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Eco house with modest TV room

pressure

Well-known Member
This thread has a few snaps of the house we built and the modest little TV room / home cinema that I am very slowly developing. I'll be using this thread as a mini blog for thinking about what to do with my AV - AKA a place where I can moan about various decisions and problems without cluttering up other people's threads any worse than I do already!

This first post shows roughly what it looks like now / in recent years.

Essentially it's a bright purple, upside down eco-house with a grass roof that's largely built into a hill. We moved in to the house in 2009 after a one year build. It's won a couple of RIBA awards.

This shot is roughly what the front looks like now:
House photos for AVF - 1 (9).jpg


... which is quite an advance from when we first moved in:
House photos for AVF - 1 (1).jpg


Looking across the front elevation you can see the hops - they've come on quite a bit since then (and the flags have been weeded!)
House photos for AVF - 1 (3).jpg

... and the view through the trees to the grounds of the flats next door:
House photos for AVF - 1 (8).jpg


From a neighbour's garden you can see the green roof and the air-source heat pump (no solar panels... yet...):

House photos for AVF - 1.jpg


And finally a cheesy panorama of the back:

rear pano - 1.jpg


And to wrap things up - a quick shot of the TV room...


House photos for AVF - 1 (2).jpg
 

RickyLee53

Active Member
Looks great, what made you go down the Eco route? I'm surprised you didn't fill it full of solar, the feed in now is rubbish, but might be worth going "off grid". I'm assuming you have no gas?

Just how cheap is it to heat/run. I've gone to building reg's and above with our home, admittedly i've extended also. We aren't completely finished yet, but I've hardly noticed a difference in the bills. I wonder sometimes if people in these type of houses just turn the heating down a notch as well. we stay at 23 degrees throughout the house in winter. Tends to be 22 approx (air conditioned in summer).

Does you air source warm the hot water as well?
 

pressure

Well-known Member
Eco just seemed like the "right" thing to do, plus of course it's economic overall, and it fitted with the modernist look we wanted. It's not uber eco though - it's not a passive house, just efficient.

I thought onto and hard about adding in solar but at the time (2006-2009) a 3kw system was around £12k-£15k, which I just didn't have. Since then a 3kw system has dropped to about £7k and the tech is slightly better too, a bit more efficient. We've got the cables etc on the roof so we will do it at some point. It's still a 12 year break even at current FITs.

We do have gas as a back up. It just runs the gas hob so bills are about £5-£10 a quarter. The ASHP does all heating and hot water unless the kids take too long in the shower and we need to run the immersion .

The energy bills for this house are the same as for the 3 bed terrace we had before - about £450 a quarter. This is on a green tariff which is one of the most expensive around. You could cut this to £400 or less easily. We're running a ventilation and hear recovery system too which costs a bit to run so it's s good deal.

Underfloor heating is extremely efficient and of course deeply luxurious. As long as you like rugs rather than carpets. We love our painted concrete floors . Plus the house has oodles of insulation and is earth sheltered by being built into a hill and having a green roof.
 

pressure

Well-known Member
Just a note to say that the 1x12 sub has been a revelation in my system. It makes everything sound better - yes the sub bass is deeper, more agile, more room filling etc, but the real benefit was that every other speaker sounded significantly better, it was like everything had been upgraded. Quite extraordinary. And weirdly it seems to sound better every day. I'm really enjoying my old XTZ 99 series fronts, despite the centre being stuck in the rack.

I am now planning the next set of upgrades and I'm in a quandary. I will keep the sub, probably forever. And over time I will probably move to XTZ Cinemas all round. The quandary is what do first to get maximum bang per buck - I don't want to buy it all at one because I want to understand the impact of each change. I guess the options are:

