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HDTV Projection Screens – The Good, the Bad, and the Lumpy

March 21, 2011 Leave a comment
Watch movies the way they were made to be seen!!! Get a Home Theater Screen!!!
 

 

 

via HD Guru by Geoff Morrison on 3/21/11


Stewart Filmscreen Cabaret Drop-down screen

A few days ago I wrote an article espousing the virtues of front projection. I am an unabashed fan and hopelessly biased towards PJs. But to get the best performance out of a projector, you’re going to need a screen.

And this is the point where I lose the audience.

Still with me? Screens may seem boring, and there’s a lot to learn, but if you’re spending any amount of money on a projector you owe it to yourself to get a screen that lets you get the most from your new purchase.

 

Size (That’s What She Said)
The first thing to determine is how large a screen you can fit in your room. A custom installer (if you go that route) can fine tune it, but getting a rough idea is always a good, um, idea.

I’d recommend starting with a 100-inch diagonal 16×9 screen. This is a pretty average size for a screen, it’s large enough to give a “damn that’s a big TV” feeling while still being “small” enough to let you use any projector to create a bright image. This will mean a screen that’s roughly 87-inches wide, and 49-inches tall. You’ll need some space on the top and bottom (and maybe sides if you have a narrow room) depending on the frame, but we’ll get to that later.

If you want a wider-than-widescreen, 2.35 or 2.40:1, I’d still recommend starting with 49-inches tall, as you want to make sure that what you’re going to be watching most (16×9 material) is still large. This will depend on your room, of course.

For me, I have a 120-inch (ok 117.5) wide 2:35:1 screen, which means TV watching is about 102-inches.

The major determining factor in how tall of a screen you can fit (and by extension, how wide) is how far from the floor you want the bottom of the image. Too low, and it’s going to look weird. Too high and you’ll waste space. You want enough room below the screen to fit a center channel, but not so much as the center of the image is way above your seated eye line. Again here a 49 or 50-inch tall screen should fit nicely in a room with an 8-foot ceiling.

(We are living in a) Material (World)

Screen Research ClearPix
Screen material is your next choice. These days, with most projectors, screen material is often just personal preference than any necessity based on the technology. In the early days of digital projection, the black levels were so poor that screen companies developed “grey” screens that made it seem like the black levels were better. This isn’t strictly necessary anymore. Most projectors have black levels that are at least decent enough that they’re not distracting. As I mentioned in the PJ article, some offer better black levels than then vaunted KURO plasmas.

Vutec SilverStarPositive gain screens are the opposite. They focus the light so more light bounces towards the seating area, and less is scattered towards the walls, ceiling, and floor. While this may seem like a good thing (and in some cases, it is), keep in mind the black level is going to go up with a high-gain screen. Also, very high gain screens can have a hot spot, where the center of the image is noticeably brighter than the edges. People sitting off to the side will also enjoy a dimmer image, with more light being focused on the main seats.

Screen Research ClearPix2 woven screen materialIn a large install, its desirable to place speakers behind the screen. Not only is this aesthetically pleasing, but it allows voices and sound effects to come directly from the screen (like a movie theater). This is possible because of perf, or perforated, screens. Millions of tiny holes that let the sound pass through reasonably unmolested. Pretty much all perf screens these days have holes that are small enough that they won’t interact with the pixels from a projector. You will lose a little overall light output though. A version of the perf screen is a woven screen (like those from Screen Research, Screen Excellence, and SI).

Slide Up, Slide Down, Slide Stationary
Vutec Lectric I 169 Motorized Projection ScreenThe ultimate in cool is an electric drop-down screen. Hidden in a ceiling or in a nondescript hosing, the screen remains rolled up and out of sight until you need it. Certainly more pricy than fixed screens, electric screens allow you to use the room for other things than watching movies.

What’s quite common now is a low cost LCD/plasma for daytime viewing, with the screen coming down at night for movies and serious TV viewing. Granted this adds $700-$1,000 to the total cost of the system (plus an HDMI D/A), but if you’re contemplating a drop-down screen, this money won’t likely break the bank.

An alternate version of the drop-down screen is the drop, well, up screen, where the housing lives on or in the floor, and the screen rises up.

(Another Brick in the) Walls
The color of whatever walls you can see when you’re watching the screen affects what you perceive on the screen. In other words, if you have a bright red wall, the image on screen will appear to have less red in it. This is true for TVs too, by the way. Ideally the wall around the screen will be a neutral color, like gray, but any mild color is better than something bright.

