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    Thread: My Home Theater

    1. #1
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      My Home Theater

      We got our first TV in 1989, a BPL 21" Color CRT TV. It had a single speaker, probably 3W RMS. I was 17 then, a key influencer in purchasing BPL TV over Crown TV. I do not remember the reasons, probably they were

      (1) Me and my brother liked the TV
      (2) It was the first so called Vertical Model where controls were placed below the picture tube
      (3) It was affordable (probably a stretch) to my father, it was just below 10000/-
      (4) Dealer promised to deliver and install it immediately, that day itself.

      We also had an Philips AM/FM Radio, which was larger in size than that of our BPL TV, It was made of Valve Tubes. It was working since late 60s when my father was still a bachelor and bought it second hand. After 30 years it failed one day and we learnt that it can not be repaired as parts are unavailable. So we bought a 2 in 1, including cassette tape player and AM/FM radio, again a Philips model. It had stereo speakers probably 3W+3W and an AUX In. I could connect AUX Out from TV to this 2 in 1 and thus came into existence my first Home Theatre.

      I also remember getting made a special cable AUX Out at one end and HeadPhone Socket at other at a shop in Appa Balawant Chowk (used to be called ABC), which had many electronic components stores and book stores. It used to be a regular hangout for me. I also bought a Headset and used this cable to connect it to the TV to watch those late night movies being telecasted on DoorDarshan once a week. This headset ensured that the sound did not disturb parents at night.

      College days were filled with movies with friends, i remember our group were fans of Clint Eastwood, Gregory Peck, Lee van Cliff, Chuk Norris, Harrison Ford, Bruce Lee, Jacky Chan and of course James Bond. We were also fans of Western Horror and Thriller movies (including those from Ramsay Brothers) which used to be full of sound effects. Matinee Tickets were cheaper (i remember paying RS 10 / 15 / 25 at most) in a theater called Alka (in Pune) and probably RS 50/60 in a theater called Rahul which sported a 70 mm screen. I never knew what 70 mm really means in those days, except that it was larger than the one in Alka. We could only afford front row seats for our budget, any extra cash available was spent for Samosa or Vada Pav. MacKenna's Gold was my first movie in a 70 mm theatre, where one running horse filled the entire screen. That was when i realized larger screen is always better. a Repeat show was never an issue, which ended up in we watching some of these action movies multiple times year after year.

      Once i started working in Mid 90s, the first thing i bought with my own money was a SONY Walkman (there were no mobile phones then !), This had a Cassette Player with built in Mic and recording function along with AM/FM Radio. I developed a fascination for FM Radio and Recording from FM Radio on to the Cassettes. I remember buying many SONY 60 Minutes and 90 Minutes Cassette Tapes and trying to create my own physical music albums and becoming a Home DJ whenever time permitted. I think my mother still have retained some of those cassettes (i do not know whether they are still functional) which remain unused since a decade and half at least. I lost my walkman during one of the business trips in early 2000s.

      Second Thing I bought was a Desk Top PC, It had a 14" CRT Samsung Color Monitor and a CD Drive, Sound Card with two multimedia speakers probably 1W + 1W, It was Mid 90s and CD-Audio was just starting to become famous. Alurkar Music House was a popular music store from where we used to buy cassettes and CDs, also used to provide CDs with some MP3 songs recorded. Also the pirated movies started to appear on the road side sellers along JM Road, Soon the Home had two theaters, one with the TV + 2 in 1 and Second one is DeskTop PC + Stereo Multimedia Speakers.

      Watching a movie from the front row or the second row over a 35 mm screen or a 70 mm screen used to be the definition of Theater Experience in those years. Surround Sound was unavailable at Home, I always wanted to replicate that theater surround sound effect at home. I remember trying to build my own Amplifier boards and trying to make it work during engineering study years, these attempts often resulted in building a fixed frequency, fixed amplitude oscillators , Couple of times it resulted in some sound and lot of noise coming out of the speakers I remember disposing off all such successful evidences much later in 2010 when my parents permanently shifted out of our Pune house back to their native place.

      in 2006, we bought our house in Mumbai, I wanted to set up the Home Theater, with surround sound speakers. By that time my Amplifier Design Fundamentals got an uplift and my amplifiers stopped oscillating or stopped being noisy. i had successfully built a 5.1 surround sound amplifier reference design at my employer and our customers had started to produce the sound systems with that design. I managed to include a concealed wiring for 5.1 surround sound speakers and a wall mounting provision with ambient light control in the living room. But we had to migrate to Bangalore, abandoning further investments in this Living room theater.

