Small home cinema spaces, when designed and installed correctly, can provide immersive, high-performance enjoyment! Whilst managing bass in small home cinema rooms can be challenging, we are experienced at obtaining sensational results from small home cinema spaces.
Big Things in Little Packages – Intro To This Small Home Cinema…
Without a doubt, one of the most complicated challenges in our work is the delivery of high-performance audio-visual experiences, in relatively small spaces, such as this small home cinema room. This system was a particularly tough one. The room, a family snug in a period house, was no more than 3.5m x 3.5m, and that isn’t big at all, for what effectively will be the immersive cinema room.
Client Brief for Small Home Cinema Room
Our clients are a family of four. They have two teenage sons, who like to game, and watch Netflix and movies streamed by Apple TV. They also have a large movie collection on disc and also enjoy the odd festive karaoke when the mood takes them! They love listening to music and want the best music experience available for their budget.
After the initial client interview and a quick appraisal of the space, Imagine This set about the design of a high-performance media room, encompassing a full 5.1(3).4 Dolby Atmos system, with a Dolby Vision capable HDR OLED display.
It was also important that the client and his family had access to Apple Music. This lossless / Dolby Atmos format allows users to enjoy elevated musical experiences. Music will never be the same again and, once you listen to Dolby Atmos music, you will undoubtedly agree. A full immersive high-spatial-resolution music system was definitely part of the brief.
The client finally wished to add a Lutron lighting control system and Crestron remote, for control of his small home cinema.
Our Design for this Small Home Cinema Room
The best results can only be achieved by creating and following a technical design process which leaves nothing to chance. Imagine This are highly experienced home cinema designers, renowned for the high standards and fastidiousness of our work. First, we create CAD drawings and then room modal response calculations, RT60 Sabine calculations, loudspeaker layouts and lighting scenes. We leave no stone unturned.
Install – The Details
“Room isolation” is perhaps one of the most ambiguous statements. To fully isolate a room takes time, effort, energy and money, as well as extensive know-how. The room was already well isolated (as it was a solid brick construction) but we still designed and built a baffle wall to house the front left, centre and right loudspeakers and the very prominent subwoofer.
With the inclusion of C16 stud walls, 100mm Rockwool within the stud, 100mm Rockwall behind the stud, and other little isolation tricks, we achieved a very well-isolated room, free of resonance and sound ‘leakage’.
The term we have applied to this kind of thinking is; to keep good sound in and bad sound out, and, for a traditional British home, we’ve succeeded.
Low frequencies in small home cinema rooms are notoriously hard to control. That statement seems to be a catch-all statement, but they really are! If you have ever experienced bass that you can feel, or dialogue that is so intelligible you would think that you’re in the same room, then you’ll know what we mean.
With an RT60 time that we considered acceptable for this space (a little over 0.54secs over six octaves), this room really came together. The rear wall was always going to be a challenge, as the seating was so close to it (not ideal). The Acupanel (walnut slats with absorption panels) did a wonderful job of taming some of those low-frequency standing waves. They also play an amazing role in diffusing the high frequencies, to help create an immersive and complex sound-field at the rear of the room. This aids envelopment; one of the key factors in good audio performance
The rear wall is constructed from C16 studs and 100mm of Rockwool placed between the timber framework. Behind this, the rear of the wall likewise had a further 100mm of Rockwool, to reduce the transmission of sound. Not only did these panels offer excellent absorption coefficients (in conjunction with the Rockwool) but the timber face enhanced the diffusion and reflection of the mid to high frequencies, which creates the complex sound field and immersive envelopment that is required for an excellent experience.
Double-skin plasterboard, green glue and other acoustic schemes were incorporated, to provide an optimum environment, given the limitations of the small size of the room.
We decided that the loudspeaker package would be selected from the absolutely amazing range of custom-install speakers from PMC. PMC have an amazing reputation in the pro-audio world and is synonymous with the very best mixing rooms and recording studios in the world, namely Abbey Road and Metropolis Studios.
