DIY Home Theater with $95K Sound System

Home theater combines huge audio with old-world charm.


Practice makes perfect. In the case of Sarasota, Fla., residents Mark and Mary Pierson, it was the third attempt at a home theater that netted a near nirvana entertainment space. Unlike the Pierson’s prior two theaters, this 18-by-28-foot room would be built from scratch while their home was under construction. This would give them the opportunity to apply what they had learned in their earlier attempts and would provide them a blank canvas to design it exactly the way they wanted, without minimal structural or space constraints.

One of the highest priorities was audio, as the room would be used to listen to music at reference levels as well as to watch movies. More than $95,000 worth in Genelec speakers, powered by Lexicon MC-8B processor, would deliver the monstrous sound. “I’m a rock-and-roller, so I went with a sound system that would knock your socks off,” Mark says.

Big sound usually requires big speakers, which presented the DIYers with one of their first challenges: fitting the center-channel speaker into the planned layout of the room. The plan was to place the center speaker, as well as the front left and right speakers, behind the 146-inch acoustically transparent SMX Pro-Line screen. Measuring 17 inches deep, the Genelec HT320BC required more space than they had anticipated. Unable to move the screen forward, the Piersons had no choice but to burrow the speaker into the wall of the concrete foundation. “We fabricated a ¼-inch thick aluminum insert into the concrete block wall and lined it would sound board to house the center-channel speaker,” Mark explains. The fixit would impact the exterior of the house, too, creating a bump out that the homeowners creatively disguised as a decorative feature.

Also built into the walls (a back wall this time) is a Digital Projection M-Vision Cine260-HC video projector and an impressive rack of equipment, which houses not only the theater gear (see list below), but also components for the home’s Vantage lighting system, Sonos whole-house music system, Elk security system, Lutron motorized shading system, Atlona A/V distribution, and an iRule control system. (The Piersons use an iRule app to operate the theater equipment from an iPad.). A 9-by-10-foot equipment behind the wall gives Mark, a self-described “audio nerd,” easy access to component and cabling. “There are so many excellent control solutions available, but I wanted to have the ability to make changes as my equipment needs changed.”

To this equipment room Mark ran at least 1 mile of Category 5/6 cabling and topped it off with a dedicated 100-amp electrical panel.

Mark didn’t let his adoration of technology overrule room aesthetics. “Choosing and sticking with the theme was one of our main goals,” he says. As a departure from their usual contemporary style, they went with an Old-World design, incorporating unique elements, such as a huge cypress door and vintage cast iron balustrades that help conceal the Genelec subwoofer. Even the door handles have a history. The battle axe which serves as a handle on the cypress door was acquired by Mark’s parents in the late 1960s during a trip to Spain; the handle on the door to the equipment room is a sword from that same excursion.

146-inch SMX Pro-Line Screen
Digital Projection M-Vision Cine260-HC
Genelec HT324A Main Monitor Speakers (2)
Genelec HT320BC Center-Channel Speaker
Genelec HTS-6 Subwoofer
Genelec AIW25 Side and Rear Speakers (6)
Lexicon MC-8B Processor
Yamaha Aventage RX-A3010 (used for video processing)
Oppo BDP-93 Blu-ray Player
Global Cache GC-100-18R TCI/Network to IR Converter
Apple iPads

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