Joe Carri, Commercial Director at Prestige Audio, explains that this project came into the company from a builder that the company has a strong relationship with and trusts the experienced team at Prestige to deliver beyond the customer’s expectations for their automation, home cinema and AV needs.
The property is a new build that stands on the grounds of the client’s former residence. The old house was demolished to make way for a four-bedroom family home spread across three floors. The property is 850² meters including a double garage and basement.
The basement has a wine tasting room, games room, utility area and a stunning dedicated cinema. The ground floor holds a large kitchen with adjoining breakfast and family room, a study and a media room. The property also has landscaped grounds (6 acres) with a patio area where a high-quality NEAR exterior audio system has been installed.
What is really impressive about this project is that the customer had a relatively modest budget in mind for all of their automation and AV, however, as the Prestige Audio team was able to really open their eyes to what was possible, the scale and budget of the project increased significantly (a proposed 50K to around £400K inc VAT) and the customer absolutely loves their system which takes their enjoyment of their new house to another level.
The customer says, “Now that we have moved in, the results are impressive. Our cinema is ‘epic’ and out-performed our expectations. The result exceeded the performance of the demo systems we listened to. We use the cinema room regularly and love the space. We added another mini cinema in our living room with a motorised TV that disappears in the wall when not in use.
“To top it all off, we added a state-of-the-art outdoor music system that surprised us by the way it performed. The Control4 smart home system is easy to use, even though very complicated. It controls our heating, lighting, electric blinds, music, TVs and gate entry, security cameras and outdoor music system. We have had some initial teething issues, but Prestige have been amazing in supporting us. I also want to thank our builder for the initial introduction. They are a very professional company and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them!”
So how did Prestige create such a satisfied customer?
The project details
Lets start at perhaps the showpiece part of the project, the dedicated cinema located in the basement of the home.
First stop was the demonstration facilities of Pulse Cinemas, Prestige Audio’s preferred supplier of equipment. The customer is knowledgeable about music and audio (one of their businesses is a night club) and they had very specific ideas on what they liked and did not like.
The demo space gave Joe the chance to really explore their priorities and arrive at a plan that suited the property and the audio preferences of the customer. The home cinema needed to be able to showcase multi-channel, (Dolby Atmos 7.1.4) but also stereo output and in cinema mode needed to have loud and punchy bass.
The process of getting to a plan was not totally straightforward however, Joe explains, “The original designs for the cinema included some fixtures and fittings made from white marble! This was because the room had originally been planned as a party room and the client had got their kitchen fitter to design it. Obviously, this was not at all suited to a high-performance cinema.
“We persuaded the client that not only would the room look better with a ‘darker’ design approach, but that it would perform better also. We spent time with the client looking and came up with a ‘moodier’ classic cinema room aesthetic and this also gave us a better blank canvas from which to work. The room was. 8.5m long x 10m wide x 3m high and the client if possible, wanted eight seats, two rows of four.”
Added to the plan were also some acoustic treatments to tame certain aspects of the room and also a star-scape ceiling. Prestige carried out all of the works installing the stud work to house the speakers and support the wall fabric as well as the acoustic treatments.
The company also ensured that that the room was not built using Gypframe (aluminium stud) construction as these can resonate and vibrate, Prestige helped the builder install wood batten and acoustic plaster board instead.
The first part of the design was ensuring that all eight seats would have unrestricted views of the screen. This resulted in specifying a four-metre screen due to the available space.
Joe explains, “When designing screen size, we take the clients preferred seating position and make calculations from there as set out in CEDIAS white paper: Home Theatre Video Design CEA/CEDIA-CEB23-A. We also had to consider that there would be multiple rows of seating. So, we had to mix this with the fact we knew the client’s preferred seat would be in the front row. We again followed the CEDIA standard based on the following three functional guidelines.”
- Chair positioning (in relation to the height of the screen) shouldn’t cause the viewer to experience any strain on their natural resting position whilst watching
- Primary seat should be as close to the centreline of the screen as possible (viewers eyes should be looking straight at the centre of the screen, not up or down)
- Other seats shouldn’t be more than 15° above or below that that same viewing angle
The team used the Room Simulation in REW (acoustics analysis software) to get a guide to how the room was going to perform. See images below. The team’s initial though of using one bass channel, to drive two subs worked well.
