Home Theater of the Month: The Event Horizon

event horizon

The Event Horizon is a totally blacked-out room with a 9.1.6 audio system and a unique subwoofer array that assures a stellar experience for all who enter.

Like many AVS Forum members, Mike (mikela) developed an interest in audio and video early on. “I built my first loudspeakers using JBL parts in 1976. My first projector was a Barco Graphics 800 that weighed close to 200 pounds. I became a member of AVS Forum in 2002, though I had lurked for quite some time before that.”

After 30 years as an electrical engineer in the aerospace industry, Mike retired six years ago and started flipping houses in Los Angeles, CA. Having built his own house in the 1980s, he was well-equipped for that career change—and for building his current home theater.

Mike’s primary design goal was to have form follow function. “I was focused on maximizing audio/video performance while minimizing compromise whenever possible. Also, I wanted seating for six with a smaller sweet spot. Two rows of three allowed for a no-compromise main-listener position in each row and enough room for three couples. Other goals included 16 channels of high-dynamic-range/low-distortion 3D immersive sound, little or no sound leakage to or from the rest of the house, a 130″ 2.35:1 screen, and an external equipment closet.”

Mike decided that the best way to achieve his goals was to build an addition onto his house. He and members of his house-flipping construction crew opened a back wall and extended the existing room 16 feet into his back yard.

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To expand the room that would become the home theater, Mike’s crew built a foundation before opening the back wall.

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The outer shell of the new theater extends 16 feet into the back yard. Mike also build a balcony for the upstairs bedroom.

Inside, Mike used well-known construction techniques. “The walls and ceiling are double drywall sandwiching Green Glue and hung on clips and channels. The floor consists of two layers of OSB and Green Glue on top of Serenity rubber mat.” In addition, the only access to the room is a double door with gasket seals all around, just like a professional recording studio.

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Inside the new room, Mike installed channels on the walls and ceiling to use with clips on the double drywall with Green Glue.

The subwoofer system is unique in my experience. Twelve 15″ bass drivers are mounted in six opposing pairs in a framework four feet from the front wall; the gap is lined with Rockwool Safe’n’Sound insulation. “This single bass-array system overcomes many of the issues with small-room bass response. It eliminates vertical and width room modes by forming a planar bass wave—instead of the normal spherical wave—that originates from the front wall.”

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Here is the framework in which 15″ bass drivers will be mounted in six opposing pairs facing into the boxes.

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With the front baffle wall installed, you can see the six openings for the bass drivers as well as the center-channel speaker and an access panel into the subwoofer space for repairs or updates.

“Also, there is a 3-foot absorption layer at the rear wall that helps eliminate the longitudinal room mode. The result is homogeneous bass response throughout the room. There is less than 1 dB difference at any seat across a given row.”

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Mike initially used rock-wool bales wrapped in their plastic bags, which apparently worked well in another theater in Germany. However, Mike was not so lucky. “I got bad results because the bales acquired in the US were much denser and therefore acted like a wall. Once I converted to stacked formaldehyde-free fiberglass on slats to maintain loft, I got the results I had originally wanted.”

Another interesting aspect of the subwoofer system is how the drivers are connected to the amplifiers. Mike uses three Behringer Europower EP4000 2-channel power amps, each in bridged/mono mode. Each amp powers four of the bass drivers, which are connected in a “series/parallel” arrangement. In bridged mode, one of the amp’s inputs can be configured as an output to another amp, allowing Mike to daisy-chain the three amps. A single subwoofer output from the Trinnov Altitude preamp-processor feeds one of the amps, which mirrors the signal to the other amps via the daisy-chain.

Mike wanted all speakers to be point sources. “I like the imaging from a point source. I also believe, though I have no proof, that it makes any kind of digital processing, such as Trinnov’s Optimizer, more accurate.” This led him to use Danley SM60Fs for the front LCRs, with only the center speaker behind the acoustically transparent Falcon Vision Horizon screen. The LR speakers are on stands just outside the screen boundaries. All the surround and overhead speakers are Reaction Audio CX-8s with their aluminum diaphragms replaced with beryllium. Together with the bass array, the system is 9.1.6 under the direction of a 16-channel Trinnov Altitude preamp-processor.

