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Home Theater: Part I

The time has come for a new home theater. It took 15 years to build the first one and as consequence some of the equipment is so old it is not completely compatible with the newer equipment. There has been significant progress in the audio and video quality that is available, even in the last two or three years, that it's well worth it to upgrade the experience. In addition, innovations have brought more connectivity options and home (IoT) integration will bring a more seamless, enjoyable experience.

I own a good set of 5.1 speakers and a powered subwoofer along with a 55" 2k plasma display all of which are waiting to be unleashed so I have decided to build this up in reverse order, laying the foundation first, installing sources second and finally upgrading the display, speakers and amps last.

I have a strong suspicion that by the time I get around to all of this the processor, lighting and integration equipment will all get a second rev. My reasoning for this is that the state-of-art in 2016 is good but not great and with many, many shortcomings.

Part I: Infrastructure

I have three primary considerations wrt power: protection, sufficient outlets and enough peak reserve.

The device that does all three is the Furman Elite-15 PF i. It has the following features:

  • Exceptional transient spike, over voltage and lightning protection
  • Filtering reduces line/equipment noise
  • 12 outlets and a ridiculous (for AC input side) reserve current (but this has the side benefit of reducing demands on the building's old wiring)

I also have an old monster power adapter which I use to plug in all the small devices (like Philips Hue hub, gigabit switch, etc). This provides a second isolation from the A/V equipment and fortunately has not resulted in any ground loops or weirdness.

Future Plans: None

Primary concerns here are: security, reliability and performance.

I bought a gigabit switch to service the network connections. It provides Ethernet to almost every device on the network.

The WAP is by Buffalo, the switch is by Dlink. As a router, service and security device it has turned out to be a real disappointment. But it is reliable. The wireless performance is also a bummer but I only have two wireless devices my smartphone and an IoT device so it is not a concern.

Future Plans: A better security appliance

Here my goals were more aesthetic. Beyond providing support I need the furniture to be comfortable, inviting and pleasing to the eye AND NOT MAKE ANY NOISE.

Apart from a nice couch to rest on I will keep the AV console I've had for years. It's quite sturdy and can handle a respectable (but not infinite) amount of weight. I believe it's made by Sanus and I've filled the tubing with sand. It's heavy and acoustically pretty dead.

I live in an apartment building so cannot mount the display to the wall so I've built a hack mount out of concrete blocks (yep) for now. It cost me $50 and unfortunately that was still WAY cheaper than buying actual furniture. This leads into the next section: room treatment.

Future Plans: Mount the display on the wall

This ought to be the first step. But I live in a small apartment and not much room for panels. Not to mention their unsightly nature. Unfortunately my apartment also comes with host of noises. Loud neighbors, traffic, pipes and a plethora of equipment noises in my apartment and without. I've done what I can to eliminate internal noises but for the most part there is nothing I can do to protect my health and my sanity.

Beyond elimination and soundproofing there is treatment. I have installed a fun, comfy rug on the floor in the front room. It happens to be high pile and should be great for eliminating floor reflections. That leaves the side walls, ceiling and back ceiling as the "loudest" reflection points.

I may yet install something on the back panel. A textile or dispersion panel. But it's a competition for that and artwork. I have to live here after all. There is little else I can do for the other surfaces.

Future plans: treat the room

The goals here are: quality of life, comfort and productivity.

I wanted to move beyond your basic dimmers and provide not only the ability to choose different hues of white but I wanted to go much further by integrating the entire color spectrum into a better home experience.

I chose the Philips Hue system. I purchased bulbs for the bedroom, front room and kitchen. I purchased switches for control and setup alarms for waking and sleeping.

The quality of the lighting is improved significantly. This is a bigger deal than I expected. I have learned that I am sensitive to lighting and that I live in a very dim apartment. This has helped to improve my mood and quality of life at home as it is warmer, more comfortable and simply easier to see what I'm doing.

That said there are a couple limitations in the hardware and the features available leave a lot to be desired. Geofencing does not work well. Greens are nearly non-existent and the bulbs do not dim enough. Dynamic scenes are not well integrated and the bulbs do not integrate well with the Logitech controller.

Future plans: better bulbs, better software (when they become available)

Goals are similar to above: quality of life, comfort and productivity.

My apartment doesn't have HVAC, nor does it have an electronic or IoT connected thermostat. As a result the level of integration I can provide here is limited. There is also zero natural circulation.

I've decided to make the best of this by buying a good fan. This will make sure that the air is fresh and less stuffy.

Future Plans: A home, with HVAC and a dedicated media room

Finally, I purchased a cool Logitech keyboard (model K830) to control the home theater and possibly other sources.

I also purchased the Logitech Harmony Elite remote control. I have programmed it for one touch access to all of my sources (currently the count is six) and I have also programmed the home controls for lighting.

This is really the finishing touch of the home and pulls it all together into a wonderfully enjoyable experience.

Part II: Sources and Integration

Part III: A/V Outputs

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