AVForums home cinema construction diary

Discussion in 'Members DIY Home Cinema Showcases' started by Stuart Wright, Oct 31, 2012.

  1. Stuart Wright

    Stuart Wright
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    We're building the new AVForums home cinema - Picture House 4, and publishing a build diary here.
    Rather than build a dedicated home cinema, we wanted to show how well a home cinema can be integrated into a lounge or family room, like most people have.

    AVForums Home Cinema Build Diary: Episode 1:...

    To follow the tradition of my Dad's family, we named our first home cinema Picture House after the cinema in Newport Shropshire which my Dad's dad and his brothers ran from 1913 to 1962.
    They ran a few cinemas in the area and used to transport the films between cinemas. Dad tells me that one of the brothers (Oliver Wright) died when he had a motorbike accident delivering films from one cinema to another.

    Picture House #2
    [​IMG]
    Our first home cinema was a difficult job. We lived in a mid-terraced ex-council house on a dodgy cul-de-sac in Woodgate Valley, Birmingham. There was a void under the garage which we heard had been dug out at another house on the estate. So we broke through the six inch thick, reinforced concrete wall under the garage and excavated over 100 tons of rocks. The hallway, kitchen and garden were trashed for over a year.
    There was a cluster of electrical cables which came through the wall which I should have moved, but didn't, and we had a problem with damp water coming through the floor.

    It was a good place to watch movies and it certainly helped sell the house when we moved in 2003.
    I learned some painful lessons building that home cinema and still have the scars (from the jagged steel rods sticking out of the walls) to show for it.

    Picture House #3
    We relocated to Telford and I had my eye on the detached single garage down the garden. We had set some cash aside for converting that and with some help from Rob Sinden of Gecko, David Bone of Owl Video, Roger Batchelor of Denon, Roland Brooks of B4 Projection and Piers Clerk of Home Cinema Engineering, Alastair and Andrew Collie of Kent Home Cinema and my kids we created a really nice home cinema.

    [​IMG]

    The problem with Picture house #3 was that being down the garden, it got very cold in Winter and Very warm in Summer. We had an air conditioning system installed, but it wasn't very good because it couldn't cope with the extreme weather. It was also not ideal having to trudge down the garden to watch a movie and so the home cinema got used only once every week or two.

    More about our first two home cinemas can be found here.

    Picture House #4
    We moved back to Birmingham in the Summer of 2011 and have enjoyed our Kuro and 2.1 system in the lounge, but the build of the new AVForums home cinema (and Picture House #4) was long overdue.

    We had limited choice of where to have it. We considered extending the house for a dedicated room, but the cost would have been huge.
    So we decided on using what is officially the dining room, which we handed over to the kids as their play room.

    It's the room next door to my office and it's a reasonable size at 4.27m x 5.76m. However, as well as the door to the hallway, there are also two patio doors plus two radiators.

    Below is the view as you walk into the room. On left wall there are some nice plaster features and lights plus a radiator down the far end.
    On the opposite wall is a patio door into the garden. On the right wall is an internal patio door and a radiator.
    3.jpg
    Walk to the far corner and look back, and you can see the door into the hall.
    2.jpg
    One thing I won't miss is that nasty ceiling light which I bang my head on regularly.

    Since this will be, like most peoples' home cinemas, part of a multi-function room, we wanted to cover the build to show how a (hopefully) really excellent home cinema can be built into a room which is also used for other purposes.
    Since more than 90% of AVForums visitors are male, I think we can reasonably say that the WAF (or wife acceptance factor) is an important consideration when thinking about a home entertainment system. Let's be more PC and say that partners of home cinema enthusiasts don't always appreciate having AV equipment making a bold statement in their living space.

