That 'Lil' Old Media Room in Texas

  • This current Media Room is the result of three previous media rooms and quite a few years of planning, growth and tweaking :-) I still have a way to go and have several upgrades/tweaks planned for the upcoming months.

    We moved into our current house six years ago. The Media room was custom built over the oversized two car garage and is 18.5' x 22.5' with 9.5' ceilings at the center. All four walls have about a thirty degree tilted in soffit area where the side and rear surrounds are mounted. The ATMOS speakers are ceiling mounted and the front speakers are freestanding.

    I placed all front speakers on concrete slabs floating on rubber isolation feet to decouple the sound from the floor. For me, this resulted in a cleaner more transparent sound on the LCR.

    The stairs and upstairs area are carpeted with whimsical theater themed wall to wall carpeting. Front wall is painted a gray that is almost black and the ceiling and other walls are a dark/medium gray.

    I recently upgraded to 7.2.4 Dolby ATMOS surround sound and have four Polk CS-6 ceiling speakers about mid-way for first pair and toward the rear for the second pair.

    The room features two levels of seating, recessed Vutec 2.35:1 Widescreen (120 inches by 56 inches... 136" diagonal).

    Built-in niches have shelves for ample music and video media storage. Large, double 19” equipment racks (Middle Atlantic) house all of the audio/video equipment for the media room and all ethernet and cable/satellite distribution to the entire house are placed in the back of the same equipment closet. The Media Room is on it's own HVAC system and has two 20 amp and three 15 amp dedicated electrical circuits and a separate 15 amp lighting circuit.


    Signal Processing and Amplification
    Marantz AV7703 Pre/Proc
    Parasound Halo A21 Power Amp (new) - replaced my Parasound NewClassic 2250
    Parasound Halo A52+ (new) - replaced my Parasound NewClassic 5250
    Parasound ZoneMaster 450 (for the ATMOS)
    Yung 300 subwoofer plate amplifiers (2) for the Tactile Transducers note: my Earthquake XJ-600 fried! Since I am not that concerned with fidelity on the buttkickers I opted for fairly inexpensive sub plate amps. So far they are working great!
    Yamaha 16 Channel Mixer

    OPPO UDP-203
    Apple TV 4K
    DirecTV DVR
    Yamaha CDC-755
    Audio Technica Turntable (will either upgrade my turntable or sell off my vinyl soon)
    Apple MacBook Pro

    JVC DLA-RS500 - replaced a Panasonic AE-8000U Projector
    Vutec Fixed Cine-White 2.35:1 Screen 136" diagonal

    2 - BG Radia 520i ribbon planar floor standing speakers for front left and right
    1 - BG Radia 220i Center channel speaker
    4 - BG Radia SA320i in-wall speakers for surround and rear speakers
    4 - Polk CS-6 ceiling speakers for the ATMOS (Middle and Rear ATMOS)
    2 - Rythmik F18 18" sealed box subwoofers
    2 - Definitive Technology PF-15 15" subwoofers - Replaced by the Rythmik's but I am now considering adding them back into the mix at the back of the room.
    2 - Earthquake Sound Q-10B Tactile Transducers (AKA Buttkickers) One mounted on the rear row raised seating platform and one mounted on the front row shaker

    Note: all in-wall and in-ceiling speakers have custom backing boxes lined with 1 inch multi-layer damping material (purchased from Parts Express).

    Power Conditioning/protection
    2 - Furman Elite 20A Power Conditioners
    2 - Leviton 20 amp inwall surge protectors at equipment racks
    4 - Leviton 15 amp surge protectors at all subwoofer positions.

    System Control
    URC MX930 Remote Control
    URC MSC400 Master System Controller

    Passive Acoustic Panels
    4 - GIK 2'x4'x2" Diffuser/Absorber Panels
    4 - GIK 1'x4'x4" Diffuser/Absorber/Bass Trap Panels

    Balanced cables between Pre/Pro and Amps Were built with Mogami 3080 cable and Amphenol XLR's by "Worlds Best Cable"
    HDMI by Blue Jeans Cable
    35' BJC Series One - Projector
    6' BJC Series One - OPPO UDP-203
    all other HDMI are 3' or 6' BJC Tartan 24 Series cables
    The Turntable I rewired with some Monster interconnects that I had lying about.
    All other RCA type interconnects I built using Belden 1694A cable and REAN RCA connectors
    Speakers in-walls and in-ceiling Belden 14 Gauge
    LCR - Belden 5T00UP 10 Gauge x 2 biwireed with locking banana plug connectors or spade connectors.

