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HT dimensions - Advice needed, please!

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
Hello all,

Long time lurker of the dedicated build thread area and I am hoping to get input from any of you on here willing to help. I've been into HT and high-end A/V for years and I have always had nice systems deployed in living / family room type environments, but I've never been able to achieve that "wow factor" that you can get with a dedicated HT room, with sound isolation, and proper design.

So as I try to figure out a design for my HT room, I continue to struggle with "analysis paralysis", I'm concerned that the space I have to work with will require so many design compromises that I would not be able to achieve my desired outcome. So I thought I would post here seeking advice from all you gifted and talented HT folks. Here is what I'm working with;

I have an unfinished area on the second story (over the kitchen) of my home that is pretty close to 12'6" wide by 23' long. This is from unfinished studs to studs, so sound isolation techniques will shrink this space a bit. Not taking into consideration ceiling design, soffit, etc., I think I can safely have a 9' ceiling height, and 8' height using a 12" riser.

Attached is a simple Visio design I have been messing with to try and get a sense for the orientation of things. I would really appreciate comments on this rough draft of a room layout to help me identify areas I need to think about.

Please comment on seating arrangement and overall spacing and layout.

I've not marked speaker locations other than LCR but I'd like to do 7.1 within columns as the design element. But in my space does this place the listeners too close to sides and rears?

I would like to do a 120" 2.39 screen but will this work?

Is the space behind the screen wall deep enough? Can I make it shallower to have more room space?

Is the equipment closet dimension appropriate for a MA rack? The EQ closet needs to be incorporated into the overall 12'6 X 23' space as I'm not willing to locate gear in another location of the home.

These are just a few of the countless questions/worries I have. My hope is that by exchanging ideas on my design with y'all here will help me bring this dream to life.

Thanks in advance,

GDFEIN146L-HTDesignv2013-11-21b.pdf 19k .pdf file
post #2 of 20
I'd center the seating, and find narrower seating to free up aisle space. Or skip the double armrests.
(The Salamander Matteo seats I have, are 87" wide for a row of three, with single 6" wide armrests
between seats.)

What is the room where theater entry is? Could you use take whole depth of the room, and have
two or three low racks, recessed into the back wall of the theater? The depth of the racks could be disguised
as a credenza in the theater. The back wall would be further off the seating and you could pull all the seating
back further, and still keep the second row off the back wall.

Raising the surrounds will help with shrinking the differential between seating for the surround speakers. I would
be tempted to frame the room so I could recess the surrounds into back boxes in the walls, to shrink column depth,
or use in wall speaker for the surrounds.

Isn't the curved acoustically transparent wall complicating construction?

You could shrink the equipment room width for a Middle Atlantic Slim5 rack to 20", and move that back wall back 10".
Pull the rack forward towards the entry and use that second door for access to the backside of the rack.

Have you given any thought to a programmable lighting controller and zoned lighting?
post #3 of 20
Thread Starter 
GDFEIN146L-HTDesignv2013-11-24.pdf 20k .pdf file

Tedd - Thanks for your input. The off-center seating was unintended. I was more focused on room dimensions and viewing distances than I was actually focusing on the size/shape/position of my seating. Attached an updated version of the layout.

I'm not committed to any gear/furniture yet so any mention of a particular product is indicating what my basis for the measurement was (seating / rack).

Here are some questions/concerns I have;

a) Speaker placement -

i) Rear Surround - My 2nd row is less than 14" from the back wall. I've budgeted 30" of depth for the racks / A/V closet. Is this enough, I am modelling a pair of 26" deep Slim-5's with an extra 4" for wiring? Is this too much depth? If I can slim this down an go with the 20" deep racks and say a total closet depth of 24", then I can move my back wall further behind the 2nd row this 6 inches of saved space? Is even this too close? My AT screen baffle wall is approx 30-34" deep. If I can shrink this depth down some, I can get a few more inches of depth at the back provided my viewing distances are ok (see below). Really open to suggestions here gang.

ii) Side speakers - I was initially thinking 2 pair of side surround speakers with a set for each row recessed into backer boxes within columns using as much of the in-wall cavity as possible to keep the columns as shallow as possible given the narrow room (space will be 12' wide after clips and DD/GG). Now as I begin to work with room layout and gain appreciation for the close quarters I'm working with I am wondering if a single pair of Di/Bi side speakers is preferable. I understand that advanced DSP is recommended when using pairs of side surrounds, which obviously adds a budget consideration. I tend to prefer the sound of direct radiating speakers, but again I'm not committed to specific gear.