On a Budget
Can’t swing spending much money on a screen? There are options. Some DIYers will tell you to just paint a wall, or use some goo to create a reflective surface. If you want to go this route, I doubt I could talk you out of it. I won’t, however, recommend it. The main reason is that the screen surface is visible, it is part of the image. If you’re using a screen, then in most cases you won’t notice it. If you’re using a wall, every little imperfection, paint stroke, and most importantly texture is going to be visible when watching a movie. It can look… well, lumpy.

There are so many low-cost options available, I don’t understand the desire to paint a wall. Here’s a sampling of what I found on Amazon.

Vutec Lectric I 16:9 Motorized Projection Screen – $576.02 (38% off)

Elite Screens EzFrame Fixed Frame Projection Screen – $429.39 (46% off)

Elite Screens ER120WH1 120″ Diagonal Sable Frame Series Screen – $320.09 (32% off)

Draper Accuscreens 92″ Diagonal Electric Wall/Ceiling Screen – $260.10 (36% off)

Vutec Silver Star 110″ Diagonal Fixed Frame Projection Screen – $1,905.32 (13% off)

Setup. Begin enjoyment… now!
All screens are going to have an effect on the color temperature of the projector. If you’re buying the two at the same time, then this isn’t a big deal. When you calibrate the projector it will be part of a “system” with the screen. But if you change screens, you’ll need to re-calibrate. It may just be a subtle shift, but if you’re looking for the most accurate image possible (aren’t we all?) then this is something to keep in mind.

Now that I’ve scared you off with over a 1,200 words of screen info, let me close with this, there is nothing better than a projector for watching movies and TV at home. Nothing. If you can make it work, you’ll never regret it. You’ll also never go back to a lowly, boring “TV.”

More Resources

Stewart Filmscreen (world renowned, made entirely in the US, highly recommended)
Da-Lite (great screens and resources for choosing screens and sizes)
Elite (great value and options)
Vutec (Silverstar high-gain screen)
Screen Research (Acoustically transparent woven screen)
Screen Excellence (Acoustically transparent woven screen)
SI Screens (Black Diamond screen claims to be watchable with ambient light)
Draper (Not Don. In business since 1902)

 

—Geoff Morrison

 

Notice To Our Readers

HD Guru extends our sympathies to the victims and their families of the disasters in Japan.  HD Guru, through our Amazon Associates program will contribute one dollar to the Red Cross Relief Fund for every product ordered by our readers via our Amazon links  through April 16, 2011. You can participate by ordering from Amazon via their side banner ad on this page or through one of our Amazon product links.

To aid victims of the Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami with a direct contribution, here is a link to the  Red Cross Relief Website.

 

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Copyright ©2011 HD Guru Inc. All rights reserved. HDGURU is a registered trademark.

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3D Home Theater Features 180-inch Screen

March 13, 2011 Leave a comment
180 inch screen!!! WOW!!! That’s awesome!!!


A family turns their basement into a 3D cinema with a DPI Titan.

LED Lighting Makes Home Theater Shine

March 11, 2011 Leave a comment


A combination of LED accent lights and a fiber-optic star ceiling help distinguish this theater.

Hawaiian Home With a Galactic Theater

Nice Galaxy!


The owners of this Hawaiian beach house enjoy one-button activation of all things important, including a theater that’s out of this world.

GIK Acoustics’ Tri-Trap, Monster Bass Trap and 242 Acoustic Panels Reviewed

January 17, 2011 Leave a comment
Treating your room as a component of your home theater and setting it up correctly can make a huge difference in the level of enjoyment you get from a sound aspect. “Nothing impacts your system’s sound, good or bad, more than your room and the placement of your speakers and your primary listening position within it.” Even better when you can do it in a relatively inexpensive way!!! 

 

 

via HomeTheaterReview.com by Andrew Robinson on 12/22/10


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It’s a well-known fact that high-end audio reproduction begins not with the quality of your equipment but rather with the quality of your room. While this is common knowledge among audiophiles and home theater enthusiasts alike, few people do little to treat their rooms, instead opting for that trick interconnect or power cable in the hopes of correcting what they can clearly hear is a problem. Some go so far as to change out their equipment, be it their source components, amps or speakers several times a year, because they can’t seem to find a “sweet spot” in terms of sonic performance. Others have left their beloved hobby altogether. How many of these people could’ve been saved? How many budgets could’ve stayed on target, if we weren’t so afraid of room treatments? We may never know.

Your Room as a Component
Nothing impacts your system’s sound, good or bad, more than your room and the placement of your speakers and your primary listening position within it. A well thought out and acoustically sound room can make a $2,000 system sound like a $20,000 one, whereas a poorly laid out room can make a $20,000 dollar system sound like a $20 boom box. It’s important you think of your room like a component instead of a box for all your toys to live in.