      Life became busy, watching TV and movies became least of the priorities, hobbies like listening to music, recording, collecting song files and creating own albums etc took back stage. It was replaced by Photography an road trips. Listening to songs remained only limited to long drives, but watching movies in theaters came to forefront with growing up daughter and her insistence to watch 3D movies in Theatre. So somewhere that KEEDA or worm of Home Theatre started growing bigger.

      We bought a house again in Bangalore two years ago and end of last year, we decided to renovate it completely. As part of this renovation, this Home Theater BUG resurfaced and took the center stage. By this time options had gone up, Choices were in plenty both in Displays, Projectors, Amplifiers, Speakers, AV Processors etc. The number of stake holders had got increased (it was no longer me alone) with wife and daughter also having their own taste and preferences. More over the budgets were in conflict with other priorities of renovation.

      After living with dream for over 2 decades, eventually we decided to have a home theater with surround sound. But i am far from realizing it, as yet. This thread is to document some of my learning along the way, also to seek some answers from Audio Enthusiasts and Experts here. Probably this might help like minded fellows in their Audio/Home theatre journey as well.

      Last edited by Nomad; 29th Jul 2016 at 15:04.

    2. #2
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      Let me first list our requirements

      (01) Migrate from watching a Standard Definition Content to High Definition Content
      (02) Migrate from listening a stereo sound to a surround sound.
      (03) Being able to receive broadcast HD content from DTH, Cable and Internet (You Tube, Netflix & OTT)
      (04) Being able to playback from different local sources : DVD / BlueRay, Hard Disk, Home PC, Mobile Devices, Macbook/Windows PC, WiFi Router
      (05) Integrate Electronic Piano / Keyboard with the Surround Sound System
      (06) Integrate a Karaoke Sing Along System with Surround Sound System : Avoid Echo and other artifacts.
      (07) Enable Video Conferencing : both social and semi professional use cases
      (08) We do not have a dedicated room, but part of the Living room has to be used
      (09) Theatre Experience including seating, lighting, concealed wiring, wall mounted systems
      (10) Ease of use, anyone from age of 8 to 80 must be able use without much effort, zero dependency on me

      There are some other unsaid requirements

      * Should use minimal floor space
      * Should match with room decor and furnishings
      * Should adapt to the living room size in terms of acoustics
      * Should be able to switch on and off Surround Sound as needed
      * Should be non intrusive / in visible to the visitors at the door
      * Should not cause any disturbance to other residents of the apartment.
      * Should not have any maintenance issues, Time should be spent in enjoying it than trying to engineer it on a daily basis
      * Visual and Aural Experience with augmented seating and ambience is important.

      With that in mind, I started exploring options....

      Last edited by Nomad; 29th Jul 2016 at 15:09.

    3. #3

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      Nomad glued to this thread might help me in the future when I will upgrade Also one thing I can suggest if you want to stream media using WiFi to your tele I would suggest get a good router thats capable to handle HD bit rate.

    4. #4

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      LIked it, it was like reminiscing my flash back.
      Me too did all those things from valve radio to walkman to discman.
      Valve radio to mono tape, to 2 in 1 tape recorder then to the Stereo one.
      Tried VCP, to VCD to DVD players. all lying unused now
      I carried a cosmic 3100? amplifier and speakers purchased from mumbai lamington road to chennai.
      Explained to the mechanic all about the cross over and dividing network, he was not aware what was my requirement.
      Cassettes had plenty of Chrome TDK type for that pristine quality, now all gathering dust.
      WIth the advent of MP3 all quality music is lost.
      Still my dream to get a AV receiver Yamaha, with my son actively supporting me, but quality cd's are not available that puts off my dream by months.

    5. #5

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      Interesting read Nomad, I have subscribed to the thread.

      I built my 7.1 home theater setup more than a decade ago, used it for about 3 years and then it went into cold storage as we had to move houses and I somehow never got to installing it again.
      I sold most of the equipment last year to fund a 2-way setup.

