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Early guidance on theater build for newbie

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 
I live in the greater Boston area and am starting my do diligence for the home theater I plan on building. Please let me know if you think I am doing something for lack of a better word, stupid, or if you can share your thoughts or advise. Also, am I missing anything? Would you do anything differently? I want this theater to have good quality gear but want to keep it simple. It is already a little pricier then I had first thought, If spending a little more would get me significantly better results I am interested but I can not justify dropping $10k on a projector at this time (wish I could).

This theater will be exclusively for movies hence 2:35. I currently have a VIERA TC-P65GT50 65-Inch TV and would like to go bigger.

First off the room:
13'x26'x7.3' ~2467 cubic feet, in the basement (no windows) I will be installing doors to seal this room off. Obviously I have low ceilings to deal with (and I'm 6'3”) and the room is a little narrow. I also have some heating pipes that are on one long wall, these I would plan on wrapping with a sound absorbing material. I would like to hide them with a soffit later. I also have a fireplace on the opposite wall that I would like to keep functional but if it becomes inop that’s ok.

I plan on acoustically treating with OC 703 (any thoughts on Linacoustic?). I have heard I want 2-4” on the entire front wall and panels on reflections for sidewalls with bass traps in the back. The floor will be carpeted, black ceilings, dark walls and 2 rows of 3 seats with the 2nd row raised 7”.

One issue if the front row is 10” from the screen it is close to the center of the room, I hear this is bad for acoustics, I could move it a little back but I was planning on putting an old sectional just about on the rear wall for overflow seating (not a good spot, but it would not be sat in often) moving the front row forward would probably be to close to the screen. It’s amazing how quickly you run out of space.

I am currently talking with the town and an electrician to get the house upgraded to 200 amps with 3 15 amp circuits in the theater room. Also add some recessed lighting. My plan is to do most of the construction first then start buying gear.

The next 4 items, projector, screen, audio processing and amps and subwoofer are all items I am looking into but have not bought yet. Please let me know if you think these are good options or if a better alternative is out there.

I am looking at falcon screens for an acoustically transparent screen. Would a gain of 1.0 be a good choice? With such a narrow room would a higher gain screen work out? The flip side is the room is windowless so light is easily controlled, so a lower gain screen might be the ticket for a more even image.

I think the max screen size I can fit is 120” 2:35 (placed ~2’ from the front wall just enough to hide the speakers and gear behind it) this has a height of 51” + 3” on both sides for the frame for 57” total height. I can put the lowest part of the image ~33” from the floor with the top frame flush with the ceiling, I am betting this is not ideal, I could lower the screen a few inches but this seems to be getting to close to the floor. A 120” screen would give me 18” from the end of the image to the sidewalls.

JVC DLA-X35B, Sony VPL-HW50ES, Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 5020UB but this will change as it will probably be the last thing I buy. If you have comments I am interested but in all honesty I will probably be looking at what’s new in the next 18 months.

Denon AVR-4520CI, or what ever is out in the next 18 months. Plus an Emotiva UPA-700 for power to start with transitioning to XPA-5’s later. Any recommendations on affordable amps?

PSA XS30 or Triax one to start would like to end up with 2. I am a fan of healthy tight controlled bass. Both of these are sealed subwoofers, but I am open to ported ones as well.

Speakers (already have):
Matching Boston Acoustics
VR950 x6 for front L+R +front wides + rears
VR12 center
VR-MX x 4 surrounds one pair for each row, these have 2 apposed tweeters wired out of phase
Bravo's for heights

Thank you in advance for your guidance and sorry for the length of this post.
post #2 of 3
There's a lot to consider - welcome to the madness! smile.gif

The room sounds fine. As you noted, the lower ceiling is a bit of a limitation, but if you can work out the sight-lines with a 7" riser, then that's fine. You may look into offsetting the seats left-to-right so that heads don't line up so much. Also, I'm not sure that heights will be worthwhile. Have you seen this thread?

It sounds like you have decided not to do much about changing the actual construction of the room. That's okay, but let's lay out some of the reasons you might come to regret that. First, ventilation. Keeping fresh cool air in a sealed room is a serious challenge. Failing to meet that challenge can be a serious shortcoming when you want to have a few friends over, but everyone is sweating half-way through the movie - that can happen! HVAC is one of the most talked about design criteria here in some of the builds. Second, sound isolation, or soundproofing. If you can't enjoy the theater late at night because it bothers the rest of the household or the neighbors, that's a problem. Also, if you keep reaching for the remote because the sound of Fido's paws in the kitchen overhead drown out the dialog, that's a problem. And while you can improve the sound isolation characteristics of the space without tearing out the drywall, you can't really get to what most of the DIY builders here expect without removing and decoupling the wall structures. (I don't want to belabor the point, but I don't want to let you go without mentioning it. There's lots to talk about if you want to consider these things.)

