Audio-industry veteran Roger Dressler created a spur-jingling home theater that no one from Deadwood could ever imagine.
Roger Dressler is a well-known, highly respected member of the AVS community. He spent a quarter-century at Dolby Labs helping to develop seminal surround-sound technologies such as Pro Logic II and Dolby Digital, and he holds no less than six US patents in the audio field. After leaving Dolby, Roger joined the Advisory Board of SRS Labs as that company was creating its MDA (Multi-Dimensional Audio) object-based immersive-sound system, which is now part of the DTS portfolio. These days, he consults on audio technology and has become active in SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) working on object-based audio systems for cinema.
With all his experience in multi-channel audio, it was a bit surprising to learn that Roger only recently built a dedicated home theater for himself. "After years of small-screen family-room surround sound, it was finally time to have a dedicated home theater. Our new house in Bend, Oregon, happened to have a small bonus room measuring 17 x 11.5 x 8 feet on the second floor, which is where the new theater would be installed.
"The main goal was to be non-invasive—no tearing down sheet rock, no removing windows. I didn't even run any wires inside the walls, and the whole system runs on a single 15-amp circuit. It was 2008, so the original plan was 7.1, with an emphasis on music playback—no speakers behind the screen."
The "front" of the bonus room (where the screen would be) has three windows that would have to be completely blocked with custom-made inserts.
The rear of the room has two windows that would also have custom-made inserts to completely block any light.
After six months of planning and research "at the University of AVS Forum," it was time to get his hands dirty—in fact, Roger did all the work himself except for the HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) and carpet. "Three walls and the ceiling are all exterior, so only the floor and one wall are common with the rest of the house. In order to reduce the room dimensions as little as possible, the sound isolation was confined to those two surfaces. I applied layer of QuietRock 510 over the existing sheetrock wall with Green Glue. The original 1 1/8" OSB subfloor is now covered with a sandwich of the original carpet (pad removed), 3/4" T&G OSB, Green Glue, 5/8" plywood, a layer of 1/8" MLV, felt pad, and finally the new carpet. A 300-pound door with rubber gaskets effectively seals the room."
A massive door seals the sound inside the theater. The movie poster at the entrance reveals the origin of the theater's theme and name—Roger is a big fan of the HBO series Deadwood.
Inside the theater, the door happened to be in the same location as the first-reflection point, so Roger installed a Quest Perf-Sorber on the door itself, with a cutout for the handle.
Of course, with two rows of seating, the second row needed a riser. "The riser is floating on its own foam carpet pad, which really helps transmit bass into the rear seats. And it doesn't hurt that two of the four subwoofers sit right behind those seats!"
Controlling noise from the HVAC system is critical for any serious home theater. "Room temperature is controlled by a Mitsubishi Mr. Slim mini split mounted in the attic space at a sufficient distance from the room to keep it inaudible. The air rolls in at low velocity from the front and rear soffits."
Speaking of the soffits, they provide an ingenious means of running cables around the room without breaking into the walls. "The rear and side soffits are hinged to allow easy access and serve as raceways for speaker wires and the projector HDMI cable. Line level signals run along the side wall behind the baseboard, which is offset from the wall to form a deep channel. The cables are easy to access while remaining invisible."
The soffits are hinged for easy access to the cables that run through them.
With the soffit closed, the cables are invisible behind an attractive architectural element.
The screen presented its own set of challenges. "I wanted the screen to have some sort of variable masking to frame the picture with black regardless of the image aspect ratio. I thought about motorized drapes, but using a CIH (constant image height) approach would have meant that the left and right speakers would be well outside the screen in 1.85 mode.
"So I went with a DIY CIW (constant image width) setup. I ordered the motorized screen with an extra two feet of blackdrop at the top. This allows the screen to be lowered behind a 3-foot-high masking panel that spans the full width of the screen. The screen has a stop for 1.85:1, which exposes the entire white surface, and another stop at 2.40, which drops the top edge and lowers the bottom edge behind the masking panel. That keeps the left, right, and center speakers near the edges of the screen in either case. If I ever need a 2.70:1 ultra-wide aspect ratio, I can dial it in." The JVC DLA-RS10 does not use an anamorphic lens; instead, Roger uses the projector's motorized vertical lens shift to keep the image at the bottom of the screen. Focus and zoom need no adjustment in either aspect ratio.
Roger's clever CIW screen system adjusts the height of the screen for different aspect ratios, leaving the LCR speakers near the edges of the screen in all cases. The center speaker sits atop two power amps, an Anthem MCA 50 and Classe CAV-150, which provide a total of 11 channels of amplification. Flanking the amps are two Hsu ULS-15 subs.
As Roger recounts, the biggest challenge was horrible sound. "It was pretty disheartening to hear the initial results of a year's work. The Aerial SW12 subwoofer that had served so well in the previous family-room system could not be persuaded to offer smooth bass in this smaller room no matter where I put it. After lots of reading and experimenting with JBL's BassQ processor, I learned the value of multiple subs and tuning."
Even though he achieved very uniform bass response with the BassQ, he eventually discovered that the system had more impact at the main listening position without it and decided that was a worthy tradeoff. "I also get better headroom running the front pair as one sub and the rear pair as another sub, as there's no peaky EQ being applied to individual subs."
Given his work in immersive, object-based audio, it's only natural that Roger would want to add height speakers to his original 7.1 setup now that such systems are available for the home. To that end, he installed four Tannoy Di6 DC speakers in the corners of the ceiling.
The four height speakers are aimed at the seating area to provide a 3D soundfield from the Dolby Atmos, Auro, and any other immersive formats that become available. All 12 of the acoustic diffusers are also visible in this shot.
Of course, the new immersive-sound systems require a new preamp/processor, and Roger settled on the Marantz AV7702 for its ability to decode both Dolby Atmos and Auro. But he kept the Classe SSP-800 for music listening.
A DIY switching system lets Roger select the Marantz AV7702 for Dolby Atmos and Auro soundtracks or the Classe SSP-800 for music listening in Pro Logic IIx.
Two Ekornes Arion Lowback sofas provide the perfect seating in this Western-themed theater without blocking the rear surrounds.
After more than a year of planning, building, and revising—and about $50,000—the room is now complete, at least until the next immersive-sound format comes along. Meanwhile, Roger and his wife can enjoy state-of-the-art audio and video in a delightful Old West setting. It's the best of both worlds, pardner!
For much more detail about how Roger Dressler's home theater came together, check out the build thread here
If you'd like your home theater considered for HT of the Month, PM me with the details and a link to your build thread if available.
Oppo BDP-93 BD player
Sony BDP-S3200 BD player
Sony CDP-X55 CD player
Apple TV Gen1 for music files
Classe SSP-800 surround processor
Marantz AV7702 surround processor
Classe CAV-150 6-channel power amp
Anthem MCA 50 5-channel power amp
Da-Lite High Contrast Cinema Vision (106" wide, 1.85:1 native aspect ratio, CIW masking, not acoustically transparent)
Aerial Acoustics 7B (front LR)
Aerial Acoustics CC3B (center)
B&W CWM-8180 (4, side & rear surrounds)
Tannoy Di6 DC (4, heights)
Hsu Research ULS-15 (4, subwoofers)
Canare 4S11 (mains), Rapco 12/2 (heights) speaker cables
Blue Jeans interconnects
Ekornes Arion Lowback 3-seat sofas (2), ottoman
Like AVS Forum on Facebook
Follow AVS Forum on Twitter
+1 AVS Forum on Google+