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post #1 of 8 Old 07-09-2017, 11:55 AM - Thread Starter
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Help designing new media cabinet to hide speakers

I need help designing a new media wall for a very large family room. The room is 20' wide x 17' deep x 24' tall. There is a 20'' recess on the tallest wall where the new built-in media cabinetry will be built. As pictured, there is currently some existing shelving and re-wiring that may end up being scrapped if it isn't useful in the re-build. For the display, I plan to mount a 75" TV and will be purchasing new speakers specific for the room so that I can build the cabinetry to accommodate/integrate with the speakers. The ultimate goal is to hide the speakers in the cabinet without compromising sound quality too much. Based on my research, it seems like front-ported or sealed speakers are the only reasonable choice for in-cabinet. There is also pre-wiring for surround which will require in-walls in order to make this 5.1.

For this room, aesthetics will trump acoustics so the speakers will either go in-cabinet or in-wall.

Where I could use help is:

1. Has anyone seen any built-in media walls that do a great job hiding speakers without compromising sound? The setup here is one that I really like and would enjoy feedback:


https://www.houzz.com/photos/3528928...ily-room-miami

https://www.houzz.com/photos/3528925...ily-room-miami

Looks like they just put painted audio fabric to the front of a hinged cabinet door. Hides speakers really nicely.. dunno about sound. I like that it seemed possible to toe-in the speakers within the cabinet.

2. Would I be better off using in-wall speakers and just adding sheetrock to either side of the cabinet? It seems like putting in-walls on the right and left drywall would really mess with acoustics because they wouldn't be toe'ed in and they would be very close to side walls. If I put regular bookshelf speakers into the cabinet enclosures, what other measures should be taken to

3. Any thoughts on where to place/hide the subwoofer?

4. Any other useful feedback would also be appreciated. Open to recommendations on LCR makes/models.

In addition to the pictures of the room, I've also attached a scrappy mockup along with some inspirational builds.
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Last edited by BMartin2; 07-09-2017 at 02:59 PM.
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post #2 of 8 Old 07-09-2017, 05:40 PM
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You are showing us attached photos of the cabinets ... so are they already built or not?

If you are in the process of designing this, then you have to ask which is most important - an AV Media Center or decorative shelves?

It sounds like the space is large enough to build built in speakers - Front and Center - in to the space. Notice I said into the space, not into the shelves or cabinets. Not quite the same thing.

Next, do you plan to have one fixed sized TV forever? When 65" TV drop down to the price or 42" TV, are you going to still have a 42" for decades to come?

If you plan to do this, then in my opinion, forget the knick-knack/curio shelf, and concentrate on building a Media Center. Build in solid SOLID sections for Left/Center/Right Speakers. Build in space for AV Receiver, BluRay, Cable Box, and other media players as needed. Build the space for the TV sufficient to TWO TV upgrades. That is, if you plan to start with 42", then allow for the possibility of a 55" or 65". BUILD IN SPACE TO EASILY RUN ALL THE CABLES. Build in access to what ever might need access.

The spaces containing the Built-In speakers can NOT be sheetrock or similar flimsy material, or common shelves with fronts; they need to be solid minimum 0.75" wood. Probably cabinet grade Plywood. The only place something as flimsy as sheetrock is good for are places that are purely cosmetic with no structural purpose.

But then, you can do what you want. For myself, I say, forget decorative shelves and built a true Media Center specifically for that purpose.

Steve/bluewizard
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post #3 of 8 Old 07-09-2017, 06:57 PM
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If you are going to re-build the shelves, the first thing I would do is to build them out to the edge of the inset area. This will help with first reflection issues off those close side walls. Then, I would test the room, using the positions you envision for the speakers, at the seating position you will be using. Then test some more. Width, height, toe-in can all be effective in tuning the system and helping you to get the best sound you can get when speakers are tucked into a cabinet (clearly not the best scenario for quality sound).

Once you have deduced the best position for the speakers, then you can see about trying to fit shelving around the functional areas. I do agree that you should consider keeping the shelving open to accommodate a larger TV in the future, with ample storage space for a receiver, cable box, DVR, DVD Player, game system, and whatever else you may need. It is also important that you consider how you are going to get rid of the heat generated by these devices, if your intention is to close them up in some covered compartment. Fans that insert cool air into the bottom of the cabinet, circulate the air around the devices, then vent the hot air out of the top using a second fan or convection. Not paying attention to this will cost you down the road. Also, think about how you will control the devices that typically use an infrared remote which need line of site to function properly.

For your cables, route the low level connectors together, the power cords together, and the speaker wires together, keeping some distance between each. If you have to cross the power cords, do so at a right angle. What if there is a change to the system and you have to route new cords .. how will this be accomplished?

