May 11, 2011
by Steven Castle
If you like a lot of family room, try this one on for size. It’s 28 feet long by 21 feet wide, with an 18-foot-high ceiling. And that big screen over the fireplace? It’s a 103-inch plasma screen. Don’t you just want to lie on those huge sofas and sink in—like, forever?
Oh, and this family room is just off the kitchen. It’s the run-of-the-mill, everyday-use room by the family who occupies this sprawling 20,000-square-foot estate in Dallas. The big home theater is another story altogether.
But what’s not to like about this space? The Runco 103-inch 1080p PlasmaWall display is flanked by two 50-inch Runco 1080p plasma TVs. And all those dark rectangles on the sides? They’re not empty spaces awaiting more TVs. They’re beautiful Wenge (pronounced weng-gay) tropical wood panels that hang in front of the wall to help hide custom-made speakers from California Audio Technology (CAT). (The large area above the TV will house some artwork.)
Long and narrow CAT speakers fire from behind the steel mesh between the side TVs and bottom Wenge panels. Another 30-inch-long center-channel speaker is mounted in the long rectangle between the 103-inch display and the firebox.
The front speakers were constructed in a D’Appolito array with the tweeters located between the midrange drivers. This loudspeaker design is often used in horizontally oriented center-channel speakers.
Two more CAT speakers are mounted in the ceiling, and two 12-inch CAT in-wall subwoofers fire from behind the bottom of the Wenge panels. The panels were designed so the sound would emanate from beneath them. “We went through several different designs on the subwoofers,” explains custom electronics (CE) pro Greg Margolis of HomeTronics, which outfitted this mansion with technology. The numerous designs were partly because the subwoofers could not fit fully into the wall, but the Wenge panels provided an elegant and musical solution.
In fact, the entire fireplace wall had to be rebuilt rather late in the construction process to accommodate the 103-inch plasma display. As Margolis explains, the speakers had been installed and HomeTronics mocked up what the planned 65-inch plasma and two 42-inch TVs on the sides would look like, when the homeowner had second thoughts. It was decided that the planned TVs wouldn’t be large enough, and the 103- and 50-inchers were ordered to replace them.
The wall cavity that was designed for the smaller TV wasn’t deep enough or strong enough to accommodate the 485-pound 103-inch display, so the builders had to reframe and reinforce the area. In addition, HomeTronics installed four low-voltage fans to help ventilate heat generated by the TV.
The family gets its video from five different satellite receivers that can be routed to any TV in the home, a Blu-ray player or Kaleidescape video server. For the family’s convenience, a Kaleidescape reader resides inside an equipment rack located in a closet at the back of the room and allows them to pop in a new disc. The audio is powered by an NAD T 755 surround-sound receiver. “The NAD receiver has a lot of current, so it works out pretty well,” says Margolis. “And there’s a lot of sound pressure from those speakers” to fill the big space. EH
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates