Let me say from the outset that the space is really not cave-like, and makeover is a very loose interpretation of the word. This story is about an upgrade of a space that I would think is fairly typical, and more importantly, universal. Whether you live in an apartment, a small home, or a large home, a media room like this is typical. The acoustics are not ideal. In my case the media room is adjacent to the kitchen. This is not the custom basement home theater where you have full control of the conditions and room configuration (maybe one day!).
This is a before and after story, but there are several “before’s” that are worth revisiting. Early on in my technology career, I lived in an apartment with a guy who worked at a high-end audio store. He would hook me up with deals on some components that allowed me to slowly build up my audio system. I had a Sony STR-D865 Audio Receiver to start with and added JBL 4400A Studio speakers for right and left, and a MTX AAL525SB Center Speaker. For surround I had JBL Control 1 speakers for the rear right and left channels. Eventually all this ended up in my first home and it looked like this – Home Theater/Media Center version 1.0
An update came a short time later with my first flat panel TV, a 37″ Westinghouse LVM-37w1 LCD Monitor. Eventually I purchased a Pioneer 50″ Plasma Display, upgraded to an Onkyo TX-SR503 AV Receiver, and also added a Sony subwoofer to complete the 5.1 system.
Then we moved to a bigger house, one that had an unfinished basement to allow for a future (distant future) home theater installation. So with that dream remaining, I wanted to upgrade the audio/video system in the living room. Several years after moving in I was still sporting a 3.1 audio system. As you can see the JBL studio speakers are quite large, and I also hadn’t taken the time to install the Control 1’s yet. I also began to need to control more devices with HDMI connections.
So this begins our true “before” data point . . .
Here’s the full room . . .
One of the big advantages of going from an AV receiver with component video to one with HDMI is the reduction of cables. One cable will give you both video AND audio. All of the RCA, and most of the digital audio (S/PDIF) cables, were retired. I say most because I still used a TOSLINK (optical audio) cable to send audio out from the Mac Mini to the AV receiver, and I would use a coaxial digital audio cable to connect to a new sub-woofer. This is what things looked like in an intermediate stage . . .
Just in time for Super Bowl Sunday 2012, I finished the new system. I added a Pioneer VSX-1021-K 7.1 Home Theater Receiver, and the Energy 5.1 Take Classic Home Theater System. As you’ll see in the final pictures, it’s a much more streamlined setup. No big honking speakers to the side of the monitor. The next step may be wall mounting the plasma, or wall mounting some new display (???). Regardless, this “makeover” is a jumping off point for what this site will present going forward. Reviews, resources, and recipes for how to accomplish a highly functional and very flexible home entertainment system. I have learned a great deal from this upgrade, and I hope you can benefit from it as well.