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The Take2 Theater - Design & Build Thread

post #1 of 145
Thread Starter 
Ok... yet another home theater design and build thread. What will make this one somewhat unique is that this is my second HT build.

My first HT build, now called the Take1 Theater, was done back in 2001. I joined AVS back in 2000 and trolled the boards for many months before my HT build. It was a small room, only 12' x 17', which at the time I called my shoebox theater. We were only able to fit in a love seat and a couple of chairs, but it worked very well. Some of the same techniques you read about now were done 8 years ago. I treated the walls and used GOM fabric to hide all the speakers. I will see if I can dig up some pictures to show everyone the Take1 Theater.

One huge advantage we got from the Take1 HT was during the sale of our house. We sold our house in the middle of 2008 in just 3 weeks and the HT room was a big draw. The buyers wanted the entire HT room in-tact, all furniture, decorations and all equipment!! We were able to up the bid on our house because of this and of course I get to buy all new equipment for the new house. The Take1 HT was will worth the investment!

Now that we have been settled in our new house for over a year, it is time for me to begin the Take2 Theater!! This will be my second time to do a DIY HT room with the help of the AVS community. I am looking forward to it and feel blessed that I can go on this adventure for a second time. And for that sticky thread on 'what I' do differently next time....', well, here are some of my key learnings I will apply to the Take2 Theater:
  1. Sound isolation! I completely ignored this in the Take1 Theater and the main complaint for 7 years was.... "Turn it down!". I won't make that mistake again. Sound isolation will be a top priority.
  2. Speaker Access: Don't ask me why, but once I applied the GOM over some speakers, I had no access to them if a speaker where to fail. This never happened, but I was always worried about it.
  3. Not enough seating: With the limited space, we only had seating for four. This was not a mistake per-se, but something I want to address this time around.
Now from a budget perspective, since I am a big time DIYer, I try to minimize cost and maximize value. I don't have a ton of money to throw into this, but I do have a modest amount I am willing to spend. So many of the decisions I will make will be based on cost vs value. For example, I am already going the discontinued/b-stock/used route on a lot of the equipment to try to get better gear for less dollars. More on this later.

Another goal I have is to document and take you all through the journey, research and the various topics I encounter as I proceed through this process. I am hoping this will be a good resource for anyone in the future looking to learn as much as possible via one build thread. The AVS community has helped me so much over the years and this is my way of giving back to the community.

Here is my design of the Take2 Theater. The room is 14x18 with a strange vaulted ceiling. The builder intended this room to be a dedicated HT so it has no windows and four existing sconce lights. The room sits on the second story above a 2-car garage.

Here is the Take2 floor plan design:

The attic space around the room is of limited use. The ceiling rafters touch the top of the HT room's walls and then just angle down to the side of the house. I am able to use one side of the attic space to make a small equipment room. I am hoping to squeeze in two rows of four seats. Space is a little tight, so every inch counts on all walls.

The ceiling vaults up from the screen wall to close to 10' before coming straight down to roughly 8' and then a flat ceiling to the back of the room. In case you are wondering, that ceiling drop is where a large engineered beam is running across the room in the attic. They vaulted the ceiling up as much as possible to give some room, but ultimately this beam and the steep slope of the roof caused them to drop the ceiling down. One of my challenges will be how to build soffits into this ceiling.

See below for the before pics to see what the builder did as an HT room.

I plan to finish up the design by November and then start construction in December. My last HT took me five months, but I think this one will take a lot longer as it will be much more involved.

DISCLAIMER: Please be aware, I am not a professional contractor nor profess to have any professional or mastery knowledge of any topic on his thread. Any advice I give or information I share is just based from DIY research and analysis. Consider all information just to be a DIY point of view.

Build Thread Table of Contents Robert
post #2 of 145
Looks like a great project.

Just a couple of quick reactions to the plan:
If the riser is only eight inches you don't need a step up but I would be sure to include a step light on a dimmer for when guests are over. I also assume you've checked the height with the riser calculator.

