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post #1 of 9 Old 07-19-2014, 07:24 PM - Thread Starter
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Walnut/Suede HT Build: Myths & Realities!

I’m about 10 years away from retirement and am building a dedicated home theater for my golden years. I’m getting to the end of my theater build and wanted to share some opinions and lessons I learned.

This forum is fantastic for DIY’ers and I wanted to continue the tradition. I have a 15' x20' room (but with a “slanted wall” entry which made the design a challenge because it chopped off the back row) and slopped ceilings (8’6” up to 12’). This is my 3rd home theater set-up, but first dedicated room.
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post #2 of 9 Old 07-19-2014, 07:32 PM - Thread Starter
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BUDGET
First of all, it can (will?!) cost you more than you expect. I had a 5% cushion and probably added 20% to my budget, but that’s because I hired an interior decorator who saved me from a dozen mistakes. (The best $1200 I spent on the project.) Ultimately, only the projector and moderately priced speakers/amplifier are important, but the variables are endless. My budget went from $34,000 to probably $40,000.

Where to put your money:
This is personal opinion, but I’m guessing there is a lot of over spending on various items and I wanted to convey my experience with various price points. Excellent quality can be achieved with modest expenditures. I probably overspent, only for cosmetic reasons.
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post #3 of 9 Old 07-19-2014, 07:35 PM - Thread Starter
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Screen Carada

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The best kept secret in Home Theater is Carada screens. Check them out on the internet. I purchased a 132” Carada screen for less than $975.00 instead of $2500 - $3500 for Stewart or a (Best Buy product) Screen Innovations. In my opinion the $25,000 curved screen at Magnolia is not much better than the Carada. This screen is amazing for the price.

Granted, I purchased the Sony ES55, which is a great projector. (I never auditioned less expensive projectors, so I don’t have advice here. I love deep blacks and the Sony exceeded my expectations.)
A 132” screen is wonderful for the back row, but a bit large for the front row (Only 20 inches off the ground). I don’t regret buying this size though. I got a 16 x9 screen. A masking system system totally unnecessary.

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post #4 of 9 Old 07-19-2014, 07:43 PM - Thread Starter
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AMP & PRIMARY SPEAKERS
Get this: I am currently (but temporarily) using my son’s Denon AVR 591 (only $350! ) and some 10 year old Energy Connoisseur C-7 speakers (I believe $1000 a pair), and the Energy Connoisseur C-C3 center speakers ($600). This temporary set-up is $2000 for amp/speakers and sounds fantastic.

I’ve learned that SURROUND SOUND for Home Theater is VERY FORGIVING. You don’t need to spend a lot for fantastic surround sound (2 channel music is a different endeavor.) Many posters on this site are true audiophiles; it’s a hobby and I respect them for it. But if you don’t need perfection, you can spend WAY less and still be wowed.

I have previously owned a $500 Onkyo Pro-Logic amp, a 2002 Sony DA5000 ES Amp ($1500) (piece of crap) and various separates. The point I’d like to make is the integrated amps in the year 2014 are amazing. You don’t need separates; it’s a bunch of hooey if you are not seeking perfection. Read up on blind testing of amps http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_Car...ifier_modeling

Truth be known, I am eventually purchasing the Marantz integrated amp ( SR7008 or 7009) and a pair of $3000 to $4000 speakers. However, that is only because I like the features of this integrated amp and I love dedicated 2 channel music. This price point ($7500 with center) is totally unnecessary to achieve excellent home theater sound.

The doors were too expensive in real walnut so I used "select alder" and my stainer/finisher matched to the walnut casing:
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post #5 of 9 Old 07-19-2014, 07:47 PM - Thread Starter
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CENTER SPEAKER
This is not a place to skimp. Price is typically equal to quality. My guess is, you need to get above the $500 range to get a good dialogue speaker. This is the majority of sound on movies.