Simulation 1 document shows the result of the simulation for the front row and Simulation 2 shows the result of our simulation for the rear row.
All looking good, there is a dip at 100z, but the crossover point would be 80Hz so Joe was were happy with this set up.
The screen has automated masking as the clients likes to switch between different sources regularly which include Sky Q, Apple TV and a Kaliedescape. All of this is done automatically at the video selection stage, via customised programming created by Prestige Audio.
The clients also had very specific tastes in terms of the imaging. Joe explains, “During the demonstration phase, we established that the BenQ PCL50KH was the projector they preferred, balancing performance and budget. The projector was also married to a Lumagen Video Processor allowing for significantly faster switching between sources. It also allows for fine tuning and more accurate video calibration on colour contrast and is better for HDR too. We also had the BenQ ISF calibrated.
“Post calibration there has been a slight increase in contrast and substantially better gamma tracking which gives the image a more realistic look. Prior to calibration the mid tones were too bright relative to each other making the image have a more washed out look. We also made the colour cube more accurate, moving substantial amounts of sampled colour errors to under two units dE2000.
“The final image quality achieved was excellent, particularly with HDR content where the high peak light output of this projector was very useful. The Pre Cal and Post Cal charts show the improvements achieved. Pre first and then post.
The speakers were set out by Dolby laboratories recommendations.
Joe explains, “We deviated from this by incorporating two subwoofers, instead of the one, we also doubled up on the side speakers. We installed 2 x sides speakers on both left- and right-hand walls (one for each row). Additionally, the right-hand wall is further away from the listeners than the left, because of the inclusion of the bar area, but we had more than enough delay in the processor to accommodate this.
Creating the right room treatment, of course also needed careful consideration. Prestige Audio carried out thorough testing of the bare room and also after the fixtures and fittings had been added to make sure the data was solid, and the room would be fully optimal.
Technology is great for getting a space to where it needs to be and planning a project, but when you get right down to it, there is no subject to really experienced eyes and ears to take a project from ‘correct’ to really bespoke. Once the cinema was ‘finished’ Prestige Audio spent an entire day tuning it to suite the customer.
Joe explains, “We carried out our usual steps of checking all the speakers were working and wired correctly. We also checked the phase of all the speakers with a speaker polarity phase meter. Having established this was correct we ran a 20Hz 20KHz sine sweep listening for vibrations and resonances. We found a few frequencies causing issues in the air conditioning duct work. We remedied this with self-adhesive sound dampening panels. We also found a couple of areas in the front wall that were easily remedied with either and a flexible sealant and or wooden slips. Once all the measurements had been done, we had a listen, and the system lacked bass and high frequency.
“We then took a Real Time Analysis measurement using our Audio Control RTA with the microphone positioned in the front row 2nd seat in from the entrance side of the room. This confirmed our thoughts.”
Joe continues, “So, the first thing was to increase the gain on the subwoofer amplifiers. That did the trick with the bass. The gain just needed increasing; however, we didn’t go too high as we suspected the mid-bass and midrange needed to be reduced in output. We then started to investigate the high frequency drivers on the front wall. These are a favourite of ours, the James QX806BE. These typically do not have an issue. We couldn’t find any and they were working correctly. We also eliminated the screen as it is a high-quality woven Screen Research screen. Then we discovered someone had been playing with the AVR. The treble adjustment was turned down!”
The AVR processor we were using had Dirac Live room and acoustic correction application on board. So, we took Dirac readings from the same seat as the original RTA microphone position.
“We saved two measurement files. One with a single position reading and another with the usual 7 microphone positions as required by Dirac. These were both corrected using Dirac software and we listened to both.
“After much deliberating we decided to go with the single microphone position. We then, using our RTA and modifying the target curve several times and listening to the same music video track, ended up with an optimal Dirac correct result.”
Even this was not enough as the team rested for an hour and then went back making small manual adjustments to the Dirac target curve based on listening to some high-quality recordings the team knows very well, making sure the tonal balance, imaging, staging and dynamics were where they should be.
Joe explains, “As you can see from RTA 2, there is a dip at the crossover point for the subwoofer, but we were happy with this as this delivered the best result in all listening positions.”