    Power cables;
    DIY 12 gauge Belden 83802 used on main power amps
    DIY 14 gauge Belden 19634 used pre/pro, ATMOS power amp, Yung Power amps, and F18 subs
    Purchased WAudio10 gauge Audiophile cable used on Blu-Ray player

    A note on my cable philosophy.... I have been in the business of audio and electronics for a long time. At one time (ah... the 70's) I even owned part of a 24 track recording studio we wired ourselves. We also ran sound for local bands and sold large scale PA's (one of my partners continued in this business and is only recently considering retiring). So, that said, I have some experience with cabling, gounding and power distribution to large and complex audio systems. IMHO, keeping in mind that it is JUST MY OPINION... High end cables are just not worth the very small differences, if any, they provide. The job of a cable is to deliver, without undue change to the signal, to the next device. I am a firm believer in the idea that quality cables do matter in the respect that cables that are built WELL (mechanically sound) of quality materials and components. And if they are the cable will perform as well as anything out there. Having said that I do admit that I have neither the time, patience, OR THE MONEY to honestly acquire, test and evaluate the high end cable market. If anyone wants to send me some $10,000 (or even $1000) stereo pairs to compare I will certainly do my best to do an honest evaluation and return them to you. And, if you have any of those $2500 per foot power cables lying about I would love to give those a try as well :-)

    Things I might have done differently (and will if there is a next time :-)
    1. added one more dedicated 20 amp line (or two thirty amp lines and two twenty amp lines.
    2. added two more dedicated 15 amp circuits at subwoofer locations
    3. Built a deeper platform for the rear seating and pulled the rear seating away from the wall by another two feet or more.
    4. Used spray-in (paper based) insulation in all walls
    5. Double drywall the walls or consider using a heavier material (like Wonderboard) for one of the drywall layers
    6. add star grounding scheme for the media room with confirmed external ground.

    Upcoming Upgrades;
    1. New Projector - I have my eye on a JVC DLA-RS2000 native 4K :-) I have a friend with one on order... I'll post his impressions when he installs in January - he is building his new house now in Nashville and his AV system is always top notch:-)
    2. New Turntable - Considering a relatively inexpensive ProJect or something along those lines with a decent Hana or ? cartridge
    3. Safety rail on second level of seating - Right now there is the possibility someone could step into the gap between the first row and second...
    4. Additional room darkening for full daytime viewing - Even though I've done some and the room is dark there is still a bit of light infiltration :-)
    5. New DAC to replace my Cambridge DAC Magic I recently sold - No ideas yet.... any recommendations?
    6. MiniDSP room tuning (subs only)
    7. Any Suggestions??

    Thank you for providing the opportunity to display my system. Forums like this are fantastic for the exchange of information and ideas, and most especially for inspiration and encouragement to those of us that share this passion/hobby. Keep it going!

    This system has brought me many hours of enjoyment and entertainment. It continues to satisfy and provide me many hours of joy and diversion. You should hear Pink Floyd's Welcome To The Machine in 5.1 on this system :-)



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  1. JStewart
    Tom, I have to say that is a really nice room you've put together and the gear is very drool worthy. It must look and sound top notch in person.
    If you haven't already, check out MultiSubOptimizer (MSO) for your minidsp/sub project.
    Had to chuckle at your comment to @tesseract , "My usual upgrade path is to get an idea... obsess... buy ... try... and then sell the stuff I upgraded". It was way too familiar.
      tesseract likes this.
    1. Tom Lehman
      Thanks! It is getting to where I ca ALMOST step away and actually enjoy ( sure, like that will happen!) I’ll sure check out the MiniSubOptimizer as I get into that project.
      Tom Lehman, Jan 26, 2019
  2. Grayson Dere
    AWESOME room, Tom! I especially like how you put the side and rear surrounds into the 30 degree angle portion of the ceiling. I can visualize how well the sound would envelope the listeners. Am I correct to assume you performed the construction and installation of this theater single handedly by you alone? It's quite an accomplishment to say the least!

    As for a DAC to replace your Cambridge DAC Magic, I can recommend the SMSL M8A. It is very revealing sounding with excellent bottom end.
      Todd Anderson likes this.
    1. Tom Lehman
      Hi Grayson,
      Thank you! I’m a only a semi-handyman so all of the actual construction was done by my homebuilder to my specs. I did all the wiring of the system of course, hung the projector and dialed everything in . I just installed a pair of Rythmik F18 Subs and will post a review on the new User Reviews Forum later today or tomorrow. Thank you for the DAC suggestion! I’ll definitely check it out!!
      Tom Lehman, Jan 1, 2019
      Grayson Dere likes this.
  3. travis gidcumb
    Wow welcome to AV NIRVANA, you have one heck of an equipment list. I would love to have a dedicated room like yours someday. I would suggest looking into SVS subwoofers, they make quality products and have a excellent warranty.
      Todd Anderson likes this.
    1. Tom Lehman
      Hi Travis, I did consider the SVS subs and they looked good. I settled on and purchased 2 Rythmik F18’s . I am currently writing a review that I will post here on AV Nirvana on the new User Reviews Forum. I am finishing up the listening tests today and will proof it once or twice more. It may even be posted today.
      Tom Lehman, Jan 1, 2019
  4. phillihp23
    Nice room, that is one massive audio rack. You must be kicking some killer audio.
    1. Tom Lehman
      Thanks! Audio side pretty good but still tweaking.... Slowly making meaningful (I hope anyway :-) improvements. Next upgrade replacing my agin subs.. got my eye on some Rythmik FV15HP’s
      Tom Lehman, Dec 17, 2018
  5. Tom Lehman
    I also want to mention that I took advantage of the balanced sub outs on the Marantz by attaching RDL balanced to unbalanced conversion boxes on the backs of my old Definitive Tech PF15 subs. The RDL box uses passive studio grade transformer conversion There is now only about a foot of unbalanced cable connecting the subs. My goal was to reduce or eliminate the last little bit of hum the old subs were outputting. It worked and the subs are now nice and quiet.

