David Beck's boyhood memories of the cinema in his hometown were the inspiration for this incredible home theater.
Many folks have a strong childhood memory they'd like to recreate as adults, and AVS member David Beck (dlbeck) is no different. When he and his wife decided to build a new house from the ground up near Des Moines, Iowa, they designed it to accommodate a 20x30-foot home theater, and David already had a name in mind. "I wanted to name it after an old, closed-down theater—The Savoy—from my hometown of Garwin, Iowa, which has a population of about 350 people."
David's inspiration for his home theater was The Savoy in his hometown.
The new Savoy would be located in the home's basement with a foundation two feet lower than the rest of that level in order to provide for an 11-foot ceiling.
David spent months looking at home-theater build threads right here on AVS Forum. He ended up using the Cinemar theater—which is a past Home Theater of the Month
—as the basis for much of his design, though he adapted it significantly in terms of equipment, acoustic treatments, and audio channels.
In fact, David spent the majority of his research time on acoustic treatments. "I've always read how important the room is to the whole experience, so I wanted to make sure I got it right," he says. "I bought books, scoured the forums for weeks, and became increasingly frustrated about what to do. After a two-hour conversation with fellow AVSer Nyal Mellor from Acoustic Frontiers on Christmas Eve, I decided to ask him to help me. It was the best decision I made throughout the whole process. He provided DIY absorptive acoustic-treatment designs that I could make myself to save some money, but I purchased the diffusive and reflective treatments from Acoustic Frontiers. Nyal also provided me with designs for a baffle wall for my front stage, and it turned out exceptionally well." All treatments except the baffle wall are covered with FR701 acoustically transparent fabric from Guilford of Maine.
The acoustic treatments on the side walls include various types of diffusers and absorbers.
The rear wall is fully treated with diffusers and R30 Pink Fluffy encased in chicken wire to act as a bass trap.
Near the front of the room, six 2x4-foot 4" OC703 panels are mounted on the ceiling, while 1x4-foot OC703 fiberglass boards are hung above the front speakers. R30 Pink Fluffy is installed in the front corners to act as bass traps.
Nyal Mellor designed a baffle wall with cutouts for the speakers and damping material around them. With the fronts of the speakers flush with the wall, more of the sound stays in the listening area and avoids diffraction around the edges of the speakers. Of course, this wall needn't be covered with fabric because an acoustically transparent screen is placed in front of it.
After three months of planning, construction finally began. "I contracted out major items of the theater construction along with the house itself," David recalls, "including the framing, drywall, trim, and electrical work. I did all the painting, building the fabric panels, and low-voltage wiring with quite a bit of help from my wife. I also built all the DIY acoustic treatments with the assistance of my father-in-law. I installed all the acoustic treatments and also put insulation in the riser and soffit."
David is a very lucky man to have a wife willing to help stuff fiberglass into the riser and soffit—on Valentine's Day!
David got his hands plenty dirty painting and doing all sorts of other jobs.
From the start, David paid particular attention to sound isolation. "I followed the best practices from other AVS members on building methods for sound isolation," he says, "which included double drywall with OSB for one layer, isolation clips, Green Glue, and a Serenity Mat from The Soundproofing Company under the riser and stage to decouple them from the concrete foundation and to lower the room's noise floor. I also spent a bit more money on the HVAC system. AVS member TMcG helped me out a lot in this area; I ended up using 6" x 8' linear diffusers for the supply and return, which achieved the air velocity I wanted. To ensure that I could condition the theater properly, I installed a separate zone and an ERV [energy-recovery ventilator] so I could reach the fresh-air exchange targets I wanted."
Plenty of Green Glue was used to reduce sound transmission through the double-drywall construction.
A hidden double door helps keep the theater's sound inside and outside sounds out.
Of course, the AV gear was no less important than the construction. "I worked extensively with fellow AVS member desertdome on the design and equipment needs," David recalls. "We discussed at length the source components and channel configuration. He offered to build a home-theater PC for me featuring JRiver Media Center and software program called Audiolense XO, which is a digital sound-correction program that offers an amazing amount of EQ." In fact, Audiolense does all the time- and frequency-domain correction for multiple locations, crossovers, and bass management. "It is comparable to Dirac Live," David says, "but with the ability to handle more channels with manual control of more parameters and routing. Audiolense creates a file that is loaded into JRiver similar to how a 3D LUT [lookup table] file is loaded into a video processor. I can create many different Audiolense files and have JRiver automatically load them based on my criteria. For example, 2-channel media can use different bass management and correction than multichannel."