      With the way the modern entertainment is shifting online, it is paramount to get a source than can stream content. Most bluray players offer this.

      If you are looking at a quality setup, then I would suggest to split in the following lines....
      Decided on number of surround channels first....do keep the option open for Atmos.

      Split your design to accommodate a source with streaming capability (you can take the projector route or go traditional with a large screen TV), a dedicated surround sound processor and multi channel power amplifier. Room treatment is very critical, minimalist on the front and rear walls and the first reflection spots on the wall and ceiling. A couple of bass traps at the room corners will help with good bass from the sub. Most of it can be hand built with simple panels made with glasswool.

      Depending on the room size, decide on the size of the speakers, with a well tuned sub, unless it is a huge hall, you can get away with book shelf speakers. These will save floor space and clutter.

      Balance you furniture for equitable distribution through the listening area, else there will be imbalances that would be hard to control....

      Ofcourse audition extensively before choosing the products and do share your journey in detail.
      ICE, 4-way active - Eclipse CD7200mkii Head Unit, Kenwood KOS-300, Two Pioneer GM-X944 amps, Dayton midbass and wideband, Dayton AMT tweeters, Infinity Kappa sub, Ref. MX cables, entec speaker cables,
      Home: 3-way active: Dune Media Player, Parasound ZDAc v2, DBX 3-way analogue crossover, DIY 3-way tower speakers, 6-channel DNM amplifier: 2-way passive: Laptop source, TEAC UD301 DAC, 6J1 active tube buffer, Adcom amplifier, Infinity bookshelf and Wharfedale subwoofer

    6. #6
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      Understanding the Living room

      The moment, one says Home Theater, generally people try to suggest Brands, Equipment, Speakers. Some people ask how much is the budget. Some people ask technical questions. I would say, Try to understand your own preferences for video, sound and the room you want to use to see that video and listen to that sound. That is exactly what i did.

      When I say, understand the living room, some people may say, i am living here !!!, what is there to understand ?, I know it as a back of my palm !!!. Of course, but when the question persists, many fail to clearly define even the volume (LxWxH) of the room.

      Below is the hand drawn, not to scale shape of my Living Room.

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      We have reasonably big living room. It had some old style electrical wiring and layout earlier. In many cases, what we place where in a living room is already decided, hence our options are constrained. As I was renovating in totality, i manage to rearrange as per our needs and functionality needed in the living room. We did some modifications (read as demolished walls, did some extra civil work) and arrived at following functional layout.

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      By default was the Home Office, as without work, the home can not run on a day today basis, Next one to occupy the floor area was Kitchen and Dining because without "Pet Puja" we can not appreciate good Audio or Video. We also wanted some lounge area where visitors are received. As man is generally known by the (reading) books he reads and the (account) books he keeps, So some space was kept for Library adjacent to the Lounge area. The remainder then become the Theater area by default. We also decided to build some partition which masks the view of the visitor at door, to to make it a symmetry, we decided to have similar partition near the dining area. These two wooden (& semi transparent glass) partitions would also act as some form sound guides.

      It took a while to arrive at this layout, including consultation with Civil Contractor, Electrician, Apartment Management Committee members (as it involved demolition of couple of walls) and lot of internal discussions. We iterated on these drawings few times, slept over them and eventually after 2 months, we concluded on this floor layout.

      Once all the Civil work an Electric Wiring got completed, the POP False ceiling, Ambient Lighting, Fans and large french styled floor to room length windows and corresponding curtains got planned as below

      Click image for larger version. 

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      I used LED strips to create a theater lighting effect, also low wattage LED Spot lights to create specific ambience. Lighting can be localized for specific areas as required.

      Next important part of the Theater Experience, is seating. We got 2+1+1 seater Recliners, which provide diamond class experience. If the movie is boring, we can even catch few winks or even "sleep like a baby" much better than as in VOLVO Bus. The Lounge Sofas are not recliners, but from there also one can view the TV / Movie even though it is not a prime seat. There is space for some front floor seats, just like yesteryears, by the way they even offer sleep in between the intervals experience.

      Click image for larger version. 

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      Curtains could be used during day time if required to create a sufficiently dark room. Curtains also limit sound being heard outside the room. The office room behind the display wall and the room behind the recliners also prevent sound getting out of the house to great extent. With this all aspects other than audio and video most of the aspects got decided.

