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Gecko = The Best Home Cinemas Your Money Can Buy

Rob Sinden

Member
AVForums Sponsor
Here is what recent visitors from the Forum had to say about our systems:-

"I don't have the words in my vocabulary to convey just how good that set up was. Let's just say, that everyone sat there in awe"

"I have never heard anything like it, it was that good I don't even know how to describe it, I've listened to a few decent sets of speakers in my time, B&W 800D's, Kef Blades, Proac Carbon 8's, Naim Ovator 600's and a few more to boot and these just bettered each one of them by a MASSIVE amount - absolutely breath taking"

"Although I have been to lots of AV shows and had many demo's of excellent home cinema systems I have to say that what I heard and witnessed on Sunday made most of those memories pale into insignificance."

"The bigger Steinway system was breath taking;the sound was immense..the bass was unreal I thought Rob has installed bass shakers in the sofa's by far the best film watching experience I've ever had, no other home system, cinema or imax has ever come close."

"Both Steinway set ups were the best I've heard for home cinema, the smaller system (think its model S) just defied everything I've previously read. Very small, about the size of a decent hard back book, speakers with small 4" mid range drivers placed in a large room with no acoustic treatment and they sounded so big and clear and blended perfectly with the subs"


"I have no hidden agenda and no reason to exaggerate how good the Steinway Lyngdorf systems are. So believe me when I say that from the huge stereo pair to the 2 different sized home cinema systems, the scale, dynamics and clarity of the soundstage was a joy to behold. We are talking truly reference."

"The best dem rooms I have ever seen."

Gecko dem room 1.jpg
 
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gonesailing

Active Member
Done, I'll take two please.

Having just read the S series review it turns out I don't need 6 numbers after all. It is surprising affordable, all things considered.
 
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PhilCTTE

Well-known Member
. I have an article on this I can send out if it’s of interest to anyone
Yes please Rob !:smashin:
 

Rob Sinden

Member
AVForums Sponsor
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I'll post the article I'm going to add to our on this thread in a number of sections. Here's the start of the info about the build of our demonstration rooms and the systems within them:-

How I Built My Perfect Listening Rooms


For those passionate about music and film, the ultimate indulgence is a place where you can enjoy your music and movies at their very best.

As any music lover knows, the sound quality of a band will vary widely from venue to venue. Exactly the same is true with a hifi or home cinema system, so a carefully designed listening room is essential for optimal sound and vision.

Music has always been a passion and it 1991 my hobby turned into a business. I'’ve always loved watching concerts and films on a big screen in surround sound and so I opened the first home cinema store outside Hollywood in sunny south London.

Since then I have been designing rooms and systems for those who wanted to experience their music and film with no compromise. In 2007, after closing my shop on the Kings Road, I moved to the country and had the time to create my own perfect listening rooms. This article is intended to give a little information into how we created the finest listening rooms in Europe.
 
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Rob Sinden

Member
AVForums Sponsor
THE LOCATION

The biggest development in home audio is the move towards fully digital systems. Reproducing audio completely in the digital domain means that sound is heard with none of the noise or signal loss inherent in conventional audio systems. Think of the difference between tape or record and CD for example.

With fully digital audio systems arriving, it was essential that our listening rooms be in a silent location so they could be enjoyed at their very best. This photo shows our listening room under construction in the tranquil Berkshire countryside. Well away from roads, buildings, flight paths and any other potential source of sound; we started laying the footings in the spring of 2008.

With no constraints set by the size, shape or location of the rooms, these would be my first ever money no object listening rooms.

CHOOSING AN ACOUSTICIAN

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With a silent location easily accessed from London, the next task was to find the very best company for the acoustic design of the dedicated listening room I was looking to build. This project was intended to push the boundaries of audio and video quality and as such every detail would be chosen to create a space where superlative sound and vision could be enjoyed.

I've worked with many acousticians over the years and knew that most were simply not experienced enough in the field of small room acoustics for this project. As such, selecting the right company for the acoustic design of our main room took a huge amount of research.

The company I finally settled on was Rives Audio. There are a number of things that attracted to me about their approach. Firstly the majority of their work has been for studios or for those looking for the finest music reproduction. For me the Holy Grail of home audio has always been the reproduction of live music and I find the standards in the music industry much more exacting than those in home cinema.