For this small home cinema project, the three front soundstage speakers were Ci30 PMC custom-install loudspeakers, with a superb Ci140 subwoofer sitting menacingly below. Two further on-wall Ci30s would make up the surround channels, with an additional four Ci30s in the ceiling, to give a fully immersive audio Dolby Atmos and DTS:X experience.
We used two further subwoofers from Marton Logan (Dynamo 800X), positioned in the corners at the rear of the room, to help even out any seat-to-seat issues that may have otherwise occurred. The three subwoofers were also run through the bass management on the Anthem AVM90, which makes even the most troublesome rooms “tameable”!
The processing was handled by the superb Anthem AVM 90. Is there a better silicone chip DSP processor currently available? Probably not! The Anthem AVM 90 features some of the most advanced room calibration algorithms and serious bass management magic. It is the difference between good and great systems, between acceptable or stunning performance! These aren’t just audio decoders. They handle the video switching and eArc HDMI signals, they are probably the single most important device in the system.
Did we mention that the AVM90 also has a state-of-the-art video board, with the most ‘bleeding edge’ silicon? 8k with HFR processing, which is ideal for those avid gamers out there.
Two JBL 7200 Class D power amplifiers handled amplification for the 11 loudspeaker channels in this small home cinema. The 7-channel power amps are perfect for the transient power demands of a full-blown Atmos theatre. Instant power, on tap, to be delivered to the PMC loudspeakers whenever the soundtrack dictates.
Auralex ProPod Acoustic Decouplers
An additional pair of PMC Twenty5 21s (in a lovely Walnut finish) were installed on the cabinet, to deal with both music and movie left and right channels. These were placed on ProPod isolation feet, designed by our friends at Auralex. These were actually pre-production units, as they were still in development and were sent to us for early evaluation and feedback. Our sentiment was, “Wow, what a difference?” They isolate and maintain a real separation between the loudspeakers and the platform. Resonance is almost completely eliminated and that is proven when they are pushed hard.
We absolutely love these little gems. It allows the speaker to work without transmission losses through the material that it is standing on. They are amazing!
For a long while, LG has led the OLED market. This OLED65G16LA 65” OLED display is our first choice to deliver on the client’s specification of “Dolby Vision” and it certainly does that in spades.
Cables / Interconnects
All cables on this project were provided by our friends at Kordz Cables. They are the most reliable, robust and high-performing cables on the market today, and we simply wouldn’t risk or compromise our installs with anything else.
From HDMI to CAT6, Kordz have an important part to play in the signal path. In the old days if you had a poor interconnect, you’d get a grainy picture or some ghosting, but, in the digital era, the time of 1’s and 0’s ….you get nothing at all. So, it’s Kordz all the way, we just can’t consider using anything else.
The family already had a full Savant system, so we simply added a Pro Remote for local cinema control, enabled with SIP integration for the 2N gate system.
In addition to the integrated apps, such as Apple TV+, Amazon, Netflix and Disney+ (which were dealt with via the audio from the eArc output), the client also asked for a PlayStation 5 and XBOX series X. The XBOX would also act as a UHD disc player with Dolby Atmos-enabled hardware and the PlayStation 5 for those long winter evenings of gaming, for the two boys of the household. And what a perfect environment this small home cinema room provides!
The AVM90 is equipped with one of the finest room correction algorithms available in ARC. With wonderful speaker mapping, full bass management and a real granular approach to room correction. We obviously used their microphone in the seating locations to really fine tune the electronics to provide to one truly awesome sounding system.
Using advanced bass management, and a little bit of magic, we achieved really smooth seat-to-seat bass response by a method of gain and delays with the multiple sub approach. In all modest rooms, such as this small home cinema space, this is always a challenge, but this room was particularly small, so we had to pull out all of our experience and knowledge. Adjustments to gain, delay, and levels all helped to deliver the powerful bass that we all enjoy. Chest slamming, but tight and punchy, with no unwanted resonances of low frequencies swilling around the room.
The end results were…sublime.
