Is pro design necessary to get audio on par with best commercial cinemas? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 37 Old 10-12-2014, 08:52 PM - Thread Starter
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Is pro design necessary to get audio on par with best commercial cinemas?

Okay please help - I'm going insane chasing my tail on this question.

After over a decade living (happily) with a 5.1 system consisting of the original Swan Divas (4.1 LR mains, C3 center channel, 2.1 surrounds) and a crappy HTIB leftover Sony 8" subwoofer, and a Sony 7.1 digital amp receiver (true 120 watts per channel driving all speakers simultaneously) I have gone whole hog and put in a 176" cinema scope screen and stage.

My acoustic treatments so far consist of two GIK Acoustics bass traps and some velvet curtains.

Now I'm up for the task of a serious audio upgrade but I do not know where to start. What I do know is that I want to do this right - and my target is the level of audio quality found in the best Los Angeles commercial cinemas. Which for my personal taste are the "black box" screening rooms at the Arclight Hollywood.

There are run of the mill cinemas, there are above average, and then there are a few that just blow you away - the Arclight does it for me. Clean, crisp, body shaking bass that is not boomy. Incredibly crisp dialogue that sucks you into the picture. Truly immersive surround sound that feels natural, not gimmicky "gee whiz that jet just flew out the rear left speaker".

So how do I get that? What I am afraid of is that I will spend a lot of time and money doing the typical AVS DIY route (such as working with an acoustician remotely at a place like GIK to get treatment recommendations) and then end up with something that is quite nice, but still lacking - and then I will have created a lot of waste if I try to do it all over again. I do NOT want multiple rounds of audio upgrades. I'd rather do this piece-by-piece getting the best (but not wasting money on needless excess either) over time.

One thing that is driving me around the bend is figuring out where to start with subwoofers. Multiple less expensive ones? Fewer more expensive ones? Start with one or two and go from there? $500 each? $1000 each? DIY?

Is Mark Henniger right - high end audio is obsolete and I should be using cheap pro audio gear instead?

Should I hire a real acoustic designer to build plans for the room?

the room, btw, is a 4200 cubic foot rectangle, 9X19X25, with an open stairwell on one side about 3X15' leading to the bottom floor. Soundproofing is not on the menu. Acoustic treatment for audio quality is.

Thanks for any advice on where to start the planning process.

"Don't forget that a significant contribution made by the use of high-end cabling is emotional. Knowing that you have the best available causes the listening and viewing to be that much more enjoyable. Observable improvements make it even better."

-From a post on the audio video improvements forum
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post #2 of 37 Old 10-12-2014, 09:08 PM - Thread Starter
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Another thing which has me gripped with indecision is the fact that even Arclight does not have even audio quality among its different locations. The Hollywood location's screening rooms were built from scratch to their specs. The Pasadena location however has noticeably inferior audio quality - but the difference is that it was previously an AMC. Arclight purchased the location and did what they claim is extensive remodeling, but the room dimensions were not Arclight's to begin with, and they are not the same dimensions you find at the Hollywood location.

If even Arclight can't replicate their own delicious sound when they start with rooms they didn't build in the first place, am I foolish to think I can do it as a DIY hobbyist in my own home?

Yes I know I can best the quality of ye typical crappo chain theater - but that's not my target.

"Don't forget that a significant contribution made by the use of high-end cabling is emotional. Knowing that you have the best available causes the listening and viewing to be that much more enjoyable. Observable improvements make it even better."

-From a post on the audio video improvements forum
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post #3 of 37 Old 10-13-2014, 05:39 AM
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There is a pro designer's showroom in No Ca, Acoustic Frontiers. Schedule a visit if you want to see the best one pro designer can do.
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post #4 of 37 Old 10-13-2014, 08:41 AM
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Anthony Grimani is right in LA. Yes, you are chasing your tail. You know the sound you seek, but not sure how to get there. A professional will explain how to do this. It is much more than acoustical treatment. As far as high end being dead, hog wash, but you need equipment that fulfills standards. THX is the only company that has established standards for every aspect of a home theater. So, i would ensure that whomever you consider designing your room, understands those standards and how to achieve it. t
They should be experts in every avenue of a theater. From acoustics, to isolation, to construction, to video, to products. Now, budget also comes into mind. There are several designers. Grimani, Yates, TK theaters, Erskine Group, Acoustic Frontiers, GIK, etc. Each has their different approaches and strengths...and <gulp> prices. Some charge like lawyers, while others bid the total price. The theater is more than the separate parts. It is a cohesive whole that combines not only science, but art as well. I would recommend taking a look at each of the aforementioned companies and see if any meet your budget, taste and price. Then determine if they will meet what you seek through the interview process. Hope this helps!

