Automated Drop Down Speakers. WAF = 100% - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 15 Old 04-25-2018, 12:15 AM - Thread Starter
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Automated Drop Down Speakers. WAF = 100%


I have conquered the Wife Acceptance Factor.

I do not mean I have compromised speaker placement positions and audiophile standards. And I do not mean I have overridden my wife’s desires and my own to leave a room looking like a normal room. I have done both. I have my cake and I’m eating it too. I have created a new automated surround speaker system. Nobody on the planet has this. It’s amazing. It basically puts your real surround speakers (NOT IN-WALLS!!) exactly where you want them, and puts them away when you are finished. It is accurate to 1/16 of an inch, automated, silent, and does not compromise any audiophile rules.

Let me start by saying that this project took me over a year to get to where it is now, and as you can see it is nearly finished. But it is just so awesome I had to show it now. I just need to treat the last two ceiling coffers. It is a Dolby Atmos 7.2.4 system using Kef R700 Left and Right fronts, Kef R600c Center, 4 Kef CCi200 ceiling speakers, and 4 Kef R300 side and rear surrounds. Electronics are Marantz. The surround speakers are exactly where they should be according to Dolby Atmos guidelines. The front and center speakers are where I had them originally. I also have two SVS SB13 Ultra subwoofers and I have not dealt with the wife acceptance factor on those. My wife is simply going to let me get away with them.

By the way, I am one of those guys that believe the room affects the sound far more than the speakers or electronics. The speakers could be any brand or cost level that you want. You are of course limited by size somewhat, but there is no reason this same thing could not be done with towers!

This is not a custom built media room. It is a living room converted to media room like most people have. However this system could easily be used in an actual custom built media room. Do any real audiophiles really want to have in-wall speakers in their custom built ultimate media room? OR do they want to have high quality free standing speakers placed away from the walls (actually away from everything!) so they can sound like an audiophile wants them to sound? And then be able to hide them automatically when they want?

This started when I decided I wanted a Dolby Atmos 7.2.4 system in my existing Family Room/Media Room. My wife said NO speakers on stands, No wires showing, No speakers on shelves to replace the art and knickknacks, NO in-wall speakers!! (Because there was art on the walls where I wanted to put them). Also, there was no room on the “back wall” to put speakers because there were windows running all the way across the back of the room. (These will eventually be covered by acoustic drapes or shades to replace the existing plantation shutters). I have a coffered ceiling which my wife did not want me to remove.
The project involved a ton of research, planning, engineering, and reading. It involved electrical, robotics, physics, acoustics, engineering, plumbing, air conditioning, and structural concerns. It involved screw-ups, errors, and hanging everything up temporarily to make sure it sounded good!

Each tweeter of the 4 surrounds is (or will be) exactly 18 inches above my ear when seated in my center media seat and all positioning was accomplished using lasers. The system puts these speakers in the same position plus or minus 1/32 of an inch. I could put them higher or lower. Notice the rear speakers are even toed in!

You are probably thinking “Well, that’s cute but I don’t have a giant attic above my media room”. Either do I! The entire system runs horizontally through the ceiling between my first and second floors.
The main question you should be asking is “how does that cable work?” It could be a spool out cable like Stage Ninja makes (and I considered), but those all use a sliding contact. A sliding contact is a weak and poor contact that begins wearing out the first day you use it. Eventually, it does wear out! It is not an audiophile solution. I also considered simply hooking up a cable by hand when the speakers were down and removing it before putting them up. But what if I accidentally hit the up button while the cables were attached? Yikes. The cable you see is a 12 gauge oxygen free copper speaker cable that is continuous from amplifier output to speaker input. There is no break in it. How did I get it to pull itself back up into the ceiling without tangling or getting caught? The answer is not “it’s on a pulley or spool”. The physics of the situation is that no pulley or spool placed in a cable path will allow a continuous unbroken cable to spool out or in without putting that cable somewhere else. I might have used a counterweight to pull the excess cable in a specific path. But I did not, because I had no place to put a counterweight which obviously would have to travel down as the speakers go up. My method is more accurate, safer, and better. This entire system was retrofitted to my existing situation in the space between my media room ceiling and upstairs bedroom floors which by pure coincidence was 14 inches. The big Kef R300 bookshelf is 25 pounds and 15.5 inches tall, but I was able to make more space by placing acoustic absorption and fabric on my ceilings. This fabric also covers the 4 ceiling speakers, and even though it decreased my ceiling height (10.5 ft) to 10.25 ft it is completely unnoticeable.

True, I have not included the actual parts or design. I’m involved with some companies right now and I’m not quite prepared to do that. But I will.