b) Viewing distances and projector throw -

i) Similar to with speaker placement above, I'm concerned with overall room depth and that my layout has 1st row eyeballs about 9-10' from the screen. I would like to go as large as possible for the screen. I don't have a lot of options that I can demo of screen sizes and distances. Going to HT showrooms introduce so many different variables that makes them hard to demo. What are people's experiences on viewing distances from say a 120-130" screen? I want enveloping video, but would 9.5' be fatiguing and uncomfortable? Would this be too close that pixelization (terminology?) would be an issue?

ii) I'm thinking that the projector would be mounted above the racks in the A/V closet and project through a port in the wall. This provides a throw distance 18' and for most of the projectors I have played with modeling using the online calculator would achieve my desired screen size. However would this distance and size drop me down too low in terms of FL output? I think the $25k is out of my budget, and some of the $3-5k models seem to have output that dips to 10-11 FL at 18' throw. I could bring the PJ forward into the room and shorten the throw, but this brings with it other considerations; soffit/ceiling configuration.

Please keep the ideas/thoughts coming.
post #4 of 20
30" of depth for an AT space is a very solid number. I might be tempted to steal two inches of room depth here.
You will want your speakers to be 6" off the backside of the AT screen material to avoid timbre shifting.

26" of depth for a rack again is a great choice, but now it is eating up room depth. I would have a look at your gear
and see what gear you really need. I'd also look at your gear depth and see if you could get by with a 20" deep Slim5.
(I do, with a couple of computers being the deepest components at 18" of depth.)

I am looking for inches as 14" is too close to a back wall. I'd also prefer to be another foot back from a 120" wide screen.
Pixelization shouldn't be an issue but seeing the screen weave might be, at that viewing distance.

7.1 with dual subs can create a very good soundfield. I'd sink the savings from DSP and the 3rd/4th speaker into the
projector and a second subwoofer, which provide smoother bass response and can be a tool to help with subwoofer
placement issues.

Having the long throw projector in the back wall is a nice design feature, but adds expense. I'd go for it if you have the
budget but with eight feet of headroom over the riser, headroom shouldn't be an issue.

A woven AT screen throws off light in an uncontrolled fashion, so capture that light coming off the screen and I'd simplify
the front wall construction.

I would be aiming for a bare minimum of 16 foot lamberts of light on the screen and ideally more.

Could the gear count be shrunk and 8' of Slim5 rotated ninety degrees give you another 10" of room depth? You'd need an
access door for the narrower equipment room if that is possible. Taking that a step further, why not rotate both racks 90
degrees and have a second door to add room depth? Access to the backside of the racks could be an access door in the

Gdfein1a.JPG 243k .JPG file

You could also forgo the reclining function of the seats and shrink the aisle space between them.
post #5 of 20
Another thought is to have the av racks outside the theater.

Gdfein1b.JPG 303k .JPG file

No heat load in theater. No light pollution. And this would help
preserve a low noise floor. Ideally, you want a 22-23 db noise floor.
post #6 of 20

While you've got plenty of depth for two rows (your width being the constrained dimension), I'd ditch the equipment room altogether. If the gear can't be recessed into the side / back walls (any attic spaces on any side?), I'd suggest putting it all in low cabinetry under the screen. Solid cabinet doors can hide the gear for light/sound control, and there are plenty of solutions for dealing with heat from the gear. Then the sub(s) can go on either side, with the rest of the screen wall built "as usual". Is this just gear for the theater or are you also planning to place other gear there? My equipment stack for the theater is actually quite small in terms of U-height. I could have fit into 20U total.

I'd also go with a flat screen, instead of curved - I don't think you need it and it certainly adds to the expense and complexity of the build.

That arrangement would allow for a full 6-6.5' between recliner rows, which you'll want. My risers are 5'6", and that's too close (I got lucky that mine worked out - just barely).

And I agree with Tedd that bringing the projector forward a few feet is a good idea. And your screen size is good - my seating distances are very similar to yours, my screen is 108" (in 16:9), and that's plenty big for me. I'd be concerned with going any bigger for16x9 - but 120" would be great for scope films in the front row.

post #7 of 20

Several thoughts:


As mentioned above the curved screen is probably not needed with a 18' throw.  I think 30" of space for the false wall is great.  That was my original plan but I had to back it up to 25" to get the throw ratio correct for the PJ that I wanted.  You could probably shave some inches here if you went with a slimmer sub and use a screen that does not require as much space between the speakers and screen.


My seating distances are really close to yours and I am going with a 120" 2:37 AT screen.  I hope to know by this weekend if I like it!


I have a pair of the 26" depth Slim 5 racks you are looking at in my HT.  I probably could make a 20" depth rack work but the extra space is nice.  I agree with the others and would get the equipment out of the room if possible.  Working with the racks in the room from a sound control standpoint has been one of the biggest challenges of my build.


