Hearing Is Believing

Opening photos: Audio Advice.

When North Carolina-based home theater specialist Audio Advice finished converting a 12 x 20-foot attic space into a luxurious, high-performance home theater, the homeowner couldn’t have been more pleased with the outcome — or more surprised to learn how room calibration can turn an already great sounding system into one that sounds thrillingly lifelike.

The project started with the goal of transforming the barren space into a full-blown Dolby Atmos theater. The homeowner made it clear that he wanted a system capable of delivering ultra-high-performance audio, which led Audio Advice to propose a powerful 9.4.4-channel JBL Synthesis sound system featuring all built-in speakers and subwoofers to support a Sony projection setup with a 130-inch (diagonal) acoustically-transparent screen.

The homeowner actually started the process by using Audio Advice’s free Home Theater Designer design to map out the system. From there, planning moved to a complete 3D rendering of the space and everything in it, including acoustical treatments.

Three JBL SCL-6 speakers featuring patented horn-loaded tweeters occupy the front left/center/right-channel positions behind the screen and are joined by six SCL-7 speakers in the side and rear walls, each with drivers angled toward the seating area and concealed behind a custom-painted grille that matches the wall color: two in the front and two in the rear of the side walls, and two in the back wall behind the seating. Four SCL-8 Atmos height speakers with angled drivers are built into the ceiling to complete the surround array.

Step by step, part one: Audio Advice converted an unfinished attic into a spectacular home theater.

Four in-wall subwoofers fill in bottom and create a rock-solid foundation: Two SSW-3 subs, each featuring dual 10-inch drivers are mounted in a 2x6-inch stud bay to accommodate the depth of the enclosure, and two slightly smaller SSW-4 subs are situated in the rear wall’s standard 2x4-inch stud bay. Once the speakers were installed, a JBL Synthesis crossover with direct bass calibration was used to even out the bass throughout the room.

“When we talk about home theater, one of the things you want is big dynamics,” explained Audio Advice CEO Scott Newnam. “You want to be able to go from super soft to pow — something that hits you really hard, like a gunshot. Compression drivers [JBL’s forte] have the ability to start really, really low and hit high SPL levels without any distortion. A typical dome tweeter simply cannot do that. The other advantage is that these compression drivers are behind waveguides, which controls dispersion, and that allows us to push most of the sound [from the front LCR speakers] directly into the room without bouncing it off the ceiling, floor, or side walls so we can provide the best experience across as many seats as possible.”

System power comes courtesy of a 7 x 100-watt SDA 7120 JBL Synthesis Class G amp and two four-channel amplifiers: the 350 watts/channel DSi 2.0 SA4-D and the 750 watts/channel DSi 2.0 MA4-D (ratings are into 8 ohms). At the front-end of the system is a JBL Synthesis SDP-55 16-channel preamp/processor with everything you need to create an immersive sound field that rivals what you experience in a top commercial theater. All of the system’s AV gear is is supported by three 20-amp circuits, one of which is dedicated to the subwoofers.

Step by step, part two: Audio Advice converted an unfinished attic into a spectacular home theater.

To achieve a video experience worthy of the killer JBL audio setup, Audio Advice paired a Sony VPL-VW715ES projector with a 130-inch (diagonal) acoustically transparent screen featuring a cinematic 2.40 aspect ratio.

“The customer wanted to be able to do everything from gaming to watching movies and watching sports,” Newnam observed. The Sony delivers 1,800 lumens of brightness, which he calls perfect for a medium-size room with total light control, and has a zoom lens that makes it easy to fill the screen with a blockbuster movie or adjust it to 16:9 for TV. The projector also has an input-lag adjustment, which is important to the homeowners, who enjoy playing video games on their PlayStation and Xbox consoles.

“The audio and video performance is flat out incredible but the aesthetics are also key,” Newnam said. As you can see from the photos, the theater has comfortable seating for six adults with a couch up front and a row of three Revolution theater chairs on a riser behind. The room is also equipped with a fully automated lighting system to accommodate a number of scenarios — from all lights on to an intermission setting to a sports/TV mode and an all dark mode for movie watching. A mixture of absorptive and absorptive/diffusive acoustic panels are strategically positioned around the room to improve overall sound and, as Newnam put it, “tighten up the imaging.”

Dirac Live room calibration built into JBL’s SDP-55 A/V processor works its magic.

But physical room treatment can only take things so far. Great room calibration is essential to achieving the ultra-high-level of performance the system builders were going for. “In the case of JBL Synthesis, Dirac room calibration is built into the SDP-55 processor, which is honestly one of the best, if not the best, room calibration systems in the world,” Newnam noted. “With those four subs we were able to calibrate the system to get incredibly even bass distribution throughout all the seats in the room.

“Every home theater we build is designed to deliver the best possible experience for the client regardless of their chosen space or surroundings,” Newnam continued, “and whether they realize it or not, one of the biggest factors affecting sound quality in any home audio system is the room itself. This installation is a great example because the client was thrilled with the audio system the first time we turned it on, but he was absolutely blown away after watching us perform the Dirac Live Room Correction and Dirac Live Bass Control optimizations and hearing the difference for himself.”

Audio Advice’s Scott Newnam provides an overview of the 9.4.4-channel home theater featuring Sony projection and JBL Synthesis audio gear.

“As a repeat customer with Audio Advice, I knew I could trust their expertise and dedication in achieving my goals,” the homeowner said. “What I didn’t know was that at the very end of the process — when everything looked finished and I was already excited about how good the system sounded — that they would use this calibration software to somehow make my system sound even more clear, balanced, and lifelike than it did before. I really was blown away. There was this ‘Aha!’ moment where I realized that the unseen elements of a home theater, including software like Dirac’s calibration tools, are just as important as the speakers, projector, and seating.”

Indeed, “seeing is believing,” but as the owner of this magnificent system discovered, the same can also be said of its audio corollary: “hearing is believing.”

Watch the video for more detail on the project, including a start-to-finish time-lapse video.

ashurbanipal's picture

It’s funny, my listening room has the exact same dimensions. Unfortunately my 2 channel/home theater set up also shares space with the washer, dryer, water heater, mini home office, camping gear, work shop and everything that can’t fit in the house. As Colonel Kurtz was wont to say : The horror, the horror

animepahe's picture

Animepahe is the best streaming website. One of the main advantages of Animepahe is that it provides free access to its entire anime library. Users can enjoy their favorite shows without any subscription fees or hidden costs.


webtechno0961's picture

The IT industry in Pune is booming, but are you stuck on a traditional development track? Look no further than DevOps Certification in Pune! The DevOps landscape is constantly evolving. Attend industry events, follow industry blogs, and actively engage in online communities to stay ahead of the curve.