Rives Audio also appealed to me because they do not sell any acoustic treatments. Many acoustic design companies exist largely to recommend the room treatments they sell, which creates a conflict of interest. Having heard several rooms with excessive acoustic treatment, I was also very cautious of creating an ugly room with a good acoustic- something that Rives Audio didn't appear guilty of.

The final thing I liked about the way Rives designed listening rooms is that they aim for a much more natural acoustic than is typically found in home cinemas. A reverb time consistent with a normal living room is what I was looking for as this creates a better sounding room for both music and film.
 
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Rob Sinden

Member
AVForums Sponsor
THE ACOUSTIC DESIGN

In addition to choosing a totally silent location for our listening rooms, it was important to me that we were able to build a completely new structure. Fitting a listening room into an existing structure would be a compromise and I didn’t want to hamper the efforts of my acousticians in any way.

My new building could have been any width and length, with the only restriction being a ceiling height of no more than a very generous 4m. As such I was able to let the acousticians choose virtually every element of my dedicated listening rooms design, construction and finishes as well as its principal dimensions.

After a few conversations and dozens of emails, the design of the dedicated listening room was agreed upon as below.

A few things to note are:-

• The front wall is treated with absorptive material - Rockwall
• Side wall diffusers, made of mdf were included
• Floating “Acoustic Clouds” were specified, again made of particle board
• Floor to ceiling bass traps would hang in the rooms’ rear corners
• Bass trapping is also provided across the whole ceiling
• The room was designed with a hard floor in mind
 

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Rob Sinden

Member
AVForums Sponsor
THE BUILD

I’ll keep this section brief as I don’t see much point in showing pictures of the construction process, but if you’d like to know more please contact me. My project was a little late, over budget and started leaking the moment it was built due to an incorrect tanking membrane specified by the architect. So much for professionals!

My only advice for anyone taking on a build like this is never; ever employ an architect or a builder without thoroughly checking their insurances and references first.

THE RESULTS

Over the years I have worked for many musicians and clients from the music and film industry, so it was essential that my listening rooms be built to the highest possible standards to impress these professionals.

Some of the systems at our listening rooms outperform what is heard in the studio, something I’ve never heard claimed of any home audio system and that I simply didn’t think was possible.

I have had numerous audio engineers and musicians astonished by what they can hear when they visit. I still smile when friends in the business listen to their own recordings on these systems and hear details they never knew existed.

I’ll write in depth about the pros and cons of our dedicated listening room at the end of this article, but overall I’m extremely pleased with the quality of surround sound, music and video that we can demonstrate in all our rooms.

The real question, is would I do it again?

MONEY WELL SPENT?

4 years after the dust has settled on the build, I’m very happy with the end results and with what I have learned. I’m also extremely pleased that as the quality of audio that I listen to every day is so perfect, my hearing has become far more critical and I find it simple to detect the faults in other audio systems.

Having spent well over £500k on the whole project and £30k on the acoustic design and specialist build of our dedicated listening room, I would do thing differently next time.

I am now certain that regardless of how well a room or a studio is designed, truly accurate sound quality cannot be achieved without some form of electronic full range room correction.

When the right room correction is used, many of the expensive additions to a room that acousticians recommend should not be used. As such I would never recommend building a highly specialised listening room or home theatre again as developments in audio technology make this type of design unnecessary.

Gecko dem room 1.jpg
 
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Rob Sinden

Member
AVForums Sponsor
eee.jpg


MY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CREATING THE PERFECT HOME CINEMA / HIFI

For anyone looking for the very best hifi or home cinema, auditioning as many options as possible is essential. There’s a great deal of expensive, mediocre equipment that is recommended simply because it’s so profitable to sell.

In my experience, most people have perfectly good eyes and ears and will quickly recognise real quality when it’s seen and heard. The starting point for any good system is to do your homework and visit a range of different systems to consider.

Obviously budget plays a significant part in the quality that can be achieved, however it’s typically little indication of the performance a product will deliver.

