As you can see in the title, this is the June 2022 Home Theater of the Month, but it's being posted at the end of July. We're working hard to catch up after falling behind, so please enjoy a few rapid-fire entries. As always, thanks to Anthem AV for sponsoring these articles. We encourage you to show some love and check out their amazing products at www.anthemav.com.

Rob (@tortelvis) was introduced to the concept of a home theater fairly early in life. "When I was in college almost 30 years ago, a guy in my dorm had a big CRT projector and a LaserDisc player, and he used to show movies from time to time in our dorm common room. Ever since then, I've had a theater of some form in the various places I've lived."

Today, Rob lives in a suburb of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with his wife and three daughters. Thanks to his success as an IT professional, he was finally able to build a dedicated home theater. "When my wife and I decided to build our house 10 years ago, we wanted to build a dedicated room as part of the basement. In all of the previous houses we had, we set up a non-dedicated theater within the space available.

"I also knew I wanted to do the build myself, along with the other rooms in the basement. The theater was the last room we worked on, because we wanted the living and entertainment spaces done first. Waiting also had the benefit of some great technological advancements in processors and projectors."

Plant Tree Fence Brickwork Brick

The shell for the basement has a height of 12 feet for the theater.

It was a long wait—eight years from the time they built the house to when they started building the theater. But they made room for it from the beginning. "Because we were designing the house from scratch, we could build the space exactly as we wanted it. We wanted high ceilings, both for aesthetics and Atmos speaker placement. We had the builders dig down so the room would be 12 feet high, which was three feet deeper than the rest of the basement."

Building Wood Interior design Floor Flooring

The theater floor is three feet below the level of the rest of the basement, resulting in a 12-foot ceiling. It was the kids' playroom for quite a while before becoming a first-class home theater.

"For a long time, we had an inflatable bouncy house in the unfinished room for the kids to play in. During that time, I was constantly designing and re-designing the room. It was a little bit of analysis paralysis as I collected info from many builds on AVS Forum."

Rectangle Schematic Slope Line Font

Rob's final plans are relatively simple, but they effectively reflect his intent.

Finally, Rob began building. "It took about 2 years, as my wife and I were doing it all ourselves. The AVS build threads are an amazing source of info for just about anything. If I got to a section of my build that I wasn't quite sure how I wanted to do it, I would find a ton of examples in many builds and find the solution that best fit my situation.

"In terms of building techniques, I emulated the consensus: If eight out of ten builds did a particular thing the same and liked the outcome, I would follow that. Also, I took a lot of detailed pictures as I went, so that others might find it helpful in their builds."

Wood Floor Flooring Building Hardwood

For maximum isolation, the theater is a room within a room using 2x6 studs for framing.

Rob learned a lot by studying the builds on AVS Forum. "It's a room within a room, with the 2x6 studs decoupled from the ceiling joists. Double 5/8" drywall and Green Glue on the walls, 5/8" OSB (oriented strand board), and 5/8" drywall on the ceiling with clips and channels—thank you Soundproofing Company!"

Fixture Wood Brickwork Line Brick

Rob used clips and channels on the ceiling for even greater isolation from the rest of the house.

"The floor is 1-layer heavy rubber mat, then two layers of OSB with Green Glue. The sand-filled stage and insulation-filled risers are built on top of that. This allows really great tactile response from the subwoofer throughout the whole room while keeping almost all the sound from leaking into the rest of the house. I say 'almost,' since we can hear and feel a little bit of rumble through the house, like a distant thunderstorm, when we run the PSA TV42 IPAL sub at reference level. I consider this a win, since the sub can easily play reference with a +10 dB curve down to 13 Hz."

Table Rectangle Wood Flooring Floor

Like most home theaters, Green Glue was used to bond layers of drywall.

As Rob explains, "The acoustic design was all DIY after following countless other builds. Speaker layout, screen size and distance, and so on were all done using the information posted on AVS Forum and other sites, and by asking questions when I found conflicting info."

Wood Beam Brickwork Hardwood Attic

The HVAC system uses oversized soft ducting to minimize noise.

