This elegant media room combines an understated install with impressive immersive audio and video performance. Award-winning integrator, Imagine This, shows that captivating immersive performance is achievable in even a modest space.
This was a comfortable family lounge, used for entertaining, listening to music, reading, playing board games and watching TV. As is very common, there were intelligent compromises to be made between the ideal design and placement of the home cinema elements, and the aesthetics and demands of the room. The client wanted an immersive home cinema experience, in terms of the picture and sound, but also wanted the room to function as a multi-purpose space, for listening to music and the demands of usual family life. Specifically, the client didn’t want the room to look like a traditional cinema – no dedicated screens or projection, but a set up that would still perform to a high standard.
The home was built in the early 1900s, with solid brick walls and a fireplace in every room. Understandably, the client wanted to retain the open fireplace and the natural orientation of the room towards it as the main feature. The height of the mantel meant that the TV above would not be at the ideal height for viewing. The client, therefore, asked Imagine This to find a compromise between the aesthetics and the placement of the TV.
The client also expressed a wish for a Dolby Vision capable display and Dolby Atmos decoding for the audio. As big Apple TV fans, the family have an extensive movie collection, on streaming services as well as physical media (UHD 4K Blu-ray). Some members of the family love to play games, so the addition of a PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X was vital. And lastly, they have a collection of legacy vinyl and an old record player that they wished to use in the system.
Media Room Design
Applying their knowledge and experience in media room and home cinema design, Imagine This started working on the design and completed a quick CAD drawing to fully understand the space. The team then went on to a full acoustic analysis, focussing on the modal response of the room – essential in a small room like this as acoustics can be very challenging.
Acoustic analysis of the room helped pre-empt any room issues and to get the very best performance from the media room equipment. Using specialist software for room analysis and design, Image This ascertained the best layout with the least impactful compromises on performance.
The client favours Bowers & Wilkins loudspeakers and was keen to incorporate some of his own bookshelf loudspeakers into the new media room. To ensure the system was timbre-matched to these, Imagine This selected further high performing B&W speakers, which would fit perfectly with the client’s brief and the budget.
The media room boasts a 5.1.4 immersive sound system – five B&W 805 and 804 speakers at the lower listening positions (front left, centre, front right, surround left and surround right), one subwoofer handling the low frequencies and four Bowers & Wilkins In-Ceiling Cinema 7 speakers as the height channels in the ceiling.
It was clear from the room analysis that the team would need to iron out some of the modal issues in the room. For plenty of ‘muscle’, the integrator used a Bowers & Wilkins legendary DBB1 Diamond subwoofer at the rear of the room and two Bowers & Wilkins PV1D subs at the front. All three subwoofers were controlled via the small and mighty mini-DSP. Finally, for crisp dialogue, a Bowers & Wilkins CCM8.5D centre speaker was used.
The client wanted a display above the fireplace, which had already been chosen, but he understood the reasons why the TV would not be at an optimal height. This, from a technical perspective, was far too high for comfortable viewing. The install team specified a Future Automation EAD motorised advanced drop bracket to provide the best of both worlds – a TV located above the fireplace that at one press of a button on the Crestron remote, the picture-frame 65in LG OLED drops down into a much more acceptable, comfortable viewing height.
At the end of the evening, the client can simply press a button on the Crestron remote, and the TV motors its way back to position above the fireplace. For times when the family wishes to have the TV on, but not necessarily be in full ‘movie’ mode, the TV can still be watched at the higher position, a good match for ‘football on in the background’ type occasions.
The key challenge in any media room is to maintain its full use as a comfortable living space, but also deliver on the performance. As Imagine This points out, they can be more challenging than dedicated home cinemas as there’s not as much freedom and flexibility to drive the performance aspect. Therefore, creative engineering problem-solving is a must.
Processing and Amplification
In order to process the audio signals and to get the best performance from the loudspeakers, Imagine This installed a McIntosh MX100 audio processor, a McIntosh MI254 four-channel power amp and a McIntosh MI347 seven-channel power amp.
Using the McIntosh MX100, with room correction application Audyssey XT32, very careful planning, some great components and a whole lot of ‘calibration magic’, the results were sensational says the team.
Convenient control was a very important consideration for the client. A Lutron HomeWorks lighting control system was therefore a natural choice and allowed the beautiful Orluna light fixtures to really shine.
Imagine this used two Lutron QS processors and three individual Lutron lighting panels. Each panel housed multiple phase-adaptive dimming modules, plus several DALI and switched modules, for various other rooms and applications. This room, in particular, had DALI controlled shelf LED lighting, table lamps, a decorative pendant and a number of Orluna’s downlights.
Layering and controlling lighting allowed for the creation of lighting scenes for every application. Movie, music, entertaining, gaming, relaxing and cleaning are some of the lighting scenes that can be instantly recalled from the Crestron touch panel and remote. The room also features the new Lutron Alisse keypad at the door.
In addition, for the ultimate in convenience and to create a brilliant environment for viewing, Imagine This installed Lutron Sivoia shades. This provided perfect control of the lighting, both natural and artificial.
The Orluna fixtures were blessed with a very high colour rendering index. The client requested no red, green or blue lighting, favouring warm white and high colour rendering indexes from high-quality fixtures instead.
With one press of the Crestron remote, the screen motors forward, the lights set to the desired scene, the blinds come down and the amplifiers and processor trigger on. And thus, in no time at all, the movie is ready to watch in the right environment. Upon completion, the client simply presses a button to tuck it all away as discretely as before.
Music To His Ears
For times when the client wants to listen to music, whether it is Spotify, Tidal, CD, radio or vinyl, the team provided a Naim Uniti together with his Pro-Ject turntable with a Rega preamp/soundstage. This provides the Naim Uniti with a beautiful, melodic and ‘analogue’ warmth.
Complemented with different lighting and room modes for listening to music, Imagine This ensured that the environment looked and felt as good as it sounded.
The Client’s Final Word
The client is thrilled with the system and says that it has reinvigorated his love of movies and music, giving him the perfect setup for both. He is re-watching his favourite films and shows, discovering that the immersive experience provides him so much enjoyment. The client commented that with the screen down and the lights dimmed, he really feels as though he is ‘in’ the film and he loves the escapism that this provides. Additionally, the client’s wife is thrilled that the room could accommodate both her preference for a more discreet install and her husband’s wish for a ‘big’ experience. She says that it is the best of both worlds.
One of the family members has reduced hearing and often found it difficult to follow the dialogue on standard TV speakers. With the new system providing clarity from the centre channel, they can now hear and enjoy the dialogue like never before. An all-around success!
Essential Kit List
- MX100 audio processor
- MI254 four channel power amp
- MI347 seven channel power amp
Bowers & Wilkins
- 805 bookshelf speakers
- 804 Diamond speakers
- CCM8.5D centre speaker
- In-ceiling speakers
- DBB1 Diamond subwoofer
- PV1D subwoofers speaker and sub
- HomeWorks lighting control system
- Alisse keypad
- QS processors
- Lighting panels
- Sivoia shades
- MC3 3-Series control system
- HR-150 handheld remote
- TSR-302 handheld touchscreen remote
LG 65in OLED TV
Future Automation EAD-WB electric advance & drop with in wall box
Kordz cables and extenders
Middle Atlantic Racks
Xbox Series X
Rega phono pre amp