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New Media Room

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Michael Downee, Feb 3, 2002.

  1. Michael Downee

    Michael Downee Auditioning

    Feb 2, 2002
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    I am about to start finishing out my basement. One area will be a media room and I would like some advise on what to do. First, some basics on the room.

    It is 16 X 18.5', with an 8' ceiling (there will be about 1' available above the ceiling tiles). The room is on the house foundation, with the front and left side walls also being foundation. The right and back walls will be wood frame. Above the media room is the house main floor, Living Room Dining Room and Kitchen. Sound proofing may be an issue.

    I think I want a front projection unit (HDTV quality), installed in the ceiling, and obviously a screen. I would prefer to have flush mounted speakers in the walls (subwoofer on floor is OK). I have no AV equipment whatsover, so this is truely a "greenfield" operation.

    Budget...Realistically, I am ready to spend $8K, but that will be very painful. I am willing to buy used/reconditioned equipment.

    I am also planning a good sized built in desk on the left wall/corner. This may be a stupid assumption/question, but I want to view my PC screen on the projector when I want. I have cable (do not have Direct TV capable lot...too many very large trees). I have DSL, for what that's worth.

    I have at least 5GB of MP3's that I would like to play from my computer to the sound system.

    That's it! Any advise you can provide would be appreciated!


