Eric's Home Theater
and DIY Audio Projects
My home theater project began a long time ago with nothing but an interest in high-end audio. After years of reading, learning, and building (a little bit at a time), my 7.1 channel home theater is enormously satisfying and a great deal of fun for the entire family! What you see above is the painted projection screen, the front array of speakers, and some of the acoustic room treatments. With the curtains "closed" as you see above, the 16:9 aspect ratio (the standard for high-definition television) screen provides a 10-foot image area. Opening the curtains reveals a 12-foot 2.40:1 aspect ratio (the Panavision standard used in many theatrical movie releases) viewing area. The projector is a Panasonic AE4000u that provides a native 1920x1080 high definition image that is just amazing! Without a doubt, the best feature of the Panasonic projector is that it senses the movies' aspect ratio and automatically adjusts the zoom so the image always fills the entire screen (constant height image). The grille-cloth frames that flank each side of the center speaker (you almost can't see them in the image above) hide the infinite baffle subwoofer. The sub is the real star of the show when it's movie time and features incredible output all of the way down to 7Hz! A Marantz AV8003 pre-amplifier handles all of the surround sound decoding and provides delicate finesse to both music and movie soundtracks as well as tons of operational flexibility. Finally, what theater is complete without enough amplifiers to trip the average circuit breaker? In total, the amps provide nearly 2,000 watts of awe-inspiring, bone-jarring, foundation-rattling audio power that induces nothing short of sheer excitement. The preamp, amplifiers, and power distribution systems are all tucked away behind the front wall of the theater. The culmination of these projects is simply amazing! Well-recorded music is reproduced with astounding holographic 3D imaging that makes you think the vocalist is standing before you for a private performance and a layered, enveloping sound stage that is wider and deeper than the room itself. BluRay movies provide visual, auditory, and visceral experiences that completely obliterate the performance of EVERY commercial movie theater! Friends tell me that watching movies in my theater has destroyed their subsequent movie-going experiences. Sorry guys...
The links below describe each of the theater's main components.
My Do-It-Yourself Theater Components:
Other DIY Projects:
Antique Radio Restoration:
Friends don't let friends buy Bose!
The actual performance of Bose speaker systems does not live up to their ultra-premium price tag. As we all know, high price does not guarantee a product is of high quality (though it does generate attention). An appropriate analogy is paying for filet mignon and a glass of cabernet and receiving a hamburger and a beer. Both will satisfy your hunger (not to mention how many people -including myself- enjoy a burger and a beer)but there is clearly a difference in the experience. Follow the links below to find out why your money is better spent on a better brand:
If you are genuinely interested in putting together a truly first class audio system, have a look through the links on this page and consider building something yourself!
Exceptionally high quality audio at a (small) fraction of the retail price!
Some time ago, I came across the following passage concerning DIY audio. I was amused to the point where I have shamelessly duplicated part of Frederick Farzanegan's musings here:
One of the obstacles to true enlightenment in the audio-visual realm is the WAF. The Wife Acceptance Factor. All guys know that the correct-sized speaker is actually floor to ceiling. This ideal speaker should also have spikes and razor sharp edges to keep people from getting to close (for their own safety). A well-designed speaker will also have lots of LED lights which blink depending on which of 17 different crossovers are activated (floor to ceiling, remember- you think it'll just be a 3-way?). Even the audio purist wants these LEDs because he'll just close his eyes when listening to music. These speakers, since they'll last a lifetime, should cost the equivalent of a college education.
But, that's when the WAF comes in. The Wife will often talk about insignificant topics like decor, and style- they'll even go so far as to complain that the spikes and razor edges on the speaker are a (get this) hazard to guests, children and pets (when you very well know, it is the speakers that are at risk!). Then we hear about budget and that the equivalent money of a college education should actually pay for college!
This 'WAF' is the reason most guys end up with a pair of bookshelf speakers meant to look like a potted plant or other such nonsense.
