May 01, 2006
| by EH Staff
A renovation of a New Jersey family’s 25-year-old-house inspired the homeowners to turn their dark and dreary basement into a state-of-the-art home theater. Like most basements, this one offered plenty of space to incorporate the standard big-screen display, a slew of speakers and comfortable seating, plus a pool table and a bar at the back. But this home theater space is far from common.
Commercial-grade speakers pump out an ear-splitting 2,000 watts of audio. That’s nearly twice as much traditional residential speakers can handle. “The JBL Pro Cinema speakers are the kind you usually find in commercial cinemas,” explains Bob Gullo, president of Electronics Design Group (EDG), the Piscataway, NJ based home systems design firm hired to create the theater. Gullo admits that having this much audio power isn’t for everybody, but for the owners of this theater, it made perfect sense. “This homeowner had been known to blow out his speakers,” Gullo continues. “And when we met with him before designing this theater, the one requirement he had was that he wanted to be able to play movies and music really loud—a heart-thumping, in-your-face loud.” Designed to fill a huge cinema with sound, the JBL Pro Cinema speakers would ensure that he could crank it up without hurting his equipment. And crank it up he does. “When he’s in the theater by himself,” Gullo says, “the rest of the family stays out.”
While the seven JBL Pro Cinema speakers and two JBL Pro Cinema subwoofers are definitely powerful, they are also very large, which means they were a challenge to incorporate into a traditional home setting. Standing nearly seven feet tall, the speakers could have been an eyesore in any room. But thanks to clever design work by EDG, the front three towers are totally imperceptible. The EDG team started by relocating some of the internal parts of the speakers. For example, the tweeters of the front left and right units were lowered to an ear-level position for improved audio. The speakers were then installed into to a custom-crafted cabinet and covered with a removable fabric grille. The center-channel speaker received the same treatment but was placed on its side and mounted as high as possible in the cabinet below the screen. The remaining rear speakers were mounted to the surface of the side and rear walls. “They are designed to be angled toward the listening area, so there was no way to build them into the walls.” Gullo explains.
The giant speakers, while efficient, have an appetite for power. A stack of Rotel amplifiers powers the commercial speakers, while an equalizer further tweaks the sound. Acoustical paneling and insulating materials within the walls prevent the sound from seeping into rooms above the theater even when the system is really pumped up.
Still, this is a spot that the whole family can enjoy. With the volume set at a respectable level, it’s a great area not only for watching movies but also for playing video games and listening to music. The family can choose video from a DVD player, high-definition satellite receiver, digital camera and an Xbox video game console. They can plug the Xbox, a digital camera or a laptop computer into a special wall jack to see the video on an 110-inch Stewart video screen recessed into a shallow cavity in the cabinet. The screen is made of a special microperforated fabric to let the sound from the center-channel speaker flow into the room unaffected. The fabric also contains technology to enhance contrast. A Runco DLP projector, meanwhile, creates a picture that’s bright enough to view with the lights on, an important feature when playing video games or surfing the Internet. Setting the lights perfectly for each activity is a cinch. Pressing the gaming button on the portable Crestron touchpanel, for example, brightens the lights at the front of the room so that players can clearly see the buttons on their gaming consoles. Just the opposite happens when the movie button is pressed. The lights lower to create a perfect environment for serious movie watching. The billiards and bar lights can stay on without interfering with the picture.
Purposeful lighting, beautiful video and ear-splitting audio make this home theater like no other. The huge, commercial-grade speakers that were incorporated could have overpowered the room, but they blend in nicely with the decor, creating a space that meets the audio demands of one family member while offering push-button conveniences and plenty of video variety for everyone else.