Looking at the ceiling and thinking about hanging a projector. Have you determined what projector/throw distance/screen size and how to work with that crazy ceiling? If the ideal throw distance falls under that steep slope part, you'll be scrambling for a solution. Just wondering out loud if it would make sense to flip the orientation of the room?
post #3 of 145
From your design it seems like you are contemplating in wall speakers, which will hamper you isolation efforts. Maybe you would be able to utilize some of that limited attic space to build some MDF back boxes if that is the case. Just be sure to allow enough volume.
post #4 of 145
Thread Starter 
Yes I am using in-wall speakers for LCRs due to space restrictions. I have Atlantic Tech's IWCB-626s for LCRS. These speakers already come built with a backing box, but I will also be adding a sound isolating MDF backer box even behind these.

One of my design goals is sound should be heard and not seen, thus no speakers should be visible. The only struggle I am having with this is the sub(s). I can either build out a false wall far onto the stage and then angle the wall back to the screen to keep the screen as far away as possible to the first row seating. Or, my current thought, is to extend the stage into the attic space enough to use that area to hide the subs. I would of course frame it with the same sound isolation techniques I will use for the rest of the room.

Using the attic space behind the screen wall is also the reason I can't flip the design 180. That strange ceiling drop is 14' 11 1/2" from the front wall. My plan is to use an 8' or 9' wide AT screen. The projector placement will be a bit tricky. I have not figured that one out yet.

post #5 of 145
This looks to be a very interesting build. I would like to see pics of Take1 just for reference. Even though the ceiling is a bit wacky at least the builder was thinking ahead of what to do with the space.

Good luck, I'll be watching.


post #6 of 145
Thread Starter 
Going back in time to 2001, here are some of my pics for the Take1 Theater. Sorry for the quality, I had to scan 8 year old photos! Plus, the color rendering is not that great.

First pic shows the far end of the room where I built out around some windows to enclose the speakers.

Second pic shows the rear corner of the room. You will see the in-walls for the back speakers (horrible idea as I had no sound proofing!), the equipment room entryway, one side speaker, and a small pocket door to get to the rear of the equipment.

Next pick shows the front corner of the room with the speakers installed and the wall treatments. The speakers where all NHT SuperOnes. The wall treatment back then was to use Theatershield Plus below ear level, which is 1" rigid, and then poly batting on the top.

On one side of the equipment room I built a DVD shelving unit out of one sheet of MDF. I painted it all black. Cost around $30.

Looking in the equipment room, you can see my homemade rack. I purchased one sheet of hardwood ply, routed out channels to flushly install those metal shelving brackets. This let me pop in shelving legs anywhere up and down the rack. The rack was also painted black.

All trim was stained with Cherry... what a chore that was!

Now finished front of room. As you can see, all speakers are concealed - forever. Dumb move.

Rear shot of room with tight seating. The colors are a little off. This is the Blue Spruce GOM material that is really a hunter green color.

Other corner. I did the door as well.

Two columns on each side, with a small custom chair.

Here is how the rack turned out. I used some of the GOM material over hardboard to make spacers between the equipment pieces. The pyramid was my cheap-o version of IR repeating from the main room.

Last but not least was my home made projector mount. Basically PVC shower plumbing with MDF. Painted to match ceiling. Behind the projector you can see the hidden pocket door which let me get to the back of the equipment rack when I needed to.

After this, we enjoyed it for 7 years!

post #7 of 145
Thanks for the trip back. Ah memory lane....beautiful place. Looks like you did a good job way back when......so we will expect great things on Take2! Is that a SVS cylinder sub I spy in the backgound? Shame you had to leave that behind.


post #8 of 145
Thread Starter 
Yep, that is one of the original SVS subs when they came out way back when. They shipped them with a Samson external amp. It was great! Like I said, the buyer wanted *everything* in the room.
post #9 of 145
I'd say that further thought about speaker locations would be worthwhile. The attached diagram shows speaker location "windows" per Dolby, assuming a specific money seat. With 2 rows there's room to do things differently. However, here's what I'd recommend assuming that seats 1B and 1C are the prime locations:

1) Move the L/R speakers as close to the screen edges as possible, to get closer to the nominal 60-deg angle.

2) The outside rear seats (2A, 2D) each have a speaker right behind their heads. I'd move these speakers to the room corners to improve the directionality to the prime seats, as well as to maximize the distance to the rear listeners. Mount the in-wall boxes on an angle in the corner. I did that and it works great.

