Designing a new home theater

Posted by: JobvanZ

Designing a new home theater - 09/28/12 02:53 PM

This is my first post, so I'll take the opportunity to introduce myself. My wife, Jeanne, and I live near Washington, DC, but we also have a summer home in Atlantic Canada (Saint John area in New Brunswick). The summers in DC are becoming more and more unbearable, so New Brunswick gives us a welcome reprive. Our house is on the Bay of Fundy, which works as a huge air conditioner.

It's quiet and peaceful where we are (in West Quaco near St. Martins), but there is not much in the way of movies. We have nice neighbors and we have been pondering for a while to have our own (private) film club.

Here is picture of the house:

The main house is on the left, in the middle is a so-called summer kitchen, and on the right is a barn, or garage, as most people call it. The initial idea was to use part of the current barn for the theater, but after consulting with contracters, we have decided to tear it down and build new in more or less the same style.

The new extension will be multipurpose with the theater section measuring about 13' by 19.5' and located on the right side of the new building. An unusual feature will be a vaulted ceiling with one of the long walls being higher than the other one. Like this:

You will notice a lot of seats: the idea is to get movie theater seats rather than the typical hometheater loungers. It is a cheaper solution, especially as many small theaters are closing (due to the digital-only requirement in 2013), which results in used or refurbished seats becoming available. It will allow me to seat about 15, with the center of the second row being the optimal seat. We may still go with folding chairs initially; it all depends.

The planned screen size is 120'. I measured the viewing angles at the various rows and they are within SMPTE/THX recommendations. The projector will be an Epson 8350. I've considered 3D, but I don't like the idea of active shutter glasses.It would also be very expensive to accommodate all our guests and some may not even tolerate the glasses. LG has a 3D projector with passive glasses, but that's outside my budget...

For receiver I like the idea of the new Pioneer Elite SC-61, which has 7 class-D amplifiers rated at 125W. It is also able to deliver reasonable power with all channels driven. There is no professional review out yet, but I'm not in a hurry, just planning!

OK, speakers, finally! Initially I had selected the KEF T305, because I like the idea of speakers on the wall. But in one forum someone suggested Axiom, so that's where we are now. I like the idea that it is a Canadian company; it will may things easier if I want to return something, etc.

I have to explain that I'm not an audiophile or videophile, although I like my sound to be undistorted and my picture to be clear. I have a small setup in our regular home consisting of a Sanyo Z2 projector (still very nice) and an not to be named speaker combo. So anything will be an improvement. The new theater will also be used only part of the year for now, so I don't want to go overboard, although I do want an 7.1 setup that will last me a while. (I notice some of you can't resist to keep adding; I just want to watch movies!)

The theater will primarily be used for movies. We both prefer foreign films over most Hollywood blockbusters. We do like animation though, such as from Pixar. I got the following recommendations from the HT Wizard (Animation should be included as an genre, BTW):
  • Center: VP150 (1) regular, mounted on wall
  • Main: M22 (2) regular, mounted on wall
  • Surrounds: QS8 (4)
  • Subwoofer: EP500 (1)

Does this look like a reasonable setup? It stays within my $3,000 budget, especially when going outlet. The basic black finishing is fine with me, we're sitting in the dark after all... I like the idea of QS8s, as it will help in providing good emerging surround for all seats. One question I have is about the VP150 after reading comments on this forum. Would it be better to go with a VP160?

As this is my first ever real HT project, any insight is welcome.
Posted by: medic8r

Re: Designing a new home theater - 09/28/12 04:49 PM

Hey there, and welcome. Always good to have another Virginian on the forum. A few more and we may be able to convince Axiom to open their satellite office here, instead of in Iowa.

Looks like you've done your homework. I dig the cartoon mockup you did. Nicely conveys the project.