OK, so client demo time! The team did a two channel demo, without all the calibration and then with, just to underline how their expertise had taken the system up to a different level.
Joe explains, “The Audiophile in the family got up and walked up to the middle of the screen to see if the centre channel speaker was on, it wasn’t, he smiled! That’s why we do what we do!”
“Then a full cinema demo with content they knew well. This really was the ‘mic drop’ moment in the cinema install, the look on their faces was exactly what we had been striving for, they loved it. When they first came into the room, they said that they only had a few minutes for us to show them the cinema, as they had to be elsewhere. Close to an hour later, former appointment forgotten, they were still in awe and enjoying what we had created.”
Joe enthuses, “This area of the project delivered what we believe is one of the best exterior audio systems in the UK. The clients had a very specific idea of what the audio systems should sound like with lots of power, plenty of controlled bass and an even level throughout. “Again we were able to open their minds to systems and designs they were not aware of. We offered a good, better and best options. With the client choosing the best option, we used the NEAR brand to build a three-zone exterior audio system worth and extra £20K on the project.”
The system consists of 13 speakers and three subs, woven around the property to create a powerful, bass driven performance. The home’s Wi-Fi was also extended into the garden so control of the sources and content into the system is fast and responsive.
Joe adds, “The NEAR amplifiers boast onboard digital signal processing meaning we can optimise their performance by adjusting the channel control of frequency response, crossovers, phase time and dynamic range. This allowed us to crank up the bass to satisfy the client.” In total over three zones, audio can be enjoyed over a total of one acre.
The rest of the home
The home also has Lutron automated window treatments and lighting throughout. Lutron’s QS Sivoia blinds were specified. This was to tailor to the many different sizes required, ranging from half a meter up to over three meters.
Joe says, “We had to work closely with the carpenters here as the windows are wooden framed with architrave type covers encapsulating the outer framework. The trick was to utilise the metal pockets (that are mandatory for housing Lutron’s window treatments), whilst making sure they didn’t interfere with the look of the window. Each window treatment has been successfully hidden into the frame with no depreciation to performance or its intended use.”
The lighting solution is comprised of Lutron adaptive dimming modules, allowing different load types to be controlled seamlessly. Control is provided by strategic keypad placement at entrances to rooms and bedsides in the bedrooms. External circuits can be controlled manually or via the onboard astronomical clock, meaning the lighting reflects sunset and sunrise.
Whole house audio visual systems were also installed providing viewing and audio entertainment in many zones.
Video distribution is provided by Blustream’s UHD video over IP range. This was chosen for reliability and the fact that the system is scalable to the client’s requirements change. Currently, the video distribution feeds seven zones, with an additional feed going out to the cinema rack, allowing UHD sources from the central rack to be displayed. Various sizes of Samsung QLED TVs have been fitted across the zones. Sources here include Sky Q, two Sky Q mini boxes, Kaliedescape and Apple TV.
Audio distribution is provided by two Control4 eight zone matrix amplifiers. This feeds 13 zones of audio directly driving Origin Acoustic speakers in all areas except hallways, the media room and the cinema. To tailor to the customers love of extra of bass, the gymnasium is supplied with a stereo line level feed to drive a DLS flatbed subwoofer. Sources are provided by four digital streams from the Control4 EA5 processor.
The Control4 system also extends offering automated and manually controlled access to all the homes’ functionality right across the property. After consultation this system was chosen as it provided the right level of control compared to the budget available for this part of the project and the fact that the client was already familiar with this system.
A ubiquity Wi-Fi system covers the whole house offering reliable performance at the budget the client wanted for this part of the project.
The Media Room
The team also created a multi-function media room with a 5.1.2 audio system and large screen TV (65in Samsung 4K OLED).
Joe explains, “The biggest issue we had to face in this area was that the client wanted all the AV hidden away. But unlike many media rooms, where even if the equipment is ‘hidden’, you can still tell that it is there, this room had to look just like an ordinary living room when not in use and leave no trace of what is available if and when the family want to use the AV. The customer was really happy with the final result, you cannot tell there is a 5.1.2 audio system partnered with a 65in TV available at the touch of a button.”
