September 13, 2007
| by Lisa Montgomery
A theater doesn’t have to go in the basement, a bonus room or an unused guest room. In fact, it doesn’t even have to go in your house. The owners of this cozy entertainment retreat proved that it can pay to look outside the box when devoting a spot to a home theater. Rather than have their theater take up space inside their house, they converted a tandem three-car garage into a 160-square-foot, six-seat entertainment escape.
Red Dot Audio Video of Carlsbad, CA, started by softening up the space with new walls and a wooden floor. Standard insulation was stuffed into the walls in lieu of pricier acoustical materials. The floor was suspended over the existing concrete surface to give the room an extra oomph of bass. “When the subwoofer is pumping, the wood floor actually vibrates,” says Red Dot Audio Video president Darryl Kuder. The Atlantic Technology subwoofer is complemented by a 5.1 surround-sound system, featuring built-in Sonance speakers positioned according to Dolby Digital specifications. “By putting each speaker in its prime position, we were able to achieve top sonic performance, even without the help of acoustical treatments,” says Kuder.
A soffit was constructed at the back of the room to house a Panasonic projector and the two rear Sonance surround speakers. Red Dot designed the soffit to have three tiers. The center tier would dip lower than the side tiers so that the projector could be placed in its optimal near-ear-level position and still remain hidden. The soffit would also help muffle the sound of the projector while projecting sound from the speakers.
A custom cabinet was constructed for the 92-inch Draper Onyx Series screen for a seamless, built-in appearance. Concealed behind acoustically transparent grille cloth on the bottom of the cabinet are the three front Sonance speakers, the subwoofer and the audio/video components, which include an Onkyo receiver, Onkyo DVD player, DirecTV satellite receiver and Panamax power conditioner. The components are controlled via a custom-programmed MX-950 remote from Universal Remote Control. Through some clever engineering, Red Dot enabled the radio frequency (RF)-based remote to also operate an infrared (IR)-based Lutron Spacer lighting system. “This turned out to be a very cost-effective way of giving the homeowners a controllable lighting system,” says Kuder. “It cost them a couple hundred dollars instead of a couple thousand.” Now when the owners press the PLAY button on the remote, the lights dim and the projector revs up. The lights were also incorporated into PAUSE and STOP commands.
Thanks to special treatments like a multipurpose soffit, a floating floor, precision speaker placement and remote-controllable lighting, this space looks and performs like something a lot more expensive. And the family is definitely getting its money’s worth. You’ll find them and their grown children at the theater nearly every weekend during college football season.
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Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.