I'm on my way out of the office, so not a lot of time to chat, but everything sounds good to me so far. Mostly, I just wanted to say hi and notify you that the more helpful regulars will undoubtedly be along sooner or later to chime in.
Posted by: Brent

Re: Designing a new home theater - 09/28/12 05:13 PM

Very nice layout. I would recommend that you do consider upgrading the center to the VP160, you have an abundance of seating that would benefit more from the output delivered by the VP160.
Posted by: CatBrat

Re: Designing a new home theater - 09/28/12 06:39 PM

Another option would be 2 centers. One above and one below the screen. The higher one would better serve the seats further back. Lower one might get muffled by the chairs and people. Or, just mount center above the screen.
Posted by: JobvanZ

Re: Designing a new home theater - 09/28/12 08:54 PM

Thanks for your responses.

@CatBrat: I've read different accounts about the merits of the center above the screen. The height of my screen is about 5 feet and the screen is maybe 2.5 to 3 feet from the floor, which would result in a center placed over 7 feet from the floor, which seems kind of high to me.

In order to keep things simple, I don't want to use risers for the seating rows, just place the seats staggered. I would place the center speaker under the screen, but high enough that it is visible from the seats. BTW, the screen is just a straightforward fixed screen.

I've also read pro and con opinions regarding one or two center speakers, and two would be more costly than using a single 160.
Posted by: JohnK

Re: Designing a new home theater - 09/28/12 10:33 PM

JZ, welcome. I'd suggest that if the center speaker has to be horizontally aligned that you use the VP160. However, you have enough room at the bottom of the screen to use a vertical M22 there and have M22s all across the front, which should be seriously considered.

Using the 10% reduction with Factory Outlet and the 5% for five or more items ordered, the speakers would total about $2700 with all M22s, or about $300 more with the VP160.

As to the receiver, since you'd be able to buy it in the U.S., one of the factory refurbished units which are such bargains at Accessories4less, would be available. At the price range you're considering the Onkyo 818 is outstanding, with the top Audyssey MultEQ XT32 version, for about $800.
Posted by: JobvanZ

Re: Designing a new home theater - 09/29/12 12:34 AM

John, that's an interesting idea. So the center M22 would be vertical underneath the screen without the need to be lined up with the left and right M22s? BTW, I didn't see an option to buy a single M22.

As to the receiver, I've considered the Onkyo 818 as one of the options. I know it has Audyssey MultEQ 32. Just today though, I've read good things about MCACC as well... And I think a cooler running unit will be more reliable in the long run. I wish there was something like the Kelly Blue Book for electronic equipment. It's very difficult to get long-term reliability statistics.

As to buying in the US, unless they ship to Canada, and I can get warranty issues and servicing taken care of in Canada, it is not an option for me, even if it's cheaper. I've had to deal with customs when furnishing our house in Canada and it's not fun. Another reason to look for Canadian speakers, as well.
Posted by: CV

Re: Designing a new home theater - 09/29/12 12:45 AM

Originally Posted By: JobvanZ
John, that's an interesting idea. So the center M22 would be vertical underneath the screen without the need to be lined up with the left and right M22s? BTW, I didn't see an option to buy a single M22.

On the product page, there's an "Add Single Speaker to Cart" link below the "Add to Cart" and "Customize Yours" buttons.
Posted by: JohnK

Re: Designing a new home theater - 09/29/12 01:55 AM

Yes, that's how the three M22s would be arranged.

By buying in the U.S. I simply meant that you'd buy it while you were in Virginia and take it with you to Canada.
Posted by: Hansang

Re: Designing a new home theater - 09/29/12 02:22 PM

Having added one speaker to be my rear speaker, I'm still not convinced it makes *that* much difference over my 5.1 setup. If budget is a constraint, I would go this route
1) Drop the 2 QS8's for rear and upgrade to VP160.
2) If the upgrade to VP160 can be done within the current budget, convert the two rear QS8's to be front height speakers instead. This requires an AVR that supports front height or wide speakers.

