Media Room, Multi-Zone AV and Home Automation for a South Mumbai Waterfront Apartment
Pre-Installation and Setup
For any small room installation acoustics pose to be a major challenge. The clients for this project are music lovers and required audiophile grade sound quality across their residence. They wanted a dedicated listening room which would also serve as a 5.1 Home Theater for movie watching, and multiple zones to stream music to if there were to be a party or friends over. The challenge we faced was converting a conventional bedroom with wardrobes, glass windows and a pullout sofa into an acoustically balanced listening space which would deliver the wow factors from high end audio solutions. This challenge is certainly not uncommon in most Mumbai apartments with space being a constraint. We knew that proper acoustical planning would be able to curtail the challenges of reverberation and comb filtering in this layout.
Our primary goal was to achieve a focused two channel stereo experience with only two main seats in the room. The layout of the room allowed us to place NHT Absolute Tower speakers at the right positions which would allow for a 60 degree listening angle from the primary seating position. Since the room was also made to be a guest room with a pull-out sofa, our subwoofer placement was ideally compromised. We had to place the NHT Super 8 Subwoofer in the front of the room, about three feet to the right from the center channel. This position was not ideal in terms of room modes and caused excess reverberation in the low frequencies. With the subwoofer position not adjustable, we decide to employ acoustical paneling for absorption of the reverberation of the low frequencies and the MiniDSP 2×4 for equalization of the subwoofer.
The center channel was able to be placed on an AV shelf just below the television directly in line with our sweet spot and maintaining our 60 degree listening angle. Our surround speaker placement was also compromised because of the shape of the room. Ideally in a 5.1 solution we would prefer our surround speakers to be placed on either side wall facing the sweet spot. We placed our surround speakers on the rear wall facing forward and a little higher than we would have liked. A bathroom door affected placement of the right surround and we had to maintain the same height for the right surround.
We created additional audio zones for the Hall and Balcony to give the client the ability to play music while entertaining guests or just enjoying a relaxing evening at home. For the Hall Zone we used the NHT Absolute Wall speakers which were wall mounted across from the main sitting area to give quality stereo imaging and good tonality to the listener.
In the open Balcony which was facing the sea we wall mounted the NHT O2-ARC Outdoor speakers on opposite ends of the space. This zone would allow for light music even while enjoying the outdoor air. And the powerful O2-ARC speakers by NHT could deliver a good mix of lows, mids and highs without even the slightest strain.
In the client’s son’s bedroom we retrofitted an existing 5.1 satellite speaker package of theirs by Bose. Also in the Master Bedroom we installed a Yamaha YAS-205 Sound bar with Wireless Subwoofer and Built-In Bluetooth.
One major advantage with placement of electronics was that every aspect of the A/V in this installation was going to be controlled with Control4 Home Automation. That gave us the flexibility to place our equipment in equipment closets, server racks and even custom A/V units within rooms. Since the media room would be primarily for music listening and movie watching we decided to use a spare equipment closet in that room to house the amplifier, sources and automation controller. The main reason for keeping the main automation controller in the media room and not in the server rack is we wanted the Universal Remote Control to work via zigbee with the main controller specifically or the media room. For the other rooms automation commands could be issued via the MyHome App on the phone. We subsequently kept the router, main network switch and NAS Server in a server rack in the storage room. Each room had its own sources such as DVD Players, Apple TV’s and Set Top Boxes and those were placed in the custom made A/V units for every room. Wiring was run from every A/V Cabinet to the central server rack so each device could be controlled via the Control4 Automation system, thus eliminating the need for extra remotes in every room.
Even though the media room was not very large, we knew we had to provide audiophile grade amplification to satisfy our customer’s need for clarity and focus from this setup. After testing various AV Receivers at our Kemp’s Corner showroom, the client was thrilled with the detailing and the soundstage the Audiocontrol AVR-6 was able to produce with the NHT Absolute Tower package. For the Blu-Ray Player and CD Player we installed the Orei BDP-M2 Universal 3D Blu-Ray Player. This particular player is region free and can play Blu-Ray discs or DVD’s from any region in the world. We used the Tributaries UHD-010B to connect the Orei BDP-M2 via HDMI to the AudioControl AVR-6. An Apple TV 4thgeneration was also connected to the AVR-6 with a Tributaries UHD-010B HDMI Cable so that the client could watch content from apps such as Netflix, HBO and Plex. This also allowed the client to be able to airplay music wirelessly to his Media Room Speakers.
Part of our design plan for the client would be providing them the option to listen to quality audio in any room in their residence. This meant we had to provide separate zones of audio for the Hall as well as the Balcony. For the Hall Zone we installed the Audiocontrol Rialto 600 Amplifier. This two channel puts out 100 Watts per channel RMS power and has two digital inputs, one analog input and a built-in Wolfson DAC. We kept the Audiocontrol Rialto 600 in the media room equipment closet and connected it to NHT Absolute Wall Speakers in the Hall Zone. The NHT O2-ARC speakers which were set up in the Balcony Zone were connected to the 2nd Zone of the Audiocontrol AVR-6 amplifier.
We also connected Apple TV 4th Generations in every room so that we could airplay music to any room in the house or even send music directly through the NAS. Another advantage of having the Apple TV in every room was multi-room video distribution using Plex. With the Plex app available on the Apple TV 4th Generation we could distribute the client’s entire digital library of Movies or TV shows to any room through the Apple TV. Plex makes a very convenient way for cataloging your digital library of movies, music, tv shows, photos and more and allows for convenient user profiles with a plex pass subscription. That way every use can access their own profile and know what movie or tv show they watched last and also where they left off.
