When I first saw the basement in this house, even though I wasn’t quite sure where the theater would go, I had a good idea that a pool table could fit in this spot. I’ve wanted one since we built our first house over twenty years ago—a small 1,100 foot ranch in the suburbs of Denver that had a large unfinished basement that I had planned to make a sports bar. Sadly, we were transferred to Florida less than a year after moving into that house. And houses in Florida do not have basements, so my dreams of sports, bar, and pool table were put on hold.
In our last house, I was thinking I might be able to fit a table into that basement, but as I drew out plans, I couldn’t find any space that would work, as an eight foot table needs a rather large room, and the widest I could get any room was twelve feet, which couldn’t even fit a seven foot table.
As a substitute, I was tempted to put a foosball table in, but that bar game always needs at least two people, and I didn’t think that either Mary nor Dobry would stay interested in it enough to justify the cost.
We had been looking at used tables at some local games rooms stores, but most of the used tables seemed overpriced for home-use tables. And while we found some very nice new tables, I couldn’t justify spending several thousand dollars (the one I really wanted was $7k) on something that at best, I could expect to sell for maybe a grand if I ever wanted to get rid of it.
At a recent party, one of our guests mentioned that he has friends who were downsizing, and had a pool table that they might be selling. A photo was texted a couple of days later of an older table that I recognized as a Brunswick Monticello II, a very high-quality table made in the mid 70s using the same frame, but different legs, as Brunswick’s top-of-the-line Gold Crown, a table that’s used in professional tournaments around the world. After looking at it in person, we struck a very happy deal.
In order to further separate our theater from a typical commercial theater, I installed transducers in the furniture. I did this with the sectional in our last house, which were a nice addition, and always got a surprised response from guests. I used Aura Bass Shaker Pros for my previous install, powered by a subwoofer plate amp that I installed in a custom box that sat behind the sectional.
I wanted a cleaner look for the new room, with no gear at all inside the room, with the obvious exception of the projector, so the amp will be in the rack in the billiard room. Parts Express had also come out with their own transducer under their Dayton line. Not only are the Dayton transducers cheaper than the Auras, but they also show a lower resonant frequency (30 hz vs. 40 hz), with the same power handling capability (50 watts).
The structure of this furniture is much more robust than the old sectional, so I didn’t feel the need to beef it up. When I opened it up, the old sectional looked like it would fall apart rather quickly once I started shaking it. The wood looked like miscellaneous scraps left over from other projects, and everything had been fastened with staples—no screws or glue. I sistered a number of new members, glueing and screwing them in place.
I’m powering these using the rear center channel amp of my old Pioneer VSX-D850S AVR. I figured these wouldn’t need the same power as my subwoofers, so I adjusted the trim down as far as it would go. Even so, they were still shaking too much, and at higher frequencies than I wanted. So, I’ve pulled an EQ out of my studio rack, and am using it as a low pass filter, and also pulling the gain down further.
Compared to the Aura Bass Shaker Pros that I used to have, these seem to reach deeper, as I feel some very low shaking that I don’t hear. And my twin 15″ subwoofers dig far deeper than the single 10″ sub I previously used.
Seven identical speakers around the room, two independent subwoofers, and four identical overhead speakers for a 7.2.4 setup. Mary’s response upon hearing a Dolby Atmos demo trailer— “Oh wow!”
Then we watched Mad Max: Fury Road in 3D and Atmos, which I had been saving as the inaugural film.
Because my theater is small, I’ve got to be creative in hiding all the gear. The electronics are all outside the room, but that doesn’t work for speakers. For the seven surround speakers, I’m using identical MTM in-wall speakers that will all be hidden by either the screen, or fabric panels that will cover the walls. For the four overhead Atmos speakers, I’m using four identical in-ceiling speakers that’ll also be covered by fabric. You won’t see any of them. However, it’s a little more difficult when it comes to subwoofers.
Like my last house, I could’ve put a store-bought subwoofer in a front corner of the room and been happy with the sound. But I didn’t want a typical black box that stood out in an otherwise clean room. I also wanted bass that was loud, low and clean—which isn’t cheap when it comes to subwoofers. And I’m
Many people who build dedicated home theater rooms in their houses who have larger rooms, are able to build false walls for their screens, and are able to hide large ported subwoofers behind these walls, keeping the decor of the room clean. As my space is only 12′ 2″ x 16′ 6″, I don’t have that luxury.
So I decided to build my own subwoofers that I can build into my front stage. Parts Express had 15″ Community subwoofer drivers on sale, which would be perfect for a pair of sealed subwoofers in my room. These drivers are normally used for pro-audio subwoofers that cost well above what I’m willing to spend, but because I’m building these myself, I’ll be enjoying quite a cost savings.
The math said that with these drivers, a box size between five and seven cubic feet of volume would give me the best performance. So I designed a box two feet high, one and a half feet deep, three feet wide in the back, and two feet wide in the front. Taking into account insetting the back and front, driver volume, and bracing volume, final interior box volume is just under six cubic feet.
While I previously build a bass amp out of baltic birch plywood, for this project I decided on using MDF due to its higer density and weight. It also mills and cuts very easily. Unfortunately, It does not hold screws or nails well. Because of this, I decided to assemble the boxes with traditional joinery via dados and rabbets with wood cleats to hold screws. Adding glue, caulk, and bracing, these will be very strong boxes. I filled them with five pounds of poly-fill each.
The math also says that with taking room gain into account, I’ll be able to hit 110db from 23hz to 120hz ±3db at the front row. We’ll find out how well practice hits theory later.
To fit the design of the room, the tops of the subwoofers will be covered in the same bamboo flooring that I used in the rest of this project, and the front and angled side will be covered in the same navy fabric that’ll cover the walls. The stage piece between them will also be finished the same, after being stuffed with insulation to keep from becoming a resonant cavity.
Once assembled, I tested by powering ’em with an old Pioneer VSX-D850S whose preamp stage had been fried by lightning. I wasn’t sure if the amp section would work at all, and I also wasn’t sure if the rated 110 watts to each sub would be powerful enough, but to my happiness, it did, and it is. And holy moly do these subs deliver. I still need to buy a measurement microphone to see if I’ve hit my mathematical goals, but in several weeks of music and movies so far, my ears (and body) say success.