I recently moved into a new home and like my previous dwelling, knew that I would require a room that could serve double duty as both my wife’s and my primary living as well as reference two-channel and home theater space. My previous reference room was less than ideal, forcing me to use room treatments as well as copious amounts of digital and analog EQ in order to reign in the sound to my liking. While I was able to achieve suitable results, the room came together at a considerable cost – the final tally being north of $15,000 before a single piece of equipment was ever purchased.

This time around I didn’t have the financial means to drop fifteen large on my room; instead I had a much more realistic budget of $2,000 to play with. So, with that in mind, I made sure that the room itself was going to be conducive to quality sound reproduction long before I began building a system within it. My old room was wider than it was long and thanks to a wall full of windows, it forced me to build my system along the short wall for an almost nearfield-like configuration. That, and it was within two feet of being completely square … ouch. Square rooms or rooms that share equal dimensions can compound acoustic problems and nodes and should be avoided at all costs. My new room is more ideally suited for proper two-channel playback and home theater enjoyment, being longer than it is wide without either of the two dimensions being multiples or proportionate to one another. The final dimensions of my room are 16-feet wide by 23-feet long with nine-foot ceilings.

Once I had the dimensions of the room, I was able to discern where my primary listening position would be, for it was the area with the flattest response (without treatments), which was approximately 13 feet from my front wall or roughly 60 percent of the way into the room. From there I drew an equilateral triangle (using masking tape) on the floor to determine where my left and right mains would rest to ensure proper stereo imaging. I ended up placing my left and right speakers eight feet apart and eight feet from my primary listening position, which in turn meant they rested approximately two feet out from the front wall and four feet from their respected side walls.

With my speakers and listening position setup in this manner, I had solid stereo imaging with rich, deep bass and a fairly liquid and intelligible midrange; however I knew there was a lot of focus, control and refinement that could be extracted from my setup with the addition of some room treatments.

For more information about basic room acoustics, speaker setup tips and terms check out these pages www.gikacoustics.com/education.html or www.decware.com/newsite/room.html.

Enter GIK Acoustics
After weeks of researching affordable acoustic treatments online, I settled on GIK Acoustics (pronounced G-I-K not “gick”), an Internet-direct company dedicated to making affordable, décor friendly acoustic solutions. I reached out to GIK via their website seeking advice as to which products they recommended. Within 24 hours I received a return e-mail from Bryan Pape, GIK’s chief acoustical designer and consultant. Bryan and I setup a phone call a few days later to go over my room, setup and equipment – a service that GIK offers every customer free of charge.

During my hour long conversation with Bryan, he determined, sight unseen, that what my room needed was some of GIK’s Tri-Traps for the corners of my front wall as well as two Monster Bass Traps for my back wall, since Tri-Traps were not feasible. Together these products would smooth out my bass response, which prior to their arrival was deep but lacked focus and ultimate detail. Bryan later suggested that I add two GIK 242 Acoustic panels behind my speakers to help with high frequency flutter around the speakers themselves. Bryan recommended that I start with these products first, then add to the setup if need be or as funds allowed – a sales position I’ve rarely seen from any audio or home theater company, which was as refreshing as it was appreciated.

Once we had determined what products would be needed, the next thing I had to decide was what color to chose. GIK Acoustic products are offered in a wide variety of standard fabric colors, which include Black, Off-White, Bright Red, Bright Blue, Hunter Green and Coffee. GIK Acoustic products can also be ordered in a variety of custom colors from Gulliford of Maine, some of which include Baltic (Navy Blue-ish), Aquamarine, Black, Silver Papier, Deep Burgundy, Bone (Cream) and Lilac. For that added touch of class – or in many cases stealth – GIK Acoustic products can also be made to order with your own art print, for what GIK calls an ArtPanel. Of course going with either the Gulliford of Maine or ArtPanel options adds a bit to the price but from what I’ve seen, the cost appears well worth it.

Once I settled on a color (Off-White for my room) the order was placed and the panels arrived roughly ten days later. The total cost? $873.96 plus shipping, more than a thousand dollars under budget. Not bad.

Tri-Traps, Monster Bass Panels and 242 Acoustic Panels in Detail
The GIK Acoustic products arrived in short order via five large boxes courtesy of the “throwers” at Fed-Ex. I quickly unpacked the various products and gave them a once over starting with GIK’s Tri-Traps.

