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Do You Have Carte Blanche in Your Home Theater?

In the latest Ask Home Theater blog post, Darren Benjamin says he has carte blanche from his wife to do whatever he wants in designing the media room. We should all be so lucky!

How about you? Do you have carte blanche to do whatever you want in your home theater, subject only to budgetary considerations? If you have no spouse, the answer is obvious. But if you do—be it a legal marriage or domestic partnership—have they placed limits on what you can do in that room?

Vote to see the results and leave a comment about your choice.

Do You Have Carte Blanche in Your Home Theater?

msardo's picture

I understand the poll question and think it is an interesting one to ask. It makes sense for you to ask the question. I'm lucky, my wife likes movies too, so she trusts me to do the room.

However, regardless of the question, in the picture for this article, could a system like this really be practical in the typical space, or even a rather large space, found in people homes? I cannot imagine clean, well balanced surround, with subtle sonic details, etc. to be heard from this system. What is pictured doesn't say "home theater" to me, it says "really REALLY loud" and that's all.

I think the picture may improperly color the question a bit. I am surprised at the higher number of "yes" already. Please accept my apologies if I missed your boat on this one.

Mark, from Upstate New York

Scott Wilkinson's picture
Actually, I selected that photo because it's kinda ridiculous, as in, "If a spouse can tolerate this, they can tolerate anything!" I wasn't trying to say this particular system would sound good, just that it's over the top.
nyt's picture


nyt's picture

It's actually my theater there. You can see some more info on it at

Yes, it sounds great. Why wouldn't it?

Also, my wife loves it.

P.s. feel free to use my image without asking. At least you didn't hot link ;)

Scott Wilkinson's picture
Thanks so much for offering retroactive permission to use this photo. If you asked me to pull it, I would immediately. When I found it, I thought it would make a good illustration of a system that not many spouses would tolerate, but I'm glad yours does! And I'm happy to hear it sounds great. As you and others have noted here, having plenty of dynamic headroom is a wonderful thing. Congrats on such a kick-ass system!
nyt's picture

No problem. I've read many reviews and looked at many measurements from this site. You guys do a good thing.

For fun, here's something I consider overkill, but in the wrong direction.

Warning, this is a long thread, but will leave you dumbfounded page after page. It moves fairly slow, but will surprise you.

Tedd's picture

Such a system could be invisible behind an acoustically transparent front wall and screen to score WAF.

kyle_k's picture

I agree this is overkill for most people, but have you ever heard a real sound system? I'm not talking about some foo-foo audiophile floor speakers with 6.5" mids. I mean real headroom, real dynamics and real low distortion?

Even a smaller version of this system will still blow the pants off just about all high end commercial hifi systems in existence in any measurable category you can invent.

Ladyfingers's picture

There's a lot to be said for the refinement in audiophile detail and so one, but as someone who lived with a pair of hyper-efficient PA speakers for a while, the excitement factor is just off the charts compared to most consumer systems. I got some of it back with a Hsu ULS15, but I may just need another one.

notabadname's picture

Single, but not crazy enough to replicate the photo :)

chrisheinonen's picture

Of course, it's my job, but it still means I can take over the largest room in the house and paint the walls a dark, neutral gray with no repercussions.

Tedd's picture

I agree the visual presentation is a little over the top, but I bet the audio performance is outstanding. That system will be loafing along at reference levels. Multiple bass drivers will ensure smooth bass response in a home enviroment, plus provide deeper bass with a tactile feedback quality, and an ability to pressurize a room. The use of horns will ensure high frequency information at listening distances where dome tweeters will be unable to provide high frequency information at reference levels beyond 12-14 feet.

I bet that system outperforms many an "audiophile" system.

nyt's picture

Indeed, dynamic range and headroom are your friends. This performs without a hint of distortion.

Tedd's picture

Lap Gruppen amps, very nice. :)

edoggrc51's picture

Kick ass system!!! Being an owner of 2 of those subs I can honestly say they'll reproduce any & all low range frequencies. You want subtle, they'll do it. You want in your face chest thumping bass, they'll do it. SQ is their forte.

Jarod's picture

I am one of the lucky ones who's wife gives sole control of the home theater. Like me, she LOVES movies and even better, truly appreciates hi performance audio and video. As long as I tell her before I make a purchase, and it won't bankrupt us, she gives me control of the reigns. I actually couldnt ask for a better wife and I love sharing my favorite hobby of home theater with her.