If the racks have to stay in the room I would look at a couple of things:  If the PJ is going to be in the room you may not want the racks under your PJ lens.  That was my original plan in my HT but the rack height pushed the PJ higher than the PJ's offset capability.   So check that when you lay out the screen height.  Also I think there is not enough space between the seats and the front of the racks.  It would be tough to slide in that space to change discs and you could not have doors.  Also with the racks pushed to the back wall you would not have a way to service the left rack unless there was a door on that side as well.  I had a similar thought as Ted.  Get it outside of the room or use rotating racks with center access.


Skip the extra side speaker and DSP and put that money towards your PJ.  With a 120" AT screen (usually negative gain) and a long throw you are going to need something with some muscle.  I would shoot for 16 ftl as a minimum.


I also agree with the others that the riser needs to be 6' to 6 1/2'

post #8 of 20
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the input everyone. What I will call the "south" wall where the entrance and gear were located is accessed from a hallway through the door. The wall on the otherwise of the equipment closet is my guest suite bathroom and plumbing for that runs through that shared wall. Isolation from that bathroom was also part and parcel of the EQ closet idea.

Moving the gear out of the room doesn't seem a practical option for me I don't think but I need to ponder it. My next best location is the closet in the guest suite, but that seems awkward, entering and exiting the guest suite to change discs, tinker with gear settings to then run back to the theater. That is probably 15-20 paces away and would feel odd to me. While heat and noise floor are both valid concerns it may be a design compromise I have to live with.

Sounds like the 20" deep racks might work and that is precious room depth I need and gets me more spacing between the rows. I've been trying to avoid getting too deep into thinking about gear as I want to honor the concept of investing in the room first. As I think about it I may only need one rack and not two. I need to think through the possible gear more it seems.

The comment to go fixed seating and not recliners in the 2nd row was intriguing. It seems most builds I see have recliners, but in practice are you finding the recliners are used? I think about when I go to movies or watch movies in my living room I almost never recline. I'd be interested how make/break the recliners are to the dedicated home theater experience.
post #9 of 20
Thread Starter 
I was able to find a copy of the floor plan of the entire 2nd floor that I'm working with. This may help speak to why I think the equipment needs to be located in the HT.

GDFEIN146L-2ndFloorPlan.pdf 236k .pdf file

You can see outlined in red the space. In the model home we selected, the optional media room was not included, so that portion is completely unfinished attic. What my plan is to extend the length of the room to get to the 23' depth. The width is a constant. The location of the door to the proposed HT space from the hall way is also not very flexible given the proximity of the hall, steps and the adjacent guest suite bathroom.
post #10 of 20
Yeah, not any good locations outside the room - I'll continue to suggest that you put the gear into cabinetry in the front, below the screen instead of sectioning off an equipment room. I suppose a rack on the side of the screen might work, too, and that might be a cheaper option with more rack space available - but that option probably limits the screen size too much given your room's width.

post #11 of 20
Thread Starter 
Trying a slightly different spin on the back wall / equipment area.

I had the idea that if I scrapped the idea of the equipment closet, and since I am still thinking gear in the room, and I wanted to move the rear surrounds further away from the 2nd row ears I had the idea of an equipment counter. I guess what I am envisioning is say 36-40" tall counter with a nice solid surface top that matches the rest of the house with 4 14U racks underneath the counter-top. See attached.

GDFEIN146L-HTDesignv2013-11-28.pdf 20k .pdf file

This allows the rear surround speakers to be approx 3' behind the 2nd row listening position. I've moved the 2nd row back a bit to give a full 6' for depth of 2nd row in recline, though I'm still wondering how important reclining is for the 2nd row.

This version did away with the "projection booth" concept, I've brought the PJ forward into the room to a throw distance of approx 16' which based on the calculator seems to open up a few more options of moderate priced PJ's that would give me 15-16FL at 16'.

The left rear corner seems to have space for an additional sub that I hear is often desirable wink.gif

I stuck the side surrounds in just for point of reference they are by no means placed using technical measurements. Apologies to any draftsmen/EE's out there for my use of the "Visio stereo outlet" symbol to reference speaker placement.
post #12 of 20
Subscribed! My space is very similair to yours Greg and so far this proposed build thread has been a great resource even in its infancy ; ) really digging the rack counter idea you've thought of. I had thought of something similair for my plan as well instead of the screen wall option. Pretty much the best option I can see for you but there may be some depth, access and cooling factors but I'm just presuming on that. Gluck with all your progress. Jim
post #13 of 20
Thread Starter 
Thanks Jim.