The Tri-Trap is a free-standing, corner mounted bass trap that absorbs frequencies from 50Hz down to 5,000Hz, helping create a more balanced room overall, while dealing with problem bass nodes that collect in the corners of your room. The Tri-Traps retail for $129 each and are shipped two per box for a total of $258. They measure two feet wide by four feet tall and weigh somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 to 40 pounds apiece. They are available in all of the above-mentioned colors and are finished with plastic tops and bottoms to aide in stacking. For my room I purchased four Tri-Traps so that I could stack them one on top of the other in each of my corners along my front wall.

Next up was the Monster Bass Trap, which is a two foot wide by four foot tall and six-inch deep acoustical panel, designed to deal with bass nulls and spikes with a 3.0 absorption coefficient at 80Hz. The Monster Bass Trap retails for $118.99 each and ships one per box and can be had in GIK’s standard colors as well as any of the above-mentioned custom finishes, including the ArtPanel. The Monster Bass Traps can also be ordered with hard wood frames and stands for an additional $49.99 each. The optional hardwood finishes include Blonde Maple, Brown Maple and Cherry Maple.

Lastly, I unpacked the 242 Acoustic Panel, which is designed to tame high frequency issues and first order reflections with absorption from 4000Hz down to 250Hz. The 242 panels are two feet wide by four feet tall and have a total thickness of two inches. They retail for $59.99 each and come in boxes of three totaling $179.97. Again, the 242 can be had in six standard finishes as well as a bevy of custom fabrics as well.

The fit and finish of the various GIK Acoustic products on hand for review had a decidedly hand-made quality to them, though don’t mistake hand-made for a DIY (although GIK will sell you the raw materials to make your own acoustic panels), for all of the edges were straight, the faces flush and the corners sharp. The standard Off-White fabric had a nice quality look to it and complimented my room’s warm color pallette nicely.

Finally, all GIK Acoustic products are independently tested at the Riverbank Acoustical Laboratories and their findings can be readily found on GIK’s own website.

The Hookup
Once the GIK Acoustic products passed initial inspection, I went about installing them in my room, beginning with the corners located along my front wall. I stacked two Tri-Traps, one atop another, making for an eight-foot tall tower of bass controlling power. I used small tabs of Velcro on the inside edges to ensure a shake free installation in the event of a Southern California earthquake. Next I mounted the 242 Acoustic Panels behind my left and right speakers using 50 pound, self drilling, drywall anchors form Lowes. The 242 Acoustic Panels come complete with heavy gauge wire that allows them to be hung just like you would a picture, which is precisely what I did. I hung them two feet up from the floor as instructed by Bryan Pape. Lastly, using the same method and anchors, I used for the 242 panels I hung the Monster Bass Traps in the center of my back wall: two feet up from the floor and approximately two inches apart from each other.

The entire installation took less than an hour and was easy enough to complete without any outside assistance, not including the hour-long phone consultation with Bryan of course. As for the rest of my system it consisted of a pair of Bowers & Wilkins 800 Series Diamond loudspeakers, a Mark Levinson No 533H three-channel amp, Mark Levinson No 326S pre-amp, AppleTV, Sony ES Blu-ray player, Cambridge Audio DAC Magic and Dish Network HD DVR with all cabling coming by way of Transparent and their Reference line of products.

Performance
I’ve reviewed products that have made me downright giddy, ones that have elicited an uncontrollable urge to grin from ear to ear with excitement. However I’ve never reviewed a product that has made me want to go back through the hundreds of reviews I’ve done in the past and label them BG (before GIK) and AG (after GIK), for the effect the Tri-Traps, Monster Bass Traps and 242 Acoustic panels had on my system’s sound was that profound. Words I often use to describe a product’s sound, be it a source component or loudspeaker, were given new meaning with the GIK Acoustic products in my room. Products that I’ve used for months and even years in some cases, were rendered anew courtesy of the GIK Acoustic treatments, for they transformed the sound of my system from “wow” to “you’ve got to be kidding.” That last quote came from my wife, who thinks every product that comes through the door sounds the same…until now.

I often use the track “Seville” from the Mission Impossible: II soundtrack (Hollywood Records) in my demos, for it’s a great test of a system’s bass performance in terms of depth, dynamics, speed and detail, not to mention balance for the thunderous footsteps of the Flamenco dancers live in stark contrast to the dueling Flamenco guitars. With the GIK Acoustic products installed, “Seville” took on a renewed focus and vigor I didn’t know it had. The rampant dance steps went from sounding like a small-scale stampede to the deliberate movements of a handful of skilled dancers. The bombastic heel to toe steps now had purpose and emotion that told a sensual story versus coming across like a thunderstorm set against some plucky Spanish guitars. The Bowers & Wilkins 800 Diamond Series’ bass possessed supreme focus and attack and reached depths I previously didn’t think were possible. Now I know that the information I heard had been present the whole time, but it was as if someone had taken an industrial sized cue-tip to my skull and cleared out the “gunk” you normally hear from an untreated room. Dynamics were off the charts, aided by a new sense of silence no doubt created by the GIK Acoustic panels’ ability to absorb the excess, fluttering sound waves that often get mistaken for “air” and “decay.” The dueling guitars were precisely placed within the soundstage and held firmly in check with their own atmosphere and space surrounding. While fast, each note and strum of the guitar was rendered with the utmost care and attention to detail versus sounding more or less like a summation of their collected efforts. I must have listened to “Seville” half a dozen times in a row before moving on, for the effect the GIK products had on my overall enjoyment of the song was incredible.

