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Assistance with upgrading existing home theatre

timcz

Active Member
Hi everyone, have lurked on these forums for a number of years a while ago, but had never joined until now. Just over a year ago we purchased a new house. The family was growing and we decided time to move. The place we bought has a built in home theatre which was a major selling point to me. The components aren’t fantastic, so having lived there for a year now, I think its time to begin the upgrade path.

There are def a few limitations with the current system, and some things I see as limitations which will probably dictate how the upgrade process goes also, but thats probably where everyones advice would be very helpful and appreciated.

Its a decent sized room - just shy of 4m wide by 6m, with 2 rows of lounges.

Current Equipment -
All the speakers are Novonde NR (I have never heard of this brand) and google doesn’t find much at all, so I’m assuming they’re nothing special. It has the Front, and Centre as the Dual In wall option, and the 4 rears are the 8.25” option I believe.
Home Theater Speaker
Subwoofer - PSB SubSeries 200 which is mine from my older system in the previous house. Theres also a Velodyne sub that came with the house which I’m unsure of the model, and needs repair currently. Wasn’t working when I moved in.
Amplifier/Receiver - Denon AVR X3100W
Projector - Epson EH TW9200.

My current issues with the system, and why I’d like to upgrade
  • The speakers themselves are average sound quality, and I would like improvement in this regard. Im not too concerned about the surround speakers at this point, but will look to upgrade them last down the track.
  • The centre channel placement is horrible. Its too low to the ground, which is kind of ok if you’re in the front row, but if you’re in the 2nd row, the speaker is blocked completely. Below the screen is essentially a shelf, so I could easily place a new centre speaker on here likely solving this issue.
  • I find myself constantly adjusting the volume of the centre channel depending on what we’re watching, as it seems to be way off balance from the other two fronts even when running the amp tuning software. That might just be me being fiddly and have a bit to do with the placement, or may have something to do with the power distribution to all the speakers.
  • I don’t think the current amp is that bad based on reviews, and I hope should suit the overall needs.

The Limitations I have on the upgrade path.
  • My wife does like the room too, and likes the clean nature of not having the big speakers standing at the front of the room.
  • The current cutouts/area for the inwalls is very small, so there will have to be modifications to the front area either way no matter what goes in there.
  • Im not sure if where the front speakers are currently is a good position at all, and what limitations this will have if I replace with a better set of inwalls.
So - based on the above, id like to think about beginning to upgrade. From chatting to the local hifi shop, sounds like a good first step might be to add a power amp to the existing amp in order to give the front 2 speakers a bit more juice, leaving more power for the centre speaker. After that, I thought speakers would be next. Ill likely have to proceed down the inwall route still, unless you can place towers inside cupboards with some speaker mesh instead of doors, but I believe thats probably not a good option sound wise. I hear that B&W and Triad make good in walls, but i’m not sure where to even get Triads in Australia.

Budget wise, for the front speakers and power amp I’d like to keep it below 10 grand (AUD) if I could. I don’t consider myself to be an audiophile by any means, but I can appreciate good sound quality.

Sorry for the essay, just thought the more info I could provide, the easier it would be for people to understand the situation.

Some images -

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Peter Parker

Distinguished Member
What I would do, is to replace the 16:9 screen with an acoustically transparent 2.40 screen that goes wider than the left and right speakers so they will be behind the screen and firing through the material and not the outer frame work. That will mean a slightly larger 16:9 image and scope will be wider and more immersive, so a visibly improvement in presentation all round.

If you don't mind some DIY, you can make the screen wall to wall with timber and stretch and staple the AT material over it. A lot of people use two layers of Spandex, either white over white, or white over black. You'll probably have to do some googling or use avs for the best materials available where you are.

I would build out the recess where screen is currently so that you effectively have a 'baffle wall' and fit the centre speaker in it at the same height as the current two (assuming you may be happy to keep them). If the existing 'columns' where the L&R are can be easily dismantled, you can make a single baffle wall which may be easier than making one to fit in between the current two columns. When the wall is done and you have the speakers in place, cover the wall with some acoustic foam panels to tame sound reflections that will bounce between the wall and screen. Inch thick Linacoustic is commonly used in the US but not sure if you have it in Oz. You will want to fill in the large centre cavity with fibreglass/rockwool or similar to remove any resonance from there.

Another method is to just have a large cavity behind the screen and fit the speakers of your choice on stands. There are a lot of builds like that over on avs. You will want to line the cavity with acoustic foam to prevent any unwanted 'echo' of the speakers in there.

Make some timber frames and cover with black velvet to go above and below the screen to tidy things up, but have the bottom one easily removable to access stuff if you leave it there. Black velvet or black spandex will be fine for that, or you could even use speaker grill cloth. All of them will allow remotes to work through them and you can still see the lights etc, though I think SGC may give the most visibility. If you can get some samples and test with small frames you can see which ones work best in that respect.

If you can rip out the two side columns and start over, I would recommend Behringer B215XL speakers. They're large PA type speakers that have a bit of a following in the US and a few of us here are using them behind AT screens. There is a huge thread over on avs and a smaller one here. At around £130+ (approx $AU 250) they're excellent value and Audyssey will want to cross them at around 40hz when mounted in a baffle wall. They have a sensitivity of 96db so can be run on your existing amp. They use compression drivers just like in commercial theatres and do have a more 'cinematic' sound over conventional speakers, though you may have to try before you buy to be sure they're for you.

Build a 12 inch tall (or taller) platform for the second row that is wall to wall and goes to the back wall. Combined with the higher centre speaker, you won't have any more problems with the first row blocking the second.

I don't know how close you sit, but you might want to upgrade the projector to a 9300 or the newer 9400, but I would recommend their laser models or a mid level JVC like the 7900. With 1080,l LCD pixels may start to become visible when you zoom for scope.

I see you have ceiling speakers, so I assume they are for Atmos. Unless you are happy with how they currently sound, I would suggest that you move the top middle ones in closer and over the seating so they're more in line with the top rears. Having them over the seating (like in a commercial Atmos theatre) and firing down at the people is more effective than when at the side walls.

I would also make up some velvet covered frames that go from floor to ceiling and cover the side walls. This will reduce the amount of light that reflects back from the side walls and onto the screen, so that will improve the intra image contrast. Do the same with the ceiling if you can. With a wider 2.40 screen that is closer to the walls if not actually wall to wall, there will be more light bouncing back because the screen is closer to the walls.

Not sure if any of that is how you would like to do things, but that would be my approach. :)
 

timcz

Active Member
Awesome - thanks for that.

I had def thought about potentially bringing the screen forward a bit, replacing it and then going down the route of putting speakers behind it. There would def have to be considerable work re-doing the cabinetry which my wife isnt the biggest fan of. I might need to get someone in to take a look to see how easy that may be. Its done pretty nicely now, so dont want to DIY that aspect of it and ruin it compared to the nice job they did already.

The 2nd row actually is on a platform currently, which is good. The darkening of the walls is def something ive been considering, potentially by first re-painting, and then adding something to the walls for acoustics too. Theres a bit of nasty reverb up the back too that just sounds odd to me.
 

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