Welcome aboard.
Posted by: Murph

Re: Designing a new home theater - 10/01/12 08:06 AM

Lots of good advice here already so I just thought I'd add a welcome from Atlantic Canada. The Bay of Fundy is a beautiful area. If your house borders the shore, there is a good chance that I have kayaked past it at some point. Not certain as the bay is HUGE but I've done a lot of it.

Nice house and I'm confident that all of the options above will sound excellent in that great room.
Posted by: JobvanZ

Re: Designing a new home theater - 10/01/12 01:48 PM

@Murph: thanks for the welcome! My wife and I tried kayaking for the first time a few years ago on a guided tour. Just that day the bay decided to be kind of rough, so it was quiet exciting...

Our land extends to the bay, but the house is about 500 feet away from the edge of the land which ends in a cliff, as a lot of the NB coast in that area. We are in West Quaco near Brown's Beach, which you may know.

My wife and I took a bus tour this summer through Nova Scotia and PEI, so we were able to see some of your pretty island.

I also would like to thank everyone for their comments and suggestions. I think for now I am going to go with a 5.1 setup (M22, VP160, EP500, QS8). It will be very nice for starters and I can also add more later!

I have one question, though: what would be the advantage of using an M22 over a VP160 as a center? I like the idea of a VP160 as it seems to be matched with M60s as left and right, which I may upgrade to at some point.

Speaking of upgrading, I will need to prewire for the future. I was going to connect speakers directly to wire coming out of the wall (using pass-through plates). Is there an elegant way to hide currently unused wires? It's not so much a problem in the back, but I like to keep the front, where people are looking, as clean as possible. I don't know if I will ever use height speakers, but one of the comments got me thinking, with heigths being more effective than rear surrounds. Of course, researching further I find people who say they don't notice the effects of heights. BTW, would an M22 be a good height speaker? (In case I upgrade to M60s.)

I think stereo was so much simpler!
Posted by: Murph

Re: Designing a new home theater - 10/01/12 02:43 PM

Re. the center choices, it's a bit a matter of how much off axis performance you need. I don't see that being a big concern in your room layout so I wouldn't worry. Also Some will argue that the horizontal driver layout of sideways center channels, like the VP__s, produces an effect called combing that is considered undesirable. Others will say it's audibly negligible, others (like Axiom's Ian Colquin) might even argue it's benefits. Personally, I can't advise you on this. I will say that I very much like my VP150 and envy the 160s and 180s.

Others will have much more educational answers.

By unused wires do you mean wires that come out of the wall but there is no speaker there yet? If so, what I would do is terminate the wires on a wall plate like this one.
Stereo Wall Plate

Then when the time comes, you can plug in speaker wires of the required lengths terminated in banana plugs.
Posted by: JohnK

Re: Designing a new home theater - 10/01/12 09:31 PM

JZ, the advantage would be cost; as I mentioned, the VP160 would be about $300 more. Both employ a vertical tweeter over mid-range design for good horizontal dispersion. In a sense the VP160 can be viewed as an M22 with flanking woofers for greater bass volume and extension.
Posted by: MarkSJohnson

Re: Designing a new home theater - 10/02/12 06:57 AM

Originally Posted By: JohnK
In a sense the VP160 can be viewed as an M22 with flanking woofers for greater bass volume and extension.

No wonder I love my VP160!
Posted by: Murph

Re: Designing a new home theater - 10/02/12 07:39 AM

Yes but "Flanking Woofers" does not mean an army of battle hounds, like you are thinking.
Posted by: pmbuko

Re: Designing a new home theater - 10/02/12 10:42 AM

Just as we crested the hill, the blasted woofers charged up from our 9 o'clock and flanked us. We were pinned.
Posted by: medic8r

Re: Designing a new home theater - 10/02/12 11:27 AM

Wasn't "Flanking Woofers" the Civil War-inspired side project of the Soggy Bottom Boys?