Home Theater System Design Tour: Basement Buildout Magic

Sony, JBL Synthesis, Anthem, Stewart Filmscreen, and more!

Home Theater System Overview

A home theater system design is never a one-size-fits-all proposition. We recently completed an entire basement buildout that includes a beautiful home office, bar and entertainment area, and an incredible home theater. 

The basement started as an empty, unfinished space, which allowed us to create the best imaginable layout for the ultimate entertainment space for the homeowners’ friends and family. 

Of course, with any project like this, there are always some unique challenges to overcome. We invited the architect to talk with us about the design from start to finish and how we overcame obstacles when it came to actually building everything out. 

I’ll then give you a tour around the entire basement so you can see all the unique features we’ve implemented.

Home Theater Bar and Recreation Room

Dawn Christine from Dawn Christine Architects had a vision to completely transform the unfinished basement into an epic space for entertaining, relaxing, and hanging out with the family. 

She started by designing the tavern space when you first come down the stairs. You immediately see a beautiful bar setup with four custom-made stools, a TV, and some shelves to show off some cool pieces of artwork. Across from the bar, there are three high-top tables with chairs for more people to sit and enjoy the bar. To the right of the bar, you have a custom wood dining table that is perfect for sitting down and enjoying a meal or playing a game of poker with friends. 

One of the unique home theater features we worked with Dawn on is the ability to play a movie or game inside the theater around the corner while simultaneously playing the same content on the TV above the bar. It’s super cool to be able to go back and forth on game day to grab some drinks from the bar and talk with others and then go back to the theater to watch the game on the big screen. This room is bright and inviting because it has a giant wall glass door that opens up to the backyard and pool. It really is the ultimate home entertainment center!

Home Office Automation

Dawn also worked closely with us in the client’s home office. She designed a killer shelving unit along the back of the wall with LED’s to show off the owner’s huge LEGO collection, while also creating a really cool backdrop for video & conference calls while working. We decided to use square recessed can lights that are angled to exactly the best spot to shine. These are high-quality TECH Element lights that can dim all the way up or down so it’s easy to create the perfect work environment.

Home Theater Design & Installation

We began the design process using our free Home Theater design tool — the theater is 20’ deep by 18’ wide. Since it’s a pretty good size theater, we have room for two rows of 3 Revolution Home Theater Seats.

Home Theater Video

In terms of video, we are using a 148” acoustically transparent 2.40:1 widescreen by Stewart Filmscreen. This is Stewart’s most requested commercial fabric called SnoMatte 100. It was designed to meet the most strict color and white field uniformity standards, helping you get closer to the colors the filmmaker intended. With a peak gain of 1.0, this screen in this light-controlled room will help your projector produce sharp images without loss in contrast.

Selecting the right projector screen involves taking into account multiple factors. If you need more help, chat with us or give us a call and our team of experts would be happy to help you select the best screen for your home.

This is paired with Sony’s flagship GTZ380 laser projector. This is the ultimate home theater projector boasting 10,000 lumens. This projector has such a powerful laser that it requires a 240 volt outlet. To hide the projector, we’ve built a small enclosure behind the last row of seats where it can fit snug and not be above anyone’s heads. This also allowed us to route the wires directly behind it into the wall to maintain the clean look. If you have the space, this is the way to do it to keep your projector hidden and out of the way.

Another consideration we made was to be sure the cutout was large enough to access the projector for service and give it enough airflow to stay cool. Since Sony makes the cameras used to shoot films and has its own film studio, Sony projectors are known for their image quality. In particular, for fast-motion scenes, you see no jitter or blocking. 

Most television scenes are produced in 16:9 and most movies are 2.4 widescreen. When you purchase a widescreen like this one and use zoom on a projector to fill the screen, you are effectively zooming the image so that the top and bottom black bars are off of the screen. This means that you are not getting the benefit of the entire light engine of the projector. By adding a Panamorph lens, you essentially tell the projector to squeeze the image and then the lens stretches it back, enabling you to utilize all of the pixels and light from a projector. For people who love movies and want the best picture possible, a Panamorph lens can be a great addition.

We’ve recently added the ability to also calculate all of the sight lines based on riser height and depth. So, we know how high to mount the screen off the floor to get maximum impact. This made building this home heater a breeze because we were able to just plug in the room dimensions, where the projector will go, and then try out different riser heights until we landed on the perfect fit. We went with a 7” riser so the first row sits one foot above floor height, and the second row is 21 inches up from there, allowing 3 steps on the side aisle. In our home theater designer tool, this gives everyone perfect sight lines and the projector has great sight to the screen without hitting anyone in the back of the head.

Home Theater Audio & JBL Synthesis Speakers

JBL is one of our favorite brands at Audio Advice. When you want the best possible home theater audio experience, JBL Synthesis sets the bar at a variety of price points. Unlike most brands that either make speakers or components, JBL Synthesis is an entire system, including electronics and speakers designed for delivering reference level dynamics, frequency response, and fast slam that you expect in the most amazing theaters. The front left, center, and right (LCR) speakers are all JBL Synthesis SCL-2 2.5-way 8” in-wall speakers.