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CEDIA Certified Professional EST II - HAA Level III Certified -THX Certified Professional

Design-Video & Audio Calibration Information

The original Pro Theater Layout
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post #5 of 37 Old 10-13-2014, 11:02 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks to both of you - Shawn and Jeff. Working with a consultant to help guide my design and implementation is exactly what the doctor ordered and you both mentioned some great people to start working with.

"Don't forget that a significant contribution made by the use of high-end cabling is emotional. Knowing that you have the best available causes the listening and viewing to be that much more enjoyable. Observable improvements make it even better."

-From a post on the audio video improvements forum
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post #6 of 37 Old 10-13-2014, 11:49 AM
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A professional should be able to demonstrate their value add. For me that means I target providing a better end result in terms of audio and video performance for the same dollar value than if someone had tried to go it themselves. So the design + calibration assistance pays for itself. Other professional designers will have different priorities . Our focus is and will continue to be adding value to 'mid-size' home theater projects ($20-100k)that have historically not been of sufficient dollar size to incorporate top tier design assistance. Other designers focus on larger projects, as you can tell from their fee structures and deliverables.
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post #7 of 37 Old 10-13-2014, 01:54 PM
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I'm going to disagree with that 100% Nyal. Many of the designers listed will produce designs in the budget range you mentioned. In fact, the bulk of the work lies within that area. In the hundreds of theaters I've designed, only 5 have exceeded 100k. Can't speak for Dennis, but I deal with the other end of Erskine Group.
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post #8 of 37 Old 10-13-2014, 02:52 PM
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IMHO Shawn's Basic design service is the best value I've seen, It normally includes an acoustical plan
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post #9 of 37 Old 10-13-2014, 03:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SierraMikeBravo View Post
I'm going to disagree with that 100% Nyal. Many of the designers listed will produce designs in the budget range you mentioned. In fact, the bulk of the work lies within that area. In the hundreds of theaters I've designed, only 5 have exceeded 100k. Can't speak for Dennis, but I deal with the other end of Erskine Group.
You always 100% disagree, no?

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post #10 of 37 Old 10-13-2014, 04:36 PM
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Originally Posted by SierraMikeBravo View Post
I'm going to disagree with that 100% Nyal. Many of the designers listed will produce designs in the budget range you mentioned. In fact, the bulk of the work lies within that area. In the hundreds of theaters I've designed, only 5 have exceeded 100k. Can't speak for Dennis, but I deal with the other end of Erskine Group.
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You always 100% disagree, no?

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post #11 of 37 Old 10-13-2014, 05:01 PM
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One thing that is driving me around the bend is figuring out where to start with subwoofers. Multiple less expensive ones? Fewer more expensive ones? Start with one or two and go from there? $500 each? $1000 each? DIY?
Bass is tough to get right without science and the right room. I'd suggest you read the harman white paper on bass placement and check out the double bass array thread as a starting point.

1/4 distances from the left/right walls and ceiling/floor is not too hard:



That's a popular option that works well for most people.

Some guys will put the subs at the half way points, or in the nulls which can decrease output but make it smoother. Other guys corner load their subs for max output, but suffer the problems with that (room generated) and try to EQ it.

At the end of the day you really won't get great bass without either a pro design, or an extensive willingness to measure and learn and experiment yourself, which will include a lot of research and questions on this forum. Skipping the required learning curve and experience is why people pay a pro.

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Is Mark Henniger right - high end audio is obsolete and I should be using cheap pro audio gear instead?
Depends. Some of the pro audio stuff actually measures as good or better than the expensive consumer stuff. Some of the others are trash. I think you'll be smart to research which lines and which pro audio amps perform the best.

