Home Theater of the Month: Rustic Retreat

Rob Szewczyk’s rustic-yet-elegant home theater offers immense audio power, leather-wrapped speakers, and some serious butt kickage.

When Rob Szewczyk (rms8) was designing his new house, his starting point was a kick-ass home theater. “I wanted the space to be free of any obstacles, like HVAC ducts, support beams and poles, and conduit. Of course, the theater would eat up square footage in the home, and it would have to share walls with the living space—or I could build it under the garage! I chose the latter. A side benefit is that I didn’t have to go overboard with any sort of noise-isolation techniques, which helped offset the cost of building under a garage.”

Rob had other requirements as well. “I wanted to leave the real world at the door and not have the theater feel like just another room in the home.” He also insisted on a projection screen 10 to 11 feet wide and infinite-baffle (IB) subwoofers “for their uncolored sound, since I enjoy listening to music as well as movies. A side benefit of IB subs is that they eat up zero floor space in the room itself.” Finally, he wanted two-tier seating on platforms that would accommodate tactile transducers.

After nearly two years of planning, construction finally got underway. A giant hole was excavated, lined with 12-inch-thick concrete, and covered with a layer of Spancrete, which would become the floor of the three-car garage. After that, Rob did just about everything else with his own two hands, except for the masonry, drywall, and carpet.


The shell of Rob’s home theater was excavated beneath where the garage would be and lined with 12-inch-thick concrete. Talk about sound isolation!

One of Rob’s requirements was the use of infinite-baffle (IB) subwoofers, in which the drivers are mounted in a wall that allows the front waves to enter the room while isolating the rear waves in a separate, relatively large space behind the wall. This prevents the rear waves from affecting the sound in the room, and with virtually no enclosure behind the driver, there is no enclosure coloration. “The walls with IB drivers are all 2×6 studs sheeted on both sides with 23/32″ plywood. The actual structure in which the drivers are mounted does not touch any of the framed wall around it.” Rob decided to put two 18″ FiCar IB318 drivers in each corner near the floor, a well-regarded configuration for smooth bass.


In this view of the rear wall, the IB sub framing is highlighted in red.


Here we see the front (screen) wall with the finished IB-sub baffles in place.

As for the rest of the room, it is framed with 2x4s and sheeted with 23/32″ plywood. Noise-isolation techniques, such as staggered studs, Green Glue, clips, and channels, were unnecessary thanks to the location of the room and the 12-inch concrete walls. “All wall cavities were filled with pink fluffy after first being filled with leftover closed-cell polyisocyanurate foam core. The ceiling was spanned with 2x4s laid flat, which gave me a 1.5″ space. After running speaker wire for four overheads [if I ever go that route], I filled the voids with 1″ Johns Manville closed-cell polyisocyanurate foam core. The floor has an 8-pound moisture- and mold-resistant pad under a pretty standard plush-type carpet.”

Another must-have was an extensive tactile-transducer system. Rob designed special “flimsy platforms for each row of seating, which enhance the tactile sensation from the transducers and subwoofers.” He placed the isolator feet farther in from the corners than usual, allowing the platforms to flex, then mounted a Buttkicker transducer in diagonally opposed corners of each platform and wired them out of phase with each other. In addition, each seat has its own mini Buttkicker. The solid, permanent second-row tier includes a removable cover that provides access to all wiring in three 2″ conduits (AC power, AV and network, and lighting) that were placed before the concrete floor was poured.


There is a raised platform on the floor for the front row and another platform on the solid tier for the second row. Each platform has a pair of Buttkicker transducers that take you for a serious ride!

In order to “leave the real world at the door and not have the theater feel like just another room in the home,” Rob created a rustic look with lots of reclaimed barnwood and two large faux beams. Another design element was the use of stacked ledgestone on the side walls. “The stone veneer on the interior of the room is called Black River Ledgestone, manufactured by Eldorado Stone.”


The ledgestone facade on the walls is joined by reclaimed barnwood on the ceiling to create a rustic look. The acoustic panels were covered with plastic sheets during construction.

Although no sound-isolation measures were taken, Rob did install extensive acoustic treatments throughout the room. “I placed acoustic panels at the reflection points based on where I assumed my speakers would go, as well as the entire front and rear walls. The material for the panels is 2” Knauf Sonic XP. The treatments were built onto the walls before the stone went up using 1x2s to frame them out. The treatments in the rear corners stop at the top of the subwoofer baffles. The plan was to make the grills so they were flush with the treatments, which would give the illusion of a seamless black treatment starting from the floor. But I actually liked being able to see the drivers, so I never put the grills in place. This is the same reason I did not go with an acoustically transparent screen or try to hide any speakers. I really like to see them, especially those LS-9s and LS-C in front!”