      Last edited by Nomad; 30th Jul 2016 at 20:22.

    7. #7

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      Wow, you have already chartered a long way.....I am hooked....
      ICE, 4-way active - Eclipse CD7200mkii Head Unit, Kenwood KOS-300, Two Pioneer GM-X944 amps, Dayton midbass and wideband, Dayton AMT tweeters, Infinity Kappa sub, Ref. MX cables, entec speaker cables,
      Home: 3-way active: Dune Media Player, Parasound ZDAc v2, DBX 3-way analogue crossover, DIY 3-way tower speakers, 6-channel DNM amplifier: 2-way passive: Laptop source, TEAC UD301 DAC, 6J1 active tube buffer, Adcom amplifier, Infinity bookshelf and Wharfedale subwoofer

    8. #8
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      Understanding Stages : Musical Orchestra & Drama Play

      We keep hearing the term Sound Stage, time and again. But i am not sure many people who use that term really understand the meaning of it. I also notice inconsistencies in the way different people understand it. So i thought of sharing the way i understand it. if nothing else if there are any gross misunderstandings it would get cleared, when readers object or correct me.

      Even though experiments on motion pictures started in 1870s, the first so called motion picture or film as we know it was made in 1900. Initially there used to be Silent movies, then came the talkies, then color talkies, then two channel and multichannel sound tracks, then came the digital movies, then came multi dimensional or 3D movies, i have even experienced simulations of up to 7D movies.

      Drama Plays used to be the source of entertainment before movies came into existence. We have studied about Kalidasa and Willam Shakespeare and even ancient drama writers from Greece. Even our own Lord Krishna has been named Natwar, because of his ability to pull off all sort of drama in those times. We as a country (& Civilization) is extremely for of Drama, be it on stage or in real life. In my view, Marathi Theater and Drama Plays are most advanced at least in India when it comes to real drama theater experience.

      Click image for larger version. 

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      There have been plays where 100s of artists and actors have been delivering enchanting, mesmerizing and flawless performances. These theater plays are grand in nature and even today, personally i like Drama Plays to any movie as each show is unique and the real acting can be experienced along with synchronized background music and lighting effects. These stages are very wide, most of the times in an auditorium, sometimes "open air" or in even stadium. They are with grand sets, multiple background sets which are also changed in real time by back stage technicians/staff. This stage also has depth, sounds can come from rear of the stage as well. These stages are augmented by lighting, sound and music effects.

      In earlier years there used to be smaller auditoriums and no amplifier systems, then came single mic and speaker system, which migrated to multiple microphones and now a days each actor is wired with a microphone and is considered as a channel or sound source.

      Even Auditoriums have evolved from no amplifier systems to mono speakers to stereo front speakers to multiple speakers in the side and to surround systems keeping the audience in the middle sweet spot.

      Such an Experience is called Drama Stage Experience, where a viewer is able to understand which actor is speaking on the stage and what action is being performed. He is able to perceive and understand width of the stage, depth of the stage, distance of the actor from himself, and also relative vertical position of the stage from the position of his own seat.

      Just like Drama Plays, Music Orchestra or Music Playing / Singing used to be another Stage based performance.

      Click image for larger version. 

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      In this case multiple musical instruments were being played by different people on the stage. The listeners are again able to perceive and understand who is playing which instrument at what time, able to understand the position of the musical instrument along with width of the stage and also depth of the stage. They were even able to understand which of the person is playing at any instant in time if multiple people are playing same instrument. Such an experience is called Sound Stage Experience.

      We can not recreate a Drama Stage or a Musical Orchestra stage at home. but the modern sound recording and playback systems provide an ability record it and recreate same effect during playback.

      In Short, a Sound Stage at Home is the ability for a sound system (headphones, speakers, etc) to create the sense, or illusion, that different instruments are placed around you at different angles and different distances. Essentially, a sound stage allows a user to visualize the location of certain sounds in a given recording.

      Terms used with sound stage that describes it:

      Width: Your left to right is the width of the sound stage.
      Height: Your up and down is the height of the sound stage.
      Forward/backward: Relative depth of the sound stage.

      Understanding this is essential to manage the expectations and also ensuring that there is decent enough ROI on the money spent in selecting/buying and/or building the home theatre system.