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All speakers in Mike’s home theater are point-source designs. Here, you can also see the screen frame, subwoofer crawlspace, and door to the room.

Naturally, Mike wanted to include complete acoustic treatments. He turned to fellow AVS Forum member Nyal Mellor of Acoustic Frontiers. “Nyal designed the acoustic treatments taking into account the dispersion characteristics of the speakers. I supplied my off-axis speaker measurements and a 3D Sketchup drawing of my theater layout to him for this purpose. I built all of the broadband absorbers using 703 type fiberglass, black burlap material, and spray adhesive. Nyal also specified a bunch of Auralex GeoFusors, which are ‘gentle’ diffusors that are more forgiving if you are seated close to them.”

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Nyal Mellor designed the acoustic treatments, which include square broadband absorbers and semi-cylindrical, faceted Auralex GeoFusors.

The look of the theater was also based on the maxim “form follows function.” The walls and ceiling are flat black, which is best for optimizing the image quality on the screen. In addition, Mike decided not to hide anything. “One of the main principals was to avoid putting anything in the walls. For example, all wiring is on the surface of the wall. My original plan was to build fabric panels to cover them, but the wires give the room a kind of tech look that I like.”

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Here, you can see more of the acoustic treatments on a side wall as well as the exposed speaker cabling.

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Of course, the baffle wall behind the acoustically transparent screen must be black to absorb any light that passes through the screen. Here, you can also see some of the bass drivers in their open enclosures.

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The JVC DLA-RS600 projector is mounted on the ceiling and includes an ISCO III anamorphic lens on a CineSlide motorized sled.

After a year of planning and three years of construction, Mike’s theater is finally complete. He decided to call it The Event Horizon. “I chose that name partly because I’m a physics buff and partly because the theater is a ‘form follows function’ design that incorporates a totally black environment from which light cannot escape—well, maybe a little can escape!”

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Like its namesake, the Event Horizon is totally black inside—except for the screen, of course!

Looking at the equipment list, it’s clear that the final cost of this no-compromise home theater must have been almost astronomical. “It was about $75,000, not including the addition to the house, which was another $45,000. About 20 or 30 percent of the work was contracted out—things like building the addition, hanging drywall, and building the risers as well as Nyal’s acoustic design—but I did the rest myself.”

Was it worth spending that much? I would say yes, absolutely! I normally don’t get to experience the rooms I select as Home Theater of the Month. But since this one is in Los Angeles, I had the opportunity to visit The Event Horizon, and it is among the finest home theaters I’ve ever been in. I know that a totally blacked-out room isn’t for everyone, but I find that it effectively eliminates all visual distractions, allowing viewers to focus entirely on the audio and video.

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The room is designed so there is no compromise in the audio or video in the center seat of each row. But the other seats ain’t bad by any means!

We listened to a few Dolby Atmos recordings, starting with a Pure Audio Blu-ray of the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, performing the music of Giovanni Gabrieli with His Majesty’s Sagbutts and Cornetts in the Chapel of King’s College. I’ve played much of this music, so I’m very familiar with it. The Atmos recording filled the room with magnificent, crystal-clear sound. The ambience was palpable, faithfully reproducing the effect of being in a cathedral, while the voices and instruments were clearly delineated with pinpoint imaging.

Next up was Hans Zimmer Live in Prague on Blu-ray, also with a Dolby Atmos mix. The concert included selections from some of Zimmer’s many movie scores, including Inception and Gladiator. The recording has a ton of very low synth bass, which was reproduced effortlessly by the theater’s subwoofer array. I was especially impressed with the low, inharmonic sounds that swirl around the room at the beginning of the Inception set. This is a very effective Atmos mix, and Mike’s system renders it beautifully.