  2. Vince Maskeeper

    Vince Maskeeper Producer

    Jan 18, 1999
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    Welcome to the forum!
    First the bad news: As you have outlined, I think it might be tough to do on 8k. I will throw out suggestions as best I can to cut a few bucks off the budget, but Front Projection HDTV with audio system, starting from scratch might be a tough sell at 8k.
    First, I would say since you're interested in switching your PC screen to your projector... it might be worth you while to looking to the idea of HTPC.
    Many people use their PC as a DVD player, scaler and MP3 playback machine. My Home Theater is built around a 1.4g Athlon system that serves as my DVD player (via a pioneer slot load DVD drive and a Radeon video card), it serves as a scaler (allowing me to scale outboard sources like Video Games and VHS to 1024x768 for the projector, using a simple input card and a free program called Dscaler), and it serves as an excellent MP3 jukebox. I also can use it to play cds, surf the net, show slideshows of image files, play VCDs and more.
    I don't know the specs on your current machine- but it is possible that you could fit it with hardware and make it a HTPC. Depending on what else you want it to do- this might be a good budget solution (keep in mind that most HTPC users find their machine runs better if you keep the majority of office type applications off of it... so you'll have to judge based on what you want to do).
    Even if your current machine is not up to par- if you're comfortable with computers you can build a machine for $1000-$1500 and that will serve as a DVD player and scaler- and provide better picture quality to a projector than a DVD player/SCaler combo for the same price.
    For the projector, well this is where it gets tricky. HDTV is a pretty high scan rate-- one that the majority of projectors cannot fully and properly resolve. For example I have a small DLP projector, and while it "accepts" 1080i HDTV signal, it downsamples it to the projector's native resolution. This is what happens on many/most projectors.
    Right now, there is a big market of used projectors- specifically CRTs (the 3 gun type). However, long story short, CRTs come in 2 flavors: 7 inch guns and 9 inch guns... and 7 inchers really cannot resolve HDTV properly (like my DLP). Many people still use them, but technically speaking many 7 inchers can accept the scan rate, but can't fully resolve the resolution.
    You might have to settle for downsampled HDTV on that budget because the desire to do HDTV fully really limits your choices to 9 inch CRT or a newer LCD/DLP model which can do HDTV properly.
    9 inch CRTs are not all that common used, and even when you find them- expect that your entire 8K budget will be required to buy one (probably more depnding on the projector!). What's more, the crt projectors are not small- and usually have at least a foot of height to them- coupled with your 8 foot ceilings, might take your headroom down to under 7 feet- which is not all that appealing.
    LCD/DLP/DILA projectors can be found used- but most used ones are a few years old and also aren't fully equipped for HDTV resolution. You're pretty much stuck with going with a mid range new projector- and again you're looking down the barrel of $4k.
    I have the NEC LT-150 in my theater, which runs just a hair over $2,100. This is considered a "budget" model projector- and again cannot properly resolve HDTV resoltions.
    I would recommend checking out some info both here, on the avs forum (www.avsforum.com) and on Projector Central (http://www.projectorcentral.com/).
    Avsforum is very good for front projection and HTPC information- but highly technical. I would suggest doing some searches and start taking notes- you should be able to narrow down what projectors fit your needs pretty quickly. Read-Read-Read! There is plenty of free info at your fingertips on AVS and Here, but you have to do searches and take the time to read and learn.
    Projector Central has a very good projector database:
    it covers LCD and DLP type projectors. Remember though, that HDTV compatibility on their list doesn't necessarily mean it will be displaying it properly (they list the 3M MP7640i as HDTV compatible when it can only do 800x600 resolution!)
    Some popular projectors for Home theater are the Sony VW10HT, Sony VW11HT, NEC LT-150, NEC LT-150z... which can all accept HDTV, but I know the NEC downsamples it (Sony looks like it does too, but someone who owns one might be able to better talk about that).
    So, after you spend $3-4k on a projector- you can cut corners by building your own screen (again, check AVS for info on that)-- depending on the size you want to go- you can build a nice screen afforably. Mine is about 70 inches wide 16:9 and the whole thing cost me $30. Unfortunately, the method I used would be impossible for anything bigger that 72 inches wide or so.
    You now need an audio system- again you could buy used. I'd suggest Denon products from a few years ago (the AVR3300 is still a great receiver and can be had for under $500-- this is what I'm using)-- you could also keep your eyes out for Pioneer Elite or Onkyo from a generation or two ago-- just make sure it does Dolby and DTS decoding at minimum.
    Speakers, you said you want "in walls"- which I would recommend against. They look nice, but usually compromise sound greatly. What's the use in having a pretty room if the system isn't working as well as it should? You might try searching for more info on In-wall or flush mounting speakers, and some people might offer other info. I personally hate them.
    I always recommend Paradigm for "bang for the buck" speakers. Finding them used might be tough, but as I've suggested a million times: find someone in Canada to buy Paradigm for you... they are cheaper up there, and with the exchange rate you can get them for 60 cents on the dollar of what they would cost to buy in the states. I find that new prices from Canada, even after shipping, are lower than what most people from the USA want for USED paradigm!
    Complete Paradigm monitor series speaker system will probably run you $1500-$2000 depending on the models you choose- if you import from Canada (expect $2000+ if you buy in the states).
    Subwoofer, well SVS is king around here (http://www.svsubwoofers.com). Figure $1000 for sub and amp combo- might be able to buy one used as many have popped up lately (you can pick up a smaller passive one for under $400, and then buy an amp).
    Then, unless you use your PC or build a HTPC- you will need a DVD player: figure the popular Panasonic RP91, which is right about $400-$425. You might be able to find the excellent Panasonic RV-80 machine used for under $250- and then couple it with a line doubler/scaler.
    Then, unless you use your PC or build a HTPC- you will need a scaler to line double standard NTSC sources (VHS, Non progressive DVD, Cable) to a better resolution for your projector. I would say the minimum scaler would be the ISCAN PRO, figure $650+, maybe less if you can find one used (there was one listed for $550 in for sale).
    So, again- you might see where HDTV front projection on an 8k budget gets hairy-- when you have to spend 4K on just the projector- it leaves little room for anything else.
    Others might have some opinions on this so hopefully they will post- but remember that you are just getting started- so go slow and research.
    You can make a dollar go a long way if you're smart and don't rush into a purchase. Do your homework and start figuring out the various options available to you, and equipment you will need (HTPC vs No-HTPC, What is a scaler?, Projector types like LCD/DILA/DLP/CRT, Cabling needed and how to switch sources, Video formats NTSC/HDTV/VGA/ETC).
    A lot of your questions are tough to bite off on one chunk-- so feel free to post followups.
  3. Scott Hayes

    Scott Hayes Second Unit

    Oct 2, 2001
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    I kow how it is to be on a budget with an expensive hobby. Although I wasnt building a media room, I live in an apartment, I did have to spend some money on sound treatment for the room and also to buy my gear.

    Many A/V dealers sell used equipment, sometimes you can get fantastic deals, particularly if you buy a few things from the same dealer. Shop the floor models at Tweeter. I got a great deal on an excellent dvd player that way. Just remember, buyer beware, but most reputable dealers will back up there merchandise even if it is sold used.

    Like Vince said you cant go wrong with Paradigm. My father runs those speakers and for what he paid you cant beat the sound. I feel the same way about Polk Audio which is what I have. IMO Polk is a half step below the Paradigm, they are great quality speakers for what you pay for them. In a few years I will more than likely end up getting Paradigm speakers though.

    Although a projector may be the way to go if you can afford it you could cut some cost by going with a RPTV. This is what I had to do. I wanted a projector in the worst way, but I would have had to cut money in the sound depatment which was something I did not want to do. I ended up getting a Mitsubishi 46" hdtv which I am very happy with. I am saving and one day I will get a projector but for now I love my rptv.

    Good luck. The key to building on a budget is research, research and more research so you get the biggest bang for your buck possible.

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