The original home theater dreams of Indianapolis-area homeowner Vikram Rao didn’t call for a superhero theme, but once this project got going it became apparent, fittingly so, that this was going to be his fortress of solitude. And once others began checking out his build on the AVS Forum, seeing the colorful lighting scheme that accented what he’d dubbed his “Curve Frenzy” theater, they decided it should be more appropriately known as the “Superman/Man of Steel” theater.
With all of the red and blue accenting the charcoal walls, you can see why the name has stuck. And when Vikram talks about the professional soundproofing that added to this project—which is at around $100,000 and counting—you can see how it has truly become a fortress.
“I had a passion since childhood for music and movies, and as I grew older I improved my knowledge by browsing online and auditioning—in addition to owning—a fair share of audio equipment,” says Vikram. “A couple of years ago my wife and I agreed we wanted my dream of building a good theater to come true, so we could have great family time every week.
“Our biggest inspiration was browsing online and looking at different theater build pics ... I remember I had a particular taste for contemporary-to-modern theaters with a French/European theme,” he continues. “My wife really liked a red, black and blue combination with a little touch of gray.”
Before the theater could be finished, he knew the only potential kryptonite would be the thumping of movie night throughout the rest of the house. He needed some serious soundproofing plans, and for the room’s audio he turned to some professional help. Vikram enlisted custom home theater builder/contractor Jeff Parkinson, a retired mechanical engineer, as well as staff from Soundproofing Company to work on the soundproofing and custom electronics firm The Erskine Group (led by Dennis Erskine and Shawn Byrne) to design the room acoustics layout. Vikram’s wife, Vasu, even wound up helping Parkinson wrap fabric over the acoustical panels and paint the soffits.
Click here to view photos of the Superman Theater.
“My wife and I are both physicians, and she is an emergency physician always coming in at odd times after doing 12-hour and 24-hour shifts. I remember her always complaining the whole house was shaking and she can’t sleep when I play volume moderate to loud,” Vikram says. “So I decided that I would do bunker-level soundproofing, with a [high noise control rating], so that no sound comes in or goes out and I can put in the kind of speakers and subwoofer which can generate sound loud enough to flap my pants or winter jacket, and also go so low or subtle so I can hear the faintest whisper at 20dB.”
Vikram’s basement room for the theater pre-soundproofing measured 14 x 28 x 9 feet, and with everything that went into turning it into a soundproof bunker it is now 12-5/6 x 22 x 7.8 feet. The pro consultative work and results are impressive. The theater features a three-sided, 12-inch thick concrete shell from which a double-stud wall was built around, along with a new ceiling. The walls and ceiling are insulated with R19 and R25 material, he says, with the whole room sitting on an acoustic rubber mat on concrete over a layer of OSB flooring. Vikram says four layers of 5/8-inch thick drywall were hung, with Green Glue noise-damping compound in between—and they were not attached directly to the studs, but as a common soundproofing technique were decoupled with whisper clips and hat channel.
And, oh by the way, the door to enter the room is basically its own man of steel version—it’s 2.75 inches thick and has a biometric sensor lock, according to Vikram.
All of that helps to contain a sound system that doles out surround sound with a total peak output of 15,000 watts. The super-powered boom is delivered from a combination of triamplified Seaton Catalyst speakers for the front left/right/center channels plus six P6V models from Procella Audio, along with the behemoth JTR Speakers Orbit Shifter, an 18-inch sub that delivers peak output burst of 7200 watts. (Vikram made several trips to Chicago to visit with Seaton and JTR Speakers to work on the sound system.) The incredible audio complements the high-def imagery created by an Epson Powerline Pro Cinema projector and 144-inch acoustically transparent Seymour super-wide screen.
“Each powered speaker, sub and projector have their own dedicated, isolated 20-amp circuits connected through heavy-duty 10-gauge wire and hospital-grade outlets,” Vikram notes. The seating riser was also designed to perform as a bass trap. To ensure everything sounded as best it could, Vikram hired Jeff Meir of professional ISF- and THX-certified calibration firm AccuCal to calibrate the system.
“Once the theater was done I did call in a handful of people asking them to critique after experiencing it, and each person said that they felt like they were a part of the movie rather than just watching it; they were especially impressed with how they were not able to localize the sound, and in their own words telling they were in a 3D envelope of sound,” says Vikram. “Also when playing at reference and above reference some of them ran out the room (when playing War of the Worlds and their ribs started rattling and pants flapping due to the air which blows from the subwoofer through the acoustically transparent screen). During all this none of them complained about distortion, and the best part is I can do this kind of thing any time of the day or night and my wife does not even know if the theater is running or not.”
Here is a link to the entire build thread that Parkinson posted to AVS.
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Seymour acoustically transperent 140-inch curved 2:37:1 Centerstage XD
Epson Powerline Pro Cinema 6020UB 3D 1080P 3LCD projector
Panamorph UH480 anamorphic lens
Left/Center/Right speakers: Seaton Catalyst 12C internally triamplified 2000 watts each.
6 Surrounds: Procella Audio P6V
Subwoofer: JTR Orbit Shifter 18-inch woofer with 14-foot folded horn (7500 watts burst output)
Denon 4520CI network Receiver
Oppo BDP-103 Blu-ray player
Power Conditioner: Monster Power:
Lighting Control: Insteon dual band Wi-Fi switches
Room automation with lighting control and equipment control via iRule
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Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com
and Electronic House magazine.