Which brings us to the IB sub. This is one place that you can do what you want... since the speakers are outside the actual viewing area- the Wife doesn't know that there's actually 12 drivers in the basement. Or that one of you speakers is bigger than a CRT projector. As far as cost- you can start for pretty cheap- just build your manifold to hold the number of drivers you want and then add on. The cost is better than a lot of box subs- which *violate* WAF because they take up space in the room. And, when building it, you're doing stuff around the house. Oh, and you can put all the LEDs on it you want. But, as shown above, it'll probably have a cover over it.
I've noticed over the past 15 years or so that most high-end retail stereo items have their prices marked up nearly 1000% over the cost of the actual components and materials. Typically, stereo gear sold by Sears, Circuit City, Best Buy, or any other chain-type store does not qualify as "high-end stereo." This means that if you spend $1000 on a pair of speakers in a typical retail store (a fairly large investment for what you would presume is a decent quality speaker), you are typically getting less than $100 dollars worth of individual speakers drivers and crossover components inside the speaker box! In order to better understand the difference between an "average pair of speakers" found in the mall and audiophile grade speakers, here is one place to start... Similarly, a $2000 receiver (again, what you would assume to be a high quality piece) would typically contain about $200 worth of actual parts. The rest is research & design costs, marketing costs, profit margins, etc. So I have decided that from now on, I will build (most of) what I want myself.
In keeping with this Do-It-Yourself philosophy, I have built several Class A amplifiers (Pass Labs designs), a few speakers, and have even built my own pure silver interconnects and speaker wires. The links above detail my efforts and the sources of these projects. The DIYAUDIO banner above has an entire forum dedicated to designing and building Pass Labs amps.
If you are at all interested in DIY tube audio, you might want to check out some budget 300B and 2A3 based designs by GabeVelez. If you want to spend some serious money on DIY tube projects, Andrea Ciuffoli's web page is definitely worth a look. Other manufacturers of tube amps & kits include Bottle Head, Decware, and Wright. These low-powered tube amps (3-10 watts per channel) are well suited for very high efficiency speakers (97dB+ 1W/1m).
My first REAL do-it-yourself project was constructed a few years ago: a homemade subwoofer. It is based on an Audiomobile (now defunct) Mass 2012 S24 driver in a 135L vented enclosure tuned to 19Hz. For under $500 complete, it is quite capable of making large concrete slabs resonate, and I will put it up against any subwoofer costing up to $2000 in the retail market. Measurements reveal flat response down to approximately 17Hz in room. For those of you without a subwoofer, you'd be surprised how much of a difference a real subwoofer can make! If its not BIG and its not HEAVY, its not a REAL SUB... While this may sound like the "bigger is better" mantra that many people seem to despise, there are specific principles of physics and acoustics that simply dictate low bass does not come from little boxes with little drivers and small amplifiers.
After constructing a home made amp and sub, I needed a new pair of speakers to go with the amp. I built a speaker designed by Tony Gee in the Netherlands, the HATT. This is a small, vented bookshelf speaker with a series crossover. I was pleasantly surprised that this little wonder outperformed my Atlantic Technology AT350 speakers - the drivers in the HATT cost several times those in the System 350...
The HATT speaker project was a valuable learning experience that allowed me to tackle some more complex projects. If you feel really ambitious and have both time and money to burn, have a look at some of the excellent designs from folks like Tony Gee and Troels Gravesen that have been attracting a great deal of attention on the web. If you are trying to choose the appropriately sized speaker project for your tastes, be sure to check out Troels' "Choice" link - there is a huge quantity of great information there!
Finally, if you liked some of the tube amp designs listed above, you might want to learn about some high efficiency speakers such as those from Lowther (single-driver full-range kits are available through PHY-HP), Zu Audio, Great Plains Audio, and Dave's Frugal Horn designs.
Audio & Video Web Forums:
Check the links below for discussion on Equipment, Movies, and Related Topics