Your basic plan for treatment should get you pretty close. It's tough to say up front, and it's tough for you to know in the end - unless you either hire a pro or do the legwork to measure the acoustic response of everything.

I don't have anything negative to say about your power plan. It seems fine - depending on what you do for subwoofer(s).

You'll need to consider screen and projector together with viewing distance to know what gain screen you might need. The sales guys at AVS are good at that, and only a phone call away. That said, I'm sure others can help, and the dimensions and gear you're talking about are common. I'm slightly concerned about it being too dim, but finding at AT screen with higher than unity gain might be problem for the budget - and there's very little woven that fits that description. Specifically on the projectors, consider one with lens memory. The JVCs and Panasonics have this, but I don't think Epson does (at least in this price range, maybe at all) - not sure about the Sonys. While, I agree it makes sense to set the screen for 2.35, you'll want to adjust zoom for 1.85 or 1.78, and having power for zoom/focus and memory can be a real plus there.

On the amp and receiver issue, it seems to me you're over-spending. I'm not sure, but it seems to me you can get better value with either a less costly receiver (with pre-outs, obviously) or going for a dedicated processor. And have you done the math to figure out how much power you'll need, given you listening preferences, speaker sensitivity, and seating distances?

The real processing decisions you have to make are with the 4 side surrounds you've suggested and with the subs. Forgive my laziness, but I'm going to copy what I posted in another thread a few days ago.
If you go with one set of surround loudspeakers, which is what 99% of everyone does, you have the layout correct, IMO. Put it just behind your main listening position. Everyone else just gets what they get, in terms of sound quality.

If you want to get into using more than the standard set of surround channels, you have some reading to do. First, http://www.avsforum.com/t/1455111/when-are-multiple-side-surrounds-necessary a thread where J_P_A asked basically the same question you did and got some good answers. A few days later another thread was posted and got some more good feedback, especially from Roger Dressler, here: http://www.avsforum.com/t/1488704/having-four-speakers-as-surround-for-two-row/30#post_23771038. A few months later, it came up again. Finally, Nyal Mellor gave what I think is the most clear explanation of what to do to get mutliple side surround channels calibrated properly, here http://www.avsforum.com/t/1493743/processing-for-multiple-surrounds#post_23814755

You can do it however you want, but doing it "right" comes with a pricetag. smile.gif

The keys, IMO, to getting the smooth, tight bass response you're after are: several subs (4 is a good number, but 2 is better than 1), and independent processing, including delay, phase, level, and EQ. MiniDSP is a good choice. Have you considered building subs? They're dead easy with a few tools.

Can you post a layout? Have you considered access and control of your equipment?

post #3 of 3
Thread Starter 

Thank you for your advice, You have given me a lot to think about.

A few things I can answer now:

This theater will always be a compromise I want something I can enjoy with friends and family but it isn’t going to be all out.

I plan on putting a split A/C unit in.

The room has 3 walls on the perimeter of the foundation 2 of the walls are under ground. The one that isn’t part of the foundation butts up against a stairwell. The walls are cinderblock walls with drywall and stucco. I will test it tonight but when we moved in I could yell at the top of my lungs while in that room and my wife could not hear me on the first floor (obviously low frequencies act differently. this weekend I will move my sub down and see what happens). Above the theater is the formal living room the bedrooms that will be kids rooms are up 2 flights of stairs and on the other side of the house. Thankfully the wall closest to the neighbors is underground and the houses are not on top of each other.

I will look into screens further. Thank you for pointing out it may be dim, I had not considered this and will do more research on that front. This is where I could justify spending a little more on a projector if that would be an easy way to take care of that.

I will look into a dedicated processor or lower cost receiver. I actually just found a Denon with platinum Audyssey for half the cost of the AVR-4520CI.

I had gravitated to Denon because I liked what I have read about Audyssey

It looks like 4 side surrounds will add about $1k for a Xilica XP-2040 I would like to pursue this but later.

I will work on a layout of the room, I just noticed the rack I have will not fit where I had wanted it.

I will look into building subs and miniDSP.

As to heights I already have the speakers, I would like to play with them and come to my own conclusions but I was already thinking they would be the least important channels in this setup, and could get in the way.
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