To see how the GIK Acoustic panels would impact vocals I cued up “If It Kills Me (Live at the Nokia Theater)” from Jason Mraz’s album We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things (Atlantic). The opening of the song features Mraz “tuning” for a recording session that ends in the words “still rolling?” The simple phrase uttered by Mraz was rendered so realistically that my wife came out of the bedroom and asked me “rolling what?” After a brief laugh session I got back to the review at hand. While small and intimate in nature, Mraz’s performance of “If It Kills Me” was larger than life in the sense that it went from sounding like a live recording to sounding simply live. Since my room was unable to impart much, if any, of its own character upon the music, the recorded space and its ambience was allowed to shine, transporting me to the Nokia Theater versus bringing Mraz into my living room. Mraz’s vocals were palpable in the truest sense of the word with more inflection, phrasing, breathing and emotion able to be heard and felt than ever before. There’s a scene in the Iron Man movies whereby Tony Stark’s computer sidekick Jarvis scans various mechanical creations allowing Tony to “virtually” pull them apart at will whilst still retaining their relationship to their surrounding elements. A weird analogy I know, but one that is fitting, for this is what the GIK Acoustic products (or any properly acoustically treated room) allow you to hear: each and every element is rendered faithfully, as if it was a solo performance, yet is allowed to come together in perfect harmony with the surrounding musical elements, free from aberration.

A treated room isn’t just for two-channel listening, for just because you add three or five more speakers and some digital room correction doesn’t mean you can get away with not acoustically treating your room. I went ahead and connected an Onkyo receiver I had in for review in order to test the GIK Acoustics’ home theater performance. I cued up Black Hawk Down on Blu-ray (Columbia Pictures) and for the first time in years turned OFF the AV receiver’s digital room correction, a feature I’ve relied on in the past to correct poor room acoustics.

It’s hard to put into words just how wrong a film can sound when only digitally processed in a poorly treated or untreated room. With the receiver’s Audyssey EQ set to “off” and the GIK Acoustic panels installed, the receiver, not to mention the film, took on added weight, dimension, natural separation and spaciousness. With regards to space, so much of what we’ve been told to believe about how adding extra speakers adds to the illusion of being amidst the action; all those speakers don’t amount to an enveloping experience if they’re creating a blanket of noise, one that can even muddy up the action or dialog that is happening front and center. With the GIK Acoustic panels in my room, the walls were nothing more than a visual reminder of the physical space in which I was watching the film, for the soundfield was vast both front to back and side to side, with a startling amount of information being revealed between the left and right mains than what I previously thought was there.

Dialog was crystal clear with the same “live” presence I found with vocal performances in the two-channel realm. There was a greater sense of space between the performers as well; for instance in one of the film’s more somber scenes during prayer, several of the soldiers have a conversation but none of them are remotely close to one another, with exception of Josh Hartnett’s character who roams their sanctuary freely. During this brief respite in the action, the distances between the characters and their respective dialog was more naturally conveyed than ever before. The effect was all the more impressive as Hartnett’s character traveled smoothly back and forth and laterally across the screen between the other characters’ dialog without any trace of spatial flattening or smearing.

When the action kicked into high gear it was a total assault on the senses but one that was tolerable at even higher volumes without fatigue than with digital room correction alone. The sound was still gut-wrenching and at times harsh but it was appropriate. Gunshots had far more body and resonance while explosions hit with more impact and force. As bowled over as I was by the film’s newfound sonic focus, what amazed me most was that the receiver I was using was a $500 budget piece – yet it sounded like something far costlier. A glowing observation for Onkyo no doubt, but more importantly it proved my earlier point that a properly treated room can make even modest gear sound decidedly high-end.

