by Rebecca Day
Sure, it’s important to choose great-sound speakers and amplifiers for a home theater. That’s the part of a theater system you can control. What you can’t control are the dips and peaks that each individual room tosses into the mix. Those acoustic anomalies can create ringing and annoying audio artifacts that even the most sophisticated loudspeakers can’t overcome.
So when this Connecticut family designated the lower level of their new house a home entertainment space, they signed on to EDG’s prescription for an acoustic overhaul as well. After all, their home theater wasn’t the conventional four-walled room with carefully selected dimensions. The back of the theater opens into an entertainment area with a table, bar and mingling room–hardly the most accommodating space for home theater sound. With high performance key to the vision for his theater, the owner was prepared to provide the sound backbone to make it happen.
EDG brought in experts from RPG, a materials company whose wall and ceiling treatments are used to diffuse and absorb sound. RPG knows acoustics. The company’s wall and ceiling surfaces are widely used in professional recording venues on the broadcast and studio side for movies and music. Here, RPG’s precisely positioned treatments trap unwanted bass and absorb reflections and echoes that can interfere with proper sound reproduction.
There’s a big difference, though, between creating sound treatments for a commercial studio and for a home where people live and entertain. Residential treatments have to blend, as much as possible, with the decor and not become a distracting focal point for the space. Integrating sound treatments aesthetically is a challenge, but by bringing together the acoustic, electronic and architectural designers, EDG was able to coordinate the effort successfully.
The wave ceiling above the seating area is multi-functional while providing design appeal as well. On the business side, its 4-inch-wide planks diffuse high frequencies, while the wave itself provides mid-frequency diffusion. Perforations in the planks help absorb bass coming from the subwoofers by passing it into the cavity above the planks. There, fiberglass insulation absorbs excess bass and dampens the cavity. As a result, sound travels evenly across the seating area.
The curved wooden scoop beneath the screen extends the architectural flow of the wave to the front of the room. Adopting the same microperforated design as the ceiling planks, the scoop is packed with fiberglass to serve as a bass trap to keep low frequencies from moving around the room. It’s also a stylized cabinet for the system’s two subwoofers which are placed on either side of the screen. Additional acoustic treatments are hidden behind the fabric walls, along with speakers for side- and rear-channel surround sound.
A well-designed theater is about more than just performance. With the perplexing amount of audio and video options available today, homeowners need a simple way to tie it all together. EDG designers tapped a Crestron control system for home management, giving the owners fingertip control over the home’s security cameras, satellite TV channels and a Kaleidescape music and video server from a wireless touchpanel. TV channels may change numbers but this family doesn’t need to monitor them, thanks to EDG programmers who stay on top of any changes to the system. The owners tap the icon for The Weather Channel and get the forecast without having to memorize a number. Favorite channels are grouped together on a single page.
They can select any source from any room and control volume from the wireless touchpanel as well. Gone are the days of removing a DVD from the family room disc player when you want to finish the movie in another room. This couple presses pause on the remote control, picks up another remote in the bedroom and resumes the movie where they left off. Thanks to the Kaleidescape server, all the family movies are stored on a hard disk, leaving the DVDs free to travel on road trips or vacation.
A Kaleidescape server is also home to the family’s vast collection of CDs, which were all recorded bit-for-bit to the server for uncompressed, CD-quality sound. When they want a quick iPod fix, family members drop their individual iPods into docks sprinkled throughout the house that are connected to the distributed music system. iPods charge while in the dock and can be accessed from any room with a keypad and speakers. Performance and convenience. You can have it all.
Crestron CP2E control processor
Crestron RF receiver
Crestron TPS-3000 touchpanel
LG BH200 Blu-ray DVD Player
Kaleidescape Kplayer-5000 media server
Sony Playstation3 gaming console
Key Digital audio/video switch
Gefen HDMI switch
Lexicon digital surround processor
Genelec amplifiers, speakers & subwoofers
Stewart 132-inch projection screen & masking system
Richard Gray power conditioner
CinemaTech Vantage theater seats
RPG acoustic treatments