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Layout Advice for Open Concept New Construction (1 Viewer)

my00t8

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Jan 8, 2022
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Sean Hicks
My wife and I are building a new home. With the way our family winds down in the evenings, we decided against another dedicated home theater as the one we had before went, sadly, underutilized until it eventually became storage overflow. Our new home is going to be open concept, and I want to make our main living area as good of a home theater experience as possible given the limitations of both the architectural plan and my wife's personal preferences. The main living area will be at one end of a roughly 19' wide x 37'-39' long space with 10' high ceilings. At the other end will be the kitchen area with space for dining in between. I worked diligently with the architectural design team to maintain a rectangular shape with at least three walls, but there will be an opening at the back left corner (from seated position) for the foyer and, of course, the cavernous remainder of the space behind the listener. I am hoping to build a 5.1 (maybe 5.2, 5.1.2 or 5.2.2) system with a somewhat generous budget of $600-1200 per speaker, but in addition to the space I also have WAF-driven interior design constraints. <humor>This may be my first post, but I am a long time reader so, before anyone asks, NO, a different wife is not an option at this time.</humor> Aside from the sheer volume of space and the cavernous rear of the room, I also have to deal with a 60" ceiling fan karate chopping the air, 8" wide x 10" high (low?) decorative ceiling beams (three total spaced 5'9" apart starting at the fireplace/TV wall), an all the way to the ceiling limestone fireplace with built-in shelving and cabinets to either side (77" OLED TV to be mounted above fireplace mantel NOT at seated eye level, I know... I know...) and a grid of can lights I don't want speakers or speaker wire too close to for electromagnetic interference reasons. Additionally, my wife has ruled out in-wall speakers (even with grills painted to match), any floor-standers (which she describes as bachelor pad) and any bookshelves that aren't "pretty" (for reference, the Elac Debut Reference DBR62 in White/Oak and the Triangle Borea BR03 in White/Light Oak are examples of bookshelf speakers she considers "pretty"). Honestly, she seems more interested in not seeing speakers at all, which has me looking at in-ceiling options despite my misgivings about sound direction (especially for the fronts). Currently looking at the following options:
  • Definitive Technology RCS II/RSS II
  • Focal 100ICLCR5
  • Focal 300ICLCR5
  • SnapAV Episode HT700-ICLCR-5
  • Triad Bronze/8 LCR
  • Triad Silver/8 LCR
My current diagrams assume Triad Bronze/8 (though I am leaning Silver/8, granted with their somewhat secretive pricing I have no idea if those speakers are in-budget or not). The 45-degree angle seems extreme, but might be what I have to do to direct sound around these 10" thick decorative ceiling beams and away from the ceiling fan blades. The best I can come up with while keeping everything INSIDE the boundaries of the main living area (everything between the fireplace and the farthest decorative ceiling beam) seems to create a sweet spot that's a little too close to the television (remember it's mounted too high) and fireplace. This would create about 3.8' of separation between front channels, 13.3' of separation between front and rear channels and about 8.8' of separation between rear-left and rear-right. I am really in analysis paralysis mode right now, and looking for advice on speaker placement and types to both optimize the listening experience and maybe move the sofa back to a sane distance away from the TV and fireplace (ever so slightly behind the ceiling fan would be good). I am also interested in community opinions on the speakers listed above as well as home theater receivers to drive them (must have pre-outs so I can upgrade to a separate amplifier later). Any and all advice/opinions appreciated, except, of course, the fore mentioned replacement of existing wife. See Imgur links below for reference.

Floor Plan
Side View

One more thing... I did consider "pretty" bookshelf speakers sitting on the counter tops above the built-in cabinets with a matching center on the fireplace mantel, but the fireplace mantel is only 8" deep and every center channel I've looked at is deeper than that allows.
 
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John_Bilbrey

Second Unit
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Jan 16, 2002
Messages
332
Have you looked in to soundbar/sub setup? They've really come a long way. They certainly won't replace a dedicated speaker package, but will certainly fill the void between TV speakers and a dedicated system. That's kind of where I am now in our build - we are open concept as well, so a soundbar setup is likely all I'm going to be able to swing. The bonus room over the garage will be dedicated theater space.
 

