The secret to a great sounding system — the room
The room itself is a high performance component in this Albuquerque home theater.
The proper acoustic infrastructure can make a huge difference in the performance of a music or home theater system. Bob and Helen Parr were well aware of this dynamic when they began building their home, as Bob formerly worked at Hudson’s, the Albuquerque audio/video dealer that eventually became a ListenUp showroom.
“I was working in the semiconductor industry and took a sabbatical,” he explains. “I started my own little business and did that for five years. I decided to go back to work for someone else, and I really wanted something fun and technical, so I became an installer for Hudson’s Audio (before it became ListenUp) working for Shawn Mills. Having a software programming background, I started programming the remotes and doing more technical projects.” Bob returned to the semiconductor industry, but the lessons he learned as an installer have served him well — as did his employee discount. “Yeah, about half the stuff in the theater I bought when I worked for Hudson’s,” he says.
Preparing the room
“My wife gave me a budget, or should I say, we agreed on a budget,” Bob laughs, “as is appropriate when you’re building an expensive house. We still wanted to control a lot of expenses and I shifted some money into making the room better, knowing that I could upgrade the equipment easily over time, but it’s hard to go back and change the acoustics of a room.
“The whole house has 2x6 studs, which is standard in the industry. But we have 2x8 studs in the theater. They have also been doubled and they’re oset. Every odd stud goes to the inside wall and every even stud goes to the outside wall — so there’s no transmission of sound through there. That made a bigger wall socket, which is 100 percent full of acoustic blown-in insulation on all walls. Then we ordered a special, super dense carpet pad, because you can’t insulate concrete.
“The foundation itself for this room was poured separately — it doesn’t connect with any other room. The walls into the theater were built over the seam between the theater foundation and the house foundation. On top of the studs, after the insulation was blown in, we put acoustic channels, which are horizontal rails, every three feet for the drywall to connect to. Essentially, all our drywall is floating on the walls. We also minimized the number of drywall screws. Then, on top of all of that, we added the Auralex acoustic panels which diffuse the sound, making the room sound amazing.
As mentioned before, the Parrs already owned some of the equipment in the theater, and Bob worked with his old boss, ListenUp Senior Design Consultant Shawn Mills, on rounding everything out.
The Sony 4K projector is paired with a 135-inch Stewart StudioTek screen. The Marantz SR8015 surround receiver is 8K-ready when the Parrs want to upgrade, and the Panasonic DP-UB9000 Reference UHD Blu-ray player provides stunning 4K content right now. Various Bowers & Wilkins 700 Series in-room speakers are used in the front left, center, right and surround positions, with four B&W in-ceiling models necessary for 3D, object based sound formats such as Dolby Atmos and IMAX Enhanced. The room is wired 7.2.4; there’s currently just one subwoofer but another will be added soon.
“One of the final decisions I made” says Bob, “was designing the room to be big enough to add freestanding speakers, as there isn’t a single in-wall speaker in the world that compares, dollar for dollar, to a floorstanding or bookshelf speaker.”
Everything is controlled via a Universal Remote Control MX controller. “I used to program those and became hooked on them,” Bob says. “I have the capability to program them, as I still have my laptop and software. It’s nice that I can swap components and not have to have a service call.”
Bob and Helen love spending time in their new theater. “The two outside seats of the media sofas have all the seat adjustments.. Most nights my wife and I sit in these front two seats and watch our favorite shows. We watch a ton of cooking shows, like ‘MasterChef’ and ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ and all the Gordon Ramsay shows. Because of our high bandwidth, we can watch all of our cable programming in 4K.”
Whisper-quiet automated shades
In addition to the theater, ListenUp also helped the Parrs with window coverings for several rooms. “Our new house was built specifically to take advantage of our lot,” says Bob. “We have stunning 360-degree views, and because of that, we didn’t want window coverings. But once we got closer to moving in we decided we needed them. I get up at 3:30am every morning. During certain times of the year, I go to bed while it’s still light outside.
So, we added the Lutron shades. The two guest rooms have manual Lutron shades, but in the master bedroom, not only do we have a shade motorized and automated on one particular window, but the full 12 x 9 double slider door has two paired shades that come down. All of it is whisper quiet.”
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