We were incredibly excited when the brilliant PMC Speakers asked us to create a state-of-the-art demo home cinema room.
The Professional Monitor Company (PMC) are an unrivalled UK manufacturer of the very finest quality loudspeakers. They are extensively used in the foremost recording, mastering, mixing and post-production studios across the globe. PMC speakers have been used in the homes and studios of the world's biggest and greatest stars, including Robbie Williams, Stevie Wonder, Tony Bennet and Prince.
At the beginning of the year, PMC asked us to help design and build their demo home cinema room. The jewel in the crown of the room would be their brilliant new Ci loudspeakers. These were just becoming available to the Ci market and the room was to showcase their amazing performance.
We were absolutely thrilled to be involved with this home cinema room project and obviously said yes immediately! We began work on the initial design. PMC already had a rough outline and preliminary work had started on the internal room construction.
The project was led by Guy Singleton, principal designer and owner of Imagine This and Ian Sutton, director of PMC Distribution UK.
PMC Speakers and Imagine This Collaboration – Home Cinema Room
PMC’s intention was to provide a high-performance demo home cinema room for their channel partners to use, which would help to drive sales into that vertical channel. This theatre had to include their new range of Ci loudspeakers, configured as a high render channel count theatre, utilising various models from that range. It would also need to include Bryston processing in the form of the SP4 and Bryston multi-channel power amplifiers, as PMC are a distribution partner.
The room likewise needed to include luxury seating from Acoustic Innovations who are also a distribution partner of PMC.
Client Requirements for Home Cinema Room
The room had to be able to accommodate five comfortable Acoustic Innovations seats and it was to have a full Dolby Atmos speaker layout. It was also very important that the room felt opulent and comfortable. From a performance perspective, it should have an RT time of approximately 0.3-0.4sec across six octaves. (Here is a concise explanation about RT time – LFE – Home Cinema Bass Explained.)
Put simply, they wanted a fabulous room to showcase their new Custom Installation range to potential dealers and end-users.
Our Design for the PMC Home Cinema Room
The space allocated for the project was within PMC’s Georgian mansion headquarters.
We began by looking at the way the room was set out, to ascertain the best orientation for the audience. The initial challenge was a door and fully glazed Georgian bay window at the front of the room and a further door at the rear. The layout consequently meant that we would need to offset the seating from the central line.
Building cinemas is all about balancing compromises as intelligently as you can and we are real-world engineers. Our job, therefore, is to find solutions and make intelligent compromises to give the very best performance possible.
Acoustics and Aesthetic
One of our first design tasks is to create an acoustic appraisal of the space. This identifies any challenges and allows us to make a plan to treat them.
After that, we approached our industry friends and acoustic professionals – Acoustic GRG. Matt Moule and his team graciously helped by providing the room acoustic treatments. We decided on absolute black, for an “absence of light”. We also decided that a stretched fabric interior would be used, to give a sleek, clean finish to the room and to cover the acoustic treatment.
For many years we’ve had a great relationship with Acoustic GRG, and they offered their support to us on this project. Thus, they supplied the absorption, diffusion, and bass management products, as well as the acoustically translucent stretched fabric. In addition, we used their bespoke rear diffusion panels, which the CNC milling experts at RPG made to order for us.
For the emphasis to be completely on the performance, we opted for a black aesthetic.
We wanted to have an ‘absence of light’, consequently ‘black’ was to be the prevailing aesthetic. PMC design and create superlative loudspeakers and so we wanted nothing to detract from that. For once, our main design focus (no pun intended) was not the room aesthetic, picture or image – we wanted nothing to take the emphasis from the audio. Once in the seat, the sound should be the main priority.
We built a timber-framed room within the existing space, which allowed for a cleaner look. In addition, it made installing the acoustic treatment for the room easier
To ensure that there is no resonance from the room, we constructed the sturdy timber frame from high spec timber. We also used acoustic plasterboard and green glue to create an inert structure. Therefore, by paying great attention to the construction detail, we ensured that the structure is incredibly sound.
The room had original shuttered sash windows and a large void under the floorboards that acted as a bass resonator. We would need to overcome this and any issues caused should the original sash windows rattle.
Those brilliant PMC Speakers
The loudspeakers for this amazing home cinema room were specified by the tech team at PMC. We’d seen the performance facts and technical data for the speakers and knew that they would deliver outstanding performance.
We have previously used PMC speakers in many of our audio projects and this would actually be our second installation of PMC in a home cinema room. In our experience, the speakers perform brilliantly. It is said that they need a number of hours for running in, but you can see in our client’s faces that they are superb from the outset. And they only get better with time!
The audio is provided in a 9.1.6 configuration. There are nine speakers for the front array and surround channels and six for the height channels. In addition, three powerful subwoofers deliver the LFE (or bass) channel: two SUB 2s mounted in the front wall and a passive XB3 mounted underneath the rear staged area.
We mounted all of the speakers in the cinema either on (or in) the wall or in the ceiling. There are three flagship PMC ci140 in the front baffle wall, providing the Left, Centre and Right channels. These have four 5″ long-throw woofers, one 2″ mid and a 27mm tweeter. They also feature the fantastic Advanced Transmission Line (ATL) bass-loading technology, which ensures the very best bass performance. We mounted the LCRs behind the acoustically transparent screen.
Processing and Amplification
To provide the cinema processing, we used the superb SP4 processor from Bryston and Storm Audio. It supports up to 16 channels and decodes all of the relevant immersive formats (Auro-3D, Dolby Atmos, DTS:X Pro, IMAX Enhanced). In addition, the SP4 can support up to 20 PEQ’s per channel and can power any number of subwoofers and up to four-way active crossovers. The SP4 processor is derived from the fabulous Storm ISP Core 16.