To see how the Audyssey EQ would respond in a treated room versus one without acoustic treatments, I did a series of tests. When used in conjunction with the GIK panels, the Audyssey didn’t alter the sound too dramatically, instead it seemed to give it just that last ounce of focus and coherence. However, when I removed all of the GIK Acoustic products and re-calibrated the Onkyo’s Audyssey EQ for my room minus room treatments, the resulting sound was anemic and vague with muddy bass and an over accentuated midrange and high frequency performance. The whole presentation simply lacked focus and purpose; it was as if all of the speakers were vying for attention versus working together. If I didn’t listen to the film with the room treatments first, I might have viewed certain aspects of the Audyssey’s digital room correction and EQ as an improvement but having listened to the film with it off and with the GIK treatments in place, I found it to be harsh, un-involving and vague in comparison.

Comparisons and Competition
GIK Acoustics is far from being the only room acoustic manufacturer, nor are they the only one selling via the Internet. RealTraps is another Internet direct brand offering high performance acoustical treatments at low prices, though I’m not a fan of RealTrap’s fit and finish, employing what looks like bits of scaffolding to create sharp, crisp edges. Regardless of my personal tastes, RealTraps does offer affordable solutions and appear to be GIK Acoustic’s primary competitor: www.realtraps.com.

Another company to consider is Auralex Acoustics, who make an even wider variety of products than both GIK Acoustics and RealTraps combined www.auralex.com, though a number of their products seem to be variations of foam wedges, which I personally don’t care for and don’t find very useful. Auralex does make acoustic panels and bass traps; however they’re more expensive and can only be purchased via authorized dealers.

Lastly, there is ASC or Acoustic Sciences Corporation, www.asc-home-theater.com arguably the granddaddy of home and studio acoustics. Starting with the TubeTrap, cylinder shaped bass trap/treble range diffuser, ASC has developed many top notch audio acoustic products. Their finish quality is equally impressive and they are the most expensive of the manufactures mentioned so far. Their main product line is factory direct except for a few select dealers. However, ASC has recently released their new SmartTrap line of products, competitively priced and available through any dealer

Of course I would be remiss not to mention that a lot of what goes into any of the above mentioned acoustical treatments can be found and/or purchased at your local hardware store for a uber cheap DIY solution. All you need is a bit of elbow grease, a free weekend and Google.

On the ultimate level and used more in studio applications is RPG. Their modex plates (for bass absorption) and BAD panels (for defraction) are used by HomeTheaterReview.com’s publisher in his reference theater room as well as by Transparent Audio in their amazing room in Maine. RPG is also dominant in the professional and recording studio space.

The Downside
There is no real performance downside to using GIK Acoustic products in your two-channel or home theater system.

If there are any downsides, then they have to reside in aesthetics. GIK Acoustic products look and feel hand-made, which for some will be a selling point and for others won’t. While the front facing edges are largely perfect, the back of the panels are a bit DIY. Now, I argue that no one will see the backside of a Monster Bass Trap or 242 Acoustic Panel once it’s been mounted to a wall but nevertheless it’s a criticism I need to point out.

Also, the GIK Acoustic panels are packed in such a way as to save you money, but it offers less than stellar protection against delivery mishaps and less than cautious handlers. GIK Acoustics does take shipping damage very seriously and will refund any money lost from damaged goods and/or rush you out a replacement panel, whichever you prefer.

Conclusion
GIK Acoustics is one of those rare manufacturers that offers real-world solutions for real-world problems that plague every audiophile and home theater enthusiast alike. GIK Acoustics’s vast product range has been tailor made to solve just about every acoustic problem you’re bound to run into and they’re offered at prices even a college student could afford. Plus when you factor in GIK’s free acoustic consultation service and Internet direct shopping experience, their company goes from being easy to recommend to a veritable no brainer.

Every audiophile and home theater enthusiast knows their room is the key to audio nirvana, yet few take the steps necessary to achieve it. Well, from one enthusiast to another – get off your ass, give GIK Acoustics a call and start walking down your own personal yellow brick road to a better two-channel and/or home theater experience. You’ll be glad you did.

What’s Needed for a 3D Projector System?

January 9, 2011 Leave a comment
3D seems to be the next big thing! Here’s what you need to do it right! 

 

 


Thinking BIG about 3D home theater.

Building a Reference Grade Media Room on a Budget – Part 2

January 2, 2011 Leave a comment
After reading part one, part two was worth the wait for the conclusion on how to build a media room or home theater on a budget. In this case, the budget was $5000 even though some of the equipment and furniture was already in hand from the old media room. This shows that if you have a good plan, you can stay within, if not go lower than your budget by sticking to your plan and wind up with a very nice home theater room.