      Last edited by Nomad; 6th Aug 2016 at 12:35.

    9. #9
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      Content is King, so said Bill

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      This the most famous quote from one of the shrewd engineer, coder, business man turned philanthropist turned social worker. He has been one of the key influencers in the world in recent times regarding "how people viewed or listened to the content" When i was still part of consumer electronics world, i had coined a term called "Glass to Glass", which meant that the (video) content will be digitized by camera (Audio by Mic), entire medium of storage and transmission would be digital, later decoded and played back through Digital Displays and Speakers. We are going towards such a world as far as broadcast content is concerned, after almost one and half decades after the G2G jargon was coined.

      * Analog Switch Offs are expected to happen in India by end of 2016
      * Satellite Broadcast is already Digital, Cable Broadcast is getting Digital as of now, OTT platforms (over internet) are already digital
      * We have stopped using cassette tapes, video tapes, film rolls etc which was an analog way of storing content
      * CD/DVD/Blue Ray/HDD/Flash Memory are the modern content storage mediums, increasingly it is growing in capacity and reducing in size
      * Broadcast World is going from Standard Definition to High Definition.
      * Individual Content Generation is migrating from HD to 4K or even more.
      * Television is already Digital, CRT is dying, LCD/LED are mainstream, Digital Decoders are getting built into the modern televisions/displays
      * Due to High Definition and Digital content, Displays are getting bigger as one can really experience the content quality on larger displays.
      * Music has also moved to digital since long time already, thanks to MP3 format and cheap players.
      * Digital Cinema has made the traditional film distribution redundant and infinitely expanded the market for newly released movies.

      So, what is the content we watch or listen at home ?, Will just an expensive Home Theater deliver the real experience ?

      (1) We should stop watching SD content and upgrade to HD, which means DTH or Digital Cable Services, both are expensive compared to earlier content delivery service. This means buying a new HD STB (2000/-) and more than doubling the monthly payout, an increase of 300-400 RS per month.

      (2) Having a Theatre would mean that for normal viewing we will have another TV, either in the guest room or bed room, This also needs to be HD, which means an increase of 500-600 per month as well as upgrade of the existing SD Box (RS 2000/-)

      (3) To get good quality OTT Service like Netflix etc, a high bandwidth, high data bundled fibre to home connection. A 40mbps, 75 GB connection would mean approx. 1700/- per month including taxes. More over the Netflix subscription costs somewhere between 500 to 2000 Rupees / Month.

      (4) We need to change our habits of buying those cheap pirated DVDs costing RS 40/- and start buying authentic high quality DVDs or On-Line Movies. This again increases spending by RS 2000-3000, but saves some trips (& costs) to theaters , but not all.

      (5) We also need to stop using those cheap/free MP3 songs and move to Original Music CD / DVD, this again has an effect in increased costs.

      (6) We would also need a better larger screen TV as well as HTIB Decoder and Speakers

      (7) all this would of course mean, increased energy bills

      (8) When we buy all those original and authentic content, we also have to spend on their storage, cataloging and maintenance.

      This upgrading to a better experience in terms of content as well as equipment will have implications in both Cap-ex (one time equipment purchase, installation) and Op-ex (monthly outflow). So this has to be a carefully thought out plan as this can not be reversible later, we ourselves will not consume an inferior quality content and experience once we are used to superior experience. This would also mean our expectations when we visit other places will also be set at higher level, indirectly causing further increase in living standards itself, hence the spendings.

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      This is a quote from probably the most influential economist of 20th century. So as a consumer, we voted to eventually get that upgrade. Even then Budgets get constrained in real time, which economists may not understand in totality, only the consumer would know, thus the choices made during execution would be dependent on budgets more than consumer being the king.

      As a consumer, spending money is easier decision, but changing some habits are indeed difficult.

      Last edited by Nomad; 31st Jul 2016 at 22:06.

    10. #10
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      Nomad, I haven't read this completely but I sure will during lunch today.

      I also managed to read some of your questions / thoughts on LinkedIn related to technology roadmap. Very nice they are. Can you possibly create a thread here for that? Might be duplication but a great conversation driver.

      Home office, how much I wish I get one for me too. All I have now is a desk in office! I would really need to think a lot before I can have a home office going for me too.

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