From the Forums: DIY Discrete Atmos Setup

AKA The slippery slope of AVForums

by hodg100 Jun 16, 2017 at 8:01 AM

  • AVForums is not without its dangers. Prime amongst them is the feeling that you frequently need to upgrade your kit. Who are we kidding? Most of us, at least partially, live for new and shiny ‘toys’ and it’s good to have hobbies, right?
    Our latest ‘victim’ in the community spotlight goes by the name of Harkon321 on the Forums and has been a member here for five years. This was Harkon231’s first Home Cinema build, having previously only owned all-in-one type systems and a plasma TV. The existing living room of their new house was fairly bland and featureless – his words, not ours – and so Harkon started planning out what they wanted, he started to ponder about a larger TV or projector set up and stumbled across AV Forums – it's been a slippery slope ever since.

    The previous house had an original open fire (1930s) and they missed the feature. They wanted to recreate something similar but without losing too much space. It was decided to cut in to the cavity, insulate and then build a fake chimney breast. In hindsight, says Harkon, the chimney breast has caused ‘many issues’ with speaker placement, but they are happy with the feature so, like many of us, accept the compromises and enjoy what we have.

    They looked at log burners, gas alternatives but in the end settled on an electric effect log burner. They don’t need the heat and a traditional log burner wasn't ideal with two very young children. The cavity was cut out, gas capped, cavity lined and a fireplace created. It’s brick with full oak lintel. And has apparently proved to be an excellent cable run.

    Taking inspiration from pelmet ideas he’d seen on AVForums, the builder who was doing the fireplace also built a pelmet to hide the projector and cabling. The coving was then continued straight across to make it look like it had always been there.

    Carpets and boards taken up in the bedroom above (much to Mrs Harkon's annoyance) to run the cables.

    Following a demo, it was decided that a REACT 3 screen would best suit the living room environment. It's a 2M wide, tab tensioned in a Draper Sesame case. He also got a 12v trigger which was wired to the projector whilst the boards were up.
    The ceiling lights were removed and nine downlighters were ready to be fitted. Harkon got his electrician mate to fit a switch, which means all nine are controlled by an IR dimmer, but you can turn off the centre three, which means you can have the outer lights on low, but the ones directly in front of the screen off. Nice thinking!

    By the end of Summer 2015 Harkon321 was finished with this as the kit list:

    Denon X2100 AV Receiver
    Epson TW6600 Projector
    Sony Blu-ray Player
    Monitor Audio BX Centre, BX2, BXFX Surrounds and Dali E12F Sub
    Plasma 42" TV

    But of course he wasn’t really finished although at the time – and we’ve all been there – Harkon genuinely felt he was… And then he read about Atmos - got to be worth a look he thought.

    The top rears, were pre cut in the pelmet MDF and then just plaster-boarded over. These were left in case he ever wanted rear ceiling speakers and he had to wire those. Harkon fitted Monitor Audio 265 fx here as they were very close to the seating and he didn't want the sound to be too localised. He’d used them as rear surrounds until he could afford to upgrade the amp. He then happened upon some MA IC80 for a bargain basement price, so these would be his top front speakers.

    Out came the hole saw - it's easier to apologise to the wife than ask for permission – how true! Lots of measuring and remeasuring then Harkon321 just went for it. Obviously the Denon X2100 couldn't support Atmos so it was upgraded to a Denon X4200 – of course, Harkon, these things have to be done!

    He fitted 'Fire Toppers' as an alternative to 'Hoodys' to maintain fire integrity. They are meant to offer the same level of audio insulation and fire protection, but they are cheaper.
    They also painted the oak surround of the projector and, while wiring the Atmos fronts, he also ran a new surround cable further to the right and this new location gave much better separation.

    They managed to get rid of the tired TV unit but it took ages to find something they wanted that would also fit the amp and all the other bits. Another upgrade alert as it was also decided to move to Monitor Audio Apex speakers. Like you do.

    Here it is, all fitted, including the additional cooling solutions, thanks to the advice from AVForums member, Plasma Dan .There are twin 120mm fans for the PS4 and twin 120mm blower fans on top of the AVR. Apparently the power amp is staying really cool, but he may fit a blower on there as well.

    The part of this build that is probably different to most is that they’ve added switchable speaker locations. Harkon wired the front left and right outputs from the amp through a QED Speaker switch. So they can then choose which speakers are used for the Left and Right

    Radius HD either side of the TV.
    Apex A40 Left and Right for the Projector.

    The left A40 is sat behind the Centre A40 under the TV. When they use the projector, they push the TV back against the wall, place the centre A40 on the MA Gold Stand in front of the fireplace and then pull the left A40 forward to the edge of the TV unit. It sounds a faff, but it takes less than a minute and means his audio is not compromised whether watching TV or using the projector. All adds to the event, we think.

    This gives an idea of locations (red being ceiling speakers for Atmos).
    Future plans are upgrading the projectors, probably to an Epson TW7200, as Harkon especially likes the idea of lens memory. The surrounds will also ‘need’ upgrading to either RXFX or Apex A10s. And then he'll be done..

    Yeah, Harkon, keep telling yourself that!

    Current Kit list:

    React3 92" Rectractable screen
    Epson TW6600
    Sony Bravia 43" 751
    Denon X4200
    Monitor Audio Apex A40s LCRs
    BXFX Surrounds
    MA Pro IC80 (Atmos front) and MA CT265-Fx (Atmos Rear)
    Dali E12-F Sub

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