A DIY Home Theater Conversion on a Budget

Shortly after my last child went off to college my wife made an unexpected comment: “You can have your home theater in the guest room as long as you move all that stereo junk out of the family room”. My dream had finally come true! I had been planning for a dedicated home theater room since I purchased my first stereo VCR back in 1983.

The 15.5’x 10’ room is small by home theater standards but it has a 11.5' ceiling height. The room which is located on the second floor of our house has a closet and a floor to ceiling arched window. So the first problem I had to solve was how to cover up the window. My budget was limited to $500 for the room conversion so whatever I did had to be cheap and removable. What I ended up doing was covering the window with black plastic mylar and then making a floor to ceiling curtain from black fabric purchased at a local fabric store. The end result worked out great. The room was now pitch black with absolutely no visible light and the room acoustics were greatly improved due to the existence of the curtain. At about this same time we were having our downstairs 1990's blue carpet replaced. The carpet was still in great shape so I had the installers move it to the new theater room. I then proceeded to paint the walls a dark blue to match the carpet

Due to the high cost of video screens I was determined to build my own. I constructed a screen from a 4’x8’ sheet of wall board and painted it with a combination of Bear Silverscreen and White Pearlescient paint. The screen size is 92” diagonally. Total cost was around $50. The picture quality with this screen is awesome with no visible hot spotting. More detailed information can be found on my website.

The existing closet ended up working perfectly for housing the equipment rack and allowing easy access to the attic for running cables to the front projector. The closet doors can be closed to prevent light from the equipment from interfering with movie enjoyment. I added electrical outlets in the closet for the AV equipment and one in the attic for the projector. Low cost white PVC pipe was used around the edges of the room for running the speaker wires. As they are located next to the white baseboards they are barely noticeable.

The main/rear loudspeakers are vintage1970's Ohm I's from Ohm Acoustics. The surround loudspeakers are custom in-wall units.

Since I did not have a center channel speaker or a dedicated subwoofer I proceeded to construct these myself. The center channel loudspeaker driver selection and system design were designed to complement the sound of the existing main loudspeakers. An old bookcase I had was just the right height for positioning the center channel loudspeaker level with the top of the main loudspeakers and there was enough room underneath to hold the subwoofer. The subwoofer is a custom design using Sunfire loudspeaker drivers and a 600W Class D amplifier. The total available audio system power is 3500 watts RMS! Needless to say with this much power available used in conjunction with the four 12” subwoofers of the Ohm-I’s and the custom subwoofer the room totally rocks with movie sound affects.

All in all I am thrilled to finally have the home theater that I have always dreamed about. Even though it isn’t the fanciest theater around it has provided family and friends with many hours of awesome entertainment.

Equipment List

Surround Processor
Outlaw Audio 970

Carver TFM-55X(500X2) (Front L&R)
Carver TFM-35X(350X2) (LS, RS)
Carver TFM-35X(350X2) (LR,RR)
D2Audio XS100(Class D Amplifier Module, 125X4) (C)
D2Audio WXS600(Class D Amplifier Module, 600X1) (Sub)

Ohm-I (Front L&R) Ohm-I (LR, RR,) Custom Built(LS, RS, C, Sub)

Source Equipment
Toshiba D40 (Upconversion DVD Recorder/Player)
Samsung VR325 (DVD Recorder/VCR)
Samsung DTBH20F (HDTV Tuner)
Scientific Atlanta (HDTV Cable Receiver)
Custom Built (HTPC/Music Server- AMD Athlon64-X2 Processor)

Video Display
Sanyo PLVZ-60 (Video Projector)
Custom Built (92” Video Screen)

Other Equipment
APC C Type AV Power Conditioner
Harmony (Equipment Rack)

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Ron Malcolm's picture

Actually they are 33 years old. Ohm didn't use foam in the drivers which is why they have lasted so long. All the drivers are original except for the low tweeters which were upgraded to metal domes.

Ron Malcolm's picture

Thanks for your comments! Your sentiments mirror mine exactly. I have been an avid audiophile since I was a teenager. Although contrary to what some believe it does not mean one must spend lots of money to enjoy the hobby. I have always strived to do more with less. In the end it does not matter how much you spend but how much you enjoy what you have. For me my system performs better than I could have ever hoped for.

Ron Malcolm's picture

Yes the white closet door was initially thought to be an issue and I toy'd with the idea of painting it a darker color. However after spending hundreds of hours watching movies I have never been distracted by it. I have thus left it as is for now.

bujee1's picture

Nice room ! I really like your screen wall, actually , the whole room looks good .It's nice to see a real world theater that we all aspire to.

John K's picture

Great job! The Ohm, Carver, and Outlaw gear shows an eye for quality equipment that is a bit out of the mainstream. It is wonderful to see. I have a question about the white door on the closet - does it cause reflections of light from the screen? Might a black curtain in front of the closet help with light control? I love the room. I hope you, and your indulgent wife enjoy it.

Dave's picture

I agree with illbenooneelse. Most of the theaters we see posted are beyond reach for most people. It's refreshing to see one that didn't cost $100K from start to finish. And "A/V rack", I'm sure if he's on a budget I'm sure he's not going to fork out $800+ on a rack.

illbenooneelse's picture

I'm shocked that no one has commented on this yet. Well done! While everyone loves great high-end tech, the reality majority of folks out there can't exactly drop $20-30k on home theater equipment and renovations without taking pause. You're practicality and ingenuity is a welcomed addition to a site so often riddled with over-the-top, impractical and sometimes hideous set-ups (Kipnis', again, I'm looking at you: http://www.hometheaterdesignmag.com/highend/208great/).

illbenooneelse's picture

Wow, I was so excited about what I just saw that in my haste to post, my previous comment above was fraught with typos! Hence a second, proof-read version below (sorry, I wouldn't have been able to live with myself if I didn't make corrections - I have issues, I know).--I'm shocked that no one has commented on this yet. Well done! While everyone loves great high-end tech, the reality is that the majority of folks out there can't exactly drop $20-30k on home theater equipment and renovations without taking pause. Your practicality and ingenuity is a welcomed breath of fresh air to a site so often riddled with over-the-top, impractical and sometimes hideous set-ups (Kipnis', again I'm looking at you: http://www.hometheaterdesignmag.com/highend/208great/).Congrats!

Shah_*$'s picture

Thanks for your submission! I am currently working on my own theater room out of an existing upstairs bedroom. The bedroom I will be using is 16ft. 3 inches with the back closet open and 10ft and 1 inches wide with 8ft ceilings. Your work has shown me that it will be possible to create my first simple theater with a 106 inch screen.THANKS!I too am on a modest budget.

Tom Densford's picture

Man, those Ohm speakers are at least +/-20yrs old. I am on my way; the youngest leaves for college this week. Good job Ron.

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