Lighting for Dummies Home Theater Reviewers Page 2

A word to the wise: Avoid cheap lamps. The lamps that came free with the Ikea wire-track lights that Mike bought for HT's new listening room were so bad, it was downright comical. Lamps can vary wildly in color range and output consistency. GE is probably the most popular brand of lamps in high-end residential-lighting projects. Their ConstantColor (halogen) and Starcoat (fluorescent) finishes are just amazing. Ushio and Sylvania also make good lamps. I don't recommend other brands.

Placement Guidelines
When it came to designing a lighting scheme for the HT listening room, we first addressed the reviewers' chairs. We needed pinpoint task lighting so that the reviewers could take notes without having to light up the whole room. To create a tiny pool of light over each seat, we used a 15-degree MR16 halogen lamp. We positioned each lamp over the reviewer's lap area and then installed a glare guard over the exposed lamp. We also used a hex-cell louver to keep each lamp's light from straying to the side. The glare guards and louvers completely mute the stray light that would otherwise reflect onto the screen, ceiling, or side walls.

Original HT Lighting Plan

Final HT Lighting Plan

Other than the injunction to avoid recessed lighting, HT had very few prerequisites. To install recessed lighting, you need holes that can disrupt the integrity of the ceiling and sound-damping material. The last thing we wanted was for the lighting to detract from a system's performance. One of the other requirements was that the light fixtures shouldn't rattle or make any other kind of noise.

Based on these criteria, I'd originally planned to use Juno's track system with a bomber fixture from their Wishbone series. This fixture is so beefy, it looks like someone from NASA designed it. According to the original plan, we were going to use three lengths of track with a total of six 50-watt PAR20 lamps for the ambient lighting and two more track sections with MR16 fixtures for the reviewers' area. Due to budget constraints, Mike substituted three sets of wire lights from Ikea that did a dynamite job for about one-tenth of the price. Workmanship aside, these lights use the very efficient MR16 lamp; so, once we put some good lamps in them, they did a pretty good job of covering the area, even at the low 20-watt max. We placed two of the wire systems on one dimmer that runs from the front to the back of the room, and the third wire system runs over the top of the reviewers' seating. As a fun accent, we ran a series of sconces on three of the four walls.