What about a subwoofer? Does that have to go in the cabinet too?

Last edited by RayGuy; 07-09-2017 at 07:06 PM.
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post #4 of 8 Old 07-13-2017, 06:25 AM - Thread Starter
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BlueWizard- Thanks so much for your helpful response!

Quote:
Originally Posted by bluewizard View Post
You are showing us attached photos of the cabinets ... so are they already built or not?
The photos that I show are the current shelves that will likely be scrapped to make room for new custom cabinetry.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bluewizard View Post
If you are in the process of designing this, then you have to ask which is most important - an AV Media Center or decorative shelves?
The ability to disguise the speakers into the cabinetry is most important.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bluewizard View Post
It sounds like the space is large enough to build built in speakers - Front and Center - in to the space. Notice I said into the space, not into the shelves or cabinets. Not quite the same thing.
Can you share a bit more about what you mean here?

Quote:
Originally Posted by bluewizard View Post
Next, do you plan to have one fixed sized TV forever? When 65" TV drop down to the price or 42" TV, are you going to still have a 42" for decades to come?
I'm planning to build for a 75" screen.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bluewizard View Post
The spaces containing the Built-In speakers can NOT be sheetrock or similar flimsy material, or common shelves with fronts; they need to be solid minimum 0.75" wood. Probably cabinet grade Plywood. The only place something as flimsy as sheetrock is good for are places that are purely cosmetic with no structural purpose.
This is excellent advice. Do you have any suggestions on the best way to construct the cabinet doors that will enclose the speaker doors? It seems like the two options are to use metal grills or speaker fabric. And then I've seen folks that put foam on the inside of the cabinet (especially underneath the speakers) to reduce vibrations.

Last edited by BMartin2; 07-13-2017 at 06:32 AM.
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post #5 of 8 Old 07-13-2017, 06:51 AM - Thread Starter
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RayGuy- Thank you so much for your reply!

Quote:
Originally Posted by RayGuy View Post
If you are going to re-build the shelves, the first thing I would do is to build them out to the edge of the inset area. This will help with first reflection issues off those close side walls. Then, I would test the room, using the positions you envision for the speakers, at the seating position you will be using. Then test some more. Width, height, toe-in can all be effective in tuning the system and helping you to get the best sound you can get when speakers are tucked into a cabinet (clearly not the best scenario for quality sound).
Excellent advice. I've heard that when positioning speakers on cabinet shelves you should pull them forward so that they hang off the end of the shelf. Only thing I'm struggling with is that I'm hoping to keep cabinet doors shut all the time. Is there some way to design the cabinet doors so that they allow speakers to extend? Perhaps the floor of speaker cabinet shelf doesn't extend all the way to the door, leaving a 1-2" gap?

Quote:
Originally Posted by RayGuy View Post
It is also important that you consider how you are going to get rid of the heat generated by these devices, if your intention is to close them up in some covered compartment. Fans that insert cool air into the bottom of the cabinet, circulate the air around the devices, then vent the hot air out of the top using a second fan or convection. Not paying attention to this will cost you down the road. Also, think about how you will control the devices that typically use an infrared remote which need line of site to function properly.
I'm considering 2 options: A.) I have a cooled AV rack that I could put in an adjacent closet space beneath the stairs. Its a big closet but it doesn't have AC, so I do get concerned it could get too hot, even with fans running. Any rules of thumb on this? This option is most expensive because have to pull cables. B.) Build a cabinet under the center channel that has metal grill front. Likely won't have much other than a receiver and cable box so I think venting should be ok.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RayGuy View Post
For your cables, route the low level connectors together, the power cords together, and the speaker wires together, keeping some distance between each. If you have to cross the power cords, do so at a right angle. What if there is a change to the system and you have to route new cords .. how will this be accomplished?
Can you explain why this is important? Is is just for convenience or does it affect performance? Depending on the volume of cables and whether we go with A. or B. above, we has discussed some sort of cord tunnel so that we could re-run additional cabling to closet in the future.


Quote:
Originally Posted by RayGuy View Post
What about a subwoofer? Does that have to go in the cabinet too?
Well... ideally this would go in the cabinet as well. I assume they make front firing subs that could work for this application? Does the sub have to sit directly on the floor or can it sit on a lower shelf?

