Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Dedicated High Performance -- CEDIA 2016 Design Awards Winner

In this industry, we regularly cater to “enthusiast” clients who are very enthralled with the idea of a fully engineered and commissioned private cinema. They may have played with speakers and receivers in their spare time. They may have preconceived notions about what makes speakers work or not work. They may even want to tell the crew how to go about doing the wiring and installation.
This client just built his Tuscan dream home in the rolling hills over Newport Beach, California. He wanted a great place to enjoy concert videos and movies from all around the world. He got that and a lot more in an acoustically treated and tuned room with appropriate sound isolation, Dolby Atmos immersive audio, 4K video, and a luxury-grade interior finish.
The room was to be laid out as a formal dedicated two-row theater, without many design frills, and with maximized return on investment for the equipment. The client decided not to adopt the customary stretched fabric dress in order to put more money into engineering, gear, and installation quality. In other words, budgets were very tightly controlled. There was no room for error in the engineering and commissioning.

Interior design was conspicuously absent. The client decided to focus all the available funds on engineering, equipment, and installation, so he did not budget in a stretched fabric wall decorative system. Since the room had an acoustical treatment package, we paid attention to laying out the absorbers and diffusers in a relatively even and consistent pattern, while preserving an optimal acoustical tuning balance. The walls, along with all the acoustical materials and speakers, are all flat black so as to disappear from view once the lights are dimmed.
Since the client is a techie, it was only appropriate to give him the latest technologies. The room had to have a very large 4K display and immersive audio for Dolby Atmos playback. First off, the room itself was engineered for the right sound isolation and for interior acoustical sound reflection optimization. The engineering team then specked in a Dolby Atmos 9.4.4 speaker package, with matched LCR speakers behind the huge acoustically transparent screen, Atmos Wide speakers brand-matched to the LCRs, dual Side speakers along the lateral walls, two matching Back speakers, and four matching Top speakers to complete the immersive effect. Four highly efficient yet compact subwoofers laid out in the Welti "four corner” configuration were selected to belt out the bottom octaves at the requisite peak sound pressure levels.
The picture end of the design was to present an image large enough to fully express what today's 4K Ultra HD video is meant to show, while not breaking the bank with a Digital Cinema-grade projection engine. Through careful matching of the screen gain, along with very dark colors in the room, we were able to achieve the maximum contrast ratio in that room - along with deepest blacks and satisfying peak white levels. The display system features a 4K projector along with an acoustically transparent 2.37:1 screen. The projector was picked for appropriate light output and picture quality. The screen was carefully evaluated for acoustical and optical performance so as not to lose any sonic or visual quality.
The speaker package features a matched set of Triad speakers. The Triad InWall Gold LCR speakers up front were baffle-mounted for better control of the bass response. The Wide channels in the Dolby Atmos format are handled by a pair of Triad InWall Silver LCR speakers, appropriately aimed back to the seating area for best coverage. The Side and Back channels are all handled by custom bipole Triad OnWall Bronze Surround speakers for best spatial integration and envelopment. The Top channels are handled by custom bipole Triad OnWall Silver Surround speakers for best coverage and immersion. The bottom octaves are handled by a set of four Triad InWall Bronze/6 subwoofers arrayed in the four corners of the ceiling for best balance between standing wave performance and room gain. They were resiliently mounted on rubber bushings in order to reduce sound transmission and rattles.
A Dimension4 acoustical tuning package was engineered with the goal of achieving a target reflection decay time of 0.3 seconds across the audio spectrum - including appropriate 2D and 3D diffusion in the 500 Hz to 5 kHz region. All the speakers were optimized through 15-band digital parametric equalization, carefully and lovingly tuned and voiced by a professional audio engineer - using a combination of impulse response measurements with spatial averaging, time varying windowing, and psychoacoustic smoothing.

In the end - after much patience and collaboration - it's a real thrill to witness the client's amazement at results that are so far beyond what they had ever experienced or expected. We spent several hours listening through every part of the Dolby Atmos demo disc, along with several of our favorite Blu-ray Disc demo sections. This project shows that - with careful engineering, equipment selection, optimized installation, and calibration - you can realize the full potential of the client's investment and produce a very exciting cinematic experience on a modest budget.

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