Join us as we tour the ULTIMATE home theater gaming room! This DIYer designed & constructed an incredible setup featuring three separate projector screens that completely surround you on the front and sides, providing incredible immersion for gaming....
Home Theater Tour: The Ultimate Home Theater Gaming Setup
Featuring Home Theater Speakers by KEF
Today we’re going to take a look at the ULTIMATE home theater gaming room! Audio Advice is based in Raleigh, North Carolina, which is the home of Epic Games. Consequently, we're always asked to design and build home theater rooms that double as gaming rooms. In this case, the home theater gaming room was built by a really good friend with 20 years of home theater industry & install experience who is an avid DIYer, and did all of the construction himself. In this theater tour, we will walk you through some design principles we've never covered before.
If you’re a home theater installation company or you're thinking about design principles in building your own home theater, you're going to love this home theater gaming setup.
Video Setup & Gaming Projectors
The feature that really sets this home theater gaming room apart is that it has three different projector screens that completely surround you on the front and sides, providing incredible immersion for gaming. The main screen is an 11-1/2 foot wide acoustically transparent screen running from a traditional Epson 6050 front projector in the back of the room. If you were doing this project today, you would likely use an Epson LS11000 or LS12000 instead of the 6050. The main projector is matched with two ultra-short throw projectors for the sides because of the limited throw distance when projecting onto the side screens.
The side projectors are Epson LS500's, which have been hidden in the soffits and mounted upside down with just the lens sticking down. If you were building this room out today, you would use the Epson LS800, which is their newer ultra-short throw projector. It has 4,000 lumens and can fill a full 150-inch diagonal screen. With the new technology in the LS800, you could use three identical 150” diagonal screens and actually hide the LS800 ultra short throw projectors in the soffits for all three screens, which would be totally killer.
So how do we get the video to all three screens? The homeowner has a cool, custom-built gaming PC using a 30 series Nvidia 3060 graphics card that supports separate HDMI outputs for the three different projectors. Today, as you know, the 40 series is out, so you could even use a 4090 graphics card from Nvidia and have an incredibly immersive gaming experience in this kind of setup.
One of the things that makes a gaming theater different from a traditional home theater is the need to consider input lag. The LS800 ultra short throw projector has sub 17 milliseconds of delay! In addition, it has 4K/60Hz video. For a lot of gamers, they'll bring the resolution down to 1080p so they can get the full 120Hz refresh rate.
A design principle we have to consider when designing a room with multiple screens is that when you're watching a movie and it's filling just the front screen, you don't want the light bouncing off the side screens. To prevent these reflections from being a distraction, you need to control the light being reflected. This room addresses this by using motorized masking panels that black out the side screens when only the main screen is in use.
Home Theater Speakers & Audio
In a gaming theater, you really care about where every single sound comes from. You want to be able to isolate a gunshot or hear someone walking exactly where they are in relation to you. In this theater, we have the standard left, center, and right channels up front that are all the KEF Ci5160REF-THX Reference Series In-walls. Every one of the Reference Series in-wall and in-ceiling speakers is THX certified. What is unique about these speakers is the Uni-Q driver, which is a patented driver that combines the mid-range and the tweeter into a single-point source. Most traditional speakers have a tweeter on the top and then a mid-range woofer below it. This separates the sound from where the tweeter is to where the mid-range is and can potentially muffle the sound in a bigger space when compared to hearing it come from one source. What's cool about Uni-Q is because the tweeter is inside the midrange, it comes from one perfect source, meaning you can isolate every sound in this room to exactly where it's coming from. The other advantage of this design is the Uni-Q driver has a really wide dispersion of 160 degrees, which is a massive soundstage and provides incredible coverage across all seating positions.
With most speakers, when you're on-axis, you can hear all the different frequencies just fine. As you start to move off-axis, suddenly, you're not hearing the same thing. The result is often that there is only one true sweet spot, and you have to point the speakers to that location. Thanks to the technology in the Uni-Q driver, that is not the case with these KEF speakers. Due to their incredible dispersion, someone sitting on the left or right of the room can fully hear everything with the same smooth, equal frequency response as someone sitting in the middle. That also gives us another design advantage when using these speakers, which is that we can put the tweeter in the middle of the screen so that when you’re gaming or watching a movie, you hear the sounds coming from exactly the same location as where your eyes are seeing the action. This allows us to keep the tweeters the same everywhere in the room, even though it's a little bit higher than your ears, because we don't have the off-axis frequency roll-off that plagues traditional speakers.
The side and rear surrounds match KEF Ci3160RL-THX, which has a Uni-Q driver in the middle, plus a 6-1/2 inch woofer above and below it. In this case, there's no grill on it because the homeowner loves the naked look of it, which we think also looks totally cool. However, KEF also makes some very nice grille options that either fully covers the speaker or covers almost the whole speaker but leave a small, cool-looking bezel around it.
