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)