Finally, we watched a bit of Blade Runner 2049 on UHD Blu-ray. Even though Mike has an anamorphic lens, he hadn’t finished setting it up, so he used the zoom method to fill his 2.35:1 screen. Also, he hadn’t yet done a full calibration of the JVC DLA-RS600 projector, though he had set the brightness and contrast controls along with a gamma of 2.4 and a color temperature of 6500K in the projector’s Movie mode. As some AVS Forum members know, the RS600 is JVC’s first generation to incorporate HDR, and it doesn’t work properly, so Mike has the Oppo UDP-203 convert HDR to SDR using the BT.2020 color container, which works surprisingly well.

Despite these temporary limitations, the image looked quite good. Colors were rich and natural, brightness was fine, and blacks were nice and deep. There was some loss of shadow detail and a bit of clipping in bright whites, probably due to the Oppo’s HDR-to-SDR conversion. And of course, that will be moot when he upgrades the projector, which is next on his list.

Sonically, I was blown away. The opening low-frequency sounds were spectacular, shaking the seats like butt kickers. And the Atmos mix sent sounds all around the room. We played it pretty loud, and the sound remained perfectly clear and distortion-free.

The Event Horizon is a true testament to what can be done when form follows function. Mike’s no-compromise approach has resulted in an incredible home theater with audio and video that are second to none. (Well, the video still needs a bit of work, but the potential is certainly there!) As with its namesake, those who enter might find themselves unable to leave. But instead of being crushed by gravitational forces, they are captivated by glorious sights and sounds that pull them ever farther toward a singularity of AV bliss.

For much more detail about how The Event Horizon came together, check out the build thread here.

If you’d like your home theater considered for Home Theater of the Month, send an email to [email protected] with a few photos, a brief description, and a link to your build thread if available.


EQUIPMENT LIST

Sources

Oppo UDP-203 UHD Blu-ray player
Roku Ultra 4K streamer
DIY HTPC/server (Lime Technology unRAID server with 6 storage drives [8 TB each] and 2 parity drives [8 TB each], Intel i7 3.3 GHz CPU, Nvidia GeForce Ti graphics card, 32 GB RAM, Windows 10, Kodi, MPC-BE, madVR, JRiver Media Center)

AV Electronics

Trinnov Altitude32 16-channel pre/pro
D-Sonic M3a-600M monoblock power amps (3, LCR)
D-Sonic M3a-2000-5 5-channel power amp (5 surrounds)
D-Sonic M3a-2800-7 7-channel power amp (1 surround, 6 overheads)
Behringer Europower EP4000 2-channel power amps (3, bridge mode, subwoofer drivers)

Projector

JVC DLA-RS600
ISCO III anamorphic lens on motorized sled

Video Processors

Lumagen Radiance Pro
HDFury Integral (to eliminate HDCP issues)

Screen

Falcon Vision Horizon 4K (130″ wide, 2.35:1, 1.0 gain, woven acoustically transparent)

Speakers

Danley SM60F (3, LCR)
Reaction Audio CX-8 (12; 6 surrounds, 6 overheads)
DIY subwoofer (12 Fi Car IB315 15″ drivers in single-bass array of six dual-opposed manifolds built into a baffle wall)

Cables

Monoprice Slim Run AV HDR fiber-optic HDMI
Monoprice Certified Premium High-Speed HDMI
Blue Jeans & Belden audio cables

Control

iPad running various apps: Vectir PC Remote Control (HTPC), Mocha VNC (Altitude), Oppo MediaControl (UDP-203), Rokie (Roku), JRemote (JRiver), Philips Hue (lighting)
IR remotes for Lumagen Radiance Pro, projector, lens sled

Power Conditioning

Cyberpower 1500PFCLCD UPS (2; one for the projector, one for Trinnov, Lumagen, HTPC/ server, Roku, Oppo)

Seating

Fusion Escape (6, 2 rows of 3)

Room Dimensions

22.3′ (L) x 15.5′ (W) x 10′ (H)

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