The HTPC is among the most capable I've seen. Aside from the media it stores internally, it communicates with a DirecTV set-top box (STB) via HDMI using a Happauge Colossus card. JRiver Media Center changes channels on the STB with a USB IR transmitter and receives the DirecTV signal via the Colossus, allowing David to watch live or record shows.
David's HTPC is highly capable thanks to all the specialized hardware and software.
Equally interesting is the Solid State Logic Alpha Link MX outboard multichannel DAC (digital-to-analog converter), a pro-audio unit with 16 output channels. The HTPC includes a Solid State Logic MadiXtreme 64 MADI (Multichannel Audio Digital Interface) card, which can output 16 channels at 192 kHz sampling rate, 32 channels at 96 kHz, or 64 channels at 48 kHz. David sends 96 kHz to the DAC via fiber-optic cable, and multiple DACs can be daisy-chained. "I am using 15 of the 16 output channels for my theater," he says, referring to nine main channels and six low-frequency channels. "I may expand to 32 channels if I decide to upgrade to Auro3D."
The speakers are another critical element in this incredible theater. "At a 2012 get-together in Wisconsin, I met Jeff Permanian from JTR Speakers," David recounts. "Six months later, I purchased two of his S2 Captivator subwoofers and was sold on the capabilities of JTR speakers. The LCR speakers are JTR Noesis 212s and the six surrounds are S8s [four on the sides, two in the rear, hidden behind acoustically transparent fabric in the pilasters that surround the room]. For the subs, I kept my dual JTR S2s, placing them up front behind the screen."
But that wasn't all—David also wanted mid-bass modules (MBMs) to provide some "punch" that lesser systems lack. "With the help of desertdome and my son, we built four mid-bass modules that feature Acoustic Elegance PB18H+ drivers," he says. "I had never built speakers before; it was a great learning experience and lots of fun. Thanks to the crossover capabilities of Audiolense XO, the S2 subwoofers handle 40 Hz and lower, the MBMs cover 40-120 Hz, and the mains reproduce 120 Hz and up. This provides a very seamless soundstage."
David's 10-year-old son was a big help building the MBMs.
Aside from building the MBMs, the greatest moment for David was the installation of the speakers into the baffle wall. "We installed the eight speakers in their respective places over a weekend. The wall looked really cool when it was done."
Each front speaker sits on a mid-bass module in the baffle wall.
The biggest problem David confronted was the brutally cold Iowa winter, during which much of the construction occurred. "Most of the theater was constructed before we had heat and electricity from any source other than the temporary electrical pole. We had many days that were below zero. It was a glorious day when they finally got the heat turned on."
A 148-inch-wide, acoustically transparent, 2.37:1 Seymour Center Stage XD with masking panels hides the front speakers ensconced in the baffle wall.
David decided on a brown color scheme to go with the brown Palliser Rhumba theater chairs he already had. He selected a blue-plum color for the fabric covering the acoustic treatments after a survey he conducted on AVS.
It's difficult to calculate the cost of the theater's construction, since it was part of the entire house. But what about the cost of the gear, acoustic treatments, and other elements dedicated to the theater? "I was too scared to keep track!" David laughs. I'm sure it must reach well into five figures if not more—and I'm equally sure it's worth every penny.
If you happen to be in central Iowa in late June, you can check out this amazing theater for yourself. David is hosting a grand-opening get-together on June 28, so PM him if you'd like to experience this incredible tribute to his boyhood memories of The Savoy—but without the scratched and dirty film, tinny sound, and sticky floors!
For much more detail about how David's home theater came together, check out the build thread here
. The theater was also featured in Acoustic Frontiers' monthly newsletter here
If you'd like your home theater considered for HT of the Month, PM me with the details and a link to your build thread if available.
HTPC running JRiver Media Center and Audiolense XO
DirecTV satellite receiver
Solid State Logic Alpha Link MX multichannel DAC
Crest Audio CC4000 power amps (2; power for LCR)
Crest Audio CC1800 power amps (3; power for 6 surrounds)
Behringer iNuke 6000 power amps (2; power for 4 MBMs)
Panamorph UH480 anamorphic lens
Seymour Center Stage XD (148" wide, acoustically transparent, 2.37:1 with masking panels)
madVR video renderer software in HTPC supporting 3D LUT corrections
JTR Noesis 212s (3, LCR)
JTR S8s (6, side & rear surrounds)
JTR Captivator S2 subwoofers (2)
DIY mid-bass modules (4, each with 18" Acoustic Elegance PB18H+ driver)
Blue Jeans interconnects and speaker cables
JRiver Media Center via JRemote iPad app
Insteon lighting throughout house
Palliser Rhumba (3 in front row, 4 in second row)
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