I suppose I'll play. I used the Pro Theater Layout Service. First and foremost, let me say that I am pleased with the product that I received. With that in mind, I'll give you my thoughts on the process.
Originally, I was considering a set of Signature design plans, but between my rapidly deteriorating budget, and quite a bit of confusion regarding what was actually included in the upper tier plans, I finally settled on the Pro Layout Service. I likely would have a gone with the Signature plan, but I was never able to get enough detailed information on what was included in each of the plans to make me comfortable with the price. There were a few items that I would have liked to have, such as a lighting plan, but I just couldn't justify the incremental cost to get just that.
At the outset, I was asked to complete a questionnaire and submit a dimensioned layout as well as videos and photos of my space and adjacent spaces. However, once I was ready to provide all of this, I was told all they really needed for a simple layout was the questionnaire, a floor plan, pictures of the walls (low res), and an equipment list if I had one.
The plans that I received included a front, back, left and right side elevation detail as well as a top down floor detail. These showed the location and size of the recommended screen (including a false wall), the location of the speakers for a 7.5 system (yes, 5 subs) and the associated column locations, soffit dimensions, seating locations along with the riser dimensions (in my case, the riser height was fixed by my room), as well as the locations for all of the Quest acoustic panels in the room and treatments for the front wall. Items missing of note were details regarding the materials to use IN
the soffits, riser, and stage, but most people that visit this forum are aware of how to treat those areas, and one could easily argue that those items are not part of the acoustic design.
My only complaints about the service are really in regard to the engineered panels. I'll try not to derail the thread here, but I was very clear at the outset that I wanted the option to use absorption based acoustic treatments. Before placing my order, I confirmed that this would be acceptable. Long story short, I have a plan for using the Quest panels, and instructions for how to substitute fiberglass panels. However, the absorption based plan is not as detailed or thorough as I had expected. The absorption based treatment plans that I am familiar with use more than just fiberglass panels along the walls. There didn't seem to be any real design effort put into an absorption based plan, and the layout really felt like a vehicle for advertising the Quest panels. So, if you intend to use absorption only for your acoustic treatments, you would probably be better served with a different service.
Now, why did I feel this service was right for me? When I contracted these plans, i already had a good idea of where I "thought" things should go. However, being my first theater build, I really wanted that second check to make sure I wasn't overlooking something. It turns out that I had everything within an inch or so of the locations recommended in my plans. So with enough time and research on these boards, you can DIY a layout that is very close. However, you still need an acoustic design. Knowing what I know now, I might consider hiring someone else to do the acoustic design as I'm still not sold on the engineered panels. But, all-in-all, I'm happy with my investment.
I think there are few groups that this service is a great value for.
- Someone that doesn't want to spend the time to research how to layout a room
- Someone that just wants that second check
- Someone planning to build the room yourself and already know "how" to build the room, but maybe you're not sure "where" everything goes (probably a subset of 1 or 2).
EDIT: I thought I should update this to document my ongoing experience with the Erskine Group. I contacted Dennis about a question I had regarding my layout; specifically, I wasn't sure why a side array was not included in my original layout. Dennis explained the reasons for not including it to begin with, but provided a set of updated plans. This was about 4 months after my plans were delivered. So this is excellent service after the fact. I do wish there was a little more dialogue on the front end of the basic service, however. This would have prevented the need for the reworked plans. Dennis updated them without complaint, though
Again, It's hard to beat the value of the basic service.