Generally- the pro audio stuff is a lot cheaper and can deliver great results so the strategy is a good one. But it's not as easy and shooting in the dark and hitting your target. A good Crown or QSC amp is often used commecially with good results and the quality control and features are a good value IMO. Beheringer gets a lot of praise too. Some of the FP14000 Lab Gruppen clones are stupidly cheap for the amount of power they have. Lab Gruppen FP14000 clone amplifiers


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Should I hire a real acoustic designer to build plans for the room?
Depends. Generally yes. You'll need a lot of time and reading on this forum and the others here to get a decent enough grasp to go at it alone and obtain a professional level result. It's been done, and can be done. But for $700 or whatever Shawn charges for a basic layout... you'd need a lot of confidence to skip that. Nyal starts more expensive I believe, but you get something different. I think with both of them you can have a fair amount of customization or added extras. Like with anything else it all comes down to the effort and time it takes. From what I have seen around here both are great options.

If your room is already done and built then I think it might be smarter to have someone like a calibrator out into your space and measure it, and design your treatment plan. A treatment plan can be done for an existing room. I think that is kind of a secret around here. For any existing space generally a priority is maintaining and utlizing the existing size and dimensions so if the theater and size or layout of the room are somewhat already determined then there is value in having a top calibrator out on location to measure and integrate and calibrate your system after the fact. A good calibrator will know where to put diffusion, where to put absorption, reflection, abfusion..... etc.. You can DIY acoustic treatments or buy them pre-made. Many of the companies that sell pre made treatments will offer advice on which treatments and for what... that's a valuable resource.

Like anything else it comes down to budget. If you are totally poor (like me!) then you are probably looking at pro audio stuff, DIY speaker, DIY subs, DIY acoustical treaments etc... for bang for the buck it can not be beat. You can obtain a professional result for a minimal budget as a true DIYer, but it is no simple thing. You'll earn it the hard way with a lot of research, time and effort. If you can't do that, then hire a pro. My .02. At a minimum you'll want to get a calibrator to come finalize the results. Some design packages include this service (or offer it as an add on) which is a good value IMO. I think a basic layout service + having a calibrator on site upon completion to validate, measure and calibrate the system is a good idea if your budget will afford it. If you had to pick one or the other, take the professional calibration on site and have the calibrator verify your DIY treatments are correct (and fix if necessary)
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post #12 of 37 Old 10-13-2014, 05:15 PM
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My understanding of the double bass array is that for maximum performance it needs to be coupled with a rear wall bass absorption device to attenuate room length standing waves. There is a guy in So Ca building such a room with bales of insulation along the rear wall hidden by a fabric wall.
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post #13 of 37 Old 10-13-2014, 05:16 PM
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Oh.. I am not sure I mentioned the DIY speakers and subs.. but they are superior to MFG made IMO. If you need help just PM me. For DIY subs, no commercial subwoofer is going to compete anywhere near the price. For speakers, if you use a good kit the same holds true.

I'm going to the northeast audio GTG where we will blind test the JBL M2 system vs the JTR 215 vs the Synergy Horn (hoping on the Danley) and I'll be really curious how they stack up to my total DIY design (Crown active amp, active crossovers, AE TD15M /SEOS15). Even the owners of these high end beasts will openly admit that for bang for the buck the SEOS kits can't be beat. I'm not sure there is any sub $1500 commercial speakers that could best a $300 kit actually. I can't think of any.

What is your budget for amps, speakers, subs ect.. ?? I'll point you in the right direction if you think you want to go there. Try to find an audition or attend a local get together, it's the best way to hear and compare speakers- especially DIY designs. If you can't read the threads about them. The 1099 design actually bested the JTR and the Funk audio speakers at the last pacific northwest GTG and that's like a $350 kit. I'm not sure they will best a synergy horn, but they might get close (as close as you can get) for that money. A synergy horn is a nice example of a pro audio grade gear that can surpass high end gear easily. The better designs are based on science (Tom Danley has a patent on that) and some of the internet direct speakers like JTR can provide a good value as well.

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post #14 of 37 Old 10-13-2014, 05:19 PM
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My understanding of the double bass array is that for maximum performance it needs to be coupled with a rear wall bass absorption device to attenuate room length standing waves. There is a guy in So Ca building such a room with bales of insulation along the rear wall hidden by a fabric wall.
Yes. It's all in the thread. Anyone looking to do that would want to go through the thread and understand that first. Good point.

Jvoth is looking at something like that possibly and searching for speakers and subs. The original poster might take value from his total DIY theater build, and his subwoofer and speaker advice thread.