    Since I don't know anything about in-wall speakers, I asked Neil Davidson of Genesis Technologies for some advice.
    Neil has worked with AVForums previously as a technical consultant. He invited us to see their demo rooms in Bracknell and we were impressed. You can't see any of the speakers in the larger demo room, and the screen has Batman artwork on it when not watching a movie.
    The system didn't sound overly loud. I asked Neil about this and he explained that an indicator of loudness is distortion. I.e. as the volume goes up, the amp/speakers are less able to cope and the audio starts to distort. This system had so much power that it didn't distort. He suggested we try to have a conversation while listening to another clip. It was like being in a nightclub. You know, when you are yelling directly into someone's ear, and they still can't understand you?
    It was *that* loud. But still crystal clear.
    With the great picture quality as well, it was very much a case of 'I want one'.

    I decided early on that I'm really not up to DIYing this home cinema. I'm too busy running AVForums and considering that we should be showing people how to do it right, I'm completely out of my depth.
    So Neil put together some kit suggestions and recommended Simon Ridley of Son-Tech as an installer.
    Simon emailed through some great ideas.

    concept1.jpg
    concept2.jpg
    concept3.jpg
    concept4.jpg
    concept5.jpg
     

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  2. Stuart Wright

    Stuart Wright
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    Video number 2 in the build diary. We talk about the acoustics of the room and how we plan to use acoustically transparent fabric to give us flexibility with regard to the placement of speakers and acoustic treatment.

    AVForums Home Cinema build diary: Episode 2:...

    The design evolved a little bit from the initial concept drawings.
    Originally I wanted some shelves to put movie memorabilia on, but on reflection I wasn't that keen on the rear shelving and so that was dropped.
    There won't be any memorabilia in the room as that can make it look cluttered and it also moves the focus of the room away from being a 'blank canvas' and more towards a dedicated home cinema. (In fact there will be just one element of 'movieness' in the room when not in use, but more on that later).

    We will, however, need some storage space for game controllers, wii fit boards, headsets and such.
    So I asked if the rear bulkhead could be used for storage. I hope it will end up a bit like overhead storage on planes.

    Dropping the rear shelving means we can build the back wall out. This means we can have some acoustic treatment on the rear wall, which is a significant advantage.

    The Kit

    AVForums Home Cinema build diary: Episode 3:...

    Sources
    The sources in the room will be the fairly predictable Sky+ HD box, 3D Blu-ray player (I went for the Panasonic DMP-BDT220), Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, and for music from our library on the network, the Sonos Connect.

    Processor
    The processor we heard at Genesis Technologies was the Datasat RS20i. It's a consumer version of the processor you'll find in cinemas, and it's special because of how flexible it is in how the audio controls work.

    All 16 channels of the RS20i will be used in the 7.2 system. The 7 speakers are all bi-amped with a separate channel going to the tweeter and the woofer. 7x2 = 14 channels, plus the two subwoofers = 16 channels.
    It means that there is independent control over the tweeters and woofers in all 7 the Wisdom Audio fronts and surrounds, and also over both subwoofers.

    Basically you can tweak it so that you can do a better job of overcoming the acoustic challenges of rooms like the AVForums home cinema (with its patio doors). I'll be writing more on the RS20i later.

    Amplifiers
    Because we need 16 channels of amplification, Neil recommended two ADA PTM8150 amplifiers which are an all MOSFET design implementing four double-stacked output transistors per channel. Each 8150 is designed to run a 7.1 system with a passive sub, but since we are running 7 speakers bi-amped in the processor and two subwoofers, we need two of them. More about the ADAs later.

    Speakers
    Since I don't have a clue about in-wall speakers, I trusted the advice of Neil Davidson of Genesis Technologies when he recommended Wisdom Audio. They are a high-end American brand.
    Neil recommended P38i fronts, P20i surrounds and S90i subwoofers from the Wisdom Audio Sage series to create a 7.2 setup. We had a chance to audition Wisdom Audio speakers in the Genesis Technologies demo room and they sounded fantastic.
    Because I played rock drums for a living for a number of years and also was a motorbike courier to supplement that, I absolutely hammered my ears, meaning they are pretty knackered these days.
    Which is why despite our advice on the forums being to audition speakers before you buy, I didn't feel the need to audition any other brands, I was happy to take Neil's advice with regard the Wisdom Audio.