These home theater speakers are no joke. If you have a large room and want reference-level impact and dynamics, the SCL-2 will deliver just that. These have the D2415K D2 driver which uses a 1 ½” dual voice coil driver, compared with the 1” single coil of the lower models. This is matched up with three 8” aluminum cone matrix drivers for a 2.5-way configuration. It comes with its own sealed enclosure. However, there is one catch to this massive and solid cabinet – it needs a 6” deep stud bay for installation. We have these incredible SCL-2’s running off an Anthem MCA 325 Gen 2, 3-channel power amp. Each amp channel uses 8 high current discrete output transistors that are coupled to a massive toroidal power transformer to make your speakers pay attention! With the ability to deliver 600 watts into a 2-ohm load, the MCA 325 gives you tons of real-world power. This also is a perfect match for the Anthem AVM 70 which we will touch on in a little bit.

  1. Front Facing AVM 70 Anthem AVM 70 8K Preamp/Processor
    Special Price $3,399.00 Regular Price $3,999.99

The side and rear speakers are JBL Synthesis SCL-6’s which are 2.5-way quad 5.25” in-wall speakers. They are only 31” tall but deliver unbelievable impact. We have tested a lot of different types of speakers over time. What you will find from JBL Synthesis home theater speakers is that they are the real deal. Just lifting them and feeling the weight of the magnets and electronics compared to other similarly priced solutions will win you over. The SCL-6 is no exception here. Their very wide and linear on-axis dispersion makes them well-suited for surrounds and rears when you can position them as you normally would in a typical home theater room. These are all powered by the Anthem MCA 525, 5-channel amp.

Next up, we have four of JBL’s highest-performing in-ceiling speakers, the SCL-5 2-Way In-Ceiling Speakers which are used as the Atmos channels. The high-frequency driver and its waveguide are mounted at an angle that presents a perfectly centered sound at 45 degrees off-axis from the speaker itself. This waveguide has such linear dispersion that you still have consistent sound at plus or minus 30 degrees from that 45-degree position.

Finally, to complete the JBL Synthesis system, we have four subwoofers powered by the JBL DSi 2.0 MA4-D 4-Channel Home Theater Power Amplifier. We went with two SSW-2 Dual 12-Inch Subwoofers that have a 4” voice coil for incredibly high power handling and fast, deep bass. The two front-firing ports use JBL’s patented Slipstream™ technology to minimize any port noise. When you use 1” thick MDF with loads of internal v-bracing and put those huge drivers in it, you wind up with a cabinet that weighs in at 181 pounds! Experiencing a pair of these with the right amplifiers is something special. They are super fast, yet go incredibly deep for bass that will complement the finest home theater systems. In the back, we added two more JBL S4S In-Wall Subs for a total of four subwoofers to even out the room with a phenomenal deep, chest-hitting bass.

Home Theater Rack Components

We discussed each separate amp used to power all these speakers, but let’s talk about the brain of this system. We used one of our favorite home theater receivers, the Anthem AVM 70, which has an abundance of features and the latest version of ARC Genesis. 

Audio Advice is the largest seller of Anthem and we can tell you it's for two main reasons. First, they simply sound amazing with great design, power supplies, and DACs. The second is their Anthem Room Correction software called ARC Genesis. We really can’t overstate how impressive this software is. Historically good calibration systems were extremely expensive and very complex. Anthem has done a superb job making this software very user-friendly. If you are a DIY-er, you can easily learn and calibrate your own system. Many of our DIY customers figure it out without ever calling us. 

Having the ability to adjust the delay in your subwoofer has set ARC Genesis apart from most others out there.. If you don’t know the delay in your subwoofer, check out our subwoofer calibration video where we show you exactly how to find the delay and phase align your subs. If you need more help calibrating your room, reach out and we’ll be happy to help.

Home Theater Automation

A good control system can add a lot to a room so everyone in the home can easily control the system without having a dozen remotes. In this case, the homeowners can use their phones or the Control4 SR-260 remote to control it. 

To watch, the homeowner simply pushes the watch button and the system turns on. There are three main layers of lights in the room which follow the standard that we outline in our home theater design best practices video. There are overhead canned lights that we call task lighting, sconces designed for aesthetics and ambiance, and then step lights for safety, and low-level lighting for moving watching. Each of these can be controlled separately from the remote, but more importantly, we have lighting scenes set up that control all of the lights together. 

The Control4 system handles everything from turning on the processor and projector to volume and navigation. Because the Sony projector has lens memory, we can also use one button press to change from a 16:9 aspect ratio to widescreen for watching movies. We go into this in more detail in our video on how widescreen works, but the projector is zooming out and there is actually a full 16:9 image being projected, but since the top and bottom are black, it fills the screen for widescreen movies. And finally, we’ve got one button press to turn everything off. 

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.

Featured Products

  1. Front Facing AVM 70 Anthem AVM 70 8K Preamp/Processor
    Special Price $3,399.00 Regular Price $3,999.99

FREE Interactive 3D Home Theater Design Tool

Enter your room dimensions, audio, and video preferences while it designs your theater in real-time. Receive optimal screen size, seating locations, speaker locations, and receive precise measurements for your room layout. Work with our system designers via chat, email, phone, or in-store for expert advice, product selections, and more.

Installation Videos

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