The Elements of a Rec Room
When you have the right systems, a rec room combines the best of home theater, gaming and entertainment.
fun room
You don’t need a cavernous space for a multipurpose home theater. This one efficiently packs in a casual viewing area, home theater loungers, a pool table, foosball and more. Design and installation by Signals Audio/Video of Playa Del Rey, CA.
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February 26, 2007 by EH Staff

For families that want to have fun, a rec room is the fastest ticket to all-out entertainment. In the mood for a movie? There’s a big-screen tucked into the back wall. Rather shoot some pool? A billiards table awaits you at the other end of the room. Or maybe you’d simply like to sip a cocktail while socializing with friends. Around the corner, there’s a fully stocked bar filled with all your favorite libations. Big-screen TVs, pool tables and bars set the stage for fun-filled evenings at home, but you’ll enjoy them even more with the addition of a few electronic systems.

Networked TVs
The rec room is just one more place where a big-screen TV makes sense. If you’re already planning on designing a dedicated theater in your house, think of the rec room as your secondary movie-watching space. You can choose a set that’s a little smaller and less expensive than the beast in the home theater. A 60 incher is a good size. It won’t monopolize the room, but it’s still big enough so that everyone, no matter where they’re hanging out, can clearly see the picture. Placing the TV inside a sturdy wall unit is a wise idea. That way, it’ll never get knocked over or tinkered with when you throw one of your big bashes.

Of course, with so much to do in a rec room, you might not find yourself sitting in front of the big-screen for very long. If you think that 60-inch set simply won’t cut it when you’re 25 feet away shooting pool, consider adding several smaller TVs throughout the room to supplement the bigger unit. For example, you could hang one 27 incher from the ceiling at the billiards area, another at the bar and a third one by the conversation pit. When these TVs are networked together (by a home systems installer), you’ll be able to see the DVD that’s playing on the big-screen on every TV in the space. So whether you’re racking up or grabbing a snack, you’ll never miss a second of the flick you started watching in the media area.

Being able to watch the same show on several TVs is great, but this multi-TV setup also gives you the option of watching different shows in different areas. While the guys catch a ball game at the bar, the girls can play a movie on the big-screen TV at the other side of the room.

Spaced-Out Speakers
Next to watching TV, listening to music is the most popular activity in a rec room. However, just like some of the TV viewing that happens in the space, music is often used more for background entertainment. It’s a great filler when you’re playing cards or simply socializing with a group of friends. To ensure that every area of the rec room can receive music, be sure to plant plenty of speakers throughout the entire space. These speakers (use a pair in each area to create a two-channel stereo effect) can be installed into the walls or the ceiling to preserve floor space. In addition to the built-in stereo speakers, be sure to outfit the movie-watching area with a set of five matching speakers so that you can enjoy all your flicks in surround sound.

Zoned Music System
Implementing a music system that pipes the same song to every speaker in the room is economical, and it may be exactly what you want during a party. But if your rec room is spacious enough or has been designed with at least one room that’s closed off from the rest of the area, consider upgrading to a two- or three-zone system. A three-zone system, for example, could pipe the audio from a DVD movie through to the surround-sound speakers while simultaneously sending music from a CD to the speakers around the pool table. The speakers positioned at the bar could make up the third zone, where you could choose to listen to an XM Radio station, for example. Or, you could always assign that third zone to the rest of the house. While you and your friends are socializing over your collection of jazz CDs in the rec room, your kids could tap into the system to call up a favorite radio station to listen to upstairs in the family room.

Keypads for Control
Another good reason to select a multizone music system is for the keypads that ordinarily come with it. Unlike a handheld remote, which forever seems to be lost in the cushions of the couch, a keypad is mounted to the wall, right where you can easily find it. At the very least, put one at the entrance to the room. From there, put additional keypads in areas where you know you’ll be spending a lot of time, like behind the bar, next to a bank of video game machines and by the door to the media area, for instance. From the keypads, you can access any number of sources, such as CD players, media servers and satellite receivers, and adjust the volume. If you plan to have other types of electronic systems installed, such as a dimmer system for the lights or motorized rollers for the window shades, your home systems installer could incorporate those controls within the keypad. That way, you can turn on the music, drop the shades and lower the lights by pressing one button.

Media Server
It’s hard enough to find a certain CD in your extensive music collection, but when you’ve got a dozen friends pawing through your jewel cases, finding the right tune becomes nearly impossible. Here’s where a media server can help. This one machine can hold thousands of songs on an internal hard drive, essentially eliminating the need for traditional CDs. Once the songs are loaded, you can pack away your CD cases for good. Many media servers can also store your DVDs and digital photographs so that your rec room becomes a one-stop shop for all your media. During a party, for example, you can pull up pictures from your last vacation on the big-screen or cue a playlist of dance tunes. Or, if the mood calls for a movie, you can use a small touchpanel to display for your guests a list of what flicks are available.

Lighting Control System
Will you be using the rec room to host birthday parties for your kids or as the venue for your weekly poker nights? Maybe you plan to invite the entire family over for the holidays or look forward to settling in with your spouse every Friday night to watch a movie. When the rec room’s lights are controlled by a lighting system, the room is ready for any occasion. Getting the space into character is as easy as pressing a button on a wall-mounted keypad, possibly the same keypad you use to call up music from your music server. In an instant, the rec room can be transformed into a space that’s preferred for playing cards, shooting pool, partying or just plain relaxing.

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