  • upgrade the amp - probably a 6010 or 7010, maybe a second hand Anthem 310 or 510 if I'm not going Atmos for a bit, and get that lovely ARC EQ - ~£1kish
    • +ves:
      • get more out of the XTZs - everything gets better. The XTZs probably need a better amp to get the most from them.
      • get some room EQ, which should help the issues with enter placement in short term
      • get access to Atmos / DTS-X - when I get both near rears and S2s - the up mixer being particularly attractive, for TV
    • -ves
      • the Yamaha sounds pretty good now it has the 1x12 to play with and maybe the speakers are higher priority
      • Atmos needs S2s
      • I really fancied some very nice EQ - preferably Anthem ARC - but to get Atmos that means spending a lot more. And adding Diract means adding a lot more cost, and more boxes. If Anthem or Arcam priced their all-in-one boxes at £1800, I'd be tempted to stretch, but they don't - quite rightly they're charing full whack at £2.5K.
      • I haven't actually heard any of the options :)
  • upgrade the rear speakers - probably to XTZ S5s - £900
    • +ves
      • the rear speakers are the worst bit of the current system, they're cheap (cost about £50!), ancient, they're just basic Eltax bipoles. So S5s will be a huge upgrade
      • once I have an Atmos amp you can bung some up firing S2s on your S5s and you're sorted...
    • -ves
      • lot of money to invest when you could argue the bigger issue is the hardest working speaker, the centre, is so compromised in current location, and they cost double what my existing LCR cost.
      • most TV is 2.1, and most of my watching diet is TV, so won't be used that much - unless I get an Atmos capable amp too
      • For Atmos I'd need to spend another £280 for s2s, they'd need to be up firing, and I don't know if that really works - I don't think anyone on the forum has actually tried this.
  • upgrade the front speakers - wall mounted Cinema M6s - £1.8K
    • +ves
      • everything is better.
      • I would have speakers that would last 10 years or more.
      • the hardest working speaker would be high quality, and would be wall mounted, so largely (but not entirely) free of cabinet resonances.
    • -ves
      • I actually love the sound of the XTZ 99s and I'd really like to hear them with better amp and decent surrounds.
      • Quite pricey - £1.8K all in one go.
      • M6s would need a better amp pretty quick.
      • it's a PITA option. To wall mount the centre, it would need to go under the TV, so my ridiculously heavy plasma and its mount would need to be raised. I'm crap at DIY so this would need getting someone in. Doable but a pain.
      • I guess one option would be to upgrade just the centre speaker although my front three wouldn't be identical. Probably worth looking at.

Doing the exercise of writing it all down I ... well I'm as confused as ever! Maybe go for S5s first so at least I have a proper sound field, although there are issues with that too...
 

pressure

Well-known Member
Damn it.

My beloved 42" VT30 just died with the dreaded 7 flashing LEDs.

So gutted - I wanted it to last at least another year!

Not a great time to be buying a new tv either with the new formats still settling down.
 

pressure

Well-known Member
So the big news is that I've picked up some second hand XTZ Cinema M6es, which are rare as hen's teeth in the used market. So this is a big change of plan for me - I was going to upgrade the rears first and see what a better amp could do with the old 99.25s. But I pounced on the opportunity to get a much better front three for a significant saving. As a result I now have the 99.25s as rears, which has also made a huge difference.

Coincidentally the TV room has just been decorated and I've taken the opportunity to reorganise things. As a result I now have the front's all on the rack, on foam pads, with the left and right somewhat wider to get closer to the Dolby 22* to 30* ideal placement. Having the front three on the same plane seems to have a significant positive impact on the sound. of course, getting the centre out of the rack is a long-held ambition and it's great, but I expect further enhancements when the centre gets mounted on the wall.

Crucially I have also moved the sofa forward about 10 inches. This was hugely worthwhile -it gets my ears further into the sound field and really helps the rears bring the surround mix to life. Fantastic. The diagram below shows how much this was needed.

Slide1.jpg


These spears are sounding really great but they also show off the limitations of the system. The amp is really under-powered and the processing isn't great, and the EQ is woefully inadequate. Anything loud makes the sound really harden up and distort.

Anywhere here's some photos of the new set up.

First the view of the system from my listening position. The right hand speaker would ideally be in the far corner but I lost that argument :). Now they're on foam pads the M6 left and right sound pretty wide anyway. I may widen them for critical listening.

IMG_0006.jpg


Close up of the front three. These are damned good looking speakers if you ask me.

IMG_0007.jpg


The sofa with the rears now firmly into the corners and angled forwards a few degrees. There's now space behind the sofa, which in my experience in this room has been important and highly beneficial. I now get a vastly more enveloping sound field.
IMG_0022.jpg


Another view of the listening position. Note the sub at the rear of the room. A compromise, and I think the M6s would benefit from having a sub at the front. But with the sofa forward 10 inches the bass is not really too localised, better than when the sub was hard up to the back of the room.

IMG_0014.jpg


Side view of the front speakers.
IMG_0013.jpg


Close up of the right speaker and how that corner is composed with the other ornaments. These foam pads angle the left and right up slightly, which seems to help reduce the impact of the vast amount of MDF underneath them.

IMG_0017.jpg


All AV set ups are a compromise, usually involving a trade off between audio quality and room appearance. This set-up handles that trade off quite well I think, thanks to an understanding wife, whose opinions and feelings I treat with respect. Hopefully I will be able to develop this system further while still maintaining a pleasant appearance.
 

pressure

Well-known Member
Re-post / edit from the XTZ thread so I can keep track of things.