Edwin-S

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Aug 20, 2000
Messages
9,433
So pretty well the wife is saying no home theater in the living room since no in-walls, no floor standing speakers and only pretty bookshelf speakers. 😉

Not sure how to make a box look "pretty" enough to satisfy a tough customer like that, especially since in-walls would be the most unobtrusive solution.
 

my00t8

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Sean Hicks
Have you looked in to soundbar/sub setup? They've really come a long way. They certainly won't replace a dedicated speaker package, but will certainly fill the void between TV speakers and a dedicated system. That's kind of where I am now in our build - we are open concept as well, so a soundbar setup is likely all I'm going to be able to swing. The bonus room over the garage will be dedicated theater space.
I have thought about this... A lot, actually. The soundbar would either have to sit on the mantel or be suspended below the TV by way of a mounting bracket. The mantel is 8"x8"x72" which is very limiting for a dedicated center channel due to speaker cabinet depth (a big reason I am in this situation), but is workable with any number of soundbar options. There are some very nice shallow-depth passive soundbars out there like the Klipsch Heritage Theater Bar and the GoldenEar SuperCinema 3D Array XL, but, despite living in one of the biggest metros in the country, I have not had luck locating a place to hear them in person. Just about everywhere sells active soundbars, but, while I have heard some decent ones like the Sennheiser Ambeo, Sonos Arc and Sony HT-7000, I am concerned that they are all designed for smaller rooms and would struggle to fill such a large space. Of personal concern regarding any soundbar, passive or active, is that they really limit the soundstage to a narrow sliver of the room. At least the passive ones are either very wide or can be ordered custom length. If I had to do it, I would lean toward the Klipsch Heritage Theater Bar because it is attractive (very high WAF for the walnut veneer cabinet with vintage grill cloth), can be ordered custom length, can be matched to some of their in-ceiling speakers for adding surrounds and I have a level of confidence that, even though I have never heard one in person, Klipsch is not going to send me something that is complete garbage. On the active front, I would probably side with Sonos. Yes, the Ambeo sounds better, but there are some quality of life things about the Sonos ecosystem that I find appealing and they offer an in-ceiling surround option through their partnership with Sonance. Plus, I have a sneaking hunch they will eventually offer a way to do dedicated fronts like they have done with rear surrounds.
 

DaveF

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I have the Triad Silver LCR. If you give them a good subwoofer, they can sound great. But I don't see a subwoofer option listed in your speaker setup.
 

my00t8

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Sean Hicks
I have the Triad Silver LCR. If you give them a good subwoofer, they can sound great. But I don't see a subwoofer option listed in your speaker setup.
Yeah, I am not as focused on subwoofers at the moment. Honestly it is probably a later addition after I work some magic to hide it from the wife (assuming what I choose is big and ugly). I am partial to the SVS 3000 Micro, and it would probably be my first choice if the unit(s) have to be left visibly out in the open. I hear great things about Hsu offerings, but I have never actually heard one in person. I did go the DIY route once, and had enough success that I still have that subwoofer in storage waiting to be used with a pair of DIY speakers I want to build for a HiFi setup in my new home office. Just pointing out that I am handy and not above constructing something custom for home theater purposes.
 

Bobofbone

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East Tennessee
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Bob
I'd second the idea of a sound bar. The great room in my home has a peaked 20' ceiling with a loft in the back. I also had WAF, with the agreement being no free standing speakers in the great room, and I could do what I wanted in the theater. She changed her mind about the theater, but I figured what she really meant was she was giving me a choice, and still did what I wanted in the theater. She gave up after I put the hole in the wall for a longer projector throw, but you probably don't want to hear about that.

We originally bought a flat screen and sound bar for use in the great room, and mounted it on a swinging mount to the right of the fireplace, slightly above eye level I mounted a sound bar below the flat screen. It also had a wireless subwoofer paired with the sound bar. That was around 10 years ago. Last year, we upgraded to a 4K Sony flat screen that was a bit larger, and put the old set up in the basement by our pool table. I also got another sound bar, a Sony HT-Z9F, with a wireless subwoofer and two wireless back speakers. I built speaker stands to fit the back speakers that elevated them from about 10", placing them above the back of the sofa and at ear level when sitting. There's a noticeable difference in the sound with the new set up. It's now a 5.1 system and, while it doesn't have the volume of what's in the theater, it's quite an improvement over the previous set up. I've tried it with and without the subwoofer, and the subwoofer and back speakers add to the overall effect and sound range. My wife wasn't wild about the idea of back speakers and thought about getting rid of the subwoofer, but listening to the system sold her. The back speakers are only 6"x4"x4", and aren't that intrusive. Our viewing and listening area is also limited to within 8' of the screen and speakers.