    Projector
    I saw the JVC DLA-X70R at the Gadget Show this year playing Tron Legacy and I thought it looked absolutely fantastic.
    And given the unit's flexibility in terms of picture setup and lens memory, and our own Phil Hinton's high praise for the unit in his review here, the JVC was my first choice for projector.

    Screen
    The screen choice was a humdinger. I suggested that I wanted to be able to watch movies in the room with a projector and also have TVs for gaming, and thought about either putting the TVs up a different wall or maybe having an electric drop-down screen like we had in Picturehouse #3.
    But Neil showed us an IMAGE Screens Cinema TV Masque projection screen which has large rollers top and bottom which allow you to roll the screen up to reveal a black portion of material with a hole cut in it through which you can view the TV. 4 electric, programmable masks move in to perfectly frame the TV. Neil pointed me to this Youtube video to show how it works.
    Image Cinema TV Masque - English


    So we could have the TV behind the screen completely invisible until you want to watch it.
    Since this matches perfectly with our goal of having a home cinema in a family room, we went for this screen. Bearing in mind the seating distance, we are having one which is 2.7 metres wide.
    The only problem then was picking the art work to go on the screen.

    The art work
    About the art work for the screen in the new AVForums home cinema.
    The projection screen we are using in the new AVForums home cinema is an IMAGE Screens Cinema TV masque. It is a static screen which has three areas of material which can be moved between two rollers.
    One area of screen is, of course, normal white projection screen material.
    One area is black with a hole in it, through which we can see the TV located in the void between the rollers. 4-way masking moves in to the edges of the TV to create a very neat, professional appearance. It allows us to watch TV despite having a static screen.
    And one is a piece of art work to enjoy when not using the projector or TV.
    So we needed to find a piece of art to be printed onto the acoustically transparent portion of the new screen which is on display when we are not watching a movie or TV. It's permanent, so it was important we chose the right image.
    The spec was an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and 2.7 metres wide.
    Since my favourite film is Star Wars, the wife Vicki is also a particular fan and both kids also enjoy it, the choice of a Star Wars themed piece of art work was a fairly easy one.
    Nothing from Episodes 1-3 though, as they were rubbish.
    I spent quite a lot of time trawling the 'net for appropriate art work, but I found nothing at high resolution that I liked.
    So I asked around to see if we could find an artist who would create us a custom piece.
    I talked with Andrew Timbs of Movie Art Prints who created the Batman city scape for Genesis Technologies' demo room. He takes scenes from movies and recreates them in Adobe Illustrator. They are digital vector drawings, so can be printed at vast resolutions.
    He agreed to put a rush on and get the art work done ASAP if I would provide him with the elements from which he could do the drawing. So I used the Star Wars Blu-rays to capture the scenes I wanted.
    At the heart of the piece would be Vader, since Anakin Skywalker's story is really what episodes 1-6 are about.
    Somewhere along the process, the idea came about to have the Empire's characters on one side and the Rebel Alliance's characters on the other. Opposing forces with the Emperor leading one side and Mon Mothma leading the other.
    The ships were tricky to get because they are blurred in pretty much all the flying shots in the movies. I had to find images on the 'net which Andrew could use.
    Similarly I couldn't find a shot of Han's head which worked. Vicki asked that we could have a picture of him where his character showing through. But he is flinching in all the moments where he is shooting his iconic blaster and the lighting isn't right in the Cantina scenes. There were a few candidates from the rebel briefing and Endor scenes in Jedi, but in the end I found a photo of him on the 'net.
    We decided to have him in the Falcon cockpit, which we took, along with his and Chewy's body from the end of Star Wars.