3) At minimum, pre-wire the side-wall columns ahead of the doors for another pair of surround speakers. The front row will not get optimal surround envelopment from the single pair as positioned. Since they cannot be moved forward due to the doors, the second pair can be added and wired in series (or parallel if the amp is happy with that) to give a better side effect. Or, if it turns out you don't like that, you can run them as DSX wides.


Take2 speakers.pdf 35.919921875k . file
post #10 of 145
Originally Posted by Robert_S View Post

One of my design goals is sound should be heard and not seen, thus no speakers should be visible. The only struggle I am having with this is the sub(s). I can either build out a false wall far onto the stage and then angle the wall back to the screen to keep the screen as far away as possible to the first row seating. Or, my current thought, is to extend the stage into the attic space enough to use that area to hide the subs. I would of course frame it with the same sound isolation techniques I will use for the rest of the room.

Using the attic space behind the screen wall is also the reason I can't flip the design 180.

With 8 seats in that size room, you'll want to do what you can to provide uniform bass performance over a majority of the room's footprint. That's essentially impossible unless you use multiple subs. If you go with the idea of corner mounting the Lb/Rb speakers, you could put a pair of subs beneath them. The attic space gives you the opportunity to put front subs in the front walls, say, below the L/R or between them, either inwalls, or even full size subs recessed into the wall.

What, 4 subs?? Again, you can simply plan for the rear subs with power and signal prewire, and decide later whether to install them. I can tell you that 4 subs and a BassQ processor is amazingly effective in taming room modes, moreso than any bass traps or EQ.

Speaking of bass traps--the idea is to let bass in, but not back out. I was just thinking that if you could open the front corners of the room to let bass into the attic space, it might make an effective bass trap--if the attic doesn't mind hearing the theater. Maybe someone can comment further on whether this is a viable solution or not.
post #11 of 145
Thread Starter 
I did not have the front speakers spread correctly in the Visio floor plan. I would definitely move them much more towards the edge of the screen and actually toe them in towards the center.

The surround and back speakers are all dipoles. With this would I get the appropriate coverage? I thought I would but maybe that was a bad assumption.

The plan is to recess two full size subs into the attic space up front somewhere under the LCRs. I am considering trying to find smaller 8" in/on wall subs I can mount in the bottom of either the two front columns or even all 4 columns. Another option would be to make some simple DIY 8" subs using a simple MDF box to place into the columns. Put one in each of the four side columns and then two full subs up front. That should be plenty.

post #12 of 145
Originally Posted by Robert_S View Post

The surround and back speakers are all dipoles. With this would I get the appropriate coverage? I thought I would but maybe that was a bad assumption.

I had not realized you planned dipoles. It ought to help reduce problems for the folks in 2A, 2D as they'll be in the nulls. As for the overall result, I have limited experience using dipoles, and that was a single pair addressing a small seating area. Not sure how they work in a case like yours. Maybe you're already well informed and experienced, so I'll go back to my seat and watch the rest of the show quietly.


The plan is to recess two full size subs into the attic space up front somewhere under the LCRs. I am considering trying to find smaller 8" in/on wall subs I can mount in the bottom of either the two front columns or even all 4 columns. Another option would be to make some simple DIY 8" subs using a simple MDF box to place into the columns. Put one in each of the four side columns and then two full subs up front. That should be plenty.

Sounds like you've got the basses covered.
post #13 of 145
If that attic space is really not near a living space you could consider an IB sub
post #14 of 145
Thread Starter 
Those IB subs are VERY interesting! I did look at them for consideration, but I think the noise in the attic would flow over to the house too easily, so I am trying to stay within the room.

I still intend to put two full subs recessed into the wall up front.

Now I am currently looking at putting 8 or 10" subs in the bottom of each of the four columns. Sort of like these Triads, but only a DIY version....


Question: Would there be any issue with having the subs in each of the columns? Technically, they would be firing at each other across the room, but with 18' to span, I am not sure if this would be an issue or not. And the back columns would have the seating between them.