Additionally, we used an ASC48 – Advanced System Controller from Linea Research. This high-performance signal processor has processing for four inputs and eight outputs. It uses the latest analogue to digital conversion and DSP technologies to deliver flawless audio. We utilised this as the bass management interface, which allowed the subwoofers to be both time and level (gain) aligned.
PMC are a distribution partner of Bryston, so the obvious choice for the cinema amplification was the Bryston 9B Cubed Multi-Channel Amplifier. Each channel is capable of 200 watts and features up to 5 self-contained channels. Each of those channels has a fully independent power supply, so when the output on one channel is high, it is not to the detriment of the others.
Importantly for us, we could fully integrate the Bryston with the control system and network monitoring system. This gives us the ability to monitor, control and interrogate the processor, for maintenance purposes.
The Bryston amplifiers are simply sublime! It became really apparent just how good they were when we were commissioning the system. There was no inter-channel cross-talk and plenty of headroom.
We also snuck in a Linea Research 44M amplifier. If we felt that it needed something extra, we were encouraged to use whatever we needed to get the performance to the extremely high standards demanded by PMC.
The 44M offers a unique combination of power and audio performance, with advanced DSP and network control. The 44M Series range of four-channel amplifiers are available in models developing between 1,500 Watts and 5,000 Watts per channel.
The guiding principle for our R & D team is that the same ultra-high-resolution loudspeaker can be used throughout the entire recording and playback process – from studio to home.Peter Thomas, PMC founder and owner
Our friends at Barco very graciously supplied the light engine. We opted for the very best in the business; the 4K UHD Medea. Although fairly compact in size, it packs a punch – with up to 6,500 ANSI lumens, laser phosphor illumination and custom Barco Pulse electronics.
With its long-life laser, Medea will provide 20,000 hours of laser usage, which equates to five hours of viewing every day for eleven years. Additionally, it is designed to process 4K UHD, HDMI 2.0a, HDCP 2.2 and HDR10 signals with extremely low latency. Crucially, this provides an exceptional gaming and movie experience.
We mounted the projector in a motorised mirror mount, recessed into the ceiling, which would aid both noise and light control. We were also able to reroute some of the room’s AC (via a temp flow actuator) allowing for intelligent projector cooling.
Whilst in this project, the emphasis was naturally the speakers, we had to provide an amazing visual experience as well. In any home cinema, the audio and visual experience is so intrinsically linked, that they should be well matched in the design. For balance, the image would need to be pin-sharp, with incredible detail and colour reproduction. The Barco Medea was certainly the perfect choice.
Lighting and Control System
We installed a Crestron Home System to take care of the lighting and cinema control functions. Crestron is the world’s leading control systems manufacturer and so it was logical to use their brilliant control solutions. This guarantees that the user has total and intuitive control of the room.
We fed each of the striking LED lighting strips with a correctly rated and specified DALI driver, to allow smooth dimming and effective scene control. For the user interface, we used Crestron TSR 310 hand-held remote and a dedicated iPad.
The user has control of the environment (lighting and air conditioning) as well as the home cinema room functions (audio and video).
Calibrating the Home Cinema Room for PMC
We utilised the advanced features in the Bryston Storm Audio SP4 to calibrate the audio. This meant a few days of constant tweaks and fettling, to make sure that the audio was dialled into the PMC tech team’s satisfaction. PMC gave us carte blanche to use any and all means to gain maximum performance from the system.
Cable and Interconnects
As an installer, we look for products that will give us the perfect performance we desire, whilst being efficient and enjoyable to install. We consequently selected the excellent specialist products from Kordz for this project.
With so many interconnects and terminations to make, using the Kordz One Series Push Through Connectors allowed us to be very productive. And we can be confident that the terminations are robust and will stand the test of time.
Additional Equipment Used:
- Barco Medea
- 4kBryston SP4 Processor
- Bryston Amplifiers
- Acoustic Innovation Seating
- Crestron Control
- Crestron DALI Lighting Control
- Apple TV
- 4K XBOX Series X
- RPG GRG Acoustics Interior
- Middle Atlantic rack and shelving
- APC Network PSU
- Kordz Cables and Interconnects
We were thrilled and humbled in equal measure when we were asked to undertake this very special project for PMC speakers.
The post-pandemic global supply problems were the biggest challenge of this project. But we are delighted to have been able to obtain everything we needed, in the end, to create an absolutely amazing home cinema room.
“Initially we were asked by PMC as to our availability to help with the delivery of their new demo theatre room to show their new range of residential loudspeakers for theatres and high-performance audio and visual spaces, the Ci range. We had used this range of speakers before, we believe in them and wanted to help PMC tell the world (or our industry at least) about them. To say we were humbled and excited would be an understatement, " said Guy Singleton, owner and managing director of Imagine This.
“It just goes to show what great design, implementation and equipment can deliver. We are very happy with the end results, but we also enjoyed the journey. The room is impactful, engaging and delivers the content in a way that, for the budget, should make everyone using the room extremely happy, ” remarked Guy.
“We were working with a number of challenges during this design and build project,” says Singleton. “We had to overcome the issues presented by such things as old shuttered, sash windows which rattled and a large void under the floorboards that acted as a bass resonator. These were coupled with the global supply chain issues thrown up by the pandemic, which meant obtaining some materials proved to be very tricky.”
“But he managed it with astonishing results,” adds Ian Sutton. “We now have a cinema space which is worthy of the superb new PMC Ci series speakers that we can now show off in the kind of environment they were designed for.”
For something different, how about a technical article on dynamic range and noise floor?