Cram's Garage and Lounge AV conversion

cram

Novice Member
As a long term lurker and occasional poster to these forums I thought it was time that I documented my various setups. Unlike some of the threads on here this isn't a diary of me as I put my setup together as everything is now finished. Whilst I have some pictures there isn't a lot to view in terms of the rooms as they were being worked on as I didn't take that many pictures. From a building perspective I don't think we did anything that was out of the ordinary.

WARNING: Long rambling posts ahead. Feel free to skip to the pics

Whilst I've had an interest in home theatre setups for over 10 years now I've either never had the time, money or will to build a setup that I was really happy with. I've always used all-in-one home theatre setups from the likes of Sony with varying degrees of success accompanied with the inevitable speaker cable spaghetti.

This changed over a year ago when I was made redundant and bought a Dell 30” monitor for the computer in the spare bedroom/office. I already had a Bose 2.1 computer speaker setup and started playing around with media centre, ripping and streaming from a Thecus NAS box I had. It took a few months of playing around with media centre and the various front ends/meta data gathering tools to get it to behave as I wanted. But I was pleased with the end results and found myself using this spare bedroom to watch films rather than popping in a DVD in the lounge. So when the ageing Sony DAV S800 setup in the lounge bit the dust it was time for an overhaul.

The requirements for the lounge were:
- Replace the 32” CRT screen with something a bit more modern (and bigger)
- 5.1 sound
- access to the DVDs that I had ripped to my PC

Limitations were
- Room layout. Though the lounge is a reasonable size (5m x 5m) the size of the fireplace and the positioning of the sofas meant I would be looking at a corner setup
- No visible wires
- Equipment not to be particularly visible.

After a bit of research the following equipment was selected
- Q-Acoustics QAV 7.1 system
- Onkyo TX-SR876 AV Receiver
- Sony KDL-40W4500 40” LCD
- PC housed in an Antec Fusion Case
- Logitech Harmony One remote

It quickly came apparent that the Onkyo is a bit of an ugly monster and it would be difficult to hide it discretely in the lounge. So before I wired everything up the decision was made to hide the equipment (PC and receiver) in the garage behind the lounge with a HDMI cable coming through the wall into the back of the TV. Other than having to purchase long cables for everything the cabling wasn't too difficult and didn't involve much damage to the house, just a couple of holes drilling to allow the cables outside. Whilst doing this I discovered the existence of brush plates that seem to be popular on these forums.

Moving the equipment into the garage took care of the discrete appearance requirement but gave me a problem with remotes so purchased a pair of Powermids for this. The computer is controlled using a keysonic keyboard/trackpad combo. The RF receiver for this is plugged into a USB hub that has been positioned within the AV cabinet below the TV.



Two of the Q-Acoustics surrounds, ceiling mounted

 
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cram

Novice Member
For the most part I've been very pleased with this setup. All was good until…

When I was made redundant I was given some equipment by the company as it closed down. This included a Sony VPL-CS21 projector with only a few hours on the bulb. I already had various computers setup in the garage and started playing around with this projector using a portable screen that I borrowed. Now this projector is really aimed at displaying business presentations rather than films. I was getting an 80” picture from less than 3m throw distance and this started me thinking about building some sort of room within the garage and having this as a projector room. But I had my doubts about how much I would actually use it, particularly in winter. Then my girlfriend suggested “why don't we just knock through from the house so it becomes a proper room for a projector”. She didn't need to say this twice.

The garage we have is a double one. Like most people's garages it was full of crap. I couldn't convert the entire garage as we still have a requirement for some storage space if only to house the children's' outside toys. So the garage was divided into two giving a projector room size of 5m x 3m. The garage was divided width ways rather than length ways so it is impossible to get a car in there now (not that we've ever put a car in there in the last 9 years).



Whilst I had a healthy budget to complete this project nevertheless there was a still a budget. One of the first decisions I made was to redeploy the Onkyo amp to the projector room. I felt this amp was probably a little bit overspecced for use with the Q-AV system. So a Sony STR-DA2400ES receiver was purchased for the lounge setup.

