Media Room Insider: Dream Theater

Imagine walking into a room with a colossal TV screen 7 feet wide by 4 feet tall, a surround-sound system you can hear but not see, smart lighting and shades, and a ceiling that mimics a beautiful star-lit sky. You plop into one of the six comfy leather recliners, kick back and say: “Alexa, turn on the theater.” Like magic, the lights dim, the shades draw, and a radiant night sky appears above. The popcorn machine turns on and the TV and sound system come alive.

That’s the essence of the AV setup Cobb Home Innovations designed and installed for Kevin and Melissa, a Tennessee couple who had long dreamed of creating a welcoming space where they could shoot pool or relax and enjoy music or a movie.

Working in the bustling airline industry as a pilot and flight attendant meant they put a high value on time spent at home. To make the most of it, they wanted a system that could deliver a credible theater experience but it had to be simple to operate, using either voice commands or a single handheld remote. They had no patience for dealing with multiple remotes and complex hit-this-that-or-the-other button routines. For Cobb, this meant choosing the right control system was paramount.

The story of how this magnificent home theater came into being began several years ago when the couple hired Cobb to install AV around the house with the goal of one day converting the bonus room over their garage into a cool, multipurpose entertainment space featuring a full-blown theater and an area for their pool table. Knowing this, Cobb figured out where the speakers, TV, and AV rack should go and pre-wired the room to give them a leg up when it was time to start the transformation.

“When we came back to do this project, we learned the client had already purchased a TV and some other components,” recalls Hugh Cobb, owner of Cobb Home Innovations in Woodbury, TN, 50 miles southeast of downtown Nashville. “But after our initial discussions, they returned everything they had purchased and, as the room began taking shape, they became excited and wanted to do way more than we had originally planned or what they imagined was possible.”

Once the plan was set, the challenge was deciding how to configure the room to accommodate a theater with two rows of seating, while leaving enough space for the pool table, and retrofitting the room without doing a full-on demolition. This meant running wire for additional lighting and audio without removing drywall from the ceiling or walls and pulling wire under the floor for two of the three subwoofers Cobb was planning to install.

Entertainment Haven
The main attraction of the theater room is one of the largest and most impressive 4K TVs you can buy: the 98-inch Samsung 98QN900, featuring quantum-dot color and mini-LED TV backlighting. Cobb chose the enormous TV over a video-projection system due to the relatively small size of the space he had to work with and to keep the overall project cost down. “You don’t want to put in a $10,000 projection system and then not have enough money for the rest of the system,” he advises. “I always research and use products with a reputation of high quality and reliability,” which led him to the Samsung TV.

More to the point, “with a large projection screen, the viewer needs to be sitting back far enough to really enjoy the experience,” Cobb advises. “If you're sitting too close to a large screen, you have to move your head to take in the whole picture. And because we were limited as to where and how far back the seating area could go, we couldn’t do anything larger.”

Cobb especially likes the Samsung TV for its built-in entertainment options. “Because the TV has apps like Apple TV, we didn’t need to wire multiple video sources back to the rack.” The exception is a top-shelf Sony 4K UBP-X1100 ES Blu-ray player, a special request from the couple’s teenage son who likes to spin movie discs.

To deliver a thrilling sound experience to complement the TV’s stellar picture, Cobb turned to Yamaha’s RX-A4A AV receiver and the company behind some of the finest speakers on the planet: MartinLogan. He chose in-wall/ceiling versions of the brand’s popular Motion Series to make the speakers as inconspicuous as possible. Three Motion XTW5-LCR speakers handle the front, center, and left channels, while a pair of Motion MC6-HT speakers mounted in the ceiling behind the second row of seating convey ambience and surround sound.

The main speakers are bolstered by the formidable MartinLogan Dynamo 1100X, an app-controllable subwoofer featuring a 12-inch driver and 650 watts of continuous power. Sitting along the front wall to the right of the TV, the 1100X is the only speaker that’s actually sitting out in the room.