I was looking at this amp for the subs: http://www.parts-express.com/pe/show...number=300-750

I would look for some good 10" drivers, build a small MDF enclosure and then I would be good to go. Place them at the bottom of the columns behind GOM.


post #15 of 145
Thread Starter 
There are two Elemental Design 10" Subs that look promising to fit inside an 8 1/2" deep column:

11Kv.2 Subwoofer - $90
SQ10 Subwoofer - $70

Four of these plus maybe $150 for each of the amps would give me four additional subs for less than $1k.


post #16 of 145
I would certainly second the motion to not use in-walls. You won't easily stop the sound with an MDF box. Different than the needs of a recessed light and backer box.

Also, I'm not so sure that the sound isn't compromised, being installed in a box. Perhaps that's not an issue.
post #17 of 145
Thread Starter 
Ted - I really, really didn't want to use in-walls, but the space constraints was too great for me so this is one area I compromised on. I am hoping I can take advantage of that attic space behind the wall to do something. I can't extend the entire wall for several reasons... one, the ceiling would slope down considerably as we have one of those steep sloping roofs. Second, the mega 10-12" engineered ibeams that support the second floor stops right at the base of that wall. The rest of the attic space uses some smaller 2x6 or 2x8 joists just to hold the drywall up in the garage. So I would need to reframe the floor in that area which is a no-go for me.

Since I do have 3' of attic space behind those speakers, I thought I could do something. Maybe not the MDF boxes, but some sort of framing behind those speakers to preserve the aquarium. I could frame out a little around them and then do something like 3/4" MDF + GG + 3/4" MDF on the back (attic) side of the framing.

post #18 of 145
If you can tap into the 3' of space behind the wall you can do a pretty good job extending the envelope. I'd probably just recommend damped mass. Layers of OSB, MDF, drywall, etc.

The key will be determining the required volume of these boxes for optimal playback
post #19 of 145
Thread Starter 
Here are the set of pictures of the current room. The builder constructed the room as a dedicated HT and they did an all right job.

This is the rear left of the room. The builder installed columns made of drywall. The sconces I will reuse in the theater. The ceiling fan will be gone and those double, hollow-core doors will be removed. You will also see that I have already pulled off the baseboards - so I guess construction has officially begun.

Full left side. There is a large HVAC return duct in that sloped ceiling. I will probably move that into a soffit.

Front right of room:

Left rear of room. That door in the corner goes to the attic space. I will move the door down the wall farther and use it as the door to the equipment room.

This is the attic space behind the right wall where the equipment room will go. I plan to just floor on top of the engineered ibeam floor joists. I need to check the building code as that pipe is an iron gas pipe. I hope the code allows me to cover that pipe.

And this is the attic space behind the screen wall. No floor joists, just 2x6s or 2x8s to be able to screw the ceiling into from the garage. I may use this space as an alcove for a sub.

post #20 of 145
Thread Starter 
First and foremost, any DIYer should familiarize him/herself with all relevant building codes. These are important for you and your family's safety!! They are not hard to understand or implement, so please read the relevant codes and adhere to them.

Most cities/counties how have websites which lists the ordinances and codes they require. You need to search these web sites to see which version of which codes they have adopted. Most codes are indicated by a year and the type of codes. Here are some common examples:

2006 International Residential Code (2006 IRC)
2008 National Electrical Code (2008 NEC)
2006 International Energy Conservation Code (2006 IECC)

The IRC and the NEC are the two you probably want to pay attention to the most as they cover most of the items you will need to build your HT.

After you find out what codes your city requires, the next step is getting the code books. If you search the net, you will find that you can purchase these large books for a chunk of change, around $75-$100 each. However, this has now changed thanks to the court case Veeck v. Southern Building Code Congress Int'l, Inc. Basically this court case was about copyrights and when counties enact into law private copyrighted material, then the copyright no longer applies! That is great news for us!

With this ruling, an organization called Public Resources has scanned and uploaded the full set of codes for many cities and states. You can find the list of uploaded files at the below link:


Now, you may not find your exact city listed, but search through and find an intact IRC or NEC book from another city to use. You may have to look through several cities as some have added their changes, usually indicated by change bars, but some cities just use the codes verbatim. Try to stay with cities/states around your area when you are looking. You don't want to look at the Wisconsin set of materials for a Florida HT build!