    [​IMG]

    Chewy's head is from Jedi when he gets up after falling out of the Ewok trap. I specifically asked for his eyes to be enhanced as Peter Mayhew has the most amazing blue eyes.
    I chose to have 3PO in the Falcon because I specifically didn't want to be predictable and have the droids together. The 3PO image is from the Falcon cockpit in Empire.

    [​IMG]

    I put R2 in the Dagobah scene with Luke and Yoda. Took me a while to get exactly the right shot of Luke where he's struggling to learn from Yoda, but it's perfect. Having the ghostly image of Obi-wan above the downed X-Wing was a nice idea from Andrew. I chose the shot from Star Wars when we first see Obi-wan lift his hood on Tatooine.
    Two explosions in the art work. The right-hand one is from Jedi when the Falcon shoots a Tie Interceptor before flying through it. The left-hand one is from the Tie Figher attack after the Falcon left the Death Star in Star Wars.
    The art work came together nicely in the end and you can view it in full here at the Movie Art Prints website where you can also buy it for yourself in a variety of sizes. There is a limited run of 250 with a 15% discount for forum members. Email me for the code which has to be entered at checkout.

    Build Day 1
    AVForums Home Cinema build diary: Episode 4:...


    Build Day 2
    AVForums Home Cinema build diary: Episode 5:...


    Build Day 3
    AVForums Home Cinema Build Diary: Episode 6:...

    We chatted about the fabric and the plan for the ceiling which was originally going to be skimmed, but the cost of covering the ceiling with the fabric wasn't significant, and it would allow for placement of acoustic treatment on the ceiling if it's needed, though we don't anticipate it. So it was decided that the ceiling should be covered in the fabric also. We see the track being erected on Day 4 and the material starts going up on Day 5.

    Build Day 4
    AVForums Home Cinema Build Diary: Episode 7:...


    Build Day 5
    AVForums Home Cinema Build Diary: Episode 8:...
     

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  3. Stuart Wright

    Stuart Wright
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    Build Day 6
    AVForums Home Cinema Build Diary: Episode 9:...

    More material going up, plus work on the rounded shelving ends and frames for the patio windows.

    Build Day 7
    AVForums Home Cinema Build Diary: Episode 10:...

    Today saw the biggest transformation, I think, from a work-in-progress room with bare woodwork, to something which looks much closer to completion.
    Lots of painting, covering the shelving doors and other MDF panels, and finishing of the front panels.
    This video also includes timelapse of the fitting of the carpet.

    The Lighting
    AVForums Home Cinema Build Diary: The Lighting

    The lighting in the room is so interesting that we made a video about it.
    Because Vicki and I couldn't make a decision about what colour fabric to use in the room, we thought about how we could have colour changing lighting so we could change the colour, and the feel of the room as and when we wanted. This led to the suggestion to put RGB (colour controllable) LED lighting in, using a combination of LED down lights (above the seats) and LED tape (at either end washing across the ceiling). So we chose fairly neutral colours for the fabric which will work well when the lighting washes over them.
    This would work nicely with a DMX system which could then be controlled via an iPad.


    Build Day 8
    AVForums Home Cinema Build Diary: Episode 11:...

    Lots happened on day 8. A new guy, Andy, the electrician wired plug sockets and fused spurs up, and connected up the lights. We got the first LED strip working.
    The first speaker was unpacked and installed, the centre, ready to put the screen in front of it.

    The screen arrived from Germany and Neil Davidson was on site to make sure it was going to work ok. He also unpacked the Datasat and upgraded it ready to be connected up.
    Meanwhile the guys put the three bulkhead units up.

    Then we hit a snag. The amount of space behind screen, between the rollers was less than expected and this meant the centre speaker enclosure was in the way when the screen was mounted. The guys had to make some adjustments to the position of the enclosure, raising it up a tad so that the screen would fit.
    Neil investigated that more on day 9.

    Build Days 9 and 10
    AVForums Home Cinema Build Diary: Episode 12:...