Do you have any other ideas on planning or how to stay within your budget?

via HomeTheaterReview.com by Andrew Robinson on 12/2/10


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When we last spoke I had gone over a few key points to keep in the back of your mind to help you in the planning stages of building your reference grade media room on a budget. To recap, the five main points are: Have a plan, be realistic, take stock, budget and remember that your room is the star. For a quick refresher course, please read Building a Reference Grade Media Room on a Budget – Part 1, which was published in September on Home Theater Review.

My new media room, at the beginning of construction, was nothing more than a living room measuring 17 feet wide by 25 feet long with nine-foot ceilings. As I stated in Part One of this series, my goal was to build a media room that could serve as a true reference room for both audio and video performance but still be hospitable and inviting to guests and my wife. This meant no dark walls, unsightly room treatments or lack of creature comforts. For all intents and purposes, to an outsider, my new reference media room was to serve as a living room – but to me it was to be heaven on Earth. And I had to do it all on a budget of $5,000 all-in.

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Construction
There were a few items that came with the room that I could not change, such as a tiled floor, a large stone fireplace and an opening to the house’s only hallway located at the back of the room. There were also two 56-inch square windows present, one that sat dead center of my front wall and the other dead center on the left sidewall. I couldn’t drywall over nor remove the windows so I had to figure out a way to work with them – not a problem. As for the fireplace, because of its uneven stone construction, it wasn’t as big an issue acoustically as I thought, acting more like a natural diffuser than a harsh, reflective surface. The room itself was already framed with the drywall hung by the time I moved in. The floors were in place so cable routing would have to be done via the tight, but workable, crawlspace overhead.

Before moving any equipment or furniture in, I drew a floor plan for the room as well as a color chart so that everyone involved, be it my wife, friends or installers, had the same road map to the finish line. This tactic was something I gleamed from watching Sarah’s House on HGTV and it proved to be key in getting the project done on time and on budget.

With our floor plan and color chart in hand, which I made using Adobe’s Kuler, my wife and I ventured to Lowes. Since I use high contrast/ambient light rejecting screens in my review system, the need to paint the walls a medium or dark shade of grey wasn’t as necessary as it would be if I was using a unity gain screen. So I scored a few husband points by letting my wife choose the color of the room (it helps when you and your spouse share similar tastes), so long as the paint finish was flat and not gloss or semi-gloss, which would’ve created image issues despite my choice of high contrast screens. She ultimately decided on a subtle, earth tone color from Valspar. It took three, one-gallon containers ($24.00 each) of the Valspar paint to thoroughly coat our new media room – that and a little elbow grease.

Once painting was complete I marked the areas on the walls and ceiling where we would need to drill holes for cable routing and/or mount junction boxes for electrical outlets. I have a friend who happens to be a retired electrician, who agreed to help me with the installation of two new outlets located on the ceiling, and the wiring of a new switch plate that would control my electric drop down screens and projector. Total cost of the new wiring, including labor and materials, was less than $200.

The last item on my construction plan was the running of a 40-foot long HDMI cable from the front of the room to the back where the projector would later be mounted. Because I took stock of my existing gear, a methodology I discussed in Part One of this series, I was able to reuse my Transparent Reference HDMI cable from my old media room and simply bring it over to my new room. Remember, if it isn’t broke you don’t need to fix it – or better yet, upgrade it.

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Interior Design
Once the paint was dry and the new electrical and AV cables were routed and in place, it came time to move in furniture and begin finalizing the interior design of the space. Because the new media room had tile floors, which both my wife and I were unwilling to give up due to our three dogs, a large, plush, area rug was going to be necessary in helping define the space as well as tame some of its reflective sonic qualities. We scoured the Internet looking for “deals” on an area rug that measured at least 10 feet square. The prices were astronomical ranging anywhere from $800 to $5,000 depending on where we looked and the style of the rug itself. I wasn’t about to blow my room budget on an area rug so we made a list: a list of what we needed from our area rug and what we could do without.

We knew our new rug had to be around 10 feet square, be darker in color (to hide dirt) have a reasonable pile and cost less than $500. With those parameters in place it helped narrow our search. Low and behold we found our rug at Lowes. Besides being a hardware store, Lowes does offer a variety of home décor products and solutions, including large area rugs at very reasonable prices. We settled on a rug from Oriental Weavers of America that measured eight feet wide by 11 feet long. The rug fit our color pallet (remember Kuler), décor and only set us back $294.00.

While we were picking up the rug at Lowes, my wife and I went ahead and perused their selection of drapes and curtain rods. We found exactly what we were looking for in Lowes’ Allen+Roth collection. We purchased four 52 inch wide by 84 inch tall Milton curtain panels retailing for $29.97 each and two Allen+Roth Meridian Bronze curtain rods at $29.97 each.