Advantages:
1. Allows any speaker position in the room relative to seated listener position.
2. Allows any speaker height relative to seated listener position No speaker stands to knock over! Safer than stands. I could add another 200 pounds to each speaker and the cables would hold easily.
3. Allows you to place speakers where they SHOULD be placed in the room relative to seated listener position
4. No wires to trip over
5. No sound transmission through floor or shelves that would normally be caused by the speakers sitting there
6. It’s so COOL!
7. Does not look ugly! It looks awesome!
8. Disappears when you want.
9. Parts are relatively cheap.
10. Relatively silent operation
11. Operated by remote control, switch, or phone app.
12. When the system is hidden, nobody can poke at your speaker drivers.
13. Speakers final up and down position is accurate
14. System is silent
15. Speaker movement start by accelerating to speed then ends with deceleration to stop. No abrupt movements.

Disadvantages
1. Complicated engineering involved
2. Labor intensive
3. Expensive to have built.
4. Could be dangerous if activated when someone is standing directly below them. But the movement is pretty slow as you can see. Also, I could easily setup an electric eye system that would stop movement should anyone cross the movement path. Getting something out of the cabinets below and standing up quickly without looking could result in a whack to the head.
5. Oddly shaped or coffered ceilings could present some difficulties.
6. The way the system is currently set up, physically lifting the speakers or intentionally impeding their downward travel might possibly throw things out of adjustment.
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post #2 of 15 Old 04-25-2018, 12:35 AM
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Wow. That's interesting, I'll give ya that! Very impressive that you DIYd this yourself and the automation looks flawless. Hope you have good luck with whomever it is you are talking to about the design!
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Blister64 Full Basement Build Panasonic PT-AE8000U | Yamaha RX-A3070 | Emotiva XPA-7 Gen3 | DIY Sound Group Ported 1299 TMWW Front Stage | DIY SG Volt 10 Surrounds | Monoprice 8" Alpha In-ceiling Atmos | Three Stereo Integrity HS-24 mkIII's sealed | Sinbosen FP20000Q
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post #3 of 15 Old 04-25-2018, 12:49 AM
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Impressive, most impressive!!!!

Soooo, how does that cable work? What was your solution?
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post #4 of 15 Old 04-25-2018, 10:55 AM
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This is really cool. It sounds like you're gearing up to sell this? I'm also curious about the speaker wire solution, which I'm guessing is your secret sauce here.

I had the same thoughts about a bonking somebody on the head where they're being lowered. Or really a child deciding it is a fun swing in the living room.

Luckily my wife decided that rear speakers in white were pretty enough to leave on as decoration. But I'm still very intrigued by this
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post #5 of 15 Old 04-25-2018, 12:13 PM
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Regarding disadvantage #5 , "Oddly shaped or coffered ceilings could present some difficulties". I see a relatively easy solution for that. Build them as you did with everything parallel to the ground, but add wedges (or other appropriate shape) to the bottom to match the profile of the ceiling.
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post #6 of 15 Old 04-25-2018, 12:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Craig Gordon View Post
How did I get it to pull itself back up into the ceiling without tangling or getting caught? The answer is not “it’s on a pulley or spool”.
What worried me was how you would ensure that the cables would not get tangled eventually. What marveled me is that the cables could spool out so uniformly. Looks like those were not even a factor. I stand thoroughly impressed!!
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post #7 of 15 Old 04-25-2018, 12:56 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveClement View Post
Regarding disadvantage #5 , "Oddly shaped or coffered ceilings could present some difficulties". I see a relatively easy solution for that. Build them as you did with everything parallel to the ground, but add wedges (or other appropriate shape) to the bottom to match the profile of the ceiling.
That is basically what I did. I built a shape that fit into the profile of the crown moulding.
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post #8 of 15 Old 04-25-2018, 01:34 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by impreza276 View Post
What worried me was how you would ensure that the cables would not get tangled eventually. What marveled me is that the cables could spool out so uniformly. Looks like those were not even a factor. I stand thoroughly impressed!!
@DaveClement

The cables are definitely the complicated high point of the project. Having them spool out uniformly and even more importantly having them spool in exactly the same way. I'm very proud of my solution. And here is exactly how I accomplished it:

I used an E Chain, or cable carrier. See this video at 11:00 to end.

https://1drv.ms/v/s!Av3i5wnAumFGgodqmXuXHsufnx1GvQ

And while we are at it: The motor! The motor is a chip controlled variable speed motor. It starts off slowly, accelerates to speed, and then decelerates. It is accurate to within 1/8 inch and is relatively silent (you can hear it in the video). As you can see, it can be automatically set at stop points. I have set it to always stop at exactly 18 inches above ear level when seated on the down point, and exactly flush with the fabric cover on the up point. It has only one preset speed, but as you can see, it is perfect. It can be set to turn off if the tension becomes higher than normal. It will turn off if something gets "caught" so that damage does not occur. It can be controlled via phone app, logitech remote, wall control, or hand held remote. I used two motors for each two speaker set on each side of the room, but they both use only one command for both to work (single button push). I can stop the speakers at any point along the path should I decide I want a new height. There is a safety mechanism that if slack is detected ( a problem!) it will turn off. Also, it can be set to turn off or fail to work if someone is standing below the speakers.