    Day 9 Neil Davidson checked the screen. Now these screens are custom made so we weren't exactly sure of the amount of space between the rollers behind the screen material. There needs to be a enough of room to place both the 50" TV and the centre speaker enclosure behind there.
    And there isn't enough room.
    A smaller centre speaker enclosure would fit however, so the decision was made that Simon would build a new enclosure off site for fitting later on.

    Build Days 11, 12 and 13
    AVForums Home Cinema Build diary: Episode 13:...

    Since we're nearing the end of the build, the work on the last 3 days has been compressed into one video.
    We get to see how the electric blinds run in the painted, wooden track.
    The Datasat processor and ADA amps are connected up to each other, to the sources and to the speaker cables so that, most excitingly, for the first time we have 7.2 audio and video. It's just for the purposes of testing the signal, though. No proper setup happens, yet.
    We do get to see the channel signals bouncing up and down both on the front of the processor and the amps.
     
  4. Stuart Wright

    Stuart Wright
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    This is the last video in the series.
    25th March Graham Goodbun of Genesis and Simon (with his team) visited to complete the bulk of the remaining work.
    Graham
    • installed and set up the Lumagen video processor
    • programmed the screen
    • programmed the system control
    The screen moving to reveal the TV behind it is a thing of beauty.

    Simon and his team
    • moved the centre speaker into a smaller enclosure and downwards
    • installed the TV behind the screen
    • installed two additional lights in the bulkhead
    • fitted and painted the three large bulkhead doors
    • replaced a shelving door
    • fitted the cabinet shelving
    • programmed the lighting and other stuff
    • took away the blackout blinds (because the material doesn't black out and needs replacing)
    • installed the Launch Port - iPort / Launchport - Manufacturer - Habitech Website
    AVForums Home Cinema Build Diary: Episode 14:...


    We're producing a set of official videos early May which will show the finished home cinema, with myself and other guests talking about its design, construction and calibration.

    Thanks everyone for your encouragement and support.
     
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  5. Veg

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    Look forwards to seeing the rest of this... Might save me having to figure out my own set up! :thumbsup:
     
  6. Per156GTA

    Per156GTA
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    One to follow!
     
  7. signs

    signs
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    Nice one :)
     
  8. Smurfin

    Smurfin
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    That looks like an interesting manufacturer list at the end :thumbsup:

    Out of interest, are you going with the CinemaTech ARS acoustic room treatment?
     
  9. austcy

    austcy
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  10. Stuart Wright

    Stuart Wright
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    Haven't got that far, yet.
     
  11. Bizness

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    Another interested party here.
     
  12. Kenny Glasgow

    Kenny Glasgow
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    Good luck!
     
  13. TeDeV

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    i seriously don't like the fact that you placed the screen there. u missed the length of the room, and you are using the width. everything is going to be very close to you. you will not be able to enjoy real 7.1 experience with the sofa touching the wall, and what about the sound reflections that you will have from the 2 big windows.

    i also see bookshelves, above the sofa, which scares me a bit. what if u have big vibrations (which is nice), and things start to fall on your head?

    also the distance between the Rear left and the rear right, will be big enough. which means that the person who sits at the left side of the sofa, will hear only that speaker. same goes for the right side of the sofa.

    i don't know. just my 2 cents.
     
  14. Apone

    Apone
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    If you have Genesis involved and Son Tech then you'll get a very good Home Cinema experience I'm sure:thumbsup:

    What kit will you be using?
     
  15. Per156GTA

    Per156GTA
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    Remember, this is a project to get the best sound and video out of a living room home cinema set up. There are always going to be big compromises on a living room system - wouldn't be much of a living room project if they blocked up all the windows and got rid of the shelves etc.

    Also as founder of AV Forums, and using some highly respected installers and professionals, I reckon he knows what he is doing and what it will achieve!.

    Anyhow, enjoy the rest of the posts as they come in and then pass judgement once the works are finished.