Poci's picture

To my mind it's like a Monster Truck of Home Theater.

You could get enough volume at audiophile quality to blow the eardrums of an audience of 200 with half the speakers so what's the actual point of this? Unless it's a full size picture theater?

I can only think it's to visually impress people, either as to the size or the cost of this system.

Have you ever ran it at level 8?
I seriously doubt you could get past 2 or 3.

nyt's picture

Is this some imaginary number you made up?

Poci's picture

No, it's after 7 and before 9?

Referring to a 1 to 10 scale which used to be common although most high end amps had -decibels.

So have you pushed it to let's say 80% of full volume?

nyt's picture

I've pushed it quite hard. Do the math sometime on how much displacement it takes to produce 10 or 20hz at reference levels at 4 meters from the speakers including redirection from the other channels.

I like listening to bass heavy music, and I like it loud.

Poci's picture

By the way, I have nothing against monster trucks or monster systems.

The point I am trying to make is just that your system is pretty excessive unless it is in a room of a few hundred square meters and catering to a couple of hundred people.

But hey, who cares. If you like it it don't matter what I think anyway.

N8DOGG's picture

How can any of you even make a reference as to how that system would sound? None of you have experienced anything like it but yet put it down and say it's not going to sound good. Don't hate that someone loves audio and wanted to put the time into making a truly reference system that suits his needs just fine.

Over the top? you bet!!
Why?? Why not?

I also don't feel sorry for you guys who's wives run your lives. If your wife can't support your hobby and let you have one room in the house, I can't imagine what the rest of your life must be like.

Poci's picture

Of course it would sound good. Did I say it wouldn't?

I simply said that it would blow your ears out on high volume so why spend so much money.

ca1ore's picture

Dedicated home theatre is in the basement and is mine to do with as I please (limited only by budget). If one can do it, having a dedicated space is the way to go; otherwise it will inevitably run afoul of the wife, kids, and the dog. Not optimal!

I am synpathetic to those who 'chase the bass'. I've been on an almost 20 year journey to get smooth, extended bass response in my room, and the ONLY way I have found to do that is to have multiple, high performing woofers spread around the room. At last count I have 7 subs (not including the dedicated woofer towers of my Genesis mains) in my 24x14 space,and while that may seem like overkill, it actually is not.

nottaway's picture


Not everyone has the same definition of "Home Theater." This would be excessive in my living room, but I would welcome it into my "Home Theater."

SnowmaNick's picture

I admit, I'm jealous of both his room abilities and his abilities with building those LMS5400 stacks. I remember reading a post of his where he states he uses a HPF at 11hz (if I remember correctly)because even at 130 db he wasn't really getting much added to the experience at 7HZ. How many of us could even think of being able to legitimately form a conclusion on the matter based off of personal experience?

I also think it was cool of him not to mind having a picture of his room added to a for-profit site without his pre-approval. I'd probably be more upset about it than he was.

On the matter of the questionnaire, no, I don't have carte blanche. My listening room is our living room, and the gear needs to be a little more unobtrusive and visually out of the way. That said, I still have dual SVS PB13-Ultra's, a full 5.2 system, and over 20 acoustic panels/bass traps integrated into the room. With a little planning, a very satisfying system can be made to fit in functionally and aesthetically, with full WAF. It just requires a little effort, skill and compromise on both sides. Acoustic panels and bass traps now come in many fabrics, can have images of the customers choice put on them (my wife loves this BTW), and several top tier speaker and sub mfg's provide furniture grade finishes on their products. Add in the benefit of powerful room correction software such as Audyssey MultEQ XT/XT32 or Anthem's ARC, and a mixed use room can be very rewarding acoustically.

nyt's picture

Thanks, good EQ and acoustic paneling go a loooong way. There comes a point with speakers that can reproduce the content faithfully, but then you have the room element which needs to be taken care of that many ignore. Most peoples wives never let them put up sound paneling, so you're lucky in that respect ;)

The 3rd order HPF @ 11hz takes my room gain into consideration, and leaves the system dead flat down to 8hz before it begins to roll off. Content down to there is definitely worth reproducing, just not below it imho.