Clearly 1.5' space between back of 2nd row and the racks is not ideal walkway space and takes away my ability to have swing open doors on the racks. Cooling I think could be dealt with as I can add some active venting for the cabinet that draws air into the wall and up to attic above the HT. Since I've never had a dedicated HT space before I may not be valuing the access space behind the 2nd row as much as I appreciate the "look" of a completely clean/stealth stage/screen area.

Jautor's recommendation to go under screen with furniture cabinet I know is doable but just doesn't have the aesthetic I envision at this point. That'll be my "plan B" while I continue to try to find alternatives amongst design compromises.

This morning's version goes to a single 43U rack in the back left corner. This would allow for a door on the rack, rack can still be recessed into a floor-to-ceiling space with venting up into attic above the HT. The space between the 2nd row and the rack is still "tight" at about 17-19" but it is not the primary "flow of traffic" into and out of the room.

I haven't reflected it in this model, but this configuration appears would also allow me to slide the 2nd row further back approx 6", while having rear surrounds 2.5' behind the 2nd row (similar distance as side surrounds). This might allow me to shorten the riser this same 6" and slide the front row back 6" thus gaining a little more viewing distance between screen and front row eyeballs to just over 10'.

What I'm not sure about is; what acoustic impact this design might have in relation to the spatial benefits it has. The lack of left-right symmetry in this design appears that the left rear surround will now have a different reflection pattern than the right rear surround. Interested in reactions to this.

What this process is showing me is that I think I need to come up with a "hypothetical equipment" list and see how many rack spaces I need. While my intent is not to put whole home gear with full video distribution into the HT, I was thinking I would like to relocate my Synology DS (itunes/movies) from my office to the HT as well as locate distributed audio (Sonos AMPs) for a few locations (Patio, Garage, Master, Kitchen). Those pieces all have "homes" now so they may have to stay there.

GDFEIN146L-HTDesignv2013-11-28b.pdf 20k .pdf file

Lastly, I want to thank all of you for chiming in and contributing to my brainstorming. I know this process isn't always pretty and everyone has their own opinions but the wisdom you all share on these forums is more valuable to me than you know!!

Happy Thanksgiving!
post #14 of 20
Originally Posted by gdfein View Post

Jautor's recommendation to go under screen with furniture cabinet I know is doable but just doesn't have the aesthetic I envision at this point. That'll be my "plan B" while I continue to try to find alternatives amongst design compromises.

At least I know my microphone was on... biggrin.gif

Figure out your screen height and see how much height you'd have below the screen. May be enough room for a short stage below the rack access. And no reason the racks/cabinets couldn't be covered with fabric panels if that's the look you were going for.
This morning's version goes to a single 43U rack in the back left corner. This would allow for a door on the rack, rack can still be recessed into a floor-to-ceiling space with venting up into attic above the HT. The space between the 2nd row and the rack is still "tight" at about 17-19" but it is not the primary "flow of traffic" into and out of the room.

You don't need a door on the rack, and probably shouldn't have one as you need air coming in and drawn through the components for cooling. Your venting "to the attic" should not exhaust into the attic, but dump in to your HVAC return. Especially here in Houston, you don't want to be dumping warm-but-conditioned air that has to be replaced into the attic.
What I'm not sure about is; what acoustic impact this design might have in relation to the spatial benefits it has. The lack of left-right symmetry in this design appears that the left rear surround will now have a different reflection pattern than the right rear surround. Interested in reactions to this.

Not sure, but it's probably better than removing the whole space for the equipment room as you had originally. Note that if you're using a real rack, you'll need to either use a pull-out rack or have a freestanding one on casters to gain access to it. Unless you make the side into a removable panel.

post #15 of 20
Thread Starter 
Thnx Jeff!

Gobble gobble. Happy Turkey-Day!
post #16 of 20
Originally Posted by gdfein View Post

Thnx Jeff!

Gobble gobble. Happy Turkey-Day!

Thanks, you too! At least the Texans aren't playing today - so we can actually enjoy a football game with our turkey.
post #17 of 20
Originally Posted by jautor View Post

. . . so we can actually enjoy a football game with our turkey.

Not if you are watching the defensive ineptitude that is the Green Bay Packers.

post #18 of 20
How much room between the bedroom door and the closet wall? Is there enough room there to fit an av rack using some of the closet, in the short hall?
post #19 of 20
A Middle Atlantic Slim5 av rack is 19 1/8" wide.

Could you give up a little closet space?

Conduit in the attic could give you cabling runs to the
AT space and the projector.

Gdfein.JPG 127k .JPG file
post #20 of 20
Thread Starter 
Tedd - Thanks.

Unfortunately, accessing the rack from the hallway outside the theater and using the closet space is major WAF violation. rolleyes.gif

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