Home > Home Theater Screens > The Death Of The Dedicated Media Room and Why What Comes Next Is Even More E…

The Death Of The Dedicated Media Room and Why What Comes Next Is Even More E…

It makes sense to want more options for your home theater so you can do more in it and with it.

via HomeTheaterReview.com by Jerry Del Colliano on 4/8/11


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A good friend of mine who is an admitted audiophile and the former owner of Evett and Shaw loudspeakers from Utah, always talked about how “anti-social” home theater systems were. He noted that you and your wife have two other couples over for dinner and a movie; by the time that you all are in the theater – the lights are basically off, everyone is pointed towards the screen and laser-focused on the screen. You are not really interacting with each other (other than the occasional laugh out loud joke or whiz-bang effect), you are just sharing a dark moment in a room. His argument was that those same people could sit in a living room with a top-level audiophile system and enjoy music, a cocktail or two as well as meaningful, thoughtful conversation. To Craig, this was much more social and much more valuable.

Additional Resources
• Find more original content in our Feature News section.
• Read Andrew Robinson’s guide to building a room.
• Learn about another new trend in home theater: 2.1 speaker surround sound.

The idea of the dedicated media room or home theater is now a standard part of many very expensive homes. Loaded with design concepts from the old days, dedicated home theaters aren’t always tuned in to the ways that people enjoy music, movies, HDTV and other media. For example, years ago when CRT projectors were the only way to get a big image on a screen – you needed a very dark room to make even a reasonable image. Today’s new light rejecting screen materials make it such that even with an affordable projector (well below $10,000), you can have beaming video with the lights on at a pretty good clip. I saw a demonstration at this past CEDIA of a DNP Supernova screen that was just fantastic as it made a hell of an image while taking direct light from a sodium light above in the rafters. SI, Stewart Filmscreen and others are also in the light rejecting screen game. Thus today it is possible to watch really fantastic video in a room that isn’t pitch black. Is the video better in a fully darkened room? There is no question this is the case, however people aren’t always in the mood for the full experience in a dedicated room. They have other things going on but they also want to enjoy their AV systems.

In the audiophile world, many a joke has been made about “listening with your head in a vice,” in a room with “speaker cables propped up on saw horses.” Amps on the floor, one ideal seating position, equipment everywhere with ugly room treatments make for an experience designed for performance but not for anyone other than the audiophile collector. His time (let’s face it: women just don’t listen to music like this) is spent alone. As Craig pointed out above – somewhat anti-social. While Dark Side of the Moon might sound better with the lava lamp lit along with a roach in the clip (not that HomeTheaterReview.com condones drug use outside of medical use), it’s pretty much of an anti-social experience.

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The Media Room of The Future
A few weeks ago at the suggestion of a top loudspeaker manufacturer, I had a meeting with acoustic designer, Anthony Grimani. His home theater acoustical designs can only really be described as over-the-top. He builds custom solutions that can soundproof a room and/or deal with physical anomalies of a media room in ways that look acceptable to real-world (albeit wealthy) clients – but also seriously perform. Over a glass of wine (Peter Michael Belle Cote Chardonnay) and sitting in front of my living room system we discussed how people are allocating the real estate inside of their theaters differently. More and more often clients are dumping the rows of stadium seat theater seating for L-shaped sofas. They are adding game tables and movable seating that can be positioned for bigger screenings. They are using larger screens designed to work in ambient light and beyond. The result is a room that can be used more often than just for the serious, lights-out screening. Consumers are building small kitchens and bars into the rooms and using the rooms more for entertaining than for focused viewing. In a way, Anthony is overcoming Craig’s objection from nearly two decades ago, thanks to excellence in design and architecture as well as new technologies available today that simply weren’t around years ago.

Read more about the future of the dedicated room on Page 2.
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The Audiophile Room of the Future
For some audiophiles (and audiophile companies), the idea of perfectly spaced, floorstanding speakers parked away from the side and rear walls will always be the norm. I, for one, will not make fun of it as I appreciate a well tuned, highly dialed-in audiophile room as much as the next guy, but there are new technologies that are changing the way we listen, much as light-rejecting screens and ultra-bright digital projectors have changed the dedicated home theater. For one, audiophiles are using more and more computers as sources with Apple leading the way. With most good, local record stores now gone the way of the Dodo bird, many of us look to sources like Rhapsody, Pandora and Internet radio for new music. Relational databases can follow what you listen to in your music system and make suggestions (some good and some bad) that you can fine tune with the click of a remote. No turntable can do this but you do need some form of video monitor to control the system. That’s just fact. Today’s HDTVs come packed with these streaming applications so they tend to make sense. Other installations include smaller computer monitors installed in the equipment rack for control with a Mac Mini, an Apple TV or some other computer based source.

Unlike years past, the idea of truly audiophile grade in-wall speakers is finally realistic. The owner of the legendary, Miami-based Sound Components audiophile showroom, is successfully upgrading his big ticket customers with huge audiophile speakers to room corrected, bi-amped, 100 dB efficient Wisdom Audio speakers all over his area. Due to the massive improvement in DSP technology and in-wall speakers – you can actually install speakers in places that in the past would have made an audiophile cringe, yet get just as good (if not better) results. While Wisdom Audio speakers are very pricey and install-driven, there are other options like the PSB in-walls that are made from the company’s top of the line speaker system but never touch your floor. Sonance’s Architectural speakers look and sound very good while having no baffle. Paradigm and Noble Fidelity have excellent in-wall and in-ceiling speakers that allow for any number of creative solutions that would have been unthinkable years ago.

The way we interact with our technology is changing – just ask anyone with an iPad. This paradigm shift is also affecting the way we are interacting with our music and movies. While we must be mindful of selling out HD quality for Apple-style convenience – there are new ways that technology can help make the rooms that we dedicate for our AV passions work better in our lives.

Additional Resources
• Find more original content in our Feature News section.
• Read Andrew Robinson’s guide to building a room.
• Learn about another new trend in home theater: 2.1 speaker surround sound.

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Categories: Home Theater Screens
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