This room was also inspired by the original trip to Pulse Cinemas as the customer loved the hidden aspect of the company’s Media Room demo area, the customer also enjoyed the Moroccan theme of the space and echoed that with their own room.
The bespoke control interface for this area offers two main options, ‘Watch TV’ or ‘Listen’. Select the first option and the full reveal takes place, the TV which is hidden in a specially created cabinet is revealed and all the other systems to deliver the audio come to life, also hidden within the cabinet and in matching smaller storage areas to the left and right of the cabinet.
In watch mode the user gets offered different options of what to see with favourite types of content, sources and channels offered in a bespoke content presentation display. In listen mode, then only the audio equipment in the room comes to life, and again different bespoke options of listening to music are offered. As well as options, the system can also automatically pick what is being played and pick the right format for it.
Sources available here include the Kaleidescape Strato Player and UHD Blu-ray disc player as well as the home’s networked music system, the system is driven by Audio Controls AVR9.
Joe adds, “In keeping with the need to weave the AV equipment into the fabric of the room we needed to find clever way of hiding the rear speakers. The room is decorated with high-end wallpaper and stretched fabric panels, which created a luxurious feel for the room that picks up the Moroccan theme of the space. However, in fact these panels also help to treat the room acoustically and have the James Loudspeakers that deliver the rear channels for the audio system hidden behind them.” The rest of the speakers are also hidden into the fabric of the room, the LCRs are hidden in the ceiling directly above the screen and have discrete grills painted to match the room.”
Despite being a smaller space and ‘only’ a 5.1.2 system, Prestige Audio put as much care into getting the sound and imaging right here as with the cinema again calling on Dirac Live built into the Audio Controls AVR9 being used in this area.
The LCR channels are provided by Sonance LCR 5Ss, the hidden surrounds are James Loudspeaker 62 ASXs, the heights are two Paradigm CI elite E80-Rs and the subwoofer is a Paradigm Seismic 110. This mixture of suppliers might seem odd, however the physical challenges of the room meant the speakers needed to meet demanding physical specifications to fit. The TV in the Media Room was calibrated using a Murideo Six external test kit and once again the audio received particular attention.
Measurements were taken and the results can be seen below
The main issues were that tonally the room sounded flat, there was very little high-frequency, not much mid-range and staging and imaging were not precise. Following adjustments, the results were much better.
Joe comments, “There were still a few anomalies that from a technical point of view you might like to iron out, however when we used the equipment to do this, it actually sounded worse, sometimes you have to trust your experience over cold technology, our team have been calibrating audio for 30 years and we use some of the best audio recordings available that we know very well.”
A really top-class result
An impressive project no doubt about it, but what we like so much here is how Joe and his team were able to take what was originally a modest part of the plans for this new home and amplify the customer’s desire by opening their eyes to what amazing experiences they could have in their home.
There can’t be too many homes in the UK which have a better spread of high-quality AV experiences inside and out.
All images courtesy of Tim Fox Photography.
Essential Kit List
Control 4 – 7in In Wall Touch Panel
Cinamorph Cylindrical Lense
Screen Research 3.8 m Wide Motorised Side Masking 2.35:1 Projection Screen 4K weave
Apple TV 4K
Kaleidscape Strato 6TB
Blustream UHD Video over IP Receiver
James M1000 Subwoofer Amplifiers
3 x James QX806BE LCR Loudspeakers
6 x James 52Qow LCR Loudspeakers
4 x James QX320 Height Loudspeakers
2 x James M122 Subwoofers
Fortress Seating (Matinee Chaise Longue/ Matinee Cinema Seat)
External Speaker System
Control 4 EA-1 Control Processor
10 x Near LB8T all-weather Loudspeakers
2 x Near 10in Subwoofer – In Ground
2 x Near 7XL Power Amplifiers (70v Line)
Outdoor Wireless Access Point
Samsung Q950 65in QLED TV
Future Automation Split Motorised Cover
Blustream UHD Video over IP RX
Blustream Audio return Balun Set
Kaleidescape Strato Player
Blu Ray Player
Concert AVR 9
3 x Sonance LCR .5S
2 x James 62 ASX
2 x Paradigm CI Elite E80-R
Paradigm Seismic 110