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Building a New Home Theater, Part 3

Apr 20, 2009 8:54 AM, By Jason Bovberg

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Building a New Home Theater Series
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Picture Gallery

The screen wall

The screen wall.

My theater is about halfway done. I look back on the first part of this series, and it seems ages ago that I started this project with the help of my contractor. Quite a few subcontractors have moved in and out of my basement—from heating to electricity to drywall—and we’re now past the stages that I foreshadowed in the second installment of this series. Now that the walls are freshly textured, I find myself at that all-important milestone at which I can envision this theater actually becoming a reality.

Since my last article, I’ve made some key decisions about wiring, insulation, and sound-proofing. My first meeting with the electrician was very encouraging. I had done my research, and he proved an excellent sounding board for the information I’d found from experienced theater builders online. The primary question was whether to surge-protect the entire home or to focus my power-management efforts on just the theater. For financial reasons—a big goal of this project, in the midst of this dismal economy, is to create a great theater without just dumping money into it—I chose to focus solely on theater protection with the use of a Panamax M5300-EX power conditioner, from which the electrician would span a 20-amp bridge to the ceiling-mounted Mitsubishi HC-5500 projector. It would be the perfect way to protect all my equipment—and not just the stuff at the equipment rack. (I also took the opportunity to run some 3in. conduit in the ceiling from the equipment area to the projector area, to future-proof my setup, just in case some new connector technology comes around.) After the electrician finished his work, I went ahead and strung shielded, 12-gauge loudspeaker wire (from ) throughout the room (for 7.1 surround sound), being careful to keep my distance from his electrical wiring wherever possible, to avoid any potential interference.

The equipment rack

The equipment rack.

Now it was time to insulate—and think about sound absorption. My contractor sent over the insulation and drywall teams, and we had long conversations about my options. This theater was going to crank out a lot of sound, and my primary goal was to keep as much of that sound as possible inside the theater. To avoid the transference of deep bass upstairs through the home's studs and joists, the ideal scenario would be to essentially separate the theater from the rest of the house. I've heard of people actually framing a room within a room, leaving a gap between the wood so that most bass rumblings are trapped within the confines of the theater—too rich for my budget. A more common solution is the use of hat channel (a steel channel separating drywall from wood, creating a smaller "room within a room" separated by a tiny gap). This solution is often compounded by the use of double sheets of drywall and sound-absorption materials such as Green Glue. But as I started adding up the costs of these measures, it quickly became clear that true, perfect sound isolation would be beyond my means. I would instead do the best job possible with the cash I had.

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