With so much equipment in every room we had to install an easy way to control it all. In comes Control4, and gives the client an easy way to choose which device they want to listen to or watch in any room in the residence. Airplay, video streaming, lighting control all become a breeze with the MyHome app on their phone to control their residence with.
We created a movie watching scene for their media room and programmed the lights to dim to 20% over 5 seconds whenever the TV was put on. This created a movie cinema hall type feel and added to the overall ambience of the room. With the Control4 HC-250 Controller and SR-260 remote control in the media room as well, the need to have several different remotes was also removed. One remote could control any device in the room and allows the client to easily control what they want to watch or listen to in that room.
In the Hall and Dining rooms all the lighting was automated and “Friends Over” and “Party” lighting scenes were created. With the press of one button all the lights in the room easily came to the perfect mood setting. We also programmed the client’s favorite music playlists to start when the friends over lighting scene was initiated. With all the client’s favorite audio files stored on the NAS it becomes easy to integrate separate playlists which can be triggered seamlessly with Control4’s automation system.
All the Bedroom A/V is also able to be controlled using the MyHome app. Depending on which room you are in, you can choose to watch Cable or perhaps the Apple TV and with one button press the TV comes on and gets set to the correct input, the receiver comes on and also sets itself to the correct input, and the source device such as the Apple TV or set top box comes on and is ready to be controlled using the Control4 app on your smart phone or tablet.
Network and Media Streaming
Media streaming needed to be flawless with the high res music collection the client wanted to be able to stream. We stuck with one of the most reliable brands we know for solid network throughput, Engenius. Two of the Engenius ECB1750 are as Access Points in different sections of the residence so that a fast and efficient WiFi Network which can be easily roamed from any location was at the client’s disposal. For LAN distribution we installed the Netgear GS316 16-Port Gigabit Ethernet Switch.
As mentioned earlier we installed a Synology DS716+ 2-Bay NAS Server. The client had a large collection of cd’s and dvd’s which we are able to digitize and load on to the NAS server. With the integration of Apple TV’s in every room the client had to just choose which room they want to turn on with Control4 and what they want to watch or listen to in that room. Digital media from the NAS can then be played through the network on to any Apple TV in any room. Even simultaneous feeds can be sent to different Apple TV’s in different rooms.
Components and Cables
Television: Samsung JS9000 4K 3D Curved LED Television
AV Receiver: Audiocontrol AVR-6
Media Room Front Speakers: NHT Absolute Tower Floorstanding Speakers
Media Room Center Speaker: NHT Absolute Center
Surround Speakers: NHT Absolute Wall Speakers Black Color On-Wall Speakers
Hall Zone Speakers: NHT Absolute Wall Speakers White Color On-Wall Speakers
Balcony Zone Speakers: NHT O2-ARC Speakers Outdoor Weatherproof Speakers
Master Bedroom: Yamaha YAS-205 Soundbar with Wireless Subwoofer
Son’s Bedroom: Bose Lifestyle 35 5.1 Satellite Speaker Package with Receiver
Stereo Amplifier to Power Hall Speakers: AudioControl Rialto 600 2-Channel 200 Watt Per Channel RMS Power at 8 Ohms
Automation Controller: Control4 HC-250
Universal Remote: Control4 SR-260
Network Switch: Netgear GS316 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet Switch
WiFi Access Points: Engenius ECB1750 Wireless AC Access Points
Media Player: Apple TV 4th Generation
Speaker Cable: Monoprice 16 AWG Speaker Wire
HDMI Cables: Tributaries UHDP-010B
Stereo Analog Cables: Tributaries 2A-015B
Our initial experience, especially when listening in two channel stereo, found a lot of reverberation and resonance in the media room. Because the ceiling was made of concrete and did not have a false gypsum ceiling, and the blinds on the windows were extremely reflective, we found a lot of reverberation especially in the low frequencies. After calibrating the system again and studying which locations in the room were causing excessive reflections in frequency response from our speakers, we added two inch acoustic panels to certain locations around the room. We specially targeted the ceiling and front and rear walls. We also moved our LCR jut a bit for fine tuning of the sound stage. We upgraded the HDMI and analog cables to Tributaries Cables as well as the speaker wire. After a final calibration the room was sounding much better and warmer. The sound stage and the seating position were perfectly aligned and in two channel stereo the stereo imaging was significantly improved. The acoustic panels also made a huge difference in absorbing low frequency reverberation and provided for a much smoother transition between mid and low frequencies.
The Final Verdict
The NHT speakers sounded amazing paired with the Audiocontrol Amplifier. They delivered an extremely impressive surround sound experience especially after the acoustic paneling was properly placed in the media room. For the Living Room and Outdoor zones we would have enjoyed the experience more if the speakers could have been positioned better. Their imaging was not always accurate and sometimes harsh. In retrospect we would have liked to place the living room speakers a little lower to have a direct sound at the listeners’ ears, and the outdoor speakers a bit closer together for better stereo imaging.
The multi-zone audio and video performed flawlessly with the Synology NAS and Apple TV’s using the Plex solution. The client and his family has been able to store his entire collection of movies, tv shows and music in a digital format and enjoy them in any room in the residence. The Control4 automation solution has also worked very well and has taken away the burden of having so many remotes in every room.