Next decision was on speakers. Whilst floor standers would have been nice I felt with the size of the room and taking into account I have small children a wall mounted style range would be fine. I went with the KEF 3005SE. Whilst the lounge has a 7.1 setup I went with 5.1 in the projector room, largely because of the size/layout of the room. I could have stuck with my “business” projector but opted for a Sony VPL HW-10 as I wanted to be able to display HD pictures. Based on my room size I'm getting a 90” picture @ 16:9 with a seating distance of less than 3m
By the time the actual build started I had got a new job so we used a local builder to do the bulk of the work (whose skills are way better than my own) with me helping on some tasks. We involved the local planning office from the word go as we wanted the room to be an official part of the house. To be honest other than some fire regs we had to adhere to because we still have a garage part to the garage this aspect of the project was totally painless.



 
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cram

Novice Member
Whilst this room is first and foremost a home theatre we wanted the room to be useable in its own right. This placed some limitations on “bat caving it”. The colour scheme we chose was various shades of brown. This allows the room to be relatively dark without it being out an out black. A Shyzip blind was purchased for the window (I'm really impressed with this as a blackout blind, the company were also very good to deal with being very patient with me). There are double doors out onto a decked area; we just use some heavy curtains with blackout material to black these out. With the lights off the room is very dark. Whilst purists may argue that we could get a better picture (or better perceived picture) with darker walls/ceiling I'm happy with the tradeoff to get a room that is usable with the lights on.

Pics below. Due to limitation of camera, walls appear lighter in the pictures than they actually are.









 
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cram

Novice Member
The book case was purchased from M&S whilst the nest of cables came from Chris Sharp Cabinets after I saw some of their furniture in another posters setup. The sofa came from Alan Ward. This was a lot more expensive than I originally anticipated. The other half was tasked with sourcing the sofa. She liked this one best. I viewed it but didn't like the price. We then spent the rest of the afternoon going round about half a dozen other furniture suppliers and basically not liking what we saw/sat on compared to the first, expensive, one. So budget got blown on this.

There's wooden flooring providing a walk way between the garage and a decked area behind the theatre room. We chose this as it is the only way to get to the decked area and since we have a number of plants out there didn't want to traipse dirt through the house.

As with the lounge I wanted to be discrete with the display of equipment. When I was younger I loved seeing big racks of equipment as I've got older my tastes have changed and I like it all hidden away. The equipment is located in the garage part of the garage. I used a Keene IR distribution amp kit for remote control purposes as I found this performed better/more reliably than the powermids (which can be picky about their placement). Another Harmony One was purchased for remote control purposes as I've been pleased with this remote (though the software isn't that great). I've got Sky HD piped through from the Sky box in the lounge. It's not a multi-room setup. I've used an HDMI splitter to provide the signal to both rooms. I can control the sky box in the lounge from the home theatre room via the Keene IR setup. The HTPC has a Compro 350 TV card which gives me freesat on the PC.

When I started down this road I only had one bluray so storage space on the PC wasn't a big issue. I've now got about 70. The home computer network now has two NAS boxes. A Thecus 5200 Pro and a Thecus 7700, giving a total of 12 drive bays. So whilst I've got plenty of storage space it tends to get eaten up at a rate of knots. I'm not compressing anything as I want to maximise quality. Having said that, at some point I may consider encoding some of the less popular films. Other noteworthy points on the HTPCs
- Mediabrowser is used as the front end within Media Centre
- I use My Movies for getting movie meta data
- Media Scout is used for meta data for TV shows
- Arcsoft TMT 3 is used for bluray playback
- AnyDVDHD is used for ripping blurays
- DVDFab is used for ripping DVDs (main movie only). Latest version of DVD Fab also does blurays but I find the right click rip to image functionality of AnyDVDHD easier to use and old habits die hard.
- DVDs are ripped to a folder structure, blurays to ISO. I'm sure there is some kind of logic behind this but can't remember.
- Virtual Clone Drive is used to mount ISOs
- ATI 5450 card bitstreams HD audio
- All media is accessible from around the house and we can have a different film playing in the lounge to what is showing in the home theatre room (each room is supported by its own HTPC).
- PC can be controlled via the Harmony One but I also use a Logitech diNovoEdge for admin tasks/surfing