Throw in a couple of simple Lutron dimmers at $7.47 each and my wife and I walked out of Lowes having spent $496.23.

We saved our Room & Board Metro sofa from our previous house along with our leather ottoman and love seat. We picked up a pair of side tables from Urban Home for a little over a hundred dollars for the pair as well as two ladder style bookcases from Target for $119.99 apiece.

With my wife happy to have a comfortable and inviting living space again (remember, my previous media room was fabric walled and ultra modern) I set out to find an entertainment credenza to house my electronics. In my previous media room I used Middle Atlantic racks, which were tucked away in a custom closet. I did like my old Middle Atlantic setup; however our new home didn’t have any closets nearby so I had to find another solution. I happened upon OmniMount’s website and began to look over their vast product line before discovering Omni+, OmniMount’s designer label, if you will.

I settled on Omni+’s Vent cabinet for its mid-century flare and teak finish, which complimented our newly purchased rug, drapes and décor beautifully, not to mention it was large enough to accommodate all my necessary two-channel and home theater gear. You can read more about the Omni+ Vent cabinet on Home Theater Review’s AV Racks and Furniture page. The Vent cost me just under a thousand dollars, $999.95 to be exact, which may seem like a lot, given you can purchase racks for a few hundred dollars at most big box stores. Since I wasn’t buying a lot of gear for my new media room I knew I had some wiggle room in my budget to get something that was a bit more lifestyle and décor friendly, which the Vent was.

All in all, we spent a total of $1,836.16 on décor and interior design for our new media room. If you include paint and electrical the total cost of the renovation, thus far, totals $2,100.00.

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Installation
With the walls painted, wires run, drapes hung and furniture in place, it was time to do the final installation on all of the various components beginning with my two motorized, drop-down projection screens from SI and Elite Screens. I offered a buddy of mine a case of beer and dinner if he agreed to help me mount my projection screens and Anthem D-ILA projector, to which he happily agreed. Since everything from the furniture to the AV equipment was already diagramed and roughed out in advance (it helps to have a plan), we knew where everything had to go, turning what could’ve been an all-day affair into a single evening install.

With the screens and projector in place I began moving my various components into the room piece-by-piece, wiring as I went, leaving the speakers for last. I roughed in my Bowers & Wilkins 800 Series Diamond loudspeakers, based on my conversation I had in the planning stages with GIK Acoustics’ Bryan Pape, but didn’t spike them down. Instead I opted to tape out an outline of their footprint so that I could hang my GIK Acoustic treatments along my front wall without having to navigate around a pair of costly speakers.

I began with the corners of the room, staking two pairs of GIK Tri-Traps in each corner of my front wall. Then I hung two GIK 242 acoustic panels behind where my left and right main speakers rest, which turned out to be precisely halfway between the inner edges of the Tri-Traps and the now covered window located dead center of the wall. Lastly, I mounted two GIK bass panels on my back wall between my two Target bookcases. While I’m sure some of you may be saying to yourself, what’s the point of interior design if you’re going to hang acoustic panels all over your walls? Well, because I had a plan and a color pallet in place prior to ordering my GIK acoustic panels, I was able to ensure that their finish complimented the décor – more importantly, blend in with my wife’s chosen wall color in order to minimize their appearance in the room. To date, every guest to our home has yet to comment on the acoustic treatments; in fact, few actually notice them despite being mounted in plain view.

With the GIK panels in place, I positioned my Bowers & Wilkins 800 Series Diamonds, connected them to my amp using my already acquired Transparent Reference speaker cables and presto – my new reference media room was complete. Total cost: $2,743.13, plus a case a beer and dinner for four.

Why so low? I was able to reign in costs by doing a lot of the work myself, having a plan and by simply understanding what my needs were and recycling equipment and furniture from previous systems and homes. The result? I’ve never had a better sounding or better-looking room, both in terms of décor as well as in video performance.

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Conclusion
While it may be easy to dismiss a lot of what I’ve based on the knowledge of type and/or quality of the gear described above and in my previous article, I would urge you not to, for all the high-end gear won’t amount to a thing if you’re trying to enjoy it in a room that isn’t comfortable for you and doesn’t account for acoustic anomalies that plague every system. Since I already had a lot of the gear I use as my reference in my possession I was able to save a lot of money; however you can still follow my lead and build a very respectable system and room for around the same budget I set for myself initially. As a matter of fact, as I write this, I’m listening to a $499 Onkyo receiver mated to a pair of affordable Aperion Audio loudspeakers and am amazed at how good and decidedly high-end the system still sounds, thanks in part to the effort put forth by me and my associates during the planning stages of my reference media room.