Texas Integrator Collaborates with Designers to Create $1M Home Theater Modeled After Recording Studio
A long-time customer of the Texas-based AV integration company Sound Lab Designs commissioned school principal Ernie Blumenthal to create a theater in a house he had built. The theater should be designed uncompromisingly, with a special desire for Dolby Atmos, and modeled on the famous Studio C recording area of Capitol Studios.
Blumenthal and his client flew to Los Angeles to experience several Capitol rooms. Studio C – the room certified by Dolby Atmos Music – immediately set the standard for the acoustic performance of its theater.
To make his vision a reality, Blumenthal recruited German architect Jochen Veith from JV Acoustics, known worldwide for creating world-class recording facilities, and California interior designer Brad Keeler from Progressive Design.
Keeler, along with Maurice Patist, President of PMC USA Speakers, had previously updated the rooms in the Capitol, including Studio C, which was renovated in 2017.
Blumenthal and his team built the theater like a professional recording studio. Two acoustic access doors and a room-in-room construction completely isolate the theater from the house. As for the floor, a 5 “slab of concrete sits on top of acoustic isolation pads, which in turn rests on the 4” concrete floor of the main house. Walls are separated by a gap with acoustic treatments in between.
Keeler installed the interior according to Veith’s specifications. Diffusers are positioned on the walls and acoustic treatments are hung on wires from the ceiling, which also creates a beautiful visual element.
“With its 27 feet wide and 35 feet deep floor space, 16 foot ceilings, and tiered seating, the theater feels great overall. So that it still looks fresh in the years to come, we opted for light wooden floors. In view of the acoustic treatment of the walls and ceiling, this was not a problem, ”says Blumenthal.
The theater’s air conditioning was designed to be completely silent. A separate AC unit manages the equipment room, in which the amplifiers and the projector are located. A specially made 50,000 watt isolating transformer with voltage regulation supplies all devices with clean electricity.
“Once completed, the room was tested and exceeded all design specifications. With a pink noise of 110 dB with full bandwidth, there was a drop of almost 80 dB at all frequencies outside the room, ”notes Blumenthal.
The audio part of the theater consists of PMC’s flagship active loudspeakers QB1-XBD as a front network, QB1 active loudspeakers for the center, 22 wafer 2 surrounds in Dolby Atmos configuration and two active PMC XBD subwoofers at the rear as an acoustic bass array for bass reproduction improve in any position in space. This is a similar but larger version of the PMC system used in Capitols Studio C. A StormAudio ISP 3D.32 ELITE manages the pre-amplification and immersive audio processing.
With such a critical focus on audio performance, the installation required a commercial-sized movie screen that would not interfere with the performance of the PMC speakers mounted behind it while providing reference video. Also required was the ability to set the aspect ratio to 4: 3 for the homeowner who is a big fan of film noir.
For this purpose, the team turned to Seymour-Screen Excellence for the acoustically transparent projection surface Enlightor Neo 4K HDR, which is embedded in the motorized masking system ART (Adjustable Ratio Theater) of the Adjustable Ratio Theater (ART). The setup used measures 22 feet diagonally with a native aspect ratio of 2.40. ART is complemented in this installation by a 4K laser projector with 30,000 lumen digital projection and an anamorphic lens. A Lumagen video processor was used to scale and control the aspect ratio.
Top-of-the-line audio transforms theater into a custom concert hall
The back of the theater appeals to the homeowner’s audiophile and features a top of the line VPI turntable, McIntosh phono preamp, and custom made stand.
Since the room is set up like a recording studio, all types of music and films can be played back, from mono to stereo to full surround. The placement of the turntable has been carefully selected to avoid getting feedback from the speakers.
“This two-year project was completed in 2019 for a homeowner who simply wanted the best,” says Blumenthal. “The total cost of the theater, including equipment, was over $ 1 million and I dare say this studio-quality theater really does have the best sound and picture available today, perhaps some of the best in the US.”