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THEATRE OF DREAMS
Mark M. describes himself as ‘detail-orientated’, so when he embarked on a plan to build a dream home theatre in his family’s Western Australia home, he did his research first.
“I knew broadly what I wanted in the room design — I wanted it to look like a boutique cinema”, he tells us. “I discussed it with several hi-fi buddies and they all agreed that I needed the dimensions of the home theatre room to be right, to avoid lots of room treatment down the track. So dimensions — on the list. I wanted two rows of seating — point two on the list. And number three, a constant image height screen. List coming together nicely.”
Locking down the dimensions for the room at 6.15 × 5 × 3.25m, and teaching himself CAD along the way, Mark faced one small problem — there was no such space available in the home. His solution?
“Well I’d had the house for some time, and we really wanted a family home with certain features that were missing — top of which was a space for a home theatre. We all enjoy watching movies, so a dedicated space was a must. I did some sums — and came to the realisation that a knock-down and rebuild was the answer.”
So the resulting home really was designed around the planned theatre.
“I went through many different versions of the house, each one evolving out from the home theatre as the starting point,” he says. And as the plans progressed, Mark continued sketching out the theatre space with his CAD software (see right), using double brick cavity walls all the way around, and making sure nothing got in the way of his careful planning.
“By law the room must have a window,” he says, “so I had determined the minimum window size permitted and then worked out the dimensions that would accommodate the rear speakers the best. There was some back-and-forth getting plans approved, and I remember getting an email from the builder’s rep saying that Council had approved them. The first thing I did was check the theatre dimensions — and they had been changed to one brick lower, because the overall height of the house was 8cm too high. But since that would potentially impact the theatre acoustics, I had the entire house dropped one brick course so the theatre dimensions could be as planned.”
Did we mention Mark was detail orientated?
Seeking a system...
By now, Mark had begun his search for the perfect equipment to populate his dream theatre.
“I pawed through various build threads and websites looking for inspiration”, he tells us. “I kept an eye on technology and researched speakers mostly, as the changes there are slower than with other components. This is where Scott and the lads at WestCoast HiFi became a big help.”
Scott Stay is the proprietor of West-Coast HiFi Midland in Western Australia.
“Mark had been recommended to visit my store by the gents at Broadway homes, a very high quality Perth based builder,” he told Sound+Image. “And from the start it was clear this was all about the ultimate cinema for Mark. With this being Mark’s dream room, he was on top of everything, so as well as our advice, the most useful part of the process for him was our ability to have it all set up in-store in one room. Auditioning exactly what the customer will be experiencing in their own home is key.”
”They really let me have my space”, agrees Mark, “I was agonising over speaker and amp choices for the longest time, and I was also trying to save a little coin in the process — they showed me the various different levels that they could accommodate. They also gave ideas and acted as a sounding board. This was good as I could balance this against what I was seeing from some of the high-end shops in Singapore” [where Mark was doing work offshore].
So with the main plans for the theatre locked in and wiring being pre-laid, it was time to start firming up the equipment list.
“I had heard of Krix through my own research,” says Mark, “and I knew that WestCoast Hifi sold them. Then I saw a pair of Krix Phonix speakers for sale in the US on an auction site, and needing to know more I rang Krix — this was around 1pm on a Christmas Eve. I asked about the speakers and the receptionist didn’t have the answers so she put me through to the tech department, where a man answers and he explains that while the speakers are old they should be fine, and that all parts are still available if any replacement was needed.”
As the conversation continued, Mark got rather more assistance than he had expected.
“We continue chatting and clearly this guy is right into home theatre,” he says. “So I describe what I am trying to do, the room dimensions and that I wanted an Atmos system, and how I planned to go with large speakers. But this chap advised that it wasn’t needed — it would be too much for the room. Then he offers to look at the room stats and suggest for me what might work. So he’s spelling out his email and it’s ‘s... k... r... i... x...’ and I am like, ‘Are you Scott Krix??’”
Scott Krix is, of course, the founder of the South Australian company, a legendary speaker designer and the man who came up with the infinite baffle concept for commercial cinemas, as used now throughout the world. By Boxing Day Mark had received Scott Krix’s response by email, suggesting the use of Krix Pix for LCR at the front, two Phonix for the side and rear walls, Atmospherix for the highs, and a Cyclonic subwoofer.
“Let me say, I had not decided exactly what equipment I wanted,” Mark tells us, “but based on that interaction, I knew it would definitely be Krix. Just the passion with which Scott spoke really sealed the deal — and he was not even trying to sell the speakers to me. Just two enthusiasts chatting.”
Wall of Sound
Then came a chance to meet Scott Krix when he was visiting WestCoast HiFi Midland to demonstrate the company’s Series MX ‘Real Cinema at Home’ concept — unique modular behind-screen speaker systems which have been nicknamed the ‘wall of sound’, using that Krix Infinite Baffle Wall with thick, acoustic absorption material minimising both reflections and sound leakage behind. It’s a solution which has taken our Sound+Image installation product award for two years running — and it was West Coast HiFi Midland’s installation of one of the first Series MX cinemas that won them a 2017 Sound+Image Installation award too. Mark was clearly similarly impressed.