Goldenhearing's picture

Depends on how you set your system can make a small system sound excessive and distorted if not properly setup....I have seven subwoofers connected to my system....usually I would not use an odd number, but one is behind my couch and causes no I have one signature paradigm in front with my two left and right Goldenears with built in subwoofers....and two subs on back right side and one on left backside and one behind the couch...and the D2 Anthem processor and several Parasound amplifiers and one P2 Anthem amplifier...I have a capability of over 13000 watts output....but of course that just keeps the sound pure by moderate to high levels....but I calibrate my system to sound laid back and let the dynamics come out naturally....without pushing it.....Yes I love extreme low bass....but clean bass...and very clean sound all around....and I get it....Sounds like bragging, but I would take my system over anything else I've ever heard.....and the detail is girlfriend's two little girls love it too....always telling me to turn it up....I just love them.....

mastemaybe's picture

Simply gross to think this spl drag-race garbage has leaked over from AVS onto this site.

First, there's absolutely NO reason "audiophile" (or whatever more derogatory term you would like to label high end/"higher" end loudspeakers) cannot cleanly reach reference levels in MANY rooms.

Do the math: a decently sensitive speaker (say 92dbs 1 meter) with FOUR watts of input will produce 86dbs of continuous output at 12'.

That's LOUD, to at least 95% of the populace, and higher than most want to listen at- even with perfect, distortion-free replication.
Again, that's 4 watts and does not account for boundary reinforcement or coupling of multiple speakers.

Dynamics? Ok.

The same loudspeaker will- with ~200 watts of input- produce ~105db peaks (or "reference") at the same 12 feet. And don't start babbling about "compression" as virtually any decent speaker with proper power handling can produce 105db peaks- especially when considering it shouldn't be seeing anything much below 80hz in a properly crossed HT scenario.

Again: that's assuming more than a sliver want to listen at those levels to begin with. Scads of data exist all over the place that most find theaters to be much too loud- and many times they're LESS than the "reference" 85/105db standard. I know, I know, YOUR gear sounds WAY better than the local IMAX. Sure.

SO: barring a very large room or significantly LONGER seating distances, buy some quality, "easier" to power loudspeakers, a 200 wpc external amplifier (emotivas ship to your house for $900, less, used), or MEATY AVR (after all, rarely are all 5/7 channels really recruited for high-power...many times a stout AVR can deliver impressive peak power into 2 channels), a REAL powered subwoofer (JTR, Seaton Sound, SVS come to mind), and stop drinking the kool-aid that your room needs to look like "black cube death" to achieve VERY LOUD/REFERENCE-level playback, It is simply not rooted in truth, but rather, pish that's largely propagated by a % of "clever pros" who have more money and time than sense, coupled with an insatiable desire to not-so-clandestinely chest-beat and textually communicate the "mine's bigger" schtick. Sigh.

And btw: I'd bet my next check that those are not authentic Lab Gruppens, but the warranty-less $700 knock-offs that some Chinese vendor is kicking out to AVS members who are willing to pay for them.

Go figure.

nyt's picture

Sounds to me like you have never even heard a proper system and drink the koolaid from sites such as this one.

Reference level is irrelevant. I like listening to loud music and having loud bass. It's personal preference, and nobody who has heard it has ever had a bad thing to say about it. Speaking of textual chest beating, what is it you're doing now? Your post has no information of value, only disdain for something you know nothing of. If I cared about SPL drag racing, it would be much easier to get louder output. I like the sound and feel of clean loud bass. Apparently something about this has triggered some kind of emotional response from you, such that you'd rant like a fool on the internet. You jelly?

p.s. Speaking of reference level, since you're so fond of it, do some math to see what it takes to achieve 126db(reference subwoofer level output) at 10hz in room a room with no gain. Also, try to get the math right this time.

p.p.s. It would take over 300w to reach 105db in your scenario listed above if the same speaker is producing 86db with 4w. My fronts do that with under 10 watts. You say buy some easier to power loudspeakers, but clearly have no clue what you're talking about. The loudspeakers here boast 104db sensitivity. Which do you think will honestly sound better? Or are you going to tell me power compression isn't something to take into consideration. The other factors for choosing large fronts, aside from the sensitivity benefits, also has to deal with directivity, frequency response, and absurdly low distortion numbers. But clearly, this is all a drag race with no thought behind it.

p.p.p.s. Hoffman's Iron Law. That is all.