SIX KEF In-Wall Subwoofers!
The bass reproduction in this room is handled by six subwoofers. There are four of the KEF Ci3160RLb-THX subwoofers, with two in the front and two in the rear of the room. These have the exact same footprint as the side and rear surrounds but have three 6-1/2 inch woofers. Two KEF Kube 12b’s are also placed on each side. The result is incredibly fast, impactful bass throughout this room.
So why do you want multiple subs like this? If you only cared about one primary seating position, you could actually find the right spot for a subwoofer in the room and get a good bass response. However, this room was designed around KEF’s Uni-Q capability so that everyone in the room gets a great experience. By adding multiple subs, we're able to balance out the sine waves that are happening throughout the room so we can get even bass distribution across all of the different seating positions.
Obviously, utilizing the technology of the Uni-Q drivers in this room is perfect for enabling all seating locations to sound great. Atmos is one of the greatest challenges in maintaining even coverage. If you look at Dolby spec for Atmos speakers, the average angle is about 45 degrees to someone's ears. However, all great designers will tell you that if you don't have a speaker that is fully angled at 45 degrees, even if you have the tweeter angled, you need to shift the placement closer to 35 degrees so that you can really hear those effects because of the drop off in high frequencies as you move off-axis. To solve this, the KEF Ci200RR-THX speakers are used for the in-ceiling speakers. They have 160-degree dispersion, meaning that these fronts can be placed 45 degrees forward and will fully cover all the way to the back row. The same concept applies to the rear Atmos speakers being able to cover the front row.
Another great feature on these speakers is the 1-1/2 inch Uni-Q tweeter sitting in the middle of a full 8-inch woofer. We find that in many theaters, people use less expensive speakers for their in-ceilings. As you move up into higher-performance theaters like this one, you want the in-ceiling speakers to match the performance of the other speakers, so you get the full depth and range coming from the Atmos effects.
Home Theater Acoustics
In a room like this, proper placement of acoustic treatments becomes critical to getting the best sound. When you have this number of high-dispersion Uni-Q speakers in a room, the issue you want to avoid is having mass amounts of reflectivity. This can be controlled partly by placing things like a large couch or big home theater seats in the room and using thick carpet as we have here. You will also want to ensure you are adding additional absorption at the first reflection points. If you're using our home theater design tool, it will tell you approximately how much absorption you need in your room.
Another thing to keep in mind is the sound transmission to other rooms. In this particular room, the ceiling was cut out to hide the projectors and build the star ceiling. To do that, you need to isolate the space from the room above it. In this case, Rockwool insulation was used to fill in all the spaces above the recessed ceiling. Then, the absorptive star ceiling was installed to ensure the isolation of this room from the rooms above it.
Home Theater Automation
There are a few additional design elements used in this space that are worth pointing out. We have electronic shades in the back of the room that gives total light control. There is also a bar placed behind the second row. If you use our home theater design tool and find that you can't fit a second or third row, a great solution is to put a bar in the rear with bar stools. You can be on the same level without being on a riser, and then people can sit at the bar while still being able to see over the top of the second row.
Lighting design is an often overlooked piece of the design process. In this room, we have hooded, low-level lighting along the aisle so that when all of the lights are turned off in the room, you can still safely walk in and out if a movie is playing. You will also see that all of the lights in the ceiling are aimed into the room to avoid spilling over onto any of the screens. A very thoughtful last touch is a pop-up outlet located on the floor of the riser that allows the homeowner to plug in their device if they want to charge their laptop while they work.
Everything in the house is controlled by Control4. Using the interface on an iPad, the homeowners can control almost every aspect of their home. They can select their source for movies and gaming, toggle through any of their music streaming services, control the lighting, change the masking of the screens and the shades, monitor their security system, and control the thermostats. This room also uses a new piece of software from Control4 called multi-display, which allows them to choose what is playing on each projector screen if they want to watch multiple games simultaneously.
As you enter the theater room, there is a digital movie poster. This uses free software from Great Dane Cinemas to display movie art. The screen can also be used as the monitor for the PC itself.
This space is a great example of all of the things that go into building a great home theater and how they all interrelate. If you're going to build a great home theater and you've got a terrific home theater installation company that's local to you, go use them to ensure you get it right. If you don't have an integrator near you, or you are a DIYer that loves taking on projects yourself, use our free home theater design tool to help you map out every aspect of your theater room. From there, you can get set up with a free design session with one of our home theater designers, who can walk you through everything. We also have videos on everything you need to know to do this yourself, along with a full inspiration gallery, buyer’s guides, and tons of other information to help you along your home theater journey.
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.
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