Installations: A League of its Own Page 2


Michael had limited time for the pre-wire. "One day, we stopped by to see how the electrician was doing, and the builder told us the pre-wire had to be done by the next afternoon." To prevent electrical interference, low-voltage wires were run through PVC jackets in the top and bottom plates, and cables fed through the attic were kept 1.5 to 2 feet from power lines. A dedicated circuit was run from the main breaker panel to a subpanel to keep the room's power lines isolated from the rest of the house's AC circuits.

Along with multiple drops of RG6 (for A/V) and Cat-6 (for the home network), Michael ran multi-mode fiber-optic cable, even though none of the gear currently uses it. "In 5 years, when you can download HD movies over fiber-optic in 10 seconds, the Johnsons will be able to plug in a laptop and download a movie," he says.

Whereas countless home theaters are heavy on design and light on performance, this one is refreshingly the opposite. Almost all the electronics are from Parasound's Halo series, and all the speakers are in-wall models from James Loudspeakers. Handling the front left and right channels is a pair of biamped Baby Grand Concerto SDX speakers, which have a soft-dome tweeter, two 8-inch midrange drivers, and a 10-inch subwoofer; a 1,200-watt, rack-mounted James Model Six amp sends 600 watts to each sub. The James 83-SDX center speaker, like the Baby Grand Concertos, has a soft-dome tweeter and two 8-inch midranges. Lastly, two pairs of 82-SDX in-walls (each of whose tweeters is complemented by a single 8-inch midrange) are used for the side and rear surround channels. All the enclosures are made of welded aircraft-grade aluminum and use proprietary drivers.

Equipment List
Sony VPL-VW100 SXRD 1080p front projector Screen Research ClearPix2 THX-certified 140-inch screen (2) Samsung LN-T4081 1080p 40-inch LCD HDTVs (2) James Baby Grand Concerto SDX in-wall left/right speakers James 83-SDX in-wall center speaker (4) James 82-SDX in-wall surround speakers (side and rear) (2) James EMB-1000 10-inch subwoofers James 1000PPT 10-inch in-wall subwoofer Parasound Halo D 3 THX Ultra2-certified universal DVD player Parasound Halo C 1 THX Ultra2-certified surround controller Parasound Halo A 51 THX Ultra2-certified 400-watt 5-channel amplifier Parasound Halo A 21 THX Ultra2-certified 400-watt 2-channel amplifier (2) James Model 6 600-watt subwoofer amplifiers Panamax MAX 5400-PM power conditioner/surge protector Philips Pronto TSU9600 touchscreen universal remote control Ethereal audio and video cables

James speakers feature proprietary equalization circuitry called AFDC (Adjustable Frequency Distribution Circuit), which lets them be tuned to a room's acoustics. (The circuitry replaces the conventional crossover networks used in most speakers.) By turning a dial on the front of each speaker, you can change the speaker's equalization curve so that its frequency output and tonal characteristics can be adjusted to deal with room anomalies.

"The goal is to get an across-the-board frequency response," Michael explains. "These speakers let you tune the system at the output side, instead of reprocessing the signal in the processor." The circuitry also protects against overloads (James says that none of its speakers have failed due to excess power), which is why the speakers don't have maximum power ratings.

A pair of James EMB-1000 subwoofers sit behind the projection screen, and a 1000PPT in-wall "power-pipe" sub at the back of the room. The outward-facing 10-inch woofer on the EMB-1000 subs is actually a passive radiator that's acoustically coupled to an amplified 10-inch woofer behind it. This lets the sub deliver very low frequencies at elevated sound levels without high-excursion distortion. Meanwhile, the 1000PPT sub uses a hidden enclosure with a long-throw 10-inch driver and a 4-inch-diameter port. The latter is actually a flexible tube that can be snaked to the edge of a wall, ceiling, or floor and terminated with a grate or grille. The 1000PPT is powered by its own 600-watt, rack-mounted amp.

Every piece of electronics - primarily from Parasound's line of THX Ultra2-certified components - is housed in a rack in the equipment closet. A 400-watt-per-channel Halo A 21 stereo amp powers the front left and right speakers, while a 5-channel Halo A 51 pumps equal amounts of power to the center and surround speakers. Connected to a Halo C 1 processor/controller are a Halo D 3 universal DVD player, a DirecTV HD receiver/DVR, and two DirecTV HD receivers, which feed the two LCD TVs. The gear is guarded by a Panamax MAX 5400-PM surge protector/power conditioner, as well as by surge suppression at the electrical subpanel.

Dave acknowledges that he didn't know much about the Halo gear and had to rely heavily on his installer's choices. Confirms Michael: "Dave gave considerable trust to my guidance. But he's been everywhere and seen everything, so I wanted to give him a system that would really stop him in his tracks. We talked about the differences between receivers and separates, and we talked about Parasound's product line, its warranty, and its position and image in the industry. I like the gear because it's bulletproof - and in conjunction with the James Loudspeakers, if Dave wants to go full-volume, he can. He's not the kind of guy who wants or needs products that have tons of bells and whistles. He understood the performance differences, and he wanted absolutely top-caliber sound quality."

While Michael and Dave quickly agreed on the Sony VPL-VW100 SXRD front projector, the 140-inch Screen Research ClearPix 2 screen was a late addition. "We'd originally spec'd a smaller screen," Dave says, "but when build-out was done, we were surprised by the size of the room. Michael said the original screen was going to look too small, and he recommended the larger one. I'm certainly happy with that decision."