I've been muttering about power amps for my XTZs for a while now because I believe that more power could help their performance in my room. The Cinema series are 4 Ohm and while they're not stupidly power hungry, many owners (and Jag) have observed that they do like a good power amp feeding them - even if the AVR is well specified, such as the Arcam 550.

Hence I have put together some analysis on power amp choices - as ever, "When in doubt, build a spreadsheet". I can't afford to spend too much so I wanted to look at what options at the lower end of the market give what kind of power for what kind of cost. See the graph below.
View attachment 711389

A couple of notes on this. There's a bunch of 2 channel amps in here so I have priced for three of them, so there's a mix of five and six channels of amplification. I have priced the Emotivas based on what I have gleaned from the Emo thread here, so the price includes shipping VAT and duty. Due to focus on the lower end of the market I have excluded data on things like the Anthems - the chart gets very difficult to read if I include them. (Mathematical proof of audio's diminishing returns???)

Key findings for me are:
  • Rotel and Emotiva battle it out for budget kings especially second hand. The 1075 may be getting quite old now but it still has a killer price to quality ratio. For newer gear the 1565 battles with the Emo XPA 5 - probably a matter of taste choosing between them but I suspect the Emo shades it. The XPA 5 is one hell of a budget buster.
  • Pro amps like the Crown are amazing value because they deliver so much power - but in absolute cost terms they still don't quite compete with Emo and Rotel. Of course the upside is you can spread the cost - and also get three different power supplies feeding the amps. Downside is they're harder to hide in your rack. I'm still tempted by one of these bridged for the centre channel...
  • On paper, amps like the Rotel 1506 and Marantz 7055 are hard to justify - they need to be very good quality / low noise / high current indeed to make up for the relatively low power. This is probably also true for amps like the ATI and Rotel 1585. At that price level you have to be either very confident that they're better than the Crowns, or very keen on a one box high power solution.
Have I missed any really interesting options? I left out the Behringer A500 because - well, it's a Behringer! And I think there's some lowish end Audiolabs but not sure if they do good power into 4 ohm. Let me know...

As it happens, while I was doing all this analysis a nice little two channel amp came up in the classifieds and I pounced - there really aren't many around!

So I now have an Emo UAP 200 powering the left and right which made a big difference for cinema. I like it. In fact I want more of it - much more.

The issue I wanted to address was the XTZs sounding strained - i.e. low level distortion across the frequency range at almost any volume but especially anything over -23. It was particularly evident on blu ray.

For example - Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. That lovely opening scene with the incredible overhead effects from the rain? It's great. But it was sibilant and a bit lacking in weight. As soon as the chase scene came in, it was all just a little bit harsh.

Now at -15 it is much smoother, the sound is fuller, it is less wearing and more fluid. It's much better. It's not terribly subtle - I could tell the difference from the first seconds of powering it up,

But I can tell the centre lacks a power amp. The centre of the soundstage is still strained and harsh in comparison.

Jag was right - the 6010 is fine, it drives the XTZs fairly well and it gives you much of their quality. But a power amp helps. A lot.

My new UAP200 is great. I love it. But it's 200watts and I seriously wonder what 400watts + would do. A Crown XLS2002 gives you 600+.

IME the benefits of power amps are not a myth. As mentioned up thread, with XTZs, power amps are very, very beneficial - as long as your set up is fairly sorted.
 

pressure

Well-known Member
I've been having niggling concerns about the XTZs and music. They do ok but not brilliantly and this has made me concerned about whether they're optimal for cinema too.

To test this I did a bunch of subjective, sighted ab testing of XTZs versus the little Genelec 8020s I run on my studio. On paper this is unfair - these cost just £560 a pair new (mine are second hand), with two 40 watt class d amps, versus the 200watt emotiva driving my XTZs, which are £1200 new. I preferred my little Genelecs on the first test.

Since then I've run them in my system for the last week for tv, games and music. Overall I preferred the XTZs for everything - they put a smile on my face more. Performance wasn't perfect by a long shot but the rhythm and cohesion of the sound seemed to suit me a lot better.

This morning I've had a chance to play with my system and do the comparison again. I turned off audyssey which helped a lot. Audyssey was ok with left and right bypassed but the sound seemed a little better win Audyssey off completely.

Again for music I prefer the Genelecs although the XTZs do better with some upper mid sounds I suspect just because of the sheer difference in cabinet size. The XTZs were tiring to listen to and seemed quite coloured. The Genelecs felt cleaner and crisper.