The audio systems we recommend fall into to categories: analogue and digital. Analogue audio systems can give great results and are far more affordable than fully digital audio systems, however if the very best music or home theatre is required, fully digital systems provide a level of fidelity that is impossible with analogue systems.

DIGITAL v ANALOGUE AUDIO

With more than 20 years’ experience designing and installing the highest quality audio systems, the only way that I know of to achieve truly accurate sound – of a quality that will satisfy musicians and audio professionals is with fully digital audio systems.

Maintaining the audio signal digitally throughout an audio system avoids the noise and loss of fidelity that is inherent is every analogue system. While in the digital domain, full active speaker system can be created while errors created by the listening room are removed without adding any noise or distortion to the signal.

Currently the only fully digital audio systems that exist are made by Steinway Lyngdorf. These systems represent a revolution in home audio delivering a quality and consistency of sound that has never been possible.

When Steinway Lyngdorf systems are used, there is typically no room treatment required – or recommended - for optimal performance.
 
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Rob Sinden

Member
AVForums Sponsor
ddd.jpg


SOME RECENT EXPERIENCES


A year ago I was delivering some CD players to British Grove Studios which is regarded as one of Europe's finest studios. I was privileged to hear my favourite Brothers In Arms track in 5.1 on the very system and in the very room it was mixed on. This is the hifi equivalent of being driven around by Lewis Hamilton. It simply should have been acoustic Nirvana.

After listening to one track I commented that it sounded bright. I would never have believed that my hearing was acute enough to pick up on the shortcomings in one of the finest recording studios; however the engineer conceded that it was about 4db up at 4Hz.

Like my main listening room, this recording studio had been built to the highest standards by one of the very best engineers in the business; however the fault in either the system or the rooms' acoustics was immediately apparent. This same engineer subsequently visited our facilities and within seconds of hearing the Steinway Lyngdorf Model D Music system in a completely untreated room, remarked how natural it sounded and how it bought his recording to life.

I don't have great hearing. However having lived with Steinway Lyngdorfs truly accurate music and surround systems for 4 years, I had the confidence to critique a system of this quality after a brief listen.

The Steinway Lyngdorf systems we keep in our listening rooms are all used not in our purpose built listening room, but in a completely untreated acoustic space. They are simply far more accurate than any hifi, home cinema or studio I have heard because the technology they employ is more advanced.

DEMONSTRATIONS

Our listening rooms are available for demonstration by appointment. I love any opportunity to show it off. Many clients come by in the evening and we are also very happy for late night visits.

We now host regular Sunday visits for enthusiasts to come and hear a wide range of home cinemas from £10k - £300k. You can read some of the comments below.

When you visit we will demonstrate a very diverse range of music and film because well recorded jazz or classical music for example is excellent at exposing the faults in systems that often get missed with movie soundtracks. If you have any film or music you are really familiar with, we recommend you bring it along so you can hear what you've been missing!

The aim of all the systems we demonstrate is simply to provide better picture and sound quality than any similarly priced alternatives. If you have any friends or family members who play an instrument or a simply interested in film and music, please bring them along as two pairs of ears are better than one.

RECENT QUOTES FROM FORUM VISITS

I don't have the words in my vocabulary to convey just how good that set up was. Let's just say, that everyone sat there in awe

I have never heard anything like it, it was that good. I don't even know how to describe it, I've listened to a few decent sets of speakers in my time, B&W 800D's, Kef Blades, Proac Carbon 8's, Naim Ovator 600's and a few more to boot and these just bettered each one of them by a MASSIVE amount - absolutely breath taking!

The Steinway Model S sounded better than any other system I've ever heard.

Although I have been to lots of AV shows and had many demo's of excellent home cinema systems I have to say that what I heard and witnessed on Sunday made most of those memories pale into insignificance.

The bigger Steinway system was breath taking the sound was immense..the bass was unreal I thought Rob has installed bass shakers in the sofa's by far the best film watching experience I've ever had, no other home system, cinema or imax has ever come close.


Both Steinway set ups were the best I've heard for home cinema, the smaller system (think its model S) just defied everything I've previously read. Very small, about the size of a decent hard back book, speakers with small 4" mid range drivers placed in a large room with no acoustic treatment and they sounded so big and clear and blended perfectly with the subs.

