5.2.2 Home Theater Tour w/ Full Timelapse & Star Ceiling Install

Featuring JBL Synthesis, Epson, SVS, Integra, & Vicoustics

5.2.2 Home Theater Tour

In this home theater showcase, we’re excited to share how we converted an upstairs bonus room into a unique theater space. What made this project so much fun is how many challenges we faced since this was a total retrofit in an existing space and home. Pretty much any homeowner can relate to wanting a great theater in their own home, but every time they think about where to put it, they just run into too many issues. In this article, we will cover the entire process from start to finish, including an in-depth overview of how we tackled the unique acoustic and design challenges of this space.

Home Theater Video

Epson 4050 4K Home Theater Projector

One of the key goals of this theater was to have a bright, strong image closer to what you’d get from a television screen. To achieve this, we used the Epson 4050 4K PRO-UHD Projector with HDR. Epsons are well known for having the highest lumen capability for the money. Combined with the gain of the projector screen, the 2,400 lumens easily fill this screen with a powerful image. 

Home Theater Projection Screen

For this theater, we are using a 138” acoustically transparent Cinemascope screen by Stewart Filmscreen with a gain of 1.3.

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Home Theater Audio

At 18 feet deep and 16 feet wide, the room is a bit too small for box speakers, so we used a variety of in-wall speakers & subwoofers to maximize the space.

LCR Speakers

The front left, center, and right speakers are JBL Synthesis SCL-6 In-Wall Speakers. These speakers have four 5.25-inch woofers, but what really makes them sing is JBL’s patented 1” compression drivers mated with a high definition imaging horn. These have two major advantages over traditional speakers. First, they have tremendous dynamics. Because compression drivers have force behind them, they are incredibly efficient and can go from the tiny sound of a pin drop to the powerful blast of an explosion in an instant. The second advantage is that the compression drivers are behind wave guides that control the dispersion in the room. The SCL-6 is an on-axis speaker — this means the wave guide sends the sound straight forward — enabling consistent, smooth frequency response across all four seats in the theater. This also minimizes reflected sounds bouncing off the side walls ceiling, and other features in the room. With French doors opening to the entrance and three large windows on the far side, the JBL Synthesis speakers helped us overcome these challenges by controlling dispersion before doing any calibration. 

Atmos & Surround Speakers

The rear speakers are JBL Synthesis SCL-7 In-Wall Speakers, which are the off-axis sister speakers to the SCL-6s used up front. The SCL-7s have two of the 5.25-inch woofers and the same compression driver, but there is one big difference as to why we used the 7s in the rear — they fire off-axis at a 15 degree angle and have a 90 degree horizontal dispersion. This makes them ideal for situations like this where you want the rear speakers very wide since there are no sides but want to cover the full listening area. 

For the atmos speakers, we chose the JBL Synthesis SCL-8 In-Ceiling Speakers. As you may have guessed, these have matching 5.25-inch woofers and the same matching tweeter as the fronts and rears. The SCL-8s are ideal for atmos as they play off-axis at a 45 degree angle with a 60 degree spread and easily cover all four seats while controlling the dispersion — just like we mentioned earlier. We custom integrated them into the star ceiling so they are completely hidden from view.

two SVS SB3000 subwoofers positioned on each side of media cabinet below movie screen

Subwoofers

Now that we have smooth and controlled dispersion from all surround sound speakers, we need to provide powerful but consistent bass across all four seating positions. To do this, we used two SVS SB-3000 subwoofers. These each boast 13” high excursion woofers delivering 800 watts RMS with 2,500 watts of peak power each. We’ll go into more detail about the difference between continuous and peak power ratings in a future piece of content, but suffice it to say, these subs can move an enormous amount of air and fill this room easily.

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Surround Sound Receiver

All of these speakers are powered by an Integra DRX 5.4 9.2 Channel Surround Sound Receiver. The Integra has 120 watts per channel of outstanding power. When you combine this power with the high efficiency of the JBL Synthesis speakers, you get incredible dynamics from this system.

Home Theater Acoustic Panels

The next thing we did was to utilize good acoustic treatment principles. Obviously, the thick carpet and heavy drapes help a lot. But to further address the reflective effects, we used a custom star ceiling that is also a large acoustic panel. It’s both aesthetically cool and acoustically functional. Then, we added eight Vicoustic Cinema Round absorption panels. So at this point, we’ve done everything we can to set up the room to sound good. The final piece of the puzzle was to use Dirac Bass calibration that comes with the Integra 5.4 receiver. Dirac Bass calibration analyzes the frequency response of the speakers, including the impact of the room, and adjusts everything to smooth out the response.

Vicoustic Cinema Round acoustic panels in home theater

Design Challenges

Another challenge in this room was that the room dimensions are not naturally good for audio. In addition to having the big windows on the side, if you look at the dimensions, which are 18 feet deep, 16 feet wide and 9 feet high, the depth is exactly double the ceiling height and the width is almost equal to the depth. If you were designing a perfect room, you would avoid dimensions that are multiples of each other or that have the same length and width because of the way that sounds bounce around the room and certain frequencies are cancelled or multiplied. If you are designing a room from scratch and want to learn more about this, check out our article on Home Theater Design Best Practices, which covers room dimensions and all of the major topics for designing a theater. 

Many of you will find yourself in a situation like this where the room is not optimal. Yes, we could have created a fake wall and shortened the room, but then it would have tightened the space and made the length and width even closer. To avoid this, we employed a host of techniques that collectively led to a great outcome. The first thing we did was to use the JBL Synthesis SCL speakers that give us great dispersion control. The second thing we did was to use two subwoofers versus one subwoofer. The more subs you add into a room, the more you can evenly control the bass across multiple listening seats. In this particular room, it made most sense to position the subs towards the front left and right. We then set them up perfectly in phase with each other and despite the challenging dimensions of the room, ended up with a good bass curve. If you want to learn more about where to place your subwoofers or how to calibrate them to get everything in phase and evenly distributed, check out our article on subwoofer placement and setup

Performance

To demo the final audio performance of this theater, we used the famous lobby scene from The Matrix, which we included in our rundown of the top 10 Dolby Atmos movies. This movie was remastered and released in Dolby Atmos. This scene really challenges a system because it has an aggressive electronic soundtrack overlaid on top of a shooting scene. So it is very easy for a system to get overwhelmed and lose imaging, particularly if you have an acoustically challenging room. Between the music, graphics, and everything going on in the scene, this theater’s sound system was put through the test and passed with flying colors —every shot and movement was imaged perfectly in the room. So one of the big takeaways from this home theater installation should be that you can take a less than ideal environment and with good design, installation and calibration, you can turn it into a great home theater room. 

Final Thoughts

If you are thinking about building a home theater or updating yours, be sure to check out Home Theater Central, including our free 3D home theater designer where you can design your system, see lots of videos of complete installations like this one, and browse our inspiration gallery and how-to videos

At Audio Advice, we've been designing and installing high-performance home theaters & smart home systems for decades. In fact, we've delivered more custom theaters than anyone in the Southeast! We are now offering Home Theater Design no matter where you live in the United States. If you are interested in a custom home theater or upgrading your current system, give us a call at 888.899.8776, chat with us, or stop by one of our award-winning showrooms.

We can't wait to help you build your ultimate home theater!

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