Am I shifting from XTZs to active Genelecs? Well, I'm considering it. I'm keeping my studio 8020s in my system for a bit and see how I get on over a couple of weeks. I don't think 8020s have the scale or headroom for my cinema room - my studio is somewhat smaller - so I'd want something bigger. Probably 1030s which I know work well, maybe 1031s though they don't come up often. We'll see.
 

pressure

Well-known Member
Next stage of the experiment: try a Genelec 1031 as a centre speaker. Should be here tomorrow.

The centre speaker is the hardest working in any setup. For tv, most of the sound will come from the centre because so much to sound is dialogue.

So if Genelecs are going to be a real step up from the XTZs the centre will be an important test. Especially since the 1031 is so much larger than my little 8020s - it's the equivalent of an 8050 - so it should have a richer presentation.

I'm hoping for greater clarity, less distortion / better "fluidity", and an overall more enjoyable sound for tv and movies. Let's see how I get on tomorrow...
 

pressure

Well-known Member
I've been running a Genelec 1031 as my centre for a few days.

This is a fairly old professional monitor. It's still very good but the design is 20 years old. It was replaced by the Genelec 8050 which is around £1k per speaker. Some engineers still prefer the 1031s to the 8050s although I'm not sure this is entirely fair. I like them because I know them and their little brothers, the 1030s, very well having used them a lot in studios. Also they have the advantage of being oblong in shape so xtz s2s will fit on top!

They are very large and heavy compared to an 8020. Almost as tall as an xtz m6 and significantly wider to take their 8" woofer. They are active with two digital amps per speaker so there is quite a lot of power available. They are definitely full range speakers. I have my 1031 on its side, as it would be on a meter bridge, and I hope my tv when wall mounted will fit over the top. It might be too high though.

My impression so far is that the 1031 is fast and quite rich and fluid. Active speakers are not universally desired but I find them addictive. There is much more speed, less overhang to sounds. Voices are significantly easier to understand. Transparency is strong - watching football commentators you can tell exactly how well a lavalier mic has been set up, how its dealing with crowd noise, how much compression is on the mic channel.

For films, panning effects are immense and subtle. Extreme detail is uncovered with out fuss. There's less distortion and things sound a lot cleaner. The XTZs sound somewhat coloured in comparison. I love XTZs for movies - they are fantastic speakers - but pro monitors are just that bit more refined, accurate and transparent.

With a Genelec front three I no longer use Audyssey as a matter of course. Most of the time it's switched off. I sometimes use it - and dynamic eq - late at night but not always then.

However these are not perfect speakers. I still think if you went from what were a £3k front three to £6k you'd get more level, even better control and better imaging. There's still a bit of distortion in the treble - I suspect it's room related but it's not as clean as in my studio, which is smaller and treated with bass traps and absorbers. Very untidy bass traps and absorbers, but they're there and they work! I shall probably bring some absorbers and traps into the cinema room and see what difference they make.

Overall I'm getting closer to a decision point but I will try the XTZs again before I finally choose which path to take. However I like the idea of having an active front three, rears xtz 99s powered by by Emo, and then getting a Dirac eq box...
 

pressure

Well-known Member
Damn. Just made the mistake of bringing the bass traps from my studio into the cinema room. Wow! What a difference! Much better overall performance. Bass is a bit tighter, but the main thing is how much clearer the whole spectrum is.

No way they're staying though :(
 

UPTHEOWLS

Active Member
Damn. Just made the mistake of bringing the bass traps from my studio into the cinema room. Wow! What a difference! Much better overall performance. Bass is a bit tighter, but the main thing is how much clearer the whole spectrum is.

No way they're staying though :(
Is that with the XTZ or the Genelec ...? :D
 

pressure

Well-known Member
With the Genelec. Big fat 1031 on the right. I love the XTZs but I'm not sure I can do without the Genelecs.

It's a big difference, almost like adding Dirac.

At least now I know how good the system can be in this room. I'll be carrying them back into the studio at 10pm before the wife is back from the theatre.
 

pressure

Well-known Member
Probably not but I'm due to do one last swap.

Genelecs plus bass traps / midrange absorbers FTW though. The trebles not perfect but still so good.
 

geogan

Well-known Member

pressure

Well-known Member
image.jpeg


This is a very temporary set-up. The bass traps are way too big for domestic acceptability - my wife was away for a few days when this shot was taken.

The left and right are Genelec 8020s from my studio, the centre is an amazing Genelec 1031, which I will either sell or if I can find another one will go in my studio.

