A top-end home theater is as much about controlling the sound as it is about reproducing the soundtrack the way the director intended. In this premium screening room, Desert Sound & Security of Scottsdale, Ariz., oversaw a project for a movie industry pro who wanted a theater with film-grade performance. This producer/homeowner wanted to view dailies (raw footage) and the final product in the ultimate playback environment—and that’s what he got.
Desert Sound outsourced the acoustical design of the theater to acoustic engineer Evan Reiley, who treated the room down to the pipes and screws. The engineering portion alone tallied six weeks of work—to the tune of about $50,000, with another $18,000 devoted to damping material and absorbers. The owner likes to call it his “million-dollar-theater,” which is appropriate, Miller says, since it “sounds like a million bucks.”
This theater requires a 45-second warm-up before showtime, so Desert Sound & Security and lighting firm Creative Lighting Design created a pre-theater scene that’s accessible from any AMX touchpanel in the home. While the home theater equipment warms up, lights go to 70 percent and music plays. When the music stops, the homeowners know the movie is ready to start. When they arrive at the theater and hit play on the touchpanel, the lights fade to black and the show begins. After the credits roll, the clients touch theater off and lighting levels slowly rise, while the audio/video gear shuts down. Four minutes later, after the audience has had time to leave, the lights power off automatically.
The room-within-a-room design started at construction, when the concrete basement was poured in this country club home. The floor, ceiling and walls were decoupled from the concrete using polymer sound-damping plywood and drywall that created a suspended inner room with full sound isolation. The treatments also ensured articulate bass response inside the theater by eliminating standing sound waves that cause resonance. Additional sound treatments included a specially designed 500-pound door for sound isolation, Dynamat-wrapped plumbing lines and a seal around the electrical panel. To further minimize noise, the heating and cooling system uses a slow airflow of 200 feet per minute.
The extensive acoustic treatments help the 17 Triad speakers and subwoofers sound their very best. In the front are three speakers and two subwoofers, and two more speakers and subwoofers are hidden behind fabric on each of the left, right and rear walls. The front speakers are precisely placed 547⁄16 inches from the floor and at an angle of 5 degrees.
Desert Sound also built the theater for the long-term, with an oversized 140-inch projection screen that’s ready for future formats. “When we get to 4K x 2K (4096-by-2400-pixel video), the guy can upgrade his projector, and the screen’s already in place,” Miller said.
Video sources can handle whatever the audience wants, whether it’s from the Kaleidescape movie library on a hard-disk server, streaming movies from Vudu, stored TV programs on TiVo or high-def discs on the Blu-ray player.
Not even the slightest fan noise was allowed in the room, so the Runco VideoXtreme 3-chip VX-44d DLP projector is positioned outside the theater. “The difference in sound quality is amazing between having that door open and closed,” Miller says. Even the speakers and beams in the room received special sound isolation treatment. Sound isolation clips were used to mount the speakers, and all the wires were clamped down every 16 inches. The seating platforms and the theater’s stage were constructed with perforated Helmholtz resonator bass traps to control the sound.
The result? During the final “rattle test” of a sound check, there wasn’t a buzz to be found. “Everything in that room is solid,” Miller says. EH
Room Size (L x W x H): 28½ x 197⁄10 x 12 feet
Cost: $363,000 (includes installation and labor)
Project Duration: 2 years
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