Things I'm pleased with
- Blackout blind
- Keene IR stuff
- Remote control lights (varilight)
- Sofa (very comfortable and room for all the family)
- No wires/equipment on display
- Harmony One remote (lack of hard colour keys is a minor annoyance – I know you can use the touchscreen but it's not the same)
- The beer fridge located in the garage
- projector whilst located directly above the seating position is very quiet. The image quality is good as well.
- The PC with the Antec case, passive card and SSD drive is very quiet (though it's no longer located in a room where I could hear it)

Things I would consider if I was doing this again
- wall/ceiling speakers.
- HTPC. Whilst I do like using an HTPC and having the juke box type functionality (I'm not keen on having lots of DVD/Blu-ray cases on display) to be honest they are a PITA to get setup and working and seem to require regular tinkering. I've looked at other media streaming devices such as the Popcorn Hour stuff but have never really been sold on the visual interface and have the suspicion I would just letting myself in for tinkering of a different type of a device.
- The lounge setup isn't used a great deal, mainly for the kids films/tv show.
- Planning. We spent quite a bit of time planning the layout of the room. Visio was used to give floor diagrams. Once some of the studding went up we even chalked out on the floor where furniture etc. was going to go. In the main we got it right I feel but there is the odd socket (such as the power socket for the projector) that is probably not in the best position.
- Budget. I stuck to it in terms of equipment but it went to pot a bit when we started adding furniture and dressing the room.
- Acoustics. To my ears it sounds great and I'm happy but I've got a gut feeling that more attention should have been paid to the acoustics. I've seen other threads where people have installed bass traps I've not bothered and don't know anything about this. I've installed an Auralex SubDude underneath the sub. I was getting some room rattling on some films and this seems to have taken care of that.
- Automasking. I'd love to have the budget to have some sort of electronic automasking screen. I've played around with the idea of doing a manual solution but to be honest it's too much of a faff.

Final Thoughts
I'm very pleased with the results. The room has been a hit with the rest of the family and gets used every week. Since upgrading to a projector setup I don't think we've watched a single film on the TV in the lounge. Though I'm not a frequent poster in these forums I've learned a lot from reading other peoples threads. I've nicked a number of ideas from other members and I've found the recommendation of various suppliers to be very helpful as well. Though I've not name checked anyone in here if you see something that originated from your setup then thanks for the inspiration.
 
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Iccz

Member
Looks great and some well written posts there, always love the detailed threads like this one, look forward to your future updates and changes :smashin:
 

booyaka

Moderator
nice work - excellent detail and some good ideas for my potential garage upgrade in the next few months!:smashin:
 

Dubliner1

Member
Looks awesome :thumbsup:
 

Silverblack

Well-known Member
what an outstanding setup briliant.:thumbsup:
 

elliott1381

Novice Member
love the home theatre room, ideal for cinema viewing but practical for everyday use as well.
 

booyaka

Moderator
could i ask what size of screen and how far are the seats from the screen?
 

chr1stof

Active Member
Really nice mate. Stylish yet comfortable and not out of place in a house. :thumbsup:

Out of interest where/what do i need to look at to get my films to display all collectively as your last pic shows?
 

dalehead

Active Member
Pleased I saw this one !!

I have the 3005SE's and have been worried about the fact I'm going to have to place the center speaker much higher in my new house (just moved) than my previous one, and I see you have your mounted high with the L/R mounted at a more natural height. How have you found this? Any noticeable loss in quality from the height?

Would appreciate your experience.

As for the setup, very very nice :)
 

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