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Installation of the Year Awards 2009 - Best Media Room Installation

November 4, 2009 By Charles Crowley



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Installation of the Year Awards 2009 - Best Media Room Installation
Designing a mechanism so the heavy French tapestry could move up and down seamlessly involved a lot of engineering.
With the speaker grilles removed you can see the CAT/MBX main left and right speakers, along with 13 CAT/MBX subwoofers. The system’s center speaker hides behind the screen. When the grilles are in place, none of the speakers are visible.

Best Media Room Installation

Robert’s Home Audio & Video of Los Angeles, Calif.

Supreme Sound

This media room/library features an entire wall built from custom CAT/MBX speakers.

Robert’s Home Audio & Video is used to challenges. The company serves a demanding clientele of celebrities and entertainment-industry executives who are willing to pay for perfection, but are unforgiving if they don’t get it. Thus, a project that operations manager Leif Pehrson describes as “one of the most challenging engineering jobs I have ever done” must be quite spectacular.

Installation of the Year Awards 2009 - Best Media Room InstallationAnd it is.

Our media room winner features audio and video components whose performance is second to none. And its size is equally great. Yet all of the components, including the speakers and projector, disappear into the media room’s abundance of intricately carved stained-walnut woodwork.

The system’s invisibility results from a collaboration between the installers at Robert’s and the engineers at California Audio Technology, better known as CAT.

The company’s MBX program produces speakers customized to fit the available space—for example, subwoofers slimmed to a mere 5-1/2 inches so they can slip into this room’s side walls.

“The client told us he didn’t want to do a big fancy theater because the space was planned as a nice family room,” explains Robert Eitel, the company’s founder and president. “We told him we can customize the speakers to the design of the room, and that got him excited.

“We spent a lot of time working the woodwork. with the architect and the cabinetmaker to get that sound system into those narrow walls,” Eitel adds.

Installation of the Year Awards 2009 - Best Media Room Installation

The centerpiece of the media room’s system is the front wall, which houses the front left, center and right speakers, along with seven of the room’s 12 subwoofers. “We basically built that wall with CAT speaker boxes,” Eitel marvels. “There’s very little framing, despite the fact that it’s a load-bearing wall. It took a lot of back and forth with the architect to get that to work.”

On the side walls, the speakers are hidden behind custom wood grilles that match the air-conditioning vents. “You can’t tell the difference between the speakers and the vents,” Eitel continues.

“We sent CAT a sample of the grille; they OKed it and actually adjusted the speaker’s crossover to compensate [for the acoustical effects of the grille].” The side speakers are mounted high and angled down, while the rear speakers are mounted low, under a riser, and angled up—both configurations made possible by CAT’s custom cabinetry.

Perhaps even more dramatic is the 17th-century French tapestry that conceals the projection screen when the system is not in use. Roll-up tapestries have been used before to cover up TVs, but as Eitel puts it, “That’s a milliondollar-plus tapestry. You can’t roll it up.” Fortunately, the custom installer’s crew found a company that made a special lift that pulls the antique piece straight up into the ceiling.

Designing a mechanism so the heavy French tapestry could move up and down seamlessly involved a lot of engineering.

“It lifts up into to a box,” Pehrson explains. “We had to lower the ceiling so the tapestry could be pulled all the way up. When it’s retracted, it hangs down below the ceiling [slightly] so it doesn’t get caught in the pocket.”

In addition, the massive, $79,000 Runco Reflection VX-4c projector that illuminates the Stewart projection screen required some mechanical wizardry. The projector hides in a lowered section of ceiling in the back of the room, above a raised platform supporting the client’s desk. It would have been impossible for Robert’s team to access the projector once it was installed within the dropped ceiling section, so the installation team had a special lift built to raise the projector into the attic for servicing.

Other noteworthy components include an Ayre DVD player, an Audio Design Associates Cinema Rhapsody surround processor, and Monaco amplifiers. A small Crestron touchscreen controls the room’s audiovisual gear, the shades, the lights and the heating and air conditioning.

 With the speaker grilles removed you can see the CAT/MBX main left and right speakers, along with 13 CAT/MBX subwoofers. The system’s center speaker hides behind the screen. When the grilles are in place, none of the speakers are visible.

The gorgeous but sonically reflective woodwork lining the walls might have impaired the sound quality in the 1,128-square-foot room, but Pehrson says that was not the case. “The CAT engineers were worried because there wasn’t any acoustic treatment, but the books took care of that. They were blown away by how well the room [was] engineered.”

“We did acoustical sampling of this room and our showroom, which has almost the same system,” Eitel says. “You could barely tell the difference because of the magic that [CAT co-founder and chief engineer] Michael Barr does when he tunes the system.”

“Most of that room is 14 feet 6 inches high,” Pehrson adds, “and it’s 47 feet long by 24 feet wide. That’s a huge space—almost 17,000 cubic feet—but the A/V system kicks.” Quite an accomplishment for a system that vanishes into the woodwork.

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