The Diamond Street Cinema

Current photos of my DIY theater room, on a small budget.

Description

THERE'S A NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN...

And it's name is the Anthem AVM-60. The XMC-1 sounded great, but there were just too many glitches, some that were never fixed from the UMC-200 that it replaced, that I couldn't justify sticking with the brand.

Also new is I FINALLY got around to completing the surround boxes that match my LCRs, HUGE improvement!

And the rack...It's been through many changes, but I think it's settled for a while now (famous last words). From top to bottom:

Anthem AVM60 (replaced Emotiva XMC-1)
Sony UBP-X800 (replaced Oppo UDP-203)
Nvidia Shield
AppleTV
Monster HTUPS 2700
Emotiva UPA-700 (this is also a candidate for replacement, eventually, for a little more power)
Harmony Elite Remote (replaced NEEO remote)


This room was originally a shop, when I bought the house. It's extra space under the sunroom. But before it was that, it had been used as a theater, as evidenced by the big piece of white linoleum mounted on the wall. So step one was to buy a cheapo 720p Epson projector from Craigslist and move my existing surround sound down there, using the linoleum screen. That didn't last too long, though.

I eventually, in a couple stages, spun the room 180º.

I tore out all the cedar and replaced with drywall, but I liked the cedar, so I kept it and used it for trim and highlights in the room. You'll also notice in the photo above, there are two doors, one to the outside and one into the rest of the house. On that wall, which is now the screen wall, there was also two windows and an in-wall furnace. This is actually a good thing, as I needed extra depth to put my speakers behind the screen and not have to move the doors. So I plugged the windows and the hole from the furnace, but created shelves in them for the LCR speakers to sit on.

You can see in a couple of the photos, the cavities left in the walls. Much of the area behind the screen (and all of the area in the cavities) is lined with Linacoustic. Eventually, when the cedar was added back in under the screen, that cavity was also stuffed with extra carpet padding and chunks of carpet to keep it from becoming a resonance chamber.

The screen is a 115" 16x9 Seymour AV CenterStage UF, however I have the bottom masked off to bring it down to a 2:1 aspect ratio. Why? I'm not really sure, but I like it. For the content I watch in my theater, it's a good compromise - most TV I watch is generally of the more 'cinematic drama' genre, like Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Gotham, etc., and the slightly wider aspect ratio is actually nice (I'm not missing much of the action in that 120 pixels), I have a live sports setting on my projector that shifts the image down slightly so it cuts off the crawl at the bottom of game broadcasts, but keeps the important graphics, and any 2.35:1 et al content has a smaller letterbox, which is less noticeable. So, a weird aspect ratio, but one I've come to enjoy. And if I ever change my mind, I can get the screen back to 16x9 in about 5 seconds, as it's just a pressure-fit, velvet-wrapped piece of 1x3 poplar in there. Then I just readjust the projector and we're at 16x9.

This is a small room, with a low ceiling, but once everyone is in and sitting down, it doesn't feel cramped at all to have this much seating. The front two rows are the primary seating, while the back row is overflow for movie parties or game watches.

The minimalist movie art on the walls are actually acoustic treatments. The room is generally pretty dead already, but I wanted to put up some non-reflective movie art, and these are great. I had the fabric printed, built the frames, and stuffed a piece of Linacoustic into each one. They don't do much, but they do break up the larger pieces of drywall. There is also Linacoustic on the ceiling directly above the screen, and on both doors flanking the screen, with a simple brown fabric covering to match the wall color.

And the 3rd row seating I mentioned is actually seating from the Merle Hay Mall Cinema in Des Moines. They had just put in all new seating about a year before they closed, and sold all of it for $25/seat. It's a shame, that was the last huge screen left in Des Moines. Now it's down to the multiplexes.

The built-in shelf on the wall that houses my media collection is built into what was a window well, before this room was added on. Walking past the shelf, there are two levels of riser on your way to the equipment rack. I haven't built the first step yet, as I'm not planning to keep the two seats in the front row. That's one of the next upgrades, and I don't want to have to re-build the step when I purchase new.

More changes (are we ever 'done'?). Recently I had a friend put together a NAS server for me so I can rip all my discs and use PLEX to distribute them. It's been working like a charm, and I have most all of my collection ripped in lossless mkv format using makemkv. Fully capable of ripping and playing back up to 4K UHD. VERY happy with how this situation is turning out. I'm also planning to configure the PLEX as a DVR for my antenna, as well, using an HD HomeRun tuner. Just need to run another network cable to get that ready.

Because of the PLEX server, I couldn't justify keeping the Oppo 203, with resale value where it's at. As infrequently as I'll be inserting a disc into a player now, I chose to pick up a used Sony UBP-X800 from ebay and I've listed the Oppo.