SURROUND SOUND
This area seems to be where people spend too much and over estimate the importance of costly surround speakers. The information coming out of these speakers is just supporting the 3 up front speakers (L-C-R), and usually have a limited frequency range (okay there is some important music information, but nothing like the primary speakers). I think positioning is way more critical than actual surround speaker cost. I like a diffuse surround experience.

I previously had a 7.1 set up, and frankly there are just not enough movies mixed for this to be worthwhile and 99-100% of tv is mixed in 5.1. I like a non-directional surround sound experience, so I put ten (10) smaller ($10 speakers) in the rear (5 per side). It sounds incredible and you have no idea where the sound is emanating from. The surround sound truly “envelopes” the listener.

The black tape is the positions of the 6" surround speakers
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post #6 of 9 Old 07-19-2014, 07:49 PM - Thread Starter
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SUBWOOFER
This IS actually a component where quality and umph is fairly commensurate with price. I temporarily have a $350.00 Velodyne subwoofer and it’s just not enough to feel it in the chest. In my other home theater space I have an 15 year old Velodyne ULD-18 subwoofer ($1800 in its day) and it’s phenomenal. I will probably go with the Rhythmik 15” subwoofer. My opinion: it’s fun to have chest thumping bass during a movie. For music, I find the $3-4000 speakers fine without a bass.

AIR CONDITIONING/HVAC
I put a return duct and grate (14” x 14”) and 3 supply vents and it works fantastic. You can’t under estimate the need for multiple air vents in an enclosed space.
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post #7 of 9 Old 07-19-2014, 07:52 PM - Thread Starter
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Lighting

LIGHTING
I didn’t go crazy on home automation, but with Roomie (or Niles IR repeater) which is a great competitor to Control 4, I’m guessing internet (IP) controlled function will get better and better.

Lutron just came out with Caseta dimmers, good on both Halogen and LED, which can be controlled with the $125 smart bridge. I haven’t installed this, but hear good things. Supposedly, multiple “scene” controls, while Lutron Maestro has one. The previous Lutron “Spacer” system was much more versatile.

I put in 5 lighting zones and love it. 21 lights in total. I put in LED’s for the most part, but in front I used Halogen, because they dim much nicer.

4 - Sconces,
6 - General lights” 6” can (2 up front and 4 in the back, separate dimmers)
9- 4” cans around the perimeter (2 up front and 7 around the side/ back, separate dimmers)
2- step lights with 1.5 volt LEDs
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post #8 of 9 Old 07-19-2014, 07:55 PM - Thread Starter
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CURTAIN

Since I wanted the room for duel purpose, ie relaxed with the windown open. I kept one of the windows and dry-walled a 6’ x 5’ window, and a “half moon” window over the 3 window on the long wall. My decorator /curtain guy is installing a Somfy 10’ long Roman shade that has a motor and is electrically operated. Has been installed yet; jury’s out.

I have to say, $400 for a suede cornice box was much cheaper than $1200 for a walnut box!
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post #9 of 9 Old 07-19-2014, 08:00 PM - Thread Starter
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Some other discoveries and musts:
If you can, put the components in a separate room. Heat and distraction will kill the experience.

Paint the ceiling black. The walls don’t need to be black or even dark, but the ceiling yes. Also the screen wall should be surrounded by black paint, fabric or Guilford of Maine. The entire does not have to be black. Once the lights are down, you won’t even notice the sides.

In a 15 x 20’ room, you probably need at least a 12” platform for two rows. A 14-16” platform would probably be better, but a pain to build.

If you use certain Monoprice HDMI cables check the “direction” of the signal. They are designated as “source and monitor.” It would be a shame if you put these in backwards. I mounted a 55’ plasma on the side wall for my son’s game. It’s a 50 foot HDMI and works flawlessly.

Run multiple Cat-6 cables to:
Front of the platform, under the screen, to the projector. This should “future proof” you’re connections for a while.

Wire to put the game controller (Xbox, etc) in the room. My understanding is that IR repeaters are not great for gaming.
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