I have no hidden agenda and no reason to exaggerate how good the Steinway Lyngdorf systems are. So believe me when I say that from the huge stereo pair to the 2 different sized home cinema systems, the scale, dynamics and clarity of the soundstage was a joy to behold. We are talking truly reference.

The best dem rooms I have ever seen.

Absolutely amazing, the best demos I've ever heard or seen.
 
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Rob Sinden

Member
AVForums Sponsor
DETAILS ABOUT THE ACOUSTIC DESIGN

So what did the acousticians’ skills achieve?

REVERB TIME –There are a number of basics that have been very well taken care of in this room that anyone who has a basic understanding of home cinema acoustics would recognise. The front wall is acoustically “dead”, with the addition of a Rockwall covering. This helps reduce the reverb time a little and ensures that at the critical front soundstage, all you hear is direct sound from the speakers.

The rest of the room largely consists of hard surfaces, with diffusion on the side walls and ceiling. All this work is critical, but it is basic stuff that I would have addressed anyhow.

SIDE WALL DIFFUSION – To me, this detail has been a resounding success. The sounds you hear from the sides of the room are critical in creating a realistic soundstage. Lexicon did a huge amount of research on this subject decades ago and it is an area I find lacking in 99% of surround systems as they simply don’t surround you in sound.

The hard, diffusive side walls ensure that sound from your front speakers will bounce of the side panels creating a more immersive experience. There is a trend these days to think “I need some acoustic treatment” with little knowledge of what or why something is required. I now see many systems compromised by the addition of absorptive wall treatments which will actually compromise sound quality.

The side wall diffusers in this room recommended by Rives Audio show how to do the job right. With their inclusion and the use of Tripolar surround speakers, this room provide the nearest thing I’ve heard to a seamless 360 degree soundstage.

ACOUSTIC CLOUDS – With the high ceiling in this room and the relatively short listening distance, I see these as being nothing more than expensive decorations. These were a bad idea and a potential source of rattles.

BASS TRAPS – The bass traps hang floor to ceiling in the rear corners of this room. The ceiling also had 60 or so bass traps hanging in the void above it. To me this is biggest and most costly mistake in the design of the room. Let me explain…

When the room was completed I used the MK 150 speaker system for initial testing as it is a combination used in the production of many film soundtracks I would be demonstrating and one I have installed in hundreds of different rooms.

First impressions were not good as the room sounded bass light. The quickest solution was to add subwoofers until we were using 4, dual 12” subwoofers to achieve the quality and volume of bass I was looking for. This combination created good, but not great results and it seemed illogical to use so many subs to produce bass and to then absorb most of their output with bass traps.

After much trial and error and talking to Rives Audio they advised I take the bass traps out until I achieved the low frequency I was looking for. After months of testing, I ended up removing 95% of the bass traps. I now have prodigious bass that perfectly matches the speed and dynamics of the speaker system I use.

This bass is provided with 2 James dual 12” band pass subwoofers and a James dual 21” sub. The subs are free standing and have been placed to give the most even in room response possible as this is one of the most effective ways of tuning any system. The system has been equalised with an Audyssey X32 systems that we have Pro Calibrated.

In the past I had never advocated the use of bass traps and the design of this room only reinforced this feeling. For me bass traps are an antiquated and very low resolution solution to a high fidelity problem.

WHAT STEINWAY LYNGDORF DO DIFFERENTLY

We have now demonstrated the little Steinway Lyngdorf Model S system in about 30 different rooms, from spaces as diverse as Fulham kitchens, the “Grand Salons” of super yachts and a garage that could accommodate 300 people.

So far, every time we have achieved exceptional sound quality first time, every time. If the room was very long and narrow or had very low ceilings I’m sure the system wouldn’t sound as good. Similarly having demonstrated it in Leeds Castle I can say it sounds better the more solid the room and if anything in your room can rattle, this system will expose it.

Steinway Lyngdorf systems start by recognising the listening room IS the weakest link when good equipment is used. Their room correction system, RoomPerfect has been in development for 12 years and has over 54 elements to its patent – one of the most extensive patents ever filed for an audio product. It was developed for use in the highest fidelity music systems and for 4 years it has been fully automated. We have never, ever had anything other than the best results with it.