    Next upgrade.... Subs!
      Todd Anderson likes this.
  6. Jack1949
    Hey Tom, that's a very impressive room and system you've got there! Congrats! I was watching the Roger Waters' The Wall Atmos blu-ray this morning and I bet that would sound awesome in your room.
    1. Tom Lehman
      Thanks Jack! Love me some Pink Floyd! I have Welcome to the Machine in 5.1 SACD and it does sound great. Regular two channel is also pretty good on the system. Pink Floyd, Yes, King Crimson, Little Feat, Steely Dan, Eagles.... I’m pretty much stuck in the 60’s and 70’s. To me, many of the best recorded, and best sounding, music came out of that era.... that’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it! ;-)
      Tom Lehman, Nov 13, 2018
    2. Jack1949
      Looks like we have similar music tastes. Turn it up and enjoy!
      Jack1949, Nov 14, 2018
  7. tesseract
    Wow, Tom, nice job! Just reading through the equipment list had me drooling. My dream is an over-the-garage media room, cool to see this.
    1. Tom Lehman
      Thanks! I love (sometimes to my wife’s dismay :-) tinkering and trying new things. My usual upgrade path is to get an idea... obsess... buy ... try... and then sell the stuff I upgraded on eBay. The over garage room came with a accommodating builder with our last house build six years ago. In most cases they worked with me in what I wanted. If we build another house I will try some other things for sound and light control. Got to get busy and sell the old Parasound amps now :-)
      Tom Lehman, Nov 10, 2018
  8. bkeeler10
    Nice room and equipment. I really like your comment at the end, which makes this all worth it. The enjoyment these systems can provide is just great, and one of my favorite things to do is go enjoy music or movies in my theater.
    1. Tom Lehman
      Thanks! I love this hobby/obsession/passion! It’s is so great to know there are others out there that share in it as well :-)
      Tom Lehman, Nov 9, 2018
  9. Todd Anderson
    Great room Tom! Welcome to AV NIRVANA (in a big way!!!). That's quite a gear list you have there... and a massive cinemascope screen! What time is the first showing tonight???
    1. Tom Lehman
      Hi Todd, Thank you for the welcome! It’s great to find a spot where like minded folks can exchange ideas and swap stories:-) some of the gear is new and some was purchased years ago (as in the Yamaha CDC) and the DTI subs. Let me know if you are ever in the Dallas area and we’ll put something on :-)
      Tom Lehman, Nov 9, 2018
  10. Tony V.
    Thats a great room! I really like the A/V rack. It sure keeps the equipment nicely organised.
    1. Tom Lehman
      Hi Tony, Thanks! The rack is a double width (2 rack spaces) from Middle Atlantic. It’s on casters so I can push it out by a foot or two and allow access to my Ethernet switch and DirecTv distribution stuff. I will eventually get around to rack mounting the Marantz and the Parasound A52+. i had a terrible ground loop issue that I finally tracked down and did not want to commit the them to a rack mount until that was corrected. Now that that is fixed I will take some rime to install the rack mounts.
      Tom Lehman, Nov 9, 2018
  11. Sonnie
    Very nice... love the color scheme.

    I've yet to hear the Radia speakers, but have wanted to for a while now... they just don't seem to make the big shows I've been to.
    1. Tom Lehman
      Hi Sonnie, Thanks!
      BG used to show up occasionally to CEDIA and some of the high end audio things. Unfortunately they were bought by Christie (the projector folks) and they promptly shut down the home business about three or four years ago. They continue to build and sell versions for cinemas....
      All of the BG products feature planar ribbon drivers of their own design. My main LR speakers are the Radia 520i that are a two way design with two 6” woofers and a 50” planar ribbon driver. The rest of the speakers use a combination of 3” ribbon tweeters and 7” ribbon mids. I love the sound of ribbons and think the clarity and transparency they impart is second only to some of the better electrostatics out there. I also installed BG’s in my family room 7.1 system. You can still find some dealers with a buyout stock of some of the BG models (in-walls for the most part).

      One of the founders of BG passed away and I think the sale was precipitated by that. Their head designer helped create/design the Wisdom Audio speakers. If you see them at a show you need to check them out!
      Tom Lehman, Nov 8, 2018
  12. tripplej
    Very nice setup. Looks great and the decorations are awesome! Way to go! Especially, like the guitars!
    1. Tom Lehman
      Thanks! Music is another strong interest of mine. I just wish I could play them like they deserved to be played!

      Tom Lehman, Nov 8, 2018