One important lesson Rob learned was the importance of optimizing the infrastructure. "The room has a dedicated HVAC zone using oversized soft ducts and hush boxes. I ran a new electrical subpanel to the room so that dedicated 20-amp breakers could be used for all amps, subwoofer, and other equipment on the same phase of the panel to limit any ground-loop issues."

Building Fixture Grey Line Wall

The soffits house the overhead speakers.

There were a only three things that Rob didn't do himself. "First, the drywall mud and taping; I've done it enough times to know I'm terrible at it! Second, the carpet. Third, a bonehead move where I had to have the HVAC team back out to move the main upstairs furnace trunk from the center of the room to the side, something I should have caught and fixed during the house build."

Property Building Wood Fixture Shade

The screen wall includes space behind it for the LCR speakers and subwoofer.

As with many dedicated home theaters, Rob used an acoustically transparent screen and placed the front LCR speakers and subwoofer behind it. "The screen wall is about three feet in front of the back wall, hiding the LCR, sub, and a massive bass trap I built out of scrap wood and leftover insulation. The noise floor is so low in the room that it's a little bit unnerving at first, but I now understand how important it is to prevent sound from getting in as well as preventing sound from getting out."

Automotive tire Wood Door Gas House

Here you can see the evolution of the bass trap behind the screen.

Rob took full advantage of all the help he could get. "I am really fortunate to be part of a great Wisconsin/Illinois home-theater group whose members help each other out, and many members are audio and video calibrators. We try to meet monthly at different houses to get together and demo each other's rooms."

Building Door Automotive tire Output device Studio monitor

The front speakers and subwoofer sit within a blacked out cavity, just as they should.

The speakers are among Rob's favorites. "My speakers are legacy M&K models, which were used for a long time to engineer some of the greatest films at Lucasfilm and other studios. To me, they sound absolutely magical."

Building Interior design Wood Flooring Hall

The columns holding the surround speakers are all dark-stained oak.

After the build was complete, Rob worked on calibrating the audio. "This is my first theater using separates, and the Monolith HTP-1 with Dirac Bass Control is a game changer. I bought a UMIK-1 microphone and learned the basics of Dirac and REW. It seemed complicated at first, but there are great folks who will help if you take the time to read and learn how it works."

Property Wood Floor Flooring Hardwood

The equipment rack is located just outside the entrance to the theater.

As you might expect, Rob is very pleased with the final results. "It's honestly the most incredible sounding room I've ever done. The WI/IL group includes a lot of notorious JTR bassheads, so I know what 'insane' sounds like. I prefer a custom 8 dB curve for movies, and a 4-6 dB curve for music. That's another thing; I've now rediscovered all my old SACDs, especially the remastered 5.1 mixes, which sound amazing."

Property Picture frame Building Hall Flooring

The lobby includes movie posters to set the mood for what's to come.

I asked Rob about the challenges he faced. "Most of the biggest challenges involved parts of the build I'd never done before. For instance, I know how to do framing and electrical, but I've never done furniture-grade cabinet finishing. We wanted dark-stained oak woodwork and columns, and there is a lot of woodwork in this room. We reached out to the company that did our kitchen cabinets when we built the house, and their cabinet finisher said I could come out to their shop and he would teach me how to do it. It was an amazing experience to learn this process from an expert in the industry."

Hall Interior design Living room Wood Flooring

The entrance to the theater room captures the feeling of old classic movie theaters.

The entrance doors are not quite what they seem. "From the lobby, it looks like a large double door, centered in the room. But only the left door is real; the other door is fake. This served two purposes: sound containment, and that's where the left-rear surround speaker is located."

Building Textile Interior design Architecture Entertainment

The finished theater is gorgeous!

For Rob, it took a village to realize his dream. "Throughout the build, we had a lot of fun enlisting the help of friends and family. Our daughters learned how to prime and paint walls!"

Light Wood Line Amber Art

The ceiling is a special touch, evoking the patterned tin ceilings in Paris and New Orleans.

Rob and his wife dubbed their room the Fleur de Lis Theater. "My wife and I are big fans of New Orleans and renaissance Parisian and Italian culture, and we incorporated the Fleur de Lis throughout the basement decor in various ways."

Couch Wood Building Interior design Comfort

The seating consists of 10 HT Design Clark recliners.

