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advice for new pre-wired theater

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#1 of 8 jlylec



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Posted May 25 2010 - 02:16 PM

Hi guys...great looking site!  Apologies up front for the long email I just have so much on my mind with this!

I recently built a new home and had the basement finished and pre-wired for a 7.1 theater with a projector.  I've been researching equipment for this theater and really need some advice on the speakers.  I'd like to use in-wall speakers for the LCR and in-ceiling for surrounds and rear surrounds.  I have a Sonance system installed upstairs in the living room with 623 series speakers and an in-wall sub.  I'm not happy with the sub at all, but the other 5 speakers are great.  I'm just not sure Sonance is the best performance for the money.

Due to that experience I think I'd like closed-back in-wall speakers in the theater.  But maybe I don't really need them if I get higher quality speakers?

The room is pretty big...19'x38'.  I'm setting it up with the theater on one end and a bar on the other.  I'm looking at about 25'x19' for the theater, but from a sound perspective it is open to the full 38' length.  The projector mount area was wired to about 20' from the screen wall.

I have a budget of about $5000 for all equipment.  I'm pretty much decided on the Panasonic PT-AE4000u projector and should be able to get that for $2k so I have $3k left.  I figure another $1k for a receiver.  So $2k for speakers.

1. Is $2k for speakers even close to enough and what would you guys suggest based on this room size?

2. I've read several places to put your money in the LCR and save on the surrounds.  Should they still be voice-matched or whatever if I do that?

3. Fortunately the room isn't wired for in-wall subs.  But from researching on here it sounds like I may need more than one sub.  Not sure how I would place and wire the second sub.  The first will easily go on the side by the equipment cabinet.

4. I saw on here talk about DIY screens.  Is this a good idea?  Seems like an easy way to save almost $1k.

5. I've also read that the right color paint can be almost as good for the screen.  Any truth in that?

6. Is 20' throw too much?  I can probably pull the project forward a couple feet when I install or even build some sort of drop down projector "shelf" that looks nice and pull it forward even more if needed.

7. Any suggestions on the receiver?  Currently I have a Denon 2309CI in the LR and was thinking along the same lines for the theater.  I really don't need all that functionality, but do think I need power.  I don't need any multi-room function or anything.  Plus I'm just running a PS3 and DirecTV box through it so I don't need upscaling or 80 inputs or anything.  Just pure, clean, power and reliability.

7. Any other random advice?

Thanks so much guys!

#2 of 8 David Willow

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Posted May 26 2010 - 01:11 AM

Are you flexible with the "in wall" and "in ceiling" setup?  Both are compromises (especially the ceiling speakers).

With 3K to spend, 1K is too much for the receiver.  You can find something nearly identical (minus a few features) for $400-600.

#3 of 8 jlylec



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Posted May 26 2010 - 01:18 AM

unfortunately i'm almost LESS flexible on the ceiling speakers since the room is pre-wired and those surround wires are in the ceiling, not the side walls.  the front speakers could technically be on walls or cabinets since the speaker wire would just need to be wire to a faceplate or something.  I just think it would look much cleaner if they were in-walls.

any suggestions on a good 400-600, 7.1 and powerful, receiver?


#4 of 8 Robert_J


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Posted May 26 2010 - 07:12 AM

With a room that large, you will need a big sub.  What is your goal for the low end?  Do you want to rattle your teeth during action movies or do you just want good bass response?  How much real estate are you willing to give up?  Subs range in size from a shoe box to a commercial refrigerator.

You may have seen me post about DIY screens.  In my opinion, my screen is just as good as the $1,000 models I looked at in stores.  I'm sure there are better ones out there since I only looked at a handful locally but I saved $925.  I've enjoyed it for years now and get nothing but jaw dropping expressions from first-timers in my theater room.  Yes, the right paint will give you an excellent screen as well.

20ft isn't a long throw.  My room is 24ft long and my AE900U is in the back of the room and set to low power mode.

#5 of 8 jlylec



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Posted May 27 2010 - 05:53 AM

Thanks Robert!  While I would love rattle your teeth I definitely don't have real estate big enough for a commercial fridge to give up!  Do you think I'd need 2 subs or just one big one?  It looks like good ones are about 1200-1500.  Any good advice on ways to save money here?

I'm not an audiophile, but I do appreciate good sound and I just want to do this close to right the first time.  I don't want to be disappointed in a month.  Maybe 3-4 years I'll be ready to upgrade.  I have a feeling I'd be happy with 500/ea LCRs as opposed to 1000/ea ones but i'm just nervous about going 'cheap' on this.  I certainly want the sound to fill the room.  I don't want an anemic experience.  A good balance recommendation would be awesome!

I think your post was the one I saw about DIY screen.  I think I will try that as I'm pretty handy and like projects like that.  Plus it seems pretty straight forward.  What did you use for your screen material?  I saw a guy online selling big sheets of black out cloth for like $70.  Wasn't sure if a 1:1 gain would be good or if I should try to just paint in a screen with some gray mix.

#6 of 8 Robert_J


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Posted May 27 2010 - 07:32 AM

Black-out cloth for $70!!!!  My black-out cloth from Hancock Fabrics cost $12 to make a 103" diagonal screen.  Joann's and Wal-Mart are similarly priced.  I worked backwards and created my border out of door casing (Lowes) that gave me the 103" size.  I then measured the height / width and added 1.5" each direction.  I built the frame to that size using poplar hardwood (Lowes).  If you don't find the picture of my frame, I'll re-post it.  The braces are set back slightly so they don't touch the back of the fabric.  I stretched and stapled the fabric to the frame.  I then used brad nails to hold the border to the screen frame.  That was with the idea that I would paint the screen with one of the many different formulas available.  I don't see the need to do that now.  The option is always there.

My current left and right speakers:


My center speaker:


I'm building three new DIII's so I can give my current speakers to a family member.

I have the parts for 7 of the following:


A few pictures are missing but I do have them stored on my PC.

I posted that because I have listened to a LOT of different speakers and I can't find any in my budget that are even close to these.

For your sub, take a look at SVS, Hsu Research and Elemental Designs.  See what enclosures you would consider "big" because that varies a lot.  The best way to save money or get more for your budget is DIY.  You are trading your time for more performance.  If you have basic woodworking skills (can cut a straight line with a saw) and you have the tools, then it is a great way to save money.  If you have to learn the skills and buy the tools you will be better off buying the completed sub from an internet direct seller.

#7 of 8 Brandon3212



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Posted May 28 2010 - 10:21 AM

I agree with Robert on the DIY sub if you have the tools, I built the enclosure for my RCF 21" woofer and saved a ton of money and there really aren't any store bought items that can beat it. If you are looking for the best sound performance for your speakers try finding some nice separate amps to hook up to the pre-outs on your receiver.  You can sometimes find some really amazing deals on older gear that will last forever, I run all separate amps and wouldn't have it any other way.

#8 of 8 Guest__*

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Posted June 16 2010 - 01:37 AM

DIY is a great way to capitalize on some of the better drivers and amp technology available. Not only that, you save more than just labor. You save the company profits, overhead, advertising budget, taxes, etc. The total cost that goes into a product usually represents less than 30% of the retail price... Usually, much closer to 15%.

So DIY maximizes your returns on the investment in the form of performance. And, with the measurement tools and home theater software available the technology gap is simply closed. We, as consumers have access to nearly anything that a company would be willing to use except a sound chamber. And you can rent time in an anechoic chamber also. The better question is why not build your own DIY subwoofers???