I aim to replace them with three 8040s. Nice and neat.

Adding those bass traps was an absolute revelation. Having both controlled bass nodes and even better control over reflections so everything was in the right time domain made a huge improvement to, well, everything. Just ordered a Dirac box to try to capture some of that...
 

Dans1210

Well-known Member
Any update on this? i wasnt overly impressed with the genelec m040's i had for a while, mainly headroom wasnt sufficient and i actually think my paradigm millenia ones sounded as good if not better.
Ultimately i ended up with 3 x klipsch kl650 thx ultra 2 as my front 3 which i consider to be very good with a fair bit more headroom.
Im tempted to use 8030's or 8040's as surround channels...
I think used within their spec the m040 is a good monitor for nearfield but at 3m it was getting a little obnoxious.
 

pressure

Well-known Member
Yes!

8040s are fantastic. Yes m040s are good newefields, they still have the sound. They don't do 3m. Well they're ok if my 8020s were any guide but they don't have the power or big enough drivers or cabinets.

8040s sound mint at 3m. I regularly sit on the sofa at the back of the room which is 3m+. It's fabulous. Smooth, powerful, enveloping, analytical. Admittedly I often sit in a new armchair at 2.5m and Dirac is set up for that position on the single seat setting. That seat on a good film is absolutely chuffing wonderful but the sofa position is also brilliant.

For a couple of days I just had two 8040s and still the old 1030, which is still a high end monitor, but switching to the same monitors on the front three made a huge difference.

I would not say that everyone should go Genelec. My taste is I think different to most people. It's informed by mixing records on them for ten years and I just want and need that sound. It digs out everything on a film or tv show or game and yes you'll be aware of the flaws, but if anything - anything at all - is good, you will get the maximum enjoyment from it. The top end is more restrained than other AV speakers I've heard, which for me is a positive, pace rhythm and timing are absolutely bang on, they go as loud as you want and they're full range speakers that let the sub add gloss and depth.

The room isn't perfect, the position is a bit compromised compared with the genelec ideal (fairly high up on stands), and my atmos speakers should ideally be on the ceiling not perched on the 8040s. Dirac helps all that of course.

I love them, I'm happy, I don't want to change them. They're fantastic.
 

pressure

Well-known Member
I have decided that delivering Atmos via two up firing speakers mounted on my front L&R is not the last word in enveloping surround sound. News at 11 etc. I am therefore looking at better solutions. This morning I had a visit from Geoff of the installation team at Richer Sounds Sheffield, who was great.

However, full fat ceiling based Atmos is quite daunting. I so wish that Atmos had been on the horizon when we were building the house back in '08. And indeed that I'd known more about acoustics and bass trapping. Such a missed opportunity!

It sounds like we will probably need to:
  • take some all of the suspended ceiling down to enable access, so it will need re-boarding, re-skimming and repainting. Obviously we'll need to make holes in it too, for the speakers.
  • make holes in the rear wall (made of double layer ply with rock wool filling), drive speaker cable up to the ceiling
  • drill through joists
  • possibly re-plaster the walls
  • and some more stuff to hide the speaker cable
So it's all a bit of a nightmare, especially since we'll need to get quotes from our original contractors for the making good.

Lets see where this goes!
 

pressure

Well-known Member
Ordered a GIK Soffit bass trap. It'll go behind the sofa at the junction of floor and wall. Nowhere near as good as having two in the front corners, but better than a single Monster bass trap behind the sofa, more invisible, and it means I get the existing bass trap back in my studio.

Still no progress with Atmos install quote. I'm beginning to think I will be better off with four up firers! System is sounding mint at the moment - especially with the Marantz in direct mode, not upmixing.
 

pressure

Well-known Member
System is sounding better than ever. In fact it seems to have taken a nother jump up recently. "Fantastic Beasts" and "Arrival" both sound absolutely amazing through the Genelecs.

As a result I am giving up on in-ceiling Atmos, it's a compromise I don't mind making because it sounds so good already.

The Sofft bass trap makes a huge difference, bass is tight and deep and controlled now, really enjoyable.
 

pressure

Well-known Member
Here’s what the system looks like ATM:
02D4E4A1-F975-4663-A860-4CC7D4C82AFF.jpeg


The front three make a much better, more coherent sound with the centre in the middle. Even though it’s in the rack, and that’s an issue for resonances, it sounds much better than I expected.

The foam under the L&R is quite effective in reducing resonances there. Obviously it’s not “permanent” but I can stick the genelecs under them quite quickly.
 

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