    Per
     
  16. Rick2102

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    Looking forward to this one:smashin:
     
  17. craigizmo2k2

    craigizmo2k2
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  18. Ste0803

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    Looking forward to this one. Should give me some inspiration for my own build.

    Ste0803
     
  19. Pecker

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    Given the people involved, I'm sure these problems willbe overcome, but yes it'll be interesting to see how they do it.

    Currently planning for a return to my old home cinema room and will be looking here for tips.

    Steve W
     
  20. Rob Sinden

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    Hi Stuart

    The shape of room you have and the speaker layout will give way better results than your previous cinema that we installed for you. I'm sure it'll look and sound stunning.

    Can I ask what the approximate cost of the equipment and room treatment etc. on this project?

    Rob
     
  21. purextc69

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    Subscribed!
     
  22. DrGekko

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    Hi Stuart.

    A fantastic project in the making, can't wait to see this progress. I'm intrigued by your statement that this will be a home cinema within a "normal" room which can be used for other purposes, like most UK domestic living rooms... from the initial designs, this does very much appear to be a dedicated "Home Theater" (as the Americans would put it) with the straight row seats watching the large wide screen. I'm curious to know what other purposes had you in mind with the room, other than pure AV entertainment?

    Thanks. :thumbsup:
     
  23. HAWK-EYE

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    @Stuart Wright
    Looking at your room i was curious to run some numbers on my room then realizing yours may need double checking.

    If you are using a JVC PJ you sure that will work to fill that size screen?

    270cm wide screen min throw = 378cm JVC X70
    room 427cm wide - 47.5 (jvcx70) = 379.5cm allow 10cm for screen from wall and 10cm for air/cable gap behind projector = 359.5cm throw which will not fill the 270cm screen.
     
  24. Pecker

    Pecker
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    Maybe that's a 270cm wide 2.35:1 screen and he's using an anamorphic lens?

    Just a guess.

    Steve W
     
  25. HAWK-EYE

    HAWK-EYE
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    Or 270cm is the overall dimension including screen boarders? That would work.
     
  26. Arcam_boy

    Arcam_boy
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    Looks like a very nice room to have to play with.

    However I'm a little dubious over the fact your trying to show how a home cinema can be incorporated in to a multi function room with in walls which I agree in principal but how much would an avforumer have to spend to achieve such a level of performance if buying the kit your proposing to use?

    I'm positive already the room will look and sound amazing but I'm wondering if someone like myself could achieve the same on a £5k budget which is still probably more than the average person would look at spending on a home cinema system. It seems a little pointless showing what can be achieved with in-walls etc but spending maybe 5 or 10 times more than most would ever consider!

    Maybe adding an RRP list would be beneficial as well :)

    All the best with the build.
     
  27. stevelup

    stevelup
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    I can't see the direct correlation between using in-wall speakers and spending a fortune. You can do in-wall at any budget from shoestring to five figure.

    For a discreet installation in a multi-use room, they can't be beat.
     
  28. Apone

    Apone
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    Looking at some of the brand names this project is built with (wisdom audio, ada, Datasat etc), I can honestly say it would have to cost a lot of money:D

    For less than 5K, you can very easily get a 3D projector, screen, 7.1 speaker system, av amp, bd player and cables etc.
     
  29. Smurfin

    Smurfin
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    Got to be £60k plus for the kit alone? Nice!
     
  30. Arcam_boy

    Arcam_boy
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    Yes I appreciate that and I have a 5.1 system in an upstairs bedroom using B&W in-walls myself as the room has to double as a spare room for when friends/family stop over. It cost me around £1000.

    However the stuff from Genesis costs many thousands of pounds so although I appreciate it can be done on a much lower level you won't get near the performance / experience Stuart will get from the kit he's using.

    It's like me starting a thread saying building a kit car is a better option than buying a VW Golf and having some experts in carbon fibre build the body, Rolls Royce trim the interior and a mclaren fettled AMG engine installed. Of course it's going to be brilliant!
     

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