I considered Firgelli automation units, but they did not have enough travel. I also considered custom computer controlled track drive actuators.

How much do you think this motor cost? Are you sitting down? I purchased two for $200.00 each!!!!! I realize now I could have used only one for all 4 speakers had my project been pre construction (but it was not and was instead retrofitted to the room). WTF you say? Are you ready? They are the newly designed Liftmaster 8500 garage door openers!! They are no longer available at Home Depot, and the price has skyrocketed to about $325.00 each but you can find them all over the internet. I would have paid $2000 each for these. It is the best new solution for any garage door, but are also a miracle find for this kind of application even though they were never intended for it!
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Last edited by Craig Gordon; 04-25-2018 at 01:57 PM.
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post #9 of 15 Old 04-25-2018, 03:33 PM
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Excellent engineering! I like the way that you have everything run by one motor, even though the lift points are in different locatons. I recognize the garage door opener parts, especially the cable hubs. I like the way that the system can start and stop gradually.

It reminds me of something on a much larger scale that I saw in the ceiling structure of an old auditorium years ago. I've been in the event production business for most of my adult life. I was ceiling falsework in an large auditorium in San Francisco years ago and I was surprised to see the remnants of an old lift system that had probably been there for 50+ years. There was a very large electric motor that was connected to a series of pipes that turned with the motor. They extended off in different angles with automotive or truck type driveshaft U-joints to allow the torque to be transmitted around the corners to additional pipes. The pipes may have even been made from old driveshafts. If I am remembering correctly, I believe that they used steel automotive or truck wheels as the hubs for the cables to wind around. This was before carrying around a camera in your cell phone was an option, so unfortunately, I don't have any pictures.

(Modern staging productions use chain motors to lift the rigging and trusses. There are multiple motors synchronize together so that they can all lift at the same time.)
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post #10 of 15 Old 04-25-2018, 04:14 PM - Thread Starter
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@DaveClement

Amazing! I love the idea of using some kind of u joint to go around corners. I did use that 1 to 1 ratio sprocket and chain to get around my upstairs fireplace. I did end up using two motors for each two speaker set, but if I had access, one motor for all four speakers would have been perfect. If you watch carefully, you will notice that one motor is slightly slower than the other. It doesnt really matter because the speakers all end up in the same location, but if I had one motor all the speakers would be 100% in sync. I did check out many stage and rigging supply companies in the beginning looking for the perfect motor, or even pre made speaker lifts. They were all so expensive and did not fit my specifications. Its simply a miracle that I found a very cheap and silent garage door opener that works perfectly.
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post #11 of 15 Old 08-05-2019, 09:36 AM
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I'm just curious how much it cost.

Also seems a fun project for high schoolers who's into robotics.
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post #12 of 15 Old 08-05-2019, 10:45 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by toddwz View Post
I'm just curious how much it cost.

Also seems a fun project for high schoolers who's into robotics.
Much less than I originally suspected. The motors (which are logic chip controlled) I originally specced out at $3200.00 each. I found a prebuilt substitute for $350.00. Any number of speakers (In my case 4) can be lowered with a single motor. There is much more to my system than just the motors and cables. I have all fabric covered insulation on the ceiling as well, along with in ceiling Atmos speakers hidden by the fabric. But the total cost of just the drop down speakers could be kept under $1200.00 total.
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post #13 of 15 Old 08-05-2019, 01:33 PM
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Much less than I originally suspected. The motors (which are logic chip controlled) I originally specced out at $3200.00 each. I found a prebuilt substitute for $350.00. Any number of speakers (In my case 4) can be lowered with a single motor. There is much more to my system than just the motors and cables. I have all fabric covered insulation on the ceiling as well, along with in ceiling Atmos speakers hidden by the fabric. But the total cost of just the drop down speakers could be kept under $1200.00 total.
Reasonable cost. Great job.
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post #14 of 15 Old 08-07-2019, 06:08 AM
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Extremely impressive work. Great solution to the WAF issue.


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Eletronics: Yamaha 3050 RX A-3050 | Emotiva XPA-5 | Parasound A21 | Parasound P5 | Auralic Aries Mini (music server) | Oppo 205
Speakers: Paradigm Signature S6 v3 (mains) | Paradigm Signature C3 v3 (center) | Paradigm Signature S2 v3 (surrounds) | Paradigm CI Pro 65-R (Atmos ceiling) | Subs SVS SB Ultra 13
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post #15 of 15 Old 11-16-2019, 04:23 PM
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Bump. Interested in purchasing this solution or learning more.
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