This vacation home in New Mexico boasts a state-of-the-art theater and elevated whole-house entertainment and automation.
When Houston residents Matt and Kat began planning their new vacation home in New Mexico, they knew they wanted a great home theater and the convenience of advanced home automation. So they called ListenUp. “This is one of those pandemic stories,” says Sales Consultant Scott Trusty. “Every single aspect of this was done online and with Zoom calls, and these discussions started before the house was framed. I never met the customers in person until we commissioned the theater and calibrated it a couple of weeks ago.”
“Yeah, I was just looking for someone in New Mexico that had the kind of capabilities to build a really state-of-the-art system,” Matt says. “When I did a little research, I found ListenUp, and got in touch with Scott. He’s a pretty smart guy and knows this stuff really well.” “This is a job where the client took a very proactive approach,” Scott continues. “He was there every step of the way in a positive way, helping make decisions on sound, lighting controls, ease-of-use in real world situations. It was — and is — a real partnership.”
JBL Synthesis Theater
The downstairs/bar/gameroom area features a comprehensive JBL Synthesis system. It’s a totally stealth presentation, with the front three main in-wall speakers and two subwoofers hidden behind a 125-inch Stewart FireHawk perforated projection screen. Two in-wall subs in the side walls and four in-ceiling surround and effects speakers complete the Dolby Atmos 3D surround sound configuration. The JBL Synthesis SDR-35 A/V receiver is designed specifically for use with JBL Synthesis speakers for a synergy of sound that’s hard to beat. An 8K JVC D-ILA projector provides pristine images, with sources including 4K Apple TV, Panasonic Universal Disc Player and Roku 4K Streaming Media Player.
“There’s not a visible speaker in the theater,” says Scott. “There’s a boatload of speakers in that room and you can’t see any of them. The screen is perforated, it’s sonically transparent; everything else is hidden. There are four gigantic subwoofers and you’d never know it. Everything is tuned to one spot in that room, and when you sit in that spot, you’re engulfed by really beautiful, time-aligned sound.”
“I’d known about JBL Synthesis for a long time,” Matt says, “but thought it might be overkill for the kind of theater I was putting together, but Scott showed me how they have expanded their line so I could put together something that is just awesome for the medium-sized theater I’ve got. I couldn’t be happier, honestly. The JBL Synthesis stuff is just great.”
“The system was calibrated on-site by a JBL factory technician,” Scott continues, “who flew in to do the final certification and the results are stunning. It’s so well-tuned with the four subwoofers and all the surround and the height speakers. This is one of the few rooms I’ve heard where multichannel stereo can become an immersive soundscape that is so coherent and natural that it’s just a pleasure to sit back and listen.”
“There was a huge difference after the calibration,” Matt chimes in. “The theater now is just sick. With horn-loaded speakers it’s got plenty of dynamic headroom and the subs are now dialed in to really give an even and powerful bass response. And the SDR-35 receiver is also Roon Ready, so I can stream hi-res music to it, which is awesome — I can do critical listening down there if I want to.”
More Great Sound
“For the distributed audio, Matt wanted music that still sounded full and rich at lower volume. That required better speakers, better amps and actual low frequency augmentation, so we went with Revel in-wall speakers and subs.”
“Particularly the way the living room/ kitchen and a couple other areas are set up,” Matt says, “the floor plan doesn’t allow for placement of in-room speakers. I really wanted to have high quality audio in those rooms because we spend a lot of time there. I’ve owned Revel speakers in the past, and their engineering is topnotch. The in-ceilings in the living room areas work great — they have a high end that just gives a nice kind of sparkle to the room.”
Matt also has a high performance system in his office, with a Mark Levinson amplifier and previously owned Shahinian Obelisk speakers, which he plans on switching out for the new limited edition piano black JBL L100 speakers when they’re available.
Scott explains the genesis of the lighting plan: “Most people, when they have an architect or a builder, they look at the plans and they see the little dots. Someone’s placed their grid over the house plan and put in a line of lights here, and a line of lights here — without any real regard to lighting design. Matt and Kat were absolutely receptive when I said, ‘You would really benefit by talking to our partners in lighting.’
“So we brought in a company called Light Can Help You. These are people that understand how we use light in our lives, both physically and for our mental wellness. They know how to use light in all those situations to make a home safe and enjoyable and comfortable. Because of the way they designed the lighting system, you feel like the home is really comfortable.”
“That’s exactly right,” Matt agrees. “The lighting, honestly, is one of my favorite parts of the whole system. It really accentuates and enhances the overall look and feel of everything in ways that we wouldn’t have thought of had we not had the Light Can Help You folks helping us. At our house in Houston, I just had the builder put in whatever cheap LED lights that they put in these days. The difference between that and the quality ones that we put in the house in New Mexico is just night and day.”
Motorized Shades and More
“The views are spectacular from the house,” Matt says. “We wanted a lot of light for an open and airy feel, but obviously the sun can be quite harsh in the evening and morning. To deal with that we’ve got Lutron motorized shades strategically positioned on key windows that are hard to access. And then right behind where the seating position is in the theater downstairs, there are a number of bi-fold doors that go out to the deck. We put some Lutron blackouts there so we can darken down the theater, and it works just fine. Even on really bright days, we can actually watch the theater on the projector with no problem.”
The home also features a full security and surveillance system, and everything is operated by a comprehensive Crestron control system.
The Proof of the Pudding
“I think the theater is my favorite part of the system,” Matt says. “It’s everything I wanted it to be — and I’ve had home theaters for 20-plus years in different houses and different configurations. The audio is outstanding and it’s very slickly integrated into the room. The projector looks beautiful. It’s such a great place to head downstairs, get comfy on the couch, put on a football game or a movie. It just works so well — we love it.
“And we really enjoyed working with ListenUp. Scott’s a wonderful guy, really knowledgeable, and wonderful partner to work with on this. Jonathan Stocks, the project manager, was also outstanding.”
Scott echoes Matt’s enthusiasm: “Because of the way the lighting, sound, video and control all work together, this home is the most synergistic install I’ve ever done — and I’ve been doing these since 1968. So many things worked well together, the people, the customers, the product, the site, and the Light Can Help You folks. It just proves that you can do all this stuff remotely, which is weird, but it can be done.”
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