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Installation Profile: THX at Home

Aug 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Dan Daley

Quality-assurance specifications dictate a budget built for acoustics.

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Even without all that, there is still plenty to control from the theater — including a TiVo Series3 DVR, a Kaleidescape Player 1, a DirecTV HR20, an Xbox 360, a Denon DVD-3910, and an Antex Electronics SRX-3 TriplePlay Sirius satellite radio tuner. The owners did not want to compromise the immersive aspect of the theater with a large control panel in front of the seats. Instead, the main Crestron TPS-15 touchpanel controller — the interface for the Crestron PRO2 processor — is located in the rear row of seats. The command chair has only a Crestron ML-600 handheld remote.

“A touchpanel entices you to do just that — touch it,” Rosenbaum says. “Putting the main controller in the rear row removes that distraction, while also opening up more space between the front row and the screen.”

The coda to this installation was the final inspection and measurement by THX, and a passing grade is virtually ensured if the THX protocols were implemented throughout the design-and-build process.

“The whole process is night and day compared to conventional [home] theater construction, which can be a tussle between the owners, the GC, and the integrator,” Rosenbaum says. “The end result of that is inevitably subjective to some extent, and the integrator faces some financial risk if it doesn't turn out right in the end. The THX process removes the subjective elements — if it passes THX's inspection, then you know the room is performing as it should. This makes the theater engineering-centric, as opposed to a sales person trying to make the owner feel good about individual equipment purchases.

“One of the biggest challenges of working on high-end theaters is managing [the clients'] expectations. And this does it very well because the outcomes are highly predictable. If it were up to me, this is the way I'd like to build every home theater.”

Costs of THX

THX declined to disclose the actual cost of the license and design fee it requires to certify a home theater as THX-compliant, but Graham McKenna, senior PR manager for THX, confirms that is a set fee and not based on room size or budget. He says that the typical budget for a THX-certified room is in the $200,000-to-$300,000 range. Some industry sources estimate the fee in the low five figures.

The process goes as follows: THX will do a feasibility review of the room design to see if THX certification can be achieved. If the room meets initial criteria, the one-time fee is then charged to the developer or homeowner, which covers the design process during which THX works with the systems integrator to implement THX standards for audio and video reproduction — including acoustic parameters, sound isolation, viewing angles, and the effect of room aesthetics on picture quality. Once the room is built, THX engineers perform testing similar to what they do for cinema and professional studio projects, all covered within the design and licensing fee. Additional services and costs include THX's recently launched post-completion video calibration services or more in-depth room design services prior to the build.

The fee isn't as onerous as it might appear, says Aaron Rosenbaum, president of Ambleside.

“I was able to use $25,000 worth of speakers that I knew would meet the spec, and within that context, they outperform speakers that might have cost $200,000,” he says. “It removed a lot of anxiety from technology choices, like not needing a three-chip 1080p projector, because the THX design optimizes the performance of the single-chip projector — that saved $20,000 right there. When you have a blueprint like THX that essentially guarantees an outcome, the budget is now accountable to meeting the criteria, not looking for the best in show in terms of technology.

“For a theater with a budget over $250,00, I'd say it's very worthwhile,” he adds. “This room kicks ass over many $1 million rooms.”

Equipment List


Tivo Series III
Kaleidescape Player 1
DirecTV HR20
XBOX 360
Denon 3920 DVD
Antex SRX-3


Sim2 HT3000E T2 Projector
Screen Research CMASK 96” WIDE


Triad Gold LCR (3)
Triad Bonze/6 Subwoofer (16)
Triad Gold Surround (4)


Lexicon MC-8B
Ashley 24.24M Matrix Processor


QSC DCA Cinema 3022 2×900W Amplifier (4)
QSC DCA Cinema 1622 2×500W Amplifier (2)
QSC DCA Cinema 1824 4×170W Amplifier (1)

Systems Control:

Crestron PRO2 Processor
Crestron CENET-1 Ethernet Card
Crestron C2N-SDC Shade Drape Controller
Crestron TPS-15 Touch Panel
Crestron ML-600 Handheld Remote


Cinematech Valentino Incliners (4)
Cinematech Valentino Recliners (4)
WAC Lighting 12V fixtures
Crestron CLX-1DIM8 Dimmer
QTran Transformers (custom)
MSR Acoustic Treatments (reflectors/absorbers)

Sound Isolation:

QuietRock 545
RSIC-1 Isolation Clips
Acoustic Sound Door - custom by Ambleside
Zero International 7770 Jamb seal
Zero International 367 Automatic Door Bottom
Zero International 564 Jamb Saddle
Zero International 950 Cam Hinge

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