But one subwoofer, and a very powerful one at that, was not enough.

To achieve a visceral experience, Cobb implemented one of his firm’s signature features: He built two subwoofer chambers into the custom platform that elevates the second row of seats. Each is loaded with a KEF THX Certified Ultra Ci200QSb architectural subwoofer, featuring a beefy 8-inch driver in a sturdy square frame. The duo is powered by KEF’s KASA500 amplifier, a Class D power block rated to deliver 2 x 250 watts into 4 ohms and designed to power Ci series subwoofers. Not a “butt massager” per se, but you get the idea…

Cobb programmed the Yamaha AVR to accommodate different movie genres — including custom-programmed Dolby Atmos and other surround settings for action/adventure and drama films — and a two-channel music setting that taps into a Sonos Port network streamer that lets Kevin and Melissa access music playing over the Sonos system serenading the rest of the house.

Star-Studded Control
There’s so much going on in this entertainment space that Cobb needed a reliable control system that orchestrate could everything and, at the same time, provide a simple, turn-key user experience for Kevin and Melissa. Beyond the AV system itself, there are smart systems that control the lighting and window shades, not to mention another Cobb Home Innovations signature feature: the custom fiber-optic-illuminated night sky and glowing “RGB” border that surrounds it.

The star attraction does a lot more than put random celestial bodies up in the “sky.” The homeowners can actually change the way the stars twinkle to create a fall or summer scene, turn on a fireworks display with synchronized audio, and even set the ceiling to display constellations associated with specific birth dates.

“We wanted to automate all lighting in the room, including the Lutron lighting and shading systems, the sound settings, and the star ceiling,” Cobb explains. “We were able to achieve that with ProControl,” which makes it easy to control everything using Alexa voice control, a remote handset, or a mobile device or iPad. “You can walk in the room and say, “Alexa turn on the stars,” “Alexa, turn on the theater,” or “Alexa turn up the volume,” Cobb notes. There’s even a cleaning setting, or “scene,” that turns up the lights when it’s time to dust or run a vacuum cleaner in addition to one-touch “wake-up” and “all-off” settings for entering or leaving the room.

“With Pro Control, it’s easy for the installer and the homeowner,” Cobb reiterates. “Whether one button is executing one task or 10, it’s simple while making a big impact on the experience.” Kevin and Melissa agree: “We turned our bonus room into a space where family and friends can gather and enjoy an immersive entertainment experience. The best part is how the ProControl system makes everything easy and seamless.”

AV Equipment List
System designed and installed by Cobb Home Innovations of Woodbury, TN. Estimated project cost: $68,000-$70,000.

  • Samsung 98-inch 98QN90A mini-LED 4K TV
  • Sony UBP-X1100ES Blu-ray player
  • Sonos Port wireless network streamer
  • Yamaha RX-A4A receiver
  • Martin Logan Motion XTW5-LCR in-wall speakers (3, front left, center, right)
  • Martin Logan Motion MC6-HT in-ceiling speakers (2, Atmos/rear surround)
  • Martin Logan Dynamo 1100X powered subwoofer (1, front)
  • KEF Ci200QSb THX Certified Ultra subwoofer (2 in custom floor enclosures)
  • KEF KASA500 2 x 250-watt subwoofer amplifier (1)
Control System & Additional Gear
  • Pro Control Pro24.r remote control and ProLink.r processor
  • Lutron Caseta smart lighting-control system
  • Serena by Lutron smart roller shades
  • EpiXsky custom fiber-optic star ceiling
  • Aspen Theater Seating by Leisure
  • AC Infinity cooling system (for components in AV rack)
  • Panamax surge protection

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Dan_K's picture

What is the seating distance to the 98" screen. From the pictures it looks woefully too small.

larrymartin's picture

What an incredible setup. The integration of technology and comfort is seamless creating the ultimate entertainment haven. I am amazed at how everything can be controlled with just a few simple commands.
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