My biggest challenge right now is how to design the cabinet doors so that they really blend in with cabinet and allow sound to pass through with them closed. The pictures that I attached in the original post show a really nice custom build with small towers and a center chan installed behind hollowed cabinet doors wrapped in speaker fabric. It that looks like it would work nicely. Matching the speaker fabric color with the cabinet paint seems very challenging though. It's almost like you have to paint them cabinets to match the fabric.... which kinda sucks to build an entire room color around speaker fabric! Going with a metal grate instead of speaker fabric makes things easier to paint/match... but it seems like metal doesn't look as integrated and replicate closed cabinets as well. And the metal seems like it would affect sounds much more. Would this be true? Lastly the cabinet doors have to have some sort of structural support in the door front to old fabric in place. Would a wooden cross beam or metal grill affect the acoustics more?
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post #6 of 8 Old 07-13-2017, 11:32 AM
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[quote=BMartin2;54243641]BlueWizard- Thanks so much for your helpful response!

The photos that I show are the current shelves that will likely be scrapped to make room for new custom cabinetry. /[quote]

Here are a couple links. In the UK, lots of people custom build their own cabinets. One popular design is the Floating Wall. Browse through these and see if anything appeals to you or if you can simply gather some concepts that you can modify to your own personal application -

https://www.avforums.com/forums/home...ilding-diy.59/

https://www.avforums.com/forums/memb...showcases.152/

Quote:
The ability to disguise the speakers into the cabinetry is most important.
Here are some photos of systems with built-in speakers.

http://www.audiogurus.com/learn/wp-c...speakers-1.jpg

http://www.audiogurus.com/learn/wp-c...speakers-4.jpg

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon....2BDU7D4-ls.jpg

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com...ccf8d609ea.jpg

The are specifically In-Wall speakers, not box speaker shoved into another box/shelf/cabinet.

Quote:
Can you share a bit more about what you mean here?
I already touched on it, because of the vibration, the sections of the cabinets holding the speakers needs to be pretty solid. Most speaker cabinets, whether free-standing or built-in will require internal bracing to stop cabinet vibration, but the bracing can not actually block or restrict the speaker -

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com...fb52a6a6ba.jpg

http://www.audioholics.com/diy-audio...r-design/image

http://vikash.info/audio/xls10/images/bracing01.jpg

Quote:
This is excellent advice. Do you have any suggestions on the best way to construct the cabinet doors that will enclose the speaker doors? It seems like the two options are to use metal grills or speaker fabric. And then I've seen folks that put foam on the inside of the cabinet (especially underneath the speakers) to reduce vibrations.
This takes some ingenuity and creativity. Design for your specific needs. I believe you said in other post that you consider putting all the equipment in a closet. If so, the closet would most likely have to be vented, perhaps even vented with fans to remove excess heat.

However, you have a large enough space to create shelves especially for the components - Amp, BluRay, CD, Cable, other. If you look in the owners manual for an amp - Stereo or AVR - you will see minimum space requirements. For proper ventilation, most amps need about 4" minimum space all around them, and they need good air flow.

Also, in a custom cabinet, as has been said, you need to design in spaces for the interconnecting cables to run. And these need to be accessible in case anything ever changes or you need to replace a cable. Again, ingenuity in design.

Generally, you want to run Power Cables in a separate space than Signal Cables to prevent cross-talk or interference. This is good general design policy, but not absolutely necessary. But, if you are already routing cables in a custom cabinet, it makes sense to keep Power and Signal separated by at least a few inches.

As an general example, here is a very simply basic Floating Wall, though I'm not saying this is right for you, just illustrating the design process -

https://www.avforums.com/threads/floating-wall.1996898/

https://www.avforums.com/attachments...13-jpg.652816/

https://www.avforums.com/attachments...31-jpg.652817/

https://www.avforums.com/attachments...03-jpg.657075/

Also AVSForums has a Design and Build section, you might gather some ideas there -

https://www.avsforum.com/forum/3-home...eater-builder/

And perhaps those in the Design forums can give you some advise on specifically designing and building the custom cabinets.

If you are going to use Pre-Made Free-Standing Box Speakers on shelves, then the space enclosing them is going to have to be deep and wide, and perhaps lined with Acoustic Foam to control reflections. As shown in your original photo, those spaces seem far too small. And others are right, you need to keep the speakers as far forward as possible, and ideally raise them up off the shelf with small stands.

Rather than using Doors on the cabinets in front of the speakers, consider a frame with grill cloth over it. The simplest grill cloth is somewhat shear double-knit stretch fabric from the Fabric Store. You can tell whether cloth is good for grill cloth by simply holding it up to the light, the better you can see through it, the more acoustically transparent it will be.

Just a few thoughts.

Steve/bluewizard
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post #7 of 8 Old 07-13-2017, 01:14 PM
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I was going to suggest the design forum, as well. BWs excellent post beat me to it.
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post #8 of 8 Old 07-13-2017, 01:21 PM
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If you are going to use box speakers you may want to line the cabinet with acoustic foam.
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