Building a system that uses RoomPerfect allows for a complete rethink of how to introduce sound into the room. Hifi enthusiasts will be familiar with moving their speaker away from walls to reduce excessive of bass. This is a very low tech approach but about the only way a conventional audio system can be tuned.

As the speaker is moved away from the wall behind it however, the reflected sound from the rear of the speaker will be heard delayed in time, so the systems timing will be spoilt. One thump on a drum for example is heard a two thumps at the listening position.

With RoomPerfect, Lyngdorf have been able to place their home cinema speakers in or on the wall which ensures all the sound from the speaker arrives at the listening position at the same time. This guarantees optimal timing and any errors in frequency response will then be corrected by RoomPerfect.

To give an indication of just how radical this is, when you place a hifi in a room, its frequency response will typically vary by about 15db. With RoomPerfect this is reduced to less than 1db.

For home cinema, the accepted theory of how to get the best bass in any room is to use one of more subwoofers that should be positioned when the system is installed for optimal frequency response. Then EQ is applied. With the inclusion of RoomPerfect, Lyngdorf have been able to place subwoofers in the room where they give the best impulse response – against the front corners of the room. In this position the room quadruples their output compared to a sub placed away from walls and guarantees perfect timing.

Because of this placement, all the energy the woofers create arrives at the listening position at the same time so bass is felt as much as heard – just like live music. When driven with true digital audiophile amplifiers and corrected with RoomPerfect the bass performance of these systems exceeds that of any conventional subwoofer system I have ever heard. First time, every time. This means that for the first time a system can be designed, knowing the precise location where the speakers should be placed for optimal response. For system designers this is a breakthrough.

Finally Steinway Lyngdorf systems are unique in maintaining the signal digitally throughout. This has a huge range of benefits one of which is that very sophisticated digital room correction can be used with none of the signal loss that would occur through the A/D and D/A process if used in an analogue system.

Keeping things digital means sound is reproduced with no loss of resolution while the systems are completely silent. When listening to a CD or Blu Ray there is simply no background noise at all.
 

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Rob Sinden

Member
AVForums Sponsor
Here's a link to what I think is the most in depth review of the high end systems available for demonstration in the UK. The guy who wrote it will shortly be having his system installed in his property in Central London at which time he will be posting details of his experiences choosing and installing one of the most amazing cinemas I have ever seen.

For me the proof of the pudding is in the listening and for all the great claims made about products, I don't know of anywhere else in the UK where you can experience music that is indistinguishable from the live performance and home cinema that is much better than any commercial cinema.

http://www.geckohomecinema.co.uk/surround-system-reviews.pdf
 
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PhilCTTE

Well-known Member
Great insight Rob really enjoyed reading it all.

In regards to the surround-systems-review.pdf it really puts it all into perspective. Only when you experience first hand the Steinway Lyngdorf can you begin to understand what the benchmark is. Listening to your MK/Onkyo system it offers value for money and would probably do for most. If I had 20K I'd still hold out and spend double that for the Steinway Lyngdorf. Alas my pockets aren't that deep and I tend to upgrade step by step spending a few £K each year.

The conclusion for me after visiting your facility is that for most modest sized front rooms (17 * 12ft) that a sub(s) satellite speaker system (in/on wall sats) with room perfect digital control would be a wise investment.

Although the MK system was very dynamic the overall precision and unflappable dynamics of the model S is the reference level to aim for.

Unfortunately you can't just dip your toe in with the Steinway Lyngdorf digital solution, as the speakers power amps and digital processing unit can only work with each other. I just hope that one day this technology will filter down into a more affordable solution for the average enthusiast circa 10K. My system retails for approx 13K and in its previous config was 18K, but this is a simple 50" plasma 5.1 AV system install discrete design for a living room and not a dedicated cinema room.

When funds permit I will definitely pay you a visit to listen to the MK's again.
 