Most counties usually publish addendums on their web sites if they have altered the base set of codes. You need to check this as well.

post #21 of 145
Thread Starter 
....or should I say destruction! I was able to get started earlier than I had planned. First step is demolition of perfectly good drywall - try explaining that one to the wife. The wife and I have an agreement - she won't look inside the room until it is done and I won't tell her what is happening on the inside.

Here are some pics. The drywall came off really easy, easier than I thought it would. You see all those home shows with folks using sledgehammers to pull off drywall... nonsense, all you need is a pry bar and a hammer. Just tap the drywall from behind to pop it off the nails and it easily comes off in large sheets.

Front Corner:

Back right corner:

Back left corner: I am keeping some drywall to patch up the holes in the ceiling once I move the HVAC and outlets.

Front left corner:

And of course the magic sauce.... Green glue and noise sealant!

Future Equipment room: Gas pipe moved over against the wall and pink fluffy stuff added, R-30:

A couple of kudos to our builder... a) they insulated the interior wall next to the bonus room, and b) they ran 2" orange flex pipe from the back wall to the projector ceiling mount. I can reuse that and place it where I need it.

The one builder no-no I caught, they had a low voltage wire shoved back in a 2-gang light switch with 120v wires.

The one question I have. If you look at the attic picture, the exterior side of the HT walls has thin carboard like shealthing. I am going to have DD+GG + staggard studs on these exterior walls. Should I also nail up 3/4" OSB on the exterior walls for more mass or is the shealthing OK alone?

post #22 of 145
Thread Starter 
Sound proofing and isolation was one area that I completely ignored for the Take1 Theater and it was a big mistake. The constant issue with the theater was "it was too loud" in other parts of the house. Thus, I wanted to research and improve on this for the Take2 Theater. Here is what I found out....

First, educate yourself by reading every article over at the Sound Proofing Company Library. This will give you a good foundation of all the items involved.

There are two goals for sound proofing and isolation. One is to prevent noise from leaving the room and the other is to prevent noise from entering the room. Both are very important.

The common analogy you will hear is one of an aquarium. Pretend your room is an aquarium completely filled with water and gravity pulling in all directions. If water can leak out - so can sound. You basically want to hold all the water in. Thus, your theater needs every gap, crack, or opening sealed and closed off!

Below is a progression of overall sound proofing techniques you can use. It is a function of cost, space required, and performance. The highest item costs the most, takes the most space, but also is the best performing. You can work down the list to strike the balance of performance and cost.

DD/GG = Double Drywall + Green Glue. This is two 5/8" layers of drywall with Green Glue in between them.

All but the last entry assumes full R13 insulation in the walls.
  1. Room within a room - The ultimate in performance.
  2. Whisper Clips + Resilient Channel + DD/GG - Very common for many builds on this forum.
  3. Resilient Channel + DD/GG - If you are going this far, you may as well upgrade and purchase the Whisper Clips as well.
  4. Staggered Stud Wall + DD/GG
  5. DD/GG
  6. Standard Insulated Wall - Just barely better than the one below.
  7. Standard Interior Wall - You might as well buy earplugs for the entire family because this is not going to do anyone any good!

For me, I went with the Staggered Stud Wall + DD/GG. This was a good compromise for cost and performance.

The door is also a huge weak spot in a theater. I am working on creating a custom theater door that is thick, heavy, and very well sealed. I will post the build for this once it is complete. It is a design on the cheap so I hope it turns out.

You will need plenty of Green Glue, Acoustical Sealant and other sound proofing gear. Ted White from the Sound Proofing Company is a very active member on these forums and has helped many people with varying sound proofing/isolation questions. He is a great resource for us. They also sell the Green Glue and Sealant at very good prices. Mention you are with AVS Forum to get the best prices available. I am in no way associated with this company, it is just a great resource so please no flames.

post #23 of 145
Thread Starter 
All I want for Christmas is..... building supplies from Home Depot. The HD delivery truck arrived on 12/26 with all the wood, OSB, and drywall I need to get the HT constructed. Here are some quick picks of my progress.

I pulled all the insulation out for now and removed that card board type sheathing they used and replaced it with 5/8" OSB. There are still some openings at the top of the wall I need to seal off.