The GR Research LS-C seen here, along with the LS-9s, are wrapped in leather, adding to the rustic feel of Rob’s theater.

According to Rob, the ledgestone acts as an effective diffusor as well. “Between the diffusing characteristics of the stone, the absorptive qualities of the treatments, and Audyssey MultEQ XT32, the room sounds remarkable. I know that’s completely subjective, and at some point in the future, when the newness of the room fades, I’ll spend some time taking measurements.”

An added touch of rustic charm is the faux-stone archway that forms the entrance to the theater space, which was completed by Nathan Griffin of Vertical Artisans. Located at the bottom of a staircase, it leads to a small foyer lined with reclaimed barnwood and decorated with mining picks, lanterns, and barrels.


The faux-stone archway encourages all who enter to leave the real world behind.

The door into the theater room itself is notable as well. It’s solid wood and measures 42″ wide and 8′ high. “It’s a pre-hung exterior door complete with threshold and weather seal, so when it shuts, there is no sound leakage.” Rob spent considerable time distressing it to look old and rustic.


Rob used many tools and techniques to “distress the heck” out of the solid-wood entrance door, going so far as to paint tiny cracks on the surface.

Functionally, Rob’s home theater is anything but rustic. A Sony VPL-HW55ES fires onto an 11-foot-wide Da-Lite High Contrast Matte White screen in a Cosmopolitan Electrol retractable housing. Behind the screen is a Vizio E601i flat panel for more casual viewing and navigating his extensive music collection on a 21 TB HTPC server. The 11.2-channel sound system is based on a Denon AVR-4520CI with some additional amps that provide a total of 28.8 kW! The customized GR Research LS-9 front left and right speakers and LC-C center speaker are joined by front wide and height speakers, four side-surround speakers, and two rear-surround speakers along with the eight IB subs.


The projection screen retracts to reveal a 60″ Vizio LCD TV for casual viewing and navigating Rob’s server-based music collection.


The wiring in the equipment rack is a thing of beauty.

After less than a year of work, Rob’s rustic retreat was finished. How much did it cost? “That’s a hard one for many reasons. Reciprocating favors, items recycled from prior theaters, items sold to be upgraded, so much DIY, so many trips to Home Depot to return the excess materials I would always buy to prevent multiple trips back—which I always ended up making anyway!” Now that it’s done, he gets to sit back and let his amazing theater kick butt—literally!


The mighty GR Research LS-9s and LS-C are so attractive, Rob didn’t want to hide them behind an acoustically transparent screen.


Eight Ultimate Home Entertainment Fusion Tribute recliners offer the ultimate in comfort—even as you’re being buffeted around by Buttkickers.


Looking down the left aisle, you can clearly see a Buttkicker in the corner of each platform. Ride ’em cowboy!

For much more detail about how Rob’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.

EQUIPMENT LIST

Sources
Custom HTPC with MediaBrowser3 (Emby) connected to server with 21 TB of media
Dish Hopper satellite receiver/DVR
Samsung BD-H5900 Blu-ray player
Xbox One game console
Xbox 360 game console
Audio Technica AT-LP60 turntable

AV Electronics

Denon AVR-4520CI AVR (powering height, wide, and rear-surround speakers)
Sherbourn PA 7-350 power amp (LCR, front-row side surrounds)
Behringer iNuke NU-1000DSP power amp (second pair of side surrounds to add delay and avoid comb filtering)
Sanyway FP14000 (subs, 240VAC)
Sanyway FP10000Q (transducers, 240VAC)

Processor
Darbee Darblet DVP-5000

Projector
Sony VPL-HW55ES

Screen
Da-Lite Cosmopolitan Electrol retractable screen (11′ wide, 16:9, High Contrast Matte White material, gain 1.1, not acoustically transparent)

Television
Vizio E601i LCD TV

Speakers
GR Research LS-9 (LR)
GR Research LS-C (center)
Niles Pro770FX (4, side surrounds)
Phase Tech PC-Surround (2, rear surrounds)
Dayton B652 (2, front height)
Niles PHD42 (2, front wide)
FiCar IB318 18″ drivers in IB arrangement (8, subwoofers)

Transducers
Buttkicker Original (2, front platform)
Buttkicker LFE (2, rear platform)
Buttkicker Mini-LFE (8, each seat)

Cables
Monoprice HDMI cables (Redmere to displays)
Monoprice speaker cables
DIY RCA/XLR interconnects

Control
Logitech Harmony 1100 universal remote
Insteon lighting control

Power Conditioning
None

Seating
Ultimate Home Entertainment Fusion Tribute (8)