Member 639844

Former Advertiser
Well that made me wish I had 100k to splash on a HT system :(

One thing though that Ive been put off over the years is systems that can only be used with that exact set of system components. Your locked into the product you just bought, and I know this is a totally different league to what most would normally be considering, but something about that just rubs me up the wrong way. Maybe thats just a result of a bad Bose experience many years ago, but the same goes for systems like B&O, another brand I would simply never consider even if I won the lottery. I'm a bit of a sub nut, and the thought of potentially having a system installed in which I would be stuck with its supplied sub(s), and possibly end up not liking would worry me, especially at 100k. That said, I guess 100k buys you something you dont get at 10-20k.

I must say I have enjoyed the read though.
 
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Rob Sinden

Member
AVForums Sponsor
I know exactly what you mean about being locked into one brand, however there are obvious, fundamental benefits of maintaining the signal digitally throughout the electronics.

No surround processor except for the Steinway P1 outputs a digital signal. They have only managed to avoid getting shut down by Hollywood as the signal is sent out of their Processor on their own custom designed connector that will only connect to their amps. These amps are really just very powerful DAC's which do a lot more than just amplify the signal. They deal with part of the speaker crossover, delays and voicings.

To put it another way. If you combine the best processor, amp, speakers in the world - money no object - they will not give the same resolution, lack of noise and S/N ratio as any Steinway system.
 

Member 639844

Former Advertiser
Yeah Im getting that sort of feel from the Steinway stuff when reading about it. Ive been tinkering with the idea of building some speakers etc, and when looking into that the subject of crossovers is a part of that. Its clear there are distinct benefits to having a system with digital crossovers vs having to design/test/tweak/test/perfect your own analogue component. Converting signals from analogue to digital and vice versa I can imagine is like any part of a system, worth removing from the chain if you can implement a system that will do that. The purer the signal from one end to the other the better the end result should be, at least thats the theory I get from it.
 

Rob Sinden

Member
AVForums Sponsor
Steinway home cinema systems really are revolutionary for two main reasons. They deliver a far higher level of fidelity than any combination of professional or domestic audio equipment can provide - as they remove the noise and signal loss inherent in D/A conversion and analogue amplification.

The other key thing is that they deliver an in room response within 1db of what the speaker designer intended in any room you install them in. In other works its the first system that a consumer can buy that absolutely will deliver accurate sound.

This is why we are happy to offer home trials on them and why this is now such a big part of our business. You put them in a room, follow the instruction on the tin - and presto - the most accurate surround sound you can get. Its home theatre in a box - just a dead expensive box.......
 

Per156GTA

Well-known Member
Hi Per

I’m glad to hear you’re now in your new house. I hope the heating is working…..

You room sounds like it’s a good size and has nice proportions and so there are a couple of things about the design that you can be certain of if optimal performance is what you are after.

A seating position around 4m from the front wall, an acoustically transparent screen with the centre speaker and possibly the left and rights behind it and the darkest walls possible at the front of the room are all no brainers. After that there are a number of options that I think you need to see and hear before committing to anything.

With regards DSX, you may want to look at an upgrade we did recently from an award winning cinema with B&W and Rotel to a much cheaper system with MK and Onkyo. I think this is a good example of the benefits that a real specialist can bring to a project rather than being a guinea pig for a hifi shop or custom installer who may install one or two cinemas a year.
http://www.avforums.com/forums/members-home-cinema-gallery/1329397-drgekkos-home-cinema-11.html

Anyhow listening to as many systems as possible is the obvious place for you to start. I hope to see you soon so you can hear for yourself the benefits that a real expert can bring to your systems design.

Cheers

Rob
Hi Rob

Many thanks for your reply to my post - decided not to quote the whole reply for simplicity.
Haven't read your whole article that you have posted up following my query - will print it off, at work of course :devil:, and digest its contents.
Will certainly be seeking your advice on kit, and agree already with your views on the Onkyo 818 - by the time I have funds for this project the next generation model will be available and better still. And yes, this time with a dedicated cinema room I want to go down the MK route - probably in-walls at the front (open to change of mind on this in time!).
Yes, a fixed acoustic transparent screen is a must!
Again, subject to advice, and given the dimensions I might consider 7.2 (cost dependent of course).
Anyhow enough rambling - I will try to get down to you end of January, and might try to persuade the wife to come along.
Cheers
Per
 

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