I closed off the attic access door and framed in the door opening to the new equipment room.

I added the 1" shim to the walls for the staggered studs and layed down a second layer of 3/4" OSB with GG on the floor. I left a 1/4" gap to the walls which I will fill with acoustical sealant.

I also floored the new equipment room. You will also see the messy pile of insulation I will reuse.

Next up is to finish off the framing of the equipment room and install the staggered studs.

post #24 of 145
Thread Starter 
As I mentioned earlier, I compromised to save space and went with inwall speakers for the LCR. The key for me was to find ones with a backer box as part of the speaker. This way the manufacturer knows how the speaker will perform inside the box. This is compared to many other inwall speakers you see where the back of the speaker is open.

I ended up going with Atlantic Technology IWCB-626s. I was able to get these for less than half price. I bought two new ones dirt cheap off eBay from a guy who got them as a gift and never installed them. The other I got as a scratch and dent model from Atlantic Tech. The one scratch I could find was almost non-existent, it looked new.

I wanted to make sure the sound proofing was not compromised by the inwall LCRs so I devised a simulated stud cavity that the speakers would sit in. Below are the specs and how it sits in a staggered stud wall with DD+GG. The material (blue) is 5/8" OSB, white is drywall and green is 5/8" OSB.

There is green glue between the OSB and all seams are sealed with acoustic caulk. You will also note that I installed this on the studs facing into the room. The cavity that is created is exactly the width of standard 16" OC spacing studs. The boxes themselves are 36" tall. The boxes do not touch the back sheathing that is shown as green in the diagram.

Here are the two key supplies. Cabinet screws and what I call the cheap-man's DC-04 clips - "isolation" cups from HD. A pack of 4 of these is like a buck or two. They are just rubber cups used for the bottom of furniture or chairs.

Picture of center channel constructed and installed:

Close up of "isolation" puck. There is a cabinet screw that goes through the box and into the stud.

Box is offset 5/8" so first layer of drywall will butt up against it with acoustic sealant. Second layer will completely cover it and then I will cut out the speaker opening for the inwall.

Hopefully this approach will be effective, seems like it should be.

Edit: I found a better material/approach for the pucks. Please look at the update in this post: New and Improved Isolation Puck

post #25 of 145
What is the need for the isolation cups? If your front studs are decoupled already and the drywall for the room will come in contact with both the studs AND the boxes, why use the cups?
post #26 of 145
In "Theory" I could see some potential benefit to decoupling the Speaker Box from the wall, although actuall clips rather than the pucks may be more beneficial. (I think the pucks are probably too hard and your still screwing directly to the studs). The small speaker cavity would probably have a higher resonant frequency then the wall and decoupling may help keep the wall's resonant frequency lower. Just thinking outloud.

Nice documentation on your build Robert, looking foward to more updates.

post #27 of 145
+1 for Brads assessment.
post #28 of 145
Thanks for the info!
post #29 of 145
Thread Starter 
Brad - Thanks for the comment, I am with you on the "theory". It seems like this approach would be better than screwing the boxes directly into the studs, but I have nothnig to prove it.

I think the DC-04 clip recommends the same #10 x 2 1/2" screw, so I imagine there is no getting around the fact that at least four screws couple the box to the studs. I looked at buying some of the DC-04s, but they were pretty expensive if memory serves me right. It would of cost $80-$100 for the 12 clips I would need. The HD route cost less than $6.

I am not sure how the rubber compares to the DC-04. One small tidbit I forgot to mention is the contact surface area. There is a raised ring on the puck which is the contact zone, the rest of the puck is recessed. This can only help to decouple. Here is a pic.

The one thing I may change/add is to put in a rubber washer under the screw head. I see the DC-04 has rubber there as well.

post #30 of 145
It's all about vibration transmission. Things like surface area contact and stiffness (durometer) play a role.

The DC-04 has a low durometer Neoprene, making it a poor transmitter of vibration. The highly dimpled profille provide reduced surface area.

All rubber (hard or soft) works well to isolate electrical current. The analogy does not hold for vibration. Most rubber (Butyl, silicone, etc) are quite rigid and conductive.
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