With three extra feet of height to play with, the second-row seat risers also serve an acoustical function. "When we built the risers and stairs, these became very large bass traps since the back was three feet deep to match the entrance at the back of the theater. My wife wanted the ability to seat 10: our family of five plus a few friends."

What was the greatest moment in the entire process? "Watching that first movie straight through. We chose Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I think we all had ear-to-ear grins through the whole movie! Now, we're rewatching all those 'old' classics with my kids for their first time. I grew up watching Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Goonies, and E.T. in the commercial cinema, and now they get to do the same in our private theater."

Doing all the work with family and friends must have saved some serious coin. So, what was the final cost? "About $79,000. I picked up a lot of the equipment second hand from various sellers, which saved a lot of money that was put toward things that couldn't be easily changed in the future, like the room itself. For instance, I think the slide-out equipment rack is almost $3000 MSRP, but I found it second hand for $266. I also picked up my Emotiva Gen 2 amps many years ago when the Gen 3 was announced and the Gen 2 was discounted. My projector is an old JVC DLA-RS400 with a new bulb to get us by for a few years. We are running it from a HTPC using MadVR, so all dynamic tone mapping and upscaling is handled externally."

As most AVS Forum members know all too well, a home theater is never really finished. "While I would call the theater done, I don't think it's ever really done done. I plan to add some Crowson tactile motion actuators to the seats and do some more design work on some of the acoustic panels."

Even without those proposed mods, Rob's Fleur de Lis theater is exceptional in every way. Congrats on a superb achievement!

For much more detail about how Rob's home theater came together, check out the build thread here.

If you'd like your home theater considered for HT 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


HTPC (AMD Ryzen 5 5600G 3.9 GHz, GeForce RTX 3060 12GB GDDR6 video card) running MadVR
Synology DS2422+ NAS with 18 TB WD Red Pro hard drives
Nvidia Shield Pro game console
Panasonic DP-UB820 UHD Blu-ray Player

AV Electronics

Monolith HTP-1 16-channel processor
Emotiva XPA-5 Gen 2 5-channel power amps (3; 300 wpc @ 4 ohms)

Projector

JVC DLA-RS400

Screen

Seymour AV Center Screen XD (140" diagonal, 16:9, 1.2 gain, fixed, acoustically transparent)

Speakers

M&K S-5000 THX (3, LCR)
M&K SS-150 THX Tripole (6, surrounds, set to monopole)
RSL C34E in-ceiling (6, overheads, mounted in soffits)
Power Sound Audio TV42 IPAL subwoofer (2 21" drivers, 4000W amp)

Cables

Belden 5T00UP 10AWG 2C Hi-Flex CL2-rated speaker cable (LCR speakers)
Monoprice Access Series 12AWG CL2-rated 2-conductor speaker cable (rest of the speakers)
Monoprice 75' Premier Series XLR Male to XLR Female 16AWG interconnect cable (subwoofer)
Infinite Cables HDMI 2.1 Ultra High Speed HDMI cable ([email protected], 48Gbps)
CL3 30AWG interconnect cable (6', sources)
RUIPRO Fiber Optic HDMI cable (20', projector)

Control

Web browser using HT Web Remote, a DIY IP remote built by AVS member @SirMaster
Lighting scenes (6) are controlled by Insteon hub using the app or Alexa commands.
IR repeater behind the screen wall in case physical remotes are needed (e.g., for some of the UHD Blu-ray player features)

Power Conditioning

Whole house surge protector at main panel
SurgeX Axess Elite SX-AX20E 20A Web-enabled power-conditioning management system
CyberPower CP1500PFCLCD PFC Sinewave UPS system (for preamp, projector outlet, and 5-port router)
AC Infinity CLOUDPLATE T7 above amps for cooling

Acoustic Treatments

DIY bass traps behind screen and within riser
GIK 2" Impression Pro Series diffuser/absorber (side walls)
Acoustimac 6" absorber (middle rear wall)
Vicoustic Multifuser DC2 (left and right rear wall)

Seating

HT Design Clark (10, two rows)

Room Dimensions

22.5' x 17.5' x 8' (LxWxH; L includes 3' behind screen)
Distance to front row MLP is 10' (1:1 screen width, 54 degrees viewing angle)
Distance to back row is 16' (36 degrees viewing angle)