The High Impact Relyea Cinema 1

When we broke ground on our new home in upstate New York my wife Kristie and I each had our goals for this space. I desired a place where I could listen to music, and where the family could come together for a great movie experience. Kristie's priority was for the space to feel like an extension of our home.

As die-hard, do-it-yourselfers we've handled many home improvement projects over the years, so we did all the design, framing, and electrical work. Construction was done on nights and weekends during our free time, so it lasted nearly a year. We try to do it all, however, we hired an expert sheet rocker, which allowed us to focus on what we do best. Prior to laying the sheetrock, we ran all the necessary wiring and to future proof the installation, 2-inch PVC pipe was laid so wires could be pulled at a later date.

With the theater going in the basement, we were concerned with keeping the ceiling as high as possible, especially since we were also installing a sub floor to keep the room comfortable and our feet warm. Sheet rock was applied directly to the top floor's joists and soffits were built around beams, ductwork, and utilities.

High fidelity audio has been a passion of my father and I for decades, so I knew where I wanted to focus my attention. The space was designed with computer software to model various room dimensions. I settled on 14 2/3 by 18 1/2 feet because it offered the most optimal frequency response. The speaker locations were based on optimum imaging, and that dictated the remaining layout of the room. In particular, I did not want the center speaker to be below ear level, so I choose a Da-Lite perforated screen to keep all the speakers inline. The effect of having sounds come straight out of the picture is impressive!

Room symmetry was critical. To create a rock solid sound stage I made sure that whatever was happening to the sound on the left side of the room was identical in the right. Auralex acoustic foam was added to the sidewalls to tame early reflections and improve imaging.

I had actually purchased the Urei recording monitors years earlier. The combination of Sony’s ES series components and Hafler’s MOS-FET amplifiers contribute to the superb sound of the system. Additional side projects included building a power sequencer to control the amplifiers and signal processors, as well as constructing custom speaker cabinets for a pair of 18-inch JBL 2242H subwoofers.

When deciding on paint, we sought a color that would help to darken but not deaden the space. The rich green color gave us the effect we desired. Lighting was chosen to provide a warm atmosphere and compliment the space, plus we choose Lutron remote controlled dimmers to make it ultra easy to adjust the lighting.

Choosing a name for our theater was a highlight of the process. A twist on the Regal Cinema chain, the local ‘Regal Cinema 13’ inspired ‘Relyea Cinema 1. Without spending a ridiculous amount of money (around $25k), we have been able to assemble a wonderful space that caters to my “golden ears”, and pleases the entire family. I often tell people to bring over their favorite movie to truly experience it for the first time.

We hope sharing our story inspires people to build their own home theater. Time, patience, some hard work, and vision will get you there.