Also listed on ebay is my NEEO remote. I loved that thing, backed it on Kickstarter. It took a long time to finally arrive, but when it did, it was incredible. A really nice piece, with impeccable design. Then Control4 bought them out and they hobbled the NEEO on the way out the door with one final "update." So I replaced that recently with a Harmony Elite. Nowhere near as well-built, but the software is solid and I don't see them selling out and leaving the marketplace anytime soon.

I picked up a JVC X790r projector at an incredible value. With the recent price drop to make room for their upcoming line, I couldn't resist.

I have yet to pay over $1000 for a projector.

It was a great deal, but not THAT great of a deal.

Speakers ... the elemental Designs speakers have been replaced. I picked up a set of 5 Triad InWall/4 Gold Satellites, and I put a pair of the Mission 77ds back in as middle height speakers. The Triads also came with a 10" InWall Bronze Sub. It's currently connected in the front of the room, but not really able to handle much, so it likely won't last long before it's repurposed. If I can find a purpose.

Speakers...the LCR speakers have been changed out quite a few times. First I had NHT speakers that I've owned since the 90s down there. Then I found a set of B&W bookshelves for cheap. Then...a friend was moving and sold me a few empty cabinets that were manufactured by elemental Designs and sold off when they went out of business. A parts-express order later, a couple days of building crossovers, and I loaded them, and they are now my current LCRs. They sound really good, especially for the minimal investment. Because of the cavities in the wall, I have limited options for LCRs. These fit the bill. If I found a similar design that had 10" drivers and would fit, I would probably upgrade. I would love if these had a little more low-end extension. But I'm not complaining.

Surround duties are handled by (4) Mission 77ds speakers. One pair is white, the other is black, but they are the same speaker. They're mounted up higher than one might think they should be, but the combination of the cabinet design, the dipole configuration, and the close proximity to seating, they sound about as good as one could hope. The dipole keeps them from being TOO easy to pinpoint the location, being so close, but the proximity keeps the dipole configuration from clouding the surround effect too much. Really a best of both worlds. And mounting them higher actually gives an almost Atmos-type effect in a room that is much too small with much too low of a ceiling to actually install Atmos.

A couple years ago I picked up four elemental Designs slant cabinets that match my LCR speakers. I have had box full of drivers, horns and crossover parts sitting in the basement for a year or more, just waiting for me to build them and replace the Mission surrounds. Still waiting. I swear I'll do it soon.


The sub is an SVS PB-2000 that lives behind the 3rd row of seats. Initially I put it there thinking it would be too localizable in the rear of the room and I'd have to find a better place for it, but it blends very nicely back there, and being on the riser, it adds a little extra rumble, the tactile bass. It's staying where it's at.

Other touches...the lighting is controlled/dimmed by a $35 Lutron Maestro switch. No noise, works great. Popcorn machine and mini-fridge live right outside the theater. Hardly what you'd call a 'lobby', as it's also my workout room and it still holds a pile of leftover materials from the theater construction that need to be put back out in the shed, but it works.

Overall, the theater is not as big, not as fancy, not as state of the art as many I've seen, but I've done the work 100% myself, and the price/performance ratio will blow most others out of the water. I have been able to pick up nearly every item in the theater used, on sale, or with some sort of discount. Very few items were purchased at full price, and by not hiring a contractor to do the work, it slowed the process down, but it became a labor of love.

It's a very cozy place for my son and I to enjoy our favorite movies and shows. It's paid for itself many times over in enjoyment.

Comments

Very nice. Thanks for sharing.. Question. Are the lights that are on the bookshelf that has all the dvds, etc. always on? Or you just put it on for the camera?
 
Very nice. Thanks for sharing.. Question. Are the lights that are on the bookshelf that has all the dvds, etc. always on? Or you just put it on for the camera?
Depends. Most of the time they're either off, or 1 click from off. For game watches I'll sometimes leave them up a little bit. They're never on as bright as they are in that picture with the screen shot, I was just trying to give some perspective. Thanks for the kind words!
 
Nice use of space. Looks comfy and enjoyable. Surprised you have three rows of seats. Maybe its just the camera but at first glance the room didn't look that big.
 
Nice use of space. Looks comfy and enjoyable. Surprised you have three rows of seats. Maybe its just the camera but at first glance the room didn't look that big.
The room isn't that big. If I recall, it's 17.5' deep and 10.5' wide. Distance to first row is approximately 9.5'.
 
Thrillcat - quite a space you've created. I agree with Phillihp... very warm and inviting. Nice art... great looking front end! I especially like the fact that you built your speakers!
 

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Travis Ballstadt
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