Build thread:
The Phoenix Theater Build Thread

Speaker and sub thread:
Recommendations for speakers and subs

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post #15 of 37 Old 10-13-2014, 05:27 PM
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BTW in reading your title of this thread I think there is a mistake..

The level I am talking about is among the best possible sounding high end theaters. Sounding better than a commercial cinema is easy. I could do that for $5000 in audio gear, and some wood and OC703.

There is a huge difference between a commercial cinema and a high end professional designed home theater. Find a good theater designer and get a demo, or attend a trade show or factory demonstration room. CEDIA or CES type events can get you a decent example (although even those don't usually sound as good as a real pro designed theater). The devil is in the details (and the audio calibration). Most commercial cinema fall rather short, perhaps a modern IMAX or ATMOS is your best bet commercially. Most commercial cinema is not that, if they don't charge $15+ or more for a single ticket it's probably chitty sound.

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post #16 of 37 Old 10-13-2014, 05:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Mfusick View Post
BTW in reading your title of this thread I think there is a mistake..

The level I am talking about is among the best possible sounding high end theaters. Sounding better than a commercial cinema is easy. I could do that for $5000 in audio gear, and some wood and OC703.

There is a huge difference between a commercial cinema and a high end professional designed home theater. Find a good theater designer and get a demo, or attend a trade show or factory demonstration room. CEDIA or CES type events can get you a decent example (although even those don't usually sound as good as a real pro designed theater). The devil is in the details (and the audio calibration). Most commercial cinema fall rather short, perhaps a modern IMAX or ATMOS is your best bet commercially. Most commercial cinema is not that, if they don't charge $15+ or more for a single ticket it's probably chitty sound.
+1

I've had over 60+ different people watch a movie in my room.................EVERY SINGLE PERSON mentioned experience was much, much better than any theater they've visited.

Without saying.......I totally agree.

Jeff Myers visits room next June so I anticipate even better results..........
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post #17 of 37 Old 10-13-2014, 07:11 PM
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My understanding of the double bass array is that for maximum performance it needs to be coupled with a rear wall bass absorption device to attenuate room length standing waves. There is a guy in So Ca building such a room with bales of insulation along the rear wall hidden by a fabric wall.

Double bass array = 8 subs in a rectangular room, 4 on front wall as per the diagram posted by Mfusick and 4 on the rear wall in the same arrangement. What you are talking about is more correctly termed a single bass array, where the idea is still a plane wave but instead of active cancellation from the rear wall array the plane wave is absorbed by the back wall.
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post #18 of 37 Old 10-13-2014, 09:05 PM
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I was kind of correct, the 4 speakers on the rear wall are the bass absorption device, if we classify cancellation as absorption. But you are right, double stands for the front and back wall.
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post #19 of 37 Old 10-13-2014, 10:07 PM
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Anyone have any idea where to look for a pro designer in the chicago suburbs?
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post #20 of 37 Old 10-14-2014, 05:14 AM
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Most designers can do their work with photos, measurements and phone calls. Hand-holding onsite is highly overrated. If you can take measruements and a bunch of photos, you can have your pick of the available talent. Room equipment calibration is a different story.
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post #21 of 37 Old 10-14-2014, 05:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mfusick View Post
Yes. It's all in the thread. Anyone looking to do that would want to go through the thread and understand that first. Good point.

Jvoth is looking at something like that possibly and searching for speakers and subs. The original poster might take value from his total DIY theater build, and his subwoofer and speaker advice thread.


Build thread:
The Phoenix Theater Build Thread

Speaker and sub thread:
Recommendations for speakers and subs
Mfusick, wrong guy. Granroth has the total DIY thread but you provided a link so I guess it's not a big deal. Hell it must be hard keeping up with everything since you have over 20K posts. AVS should start kicking back some their advertising money to you since you're on here so much.

I do think I can provide some insight on this. I'm not sure about the DIY speakers route since I haven't heard any. I'll take everyone's word that they are as good as advertised though. I do regret not going the DIY sub route though. It just looks so easy putting together these flat packs and rolling duratex on them. Not to mention you can build four 15" subs for cheaper than my dual SVS subs. I'm really pleased with my SVS's but even getting them b-stock was 2 grand.