“Yes, initially Mark had ordered the Krix Xtreme Pix and Cyclonix front soundstage”, confirms Scott Stay. “But after attending the Krix MX-30 event and meeting Scott Krix, we were swiftly told to change the order! Then the room was beefed up with an extra pair of Krix Phonix wall speakers so the two rows of seating would fully enjoy the surround — it’s a 9.2.4 system simply because of the two seating rows.”
“As soon as I saw and heard the MX-30 wall of sound, I was like ‘me likey!’ — swap that out and mail me the costs,” says Mark. Meanwhile he continued selecting the rest of the system.
“Amps wise I have used a number of Yamahas over the years, as well as Denon, Onkyo and Sony,” he says. “Scotty from WestCoast was more than happy for me to shop around, asking only to be able to at least quote — and with my first preference of Yamaha, the price Scott gave me was well ahead of all other quotes. Decision made simple.”
Wanting “plenty of headroom” he went with the Yamaha’s Aventage MX-A5000 11-channel power amp (another award-winner) paired with the CX-A5100 processor. But to power the MX-30 front channels, he added the 5 × 200W Mcintosh MC205 home theatre amplifier.
“It was our recommendation to run the MC205”, says Scott Stay. “It’s able to provide the all-important detail and headroom to the wall of sound. Although as always when building a luxury home, budgetary constraints were important, Mark was very careful not to cut important corners.”
“It was a splurge but I am very happy with the selection,” confirms Mark. “My reasoning was that while the processor and projector and disc players will inevitably become obsolete through advancing technology, good amps and speakers and cables have a much longer service life. So I apportioned more budget to that.”
The projector selected was the Sony true-4K VPL-VW550ES, “which projects an incredible image”, says Mark. “I left it to the last possible minute to pull the trigger, but I didn’t want to keep waiting for the next release. You end up just chasing technology.”
WestCoast also assisted with contacts for the cinema’s fit-out — the curtains, the joinery, and the carpet.
“I was very picky on what carpet I wanted,” says Mark, “and Scott helped me with a firm that supplied wonderful Axminster to cap the cinema look. Other little details are the walls and ceiling being SoundChek plaster, with the ceiling cavity filled with acoustic batts to help with some of the bleed through the ceiling. The starlight ceiling also helps with sound, and it looks pretty cool too.”
Rebuilding the house
We’re pleased to say that Mark and his family also expended at least a modicum of effort on the rest of the rebuilt home as well!
“The house is very open plan downstairs,” he says, “and other than the door to the theatre, you wouldn’t know it’s there. The lounge, dining and kitchen areas all flow into each other with a large central island anchoring the space. This leads to an alfresco area suitably equipped to enjoy Perth’s lovely weather. The lounge has an 80-inch UHD TV with custom mounting, and cabinets that house my music amp and player to play music for the downstairs area. We have a second retreat upstairs that has a 65-inch UHD TV for occasional TV and gaming. All the TVs and the theatre are smart wired... only the operator is not so smart! But I can link them when needed, if needed.”
We usually ask installers what problems they encountered, what was the trickiest part of the build. In this case, however, Mark’s careful planning and hands-on approach had meant that there really weren’t any big issues.
“No, none,” says Scott Stay. “Very simple, well planned, and double bricked to keep the sound in the room. He kept us well informed of progress on the build, and with a great cabinet maker, an awesome customer, and our Sound+Image award-winning installation team, haha, all good!”
“The build would not have happened with such success without Scott and his team,” says Mark. “They really did help with decisions, even if if some of it was me just saying yes to new ‘candy’ being shown!”
And he’s happy with the final results?
“Just ask him!” laughs Scott Stay. “Yes very happy — and that makes us even happier.”
“Honestly it came together much better than I imagined — and I am very picky,” confirms Mark. “The sound is amazing — a true ‘cinema sound’, and although I wanted it to be dedicated for movies, the set-up is quite musical as well. I guess that’s the design of the ‘wall of sound’ — horns and vocals, mmmm! With the full custom-curved leather chairs it is certainly a nice place to grab a movie. Of course there are always tweaks and things you can change. But because of the help from all involved, and researching well before, I am very pleased with the outcome. I think whether you are starting out with your first home cinema, or anywhere thereafter, it is important to partner with a team that is passionate and can land the vision. Scott and the team are able to do that, no question.”
Projector: Sony VPL-VW550ES 4K projector
Screen: Prestige 160-inch woven Cinemascope
LCR: Krix MX-30
Surround: 6 x Krix Phonix (4 surround; 2 surround back)
Ceiling: 2 x Krix Atmospherix A20 (front); 2 x Krix Atmospherix AS (rear)
Subwoofer/s: 2 x 18-inch (in MX-30)
Processor: Yamaha CX-A5100
Amplifier (surround): Yamaha MX-A5000
Amplifier (LCR): McIntosh MC205 5-channel power amp
Source: Oppo UDP-203 UHD Blu-ray player
Cables: Chord Company Shawline XLR interconnects; Isotek Aquarius power conditioner and cables
Other: LightFX star ceiling
Windows: Casver Double Glazing
Carpet: Wall to Wall Carpet
Custom Curtains: Decor Blinds
Custom Joinery and Stage: Kembla Furniture
House Builder: Custom Design by Broadway Homes
Installation & Room Fit-off:
West Coast HiFi Midland
Unit 16, 4 Clayton, Midland, WA 6056
Tel: 08 9374 0388