Theater Receiver.
As to the need for these speakers, Alexander says, “When someone does a theater like this, there’s a lot of absorption in the room—arguably almost too much. So in a lot of cases you end up with a dry sounding room and you don’t really get the theater experience. But Yamaha has [dozens] of algorithms—based on measurements they’ve taken of professional performance spaces—that really make a space sound convincingly larger. So I wanted to advantage of that capability.”

Doing so came with a cost, though: Because the RX-V3900 only provides seven channels of amplification—and two of those channels were being used to power the presence speakers— Alexander lost the ability to provide discrete surround back channels for the room. But he didn’t want to merely go the 5.1-channel route because the surround speakers would have been perpendicular to the main listening positions, which isn’t ideal.

So Alexander came up with an inventive solution for the quartet of Tannoy iw62 TDC in-wall speakers at the side and back of the room: “I took the left side surround and the left rear surround and made them both play left surround information, but put them out of phase with one another. Likewise for the right surrounds. So each pair made an [improvised] dipole radiator, and the effect was absolutely spectacular. Putting the rear surrounds out of phase with their side counterpart really made this schmear of ambient sound just the opposite of a direct radiator, and in that way made for great surround ambiance.”

—Dennis Burger/Home Entertainment

By Susan Sharpe
A builder/developer talks about her first home theater success and the teams can contributed to it.

Your company name (DMR Development) implies that you’re builder/developer. How did you end up designing a home theater?

Dennis Radzinsky: I have a bachelor’s degree in architecture, so that’s my first love. After working for a prestigious architectural design-build firm for several years, I received my first commission to design and build a 12,000-square-foot home in 2004. The client wanted a home theater, so that was the first one I designed. I also handled all of the interiors for the home.

Most of my clients build large homes of this caliber, so having a home theater is a required element. Even though I’m not a theater specialist, they rely on me for my vision and design ability. For most clients, first I design the house and then I design the interiors, right down to the custom woodworking.

Obviously your client is passionate about red … tell me a little about what the homeowner had in mind for the theater’s look.
DR: Being an old movie buff, he believes that home theaters should be as formal and spectacular as the old-time movie houses from the 1930s and 1940s. As soon as I knew there was a spot for a theater in this home, my mind started racing with ideas. When I learned that the client was a movie buff, I was even more excited.

So when your mind stopped racing, what was your first thought?
DR: I told my client that I’m not an acoustic engineer. I designed and built the entire home, but I got the right parties involved to do an acoustic analysis—to figure out the right mix of absorptive and reflective panels, diffusers, etc. I knew I could get the design down, but I needed someone to fine-tune the room acoustically, and an acoustic expert can tune a room perfectly.

It’s important to have a designer and a project manager on site to ensure all the trades work together in a timely manner. It’s equally as important that every design detail is completely thought through and discussed with the designer and homeowner prior to construction.

I provided AcousticSmart with my design and color scheme so they could create a virtual model of the theater before it was built. This gave the homeowner an opportunity to participate in selecting the chairs and the wall sconces.

I know AcousticSmart provided more than just the acoustic treatments for the theater. How did the selection process for the theater chairs work?
DR: I set up a meeting at the client’s home with AcousticSmart and myself. We all sat down at the kitchen table and reviewed the 12 home cinema loungers that the company offers. We all collaborated and chose the chair based on style of the room and the height of the owners.
Obviously a busy fabric wouldn’t have worked with the chairs since the theater space is so small—a fabric with an elaborate pattern would have looked too chaotic.
DR: That’s true. At first the owner wanted fabric-covered seats, but then he remembered that kids would be using the theater. Therefore, he went with a leather chair named “Rialto.” Those chairs are custom manufactured by AcousticSmart.

The seats in the front row have dual-control motorized mechanisms for the feet and the back—that means they move independently of each other. The seats on the back row have a wall-hugger mechanism that allows the chairs to be installed as close as 2 inches to the wall, but the chairs can still recline.

But you did select a delicate pattern for the carpeting.
DR: The owner originally ordered the carpeting, but then I received a panic phone call about it being on back order. We had a tight deadline—we had to complete the theater by Christmas. So as the builder, I acted quickly and contacted AcousticSmart because I knew they could find the carpet that the owner wanted. And they did. 

Custom Installer: Eagle Eye Audio Video of Centerport, NY (516.297.7400, eagleeyeav.com)
Builder/designer: DMR Development Ltd. of Stony Brook, NY (631.675.1055, dmrdevelopment.com)
Custom Wood Working:  G.A. Feddersen of Holtsville, New York (631.758.3646)
Acoustics/accessories (acoustic wall treatments, chairs, threater curtain, fiber-optic ceiling): AcousticSmart of Merrick, NY (516.623.5711, acousticsmart.com)
Photography by Phillip Ennis Photography

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