As far as the main speakers go, I'm going to recommend M&K if you're not going the DIY route. They are used in mixing studios everywhere and they have a very "movie cinema" sound to them. The tweeters aren't the horn loaded type like you'll find in a pro cinema or with SEOS designs, but they still have, like I said, a very cinema quality sound to them. I was really thinking about going the DIY Soundgroup route but I was concerned about timbre matching the surrounds with the LCR's so I just decided to stick with the M&K's that I already had. When a plane flies overhead, the soundstage is perfectly seamless. I may have been able to get that with the DIY Soundgroup stuff, but I wasn't 100% sure so I stuck with what I had. The M&K's are also THX certified which I guess could ease some people's minds if they are going after a certain standard, like SierraMike said earlier.
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Problem with just any speaker is that it effects the treatment plan or design- ideally you'd like to know how the speaker behaves before the plan is created because this information is important in making a good plan. Compression drivers and wave guides offer good dynamics and also controlled directivity which is why they are favored for top professional home cinema.
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post #23 of 37 Old 10-14-2014, 06:26 AM
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Now I'm up for the task of a serious audio upgrade but I do not know where to start. What I do know is that I want to do this right - and my target is the level of audio quality found in the best Los Angeles commercial cinemas. Which for my personal taste are the "black box" screening rooms at the Arclight Hollywood.
If I were building a state-of-the-art world class system, my equipment choices would be Trinnov Altitude processor, JBL M2 LCR(if music a priority) or Quested LCR(if movie only) and Quested or JBL surrounds based upon room design and layout, and sufficient amplification for the task.

A room designer and calibrator is a given, but they would have to work with my equipment choices, not the other way around.

As to DIY, as good a value as it is, I have not heard one yet that was on the same level as the best of the top manufacturers. If the best is your goal, I would not go this route. And I'm not saying DIY can't reach that level, just that I haven't heard it yet and I wouldn't take that gamble.
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post #24 of 37 Old 10-14-2014, 09:21 AM
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If I were building a state-of-the-art world class system, my equipment choices would be Trinnov Altitude processor, JBL M2 LCR(if music a priority) or Quested LCR(if movie only) and Quested or JBL surrounds based upon room design and layout, and sufficient amplification for the task.

A room designer and calibrator is a given, but they would have to work with my equipment choices, not the other way around.

As to DIY, as good a value as it is, I have not heard one yet that was on the same level as the best of the top manufacturers. If the best is your goal, I would not go this route. And I'm not saying DIY can't reach that level, just that I haven't heard it yet and I wouldn't take that gamble.

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post #25 of 37 Old 10-14-2014, 09:45 AM
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Question for BIG...

Do you perform fee based room assessments? I am in Silver Spring, MD and I am hoping to avoid some potential costly trial and error exercises. I have paint going on my walls now and I'm a bit concerned that I might be missing/neglecting important items.

My Theater Build

Equipment List: Epson 6030, Panamorph U480, Oppo-103, SVS PB12-NSD, LSA Statement LCR & surround speakers, Def Tech ProCinema 1000 rears & front wides, DefTech DI5.5R Atmos overheads, Grafik Eye 3106....more to come
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post #26 of 37 Old 10-14-2014, 10:13 AM
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Originally Posted by Nyal Mellor View Post
MMMM...JBL M2s


More on CD designs here: http://www.acousticfrontiers.com/201...vity-speakers/
I am happy to report that the objective, the theory, and the subjective, are fully aligned with the M2's.
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post #27 of 37 Old 10-14-2014, 10:23 AM
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Originally Posted by Gooddoc View Post
I am happy to report that the objective, the theory, and the subjective, are fully aligned with the M2's.
Do you have M2? Any links to your theater?

Master of Minions, Acoustic Frontiers. We specialize in the design and creation of high performance listening rooms, home theaters and project studios for discerning audio/video enthusiasts.
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post #28 of 37 Old 10-14-2014, 11:36 AM
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IMHO Shawn's Basic design service is the best value I've seen, It normally includes an acoustical plan
Big,

Which company is Shawn with?

Thanks!


...Glenn
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post #29 of 37 Old 10-14-2014, 01:26 PM
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. In the hundreds of theaters I've designed, only 5 have exceeded 100k.

Regards,
John
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post #30 of 37 Old 10-14-2014, 02:11 PM
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Big,

Which company is Shawn with?

Thanks!
Erskine Group, I suspect you aren't viewing signatures on the forum. his forum handle is SierraMikeBravo
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