DIY Reader Home Theater: Yazel

Our home theater started out as an unfinished basement room with dimensions of 14 by 18 by 9 feet. The room is rectangular, with three doors and no windows. Audio problems are inherently more difficult to solve than video problems. Fortunately, the room dimensions are friendly to acoustic resonances. Since the theater would be right under the great room of the house, the main goal was to decouple the theater from the rest of the house as best as possible.

Because drywall had already been added to the walls and ceiling of this room at the time of construction, I decided to work with it instead of starting over. I added a layer of soundboard over the drywall, but I used only a few screws to attach the board to the studs. Instead, I glued the soundboard to the drywall with caulk and Liquid Nails and used short drywall screws to make good contact between the dry wall and soundboard. I attached some additional fir strips to the soundboard, then glued Styrofoam insulation to the soundboard between the strips, and attached a layer of thin masonite to the strips with very short screws. The masonite gave the wall structural integrity. Next, I covered the walls with acoustic panels from Kinetic Systems, which i spot-glued in place. Nothing made contact with the floors.

Our ceiling is mostly suspended. After adding the soundboard, I hung two-by-fours perpendicular to the ceiling joists using brackets attached to only three joists in each 18-foot span. The two-by-fours did not contact the walls at the ends of the span. I also used short two-by-fours to connect the long spans at right angles, never in contact with the ceiling, creating a series of alcoves—each about 30 by 30 by 30 inches. I glued more foam between the two-by-fours and glued antique brass-coated tin panels to the foam. Then, I used cornice pieces of the brass-coated tin to finish off the alcoves and connected them all using black-painted fluted moldings. Around the outside of the ceiling, I added more acoustic panels. All of this gave the ceiling the 1930s look that I wanted. I could run all of the speaker cables from the equipment rack at the back of the room between the suspended two-by-fours, below the regular ceiling, while avoiding the 120 VAC power lines already in the ceiling from the original construction.

The seating platform is made of two-by-six fir, with double-layer plywood landings. There is roofing paper between the layers, and the inside is stuffed with insulation. There is a 14-inch difference in height between the first and second rows, with the first row being 6 inches above the floor. I mounted the entire platform on 0.5-inch neoprene, so it is floating on the floor, which helps to level the platform. There are brackets in the floor to which the platform can make contact—to keep it from "creeping," but the platform is not attached to the brackets. The seats are powered La-Z-Boy Matinee seats.

I used B&W Nautilus 804 speakers for the left and right channels and an Nautilus HTM-1 module for the center. For the surrounds, I chose B&W SCM1 dipoles. I placed all of the speakers at multiples of 1/3 or 1/5 of the room dimensions to further reduce null and resonance frequencies.

There are three subwoofers in the speaker arrangement: two Bag-End Infra-18s as left and right bass for the 804s, and a separate SVS sub for the LFE channel. A Bryston 10B Sub frequency divider provides the crossover for the left and right subs. Once everything was up and running, I used an analog audio meter to balance the audio.

The DWIN TransVision 4 projector has 720P capability. It is an awesome projector for the money. The screen is a 106-inch Da-Lite silver screen with 1.1 gain. Because of the darker blues, reds, and blacks with the aqua panels, the room is muted, and it is possible to keep lights on at low levels while watching the video and without suffering much contrast loss.

I designed, built, and did everything except sew the drapes and install the carpet. The project took almost three years to complete in spare time and weekends, but, during the extended construction period, the technology improved and the prices came down! I have over 600 hours logged on this project, and I made some mistakes along the way. But the result is worth it. To give the theater that finished, artistic flare, we blew the whole budget and added an Erte bronze sculpture called "Broadway's in Fashion." The lady in the sculpture watches over the theater and keeps the guests in line.

In addition to the theater, we are working on wholehouse audio, have HDTV in the family room with 5.1 surround from B&W 805s, and have standard-def TV in the master bedroom with 5.1 surround from in-wall Totems. And we live in a spectacular setting in the Sierra Foothills of California. If only we could get out of the theater.

My Budget
Building Materials $2,750
Drapes and Motorized Rod $5,600
Carpet and Pad $4,400
Acoustic Panels $8,800
La-Z-Boy Matinee chairs, Motorized (6) $6,100
Metal Ceiling Panels $2,850
Polyurethane Moldings $1400
Columns and Materials $3600
Lighting $ 800
Accessories (Popcorn Machine, Refrigerator, Shelving, etc.) $1,100
Arcam AVP700 Pre/Pro and A7 Amp $6,500
Denon 3940 DVD Player $1,300
DWIN TransVision 4 Projector $6,450
ExactPower, Bryston 10B Sub $3,400
B&W 804, HTM1 Speakers & Stands (Already Owned) $4,200
B&W SCM1 (4), 805 (2) (Already Owned) $3,200
SVS Sub $1,100
Bag-End Infra-18 sub (2) $2,500
Cables $3,200
Miscellaneous Supplies (Paint, Hardware, etc.) $1,700
Total for Expenses $ 70,850