Sound bars have improved. They aren't what they used to be.


DSCN1233.JPG
 

my00t8

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Sean Hicks
I'd second the idea of a sound bar. The great room in my home has a peaked 20' ceiling with a loft in the back. I also had WAF, with the agreement being no free standing speakers in the great room, and I could do what I wanted in the theater. She changed her mind about the theater, but I figured what she really meant was she was giving me a choice, and still did what I wanted in the theater. She gave up after I put the hole in the wall for a longer projector throw, but you probably don't want to hear about that.

We originally bought a flat screen and sound bar for use in the great room, and mounted it on a swinging mount to the right of the fireplace, slightly above eye level I mounted a sound bar below the flat screen. It also had a wireless subwoofer paired with the sound bar. That was around 10 years ago. Last year, we upgraded to a 4K Sony flat screen that was a bit larger, and put the old set up in the basement by our pool table. I also got another sound bar, a Sony HT-Z9F, with a wireless subwoofer and two wireless back speakers. I built speaker stands to fit the back speakers that elevated them from about 10", placing them above the back of the sofa and at ear level when sitting. There's a noticeable difference in the sound with the new set up. It's now a 5.1 system and, while it doesn't have the volume of what's in the theater, it's quite an improvement over the previous set up. I've tried it with and without the subwoofer, and the subwoofer and back speakers add to the overall effect and sound range. My wife wasn't wild about the idea of back speakers and thought about getting rid of the subwoofer, but listening to the system sold her. The back speakers are only 6"x4"x4", and aren't that intrusive. Our viewing and listening area is also limited to within 8' of the screen and speakers.

Sound bars have improved. They aren't what they used to be.


View attachment 127122
Nice. Yeah, in the past few weeks I've been leaning Sonos. I bought a Beam Gen 2 with the idea that if I hated it I could return it. Been using it for a week now in the bedroom of the apartment we're living in while we build the new house. Out of the box I found it to be unremarkable, but after the TruePlay room correction I was quite pleased with the sound quality. It's plenty loud for a bedroom, and we're definitely keeping it for use in our new master. I'm curious what it will sound like with a Sub, so that's now on order along with an Arc since my experience with the Beam Gen 2 has been positive enough to give its big brother an audition. I'm still concerned about "no replacement for displacement" and the width of the front soundstage, but our foundation is poured now and I'm getting a better sense for just how big or small the space really is. I'm starting to feel confident that a quality modern sound bar might just be good enough. Reasonably good sound quality aside, I really like the Sonos app/ecosystem and am envisioning the potential for a greatly simplified setup that will hide surrounds in the ceiling by way of the Arc + Amp combination. We'll see when the Arc gets here if I'm impressed enough to make the additional investment, or if the Arc goes back and we give the Sennheiser Ambeo a shot.

I might still put some "attractive to the wife" bookshelves in the living area and just dedicate them to music duty. Might even use the Sonos Amp for that, too. It seems to be a really good little 2.1 channel power amp for folks who do mostly audio streaming and only need a few inputs for other sources. I really wish someone would make a home theater receiver on the principals that power supply and amplification are more important than still giving me multiples of input types I haven't needed since 2003. Maybe no one else is as put off as I am about the busy backsides of modern receivers, but there is an unnecessary arms race going on there and I haven't needed component video inputs in a very long time. In the Sonos setup I'm envisioning, I would rely on the TV to switch between HDMI sources. All the audio equipment needs is an eARC port.
 

Wardog555

Stunt Coordinator
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Jan 6, 2022
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Real Name
Fraser
Lower the tv for starters. And never over a fireplace. You haven't or your not aware that this has serious cons. Looking up too high and cranking the neck up. Center placement issues.

I would highly suggest having no fireplace if that's your only placement.

And the suggestions for a soundbar is a hell no. I bet those people haven't heard a real system before.

For speaker placement follow these guidelines.

 
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