Lighting Design and Control
Lutron HomeWorks QS was, as usual, the order of the day, allowing for multiple circuits of lighting to be controlled seamlessly. Table lamps, downlights, LED strips and a central pendant make up the circuits, allowing for creative dimming, layering and mood function recall to create the perfect scenes. Movie, music, karaoke, all on, all off and TV scenes were programmed with discrete fade times and adequate delays. Lutron is simply the best at this, that is why they are our preferred control manufacturer.
Orluna were once again our preferred choice for discrete architectural downlights and the client provided their own central pendant for inclusion.
A mix of control types was implemented from phase adaptive dimmable circuits to DALI-controlled LED strip tape, that allowed for granular control, to help create the desired effects.
The lighting in this small home cinema room was a resounding success and the client has as much or as little light, and of the highest quality that they need.
Other small details for this room included some rear lamps that were inspired by the “20th Century Fox fanfare search lights”. These are controlled via the full Lutron HomeWorks system and play an important part in the lighting scene creation for that overall movie experience.
The rug has ‘Star Wars’ villains subtlety woven throughout the pattern. Darth Vader, Stormtroopers, and the notorious bounty hunter Boba Fett all add a subtle tip-of-the-hat to the theme of the room.
Yet again, Imagine This has proven what can be done with the correct design, a proper engineering approach and time spent at the last 10% of the project which makes all the difference. We pride ourselves on the attention to detail.
Certainly, this small home cinema may not have the flashy colourful lights and multiple rows of tiered seating; but we challenge anyone to provide a better performing system for the budget. It’s been well thought out, well-engineered and well-implemented. And that’s what makes this room special. It is an intimate and comfortable space, dedicated to the enjoyment of movies and gaming.
Not just random items of equipment, thrown in a room, hoping for the best. Properly researched and selected components, that work well together and deliver a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. It’s the little things; those marginal incremental gains, that make for a truly great system.
Providing cinemas within modest rooms will, we believe, be the next evolution of our customers’ demands. Maybe this is not a revolution as home cinema rooms have been a desirable pre-requisite in almost every high-spec home for some time. But high-performance, immersive and intelligently designed rooms, in much smaller spaces, at almost any budget.
Small home cinema rooms that punch well above their weight. Media rooms, if that’s what we want to call them, are very hard rooms to get right. They have seating in less-than-perfect locations; a restriction on acoustic treatment, and other aesthetic constraints that you simply don’t have in a full-blown dedicated theatre. But, they are so rewarding when you get the performance right.
Although compact in size, the budget for this small home cinema room was still impressive. The clients didn’t want to leave any of the performance issues to chance. This isn’t just a space full of the latest toys; it’s a well-thought-out space, designed in detail, and expertly executed. A high-performance audio-visual environment, of which we are very proud.
“It delivers! I mean it really delivers.
We didn’t know what to expect for the room size and budget, but this room is now our favourite place to be.
We’ve always been into movies. When the boys were young, we’d all sit down on a Friday or Saturday night and cuddle up to watch a movie together. We had hoped to rekindle some of those moments. Also, with cinemas being closed due to COVID and, at the time, us not really being sure that things would ever return to what we consider as completely normal, we knew we wanted a cinema at home. This means we can now stream the latest movies straight to our system for that exciting day of release feeling. We should have done this years ago”
The first time the system was fired up with the new Apple TV music stream, it was a game changer, and we absolutely fell in love with our new room.
If you’ve never heard full Atmos music in a lossless audio format with a well-balanced and calibrated system, you’re in for a surprise.”Kent Client 2023
If you have a space that you’ve earmarked for an exceptional movie and music experience and don’t what the normal USA-style theatre room, then we can guide you through what’s possible. Garage cinema, snugs, family rooms and attics provide the perfect blank canvas for us to weave our magic. No fuss or bluster, just a skilled and experienced team that loves what they do. Is it time to consider your own small home cinema?
We can because we are, Imagine This.
Did you know that we have been creating fabulous home cinema spaces since 1998 – here is an article from the archives!