Outdoor Home Theater and Multi Zone Audio for prime beach front property in Alibaugh
Pre-Installation and Setup
This installation was especially challenging because we are not working with speaker placement in a small room anymore. The client wanted a portion of their Outdoor Garden converted into a 5.1 Channel Surround Sound Entertainment Experience. They also wanted separate zone music which can be wireless streamed to other areas of their Outdoor Garden. Our biggest challenge at this stage was not reflections or flutter echo which can be problematic in small rooms, but rather ensuring a select sound stage in such a large open space. We also needed to ensure our bass and low frequencies were not airy and loose, but effectively processed and balanced with our main speakers throughout the Outdoor venue.
Because bass being controlled and strong enough was our primary requirement in this sound stage, we finalized the Napa Sound Labs DB8 Underground Burial Subwoofers. Under burial subwofoers easily disappear in the landscape and provide a good even distribution of low frequencies for a particular zone. We kept one subwoofer placed with the 5.1 outdoor home theater zone to ensure the low frequencies are felt when the clients chose to watch movies outdoor. The second subwoofer was placed close to the swimming pool zone which is where the client informed us the swimming pool area played host to outdoor pool parties where the bass needed to be felt.
Large outdoor sound stages such as this one would require speakers which would be accurate an detailed in an outdoor environment, but also compete with sounds from neighbors and nature. We knew the 150 Watt Emotiva UOM-6.2 with its 6.5’’ Driver and Frequency Response which goes down to 50 Hz would be a very effective solution. The low frequency response would help us with our smooth bass transition with a crossover of 80 Hz. The 6.5’’ Driver with 1’’ Silk Dome Tweeters ensured a clear dialogue and detailing during movie watching. We were able to place these in the nearby greenery in front and behind the seating area providing us a large soundstage. The speakers were angled upwards 40 degrees to ensure they were pointed at main listening position. The subwoofer was buried between our front left and center speaker locations and accurately delivers a consistent bass across the seats for the theater area.
We now needed to complete our setup with a complementary array of main speakers which could be easily placed around the Outdoor Garden. Being an open outdoor space direction of the sound would be crucial and making use of the nature of the garden played a big factor in placement. We integrated the Napa Sound Labs 31ODS Landscape Outdoor Speakers which gave us the flexibility to be mounted on a stake or even on a tree. We could then angle the speakers upwards or downwards depending on placement and ensure the sound was directed directly at the listeners and not above or below them. The client wanted to be able to hold parties and have a consistent sound equally spread across the entire outdoor portion of the residence. In accordance, we equally spaced the speakers throughout the Outdoor venue even extending to the Outdoor Tree House and Tennis Courts.
We had already determined our electronics would all be placed inside a server room located within the residence to protect the electronics from the outdoors. Wiring would need to be run from the server room to the speakers and subwoofers. Our two biggest challenges in terms of the electronics were ensuring we chose a good performing amp which allowed us a smooth crossover between the main speakers and subwoofers. The second would be running an HDMI Cable from the AV Receiver for the Outdoor Home Theater which would be located in the server room to the projector which would be placed outdoors at the time of viewing. We concluded a portable projection screen and a projector which can be easily set up on a table outdoors would be the easiest solution. A HDMI Extender over Cat6 would allow us to extend the HDMI connection over the long distance of 70 meters from the Server Room to the Outdoor Home Theater zone. We would integrate Control4 automation so that the client could easily control the electronics in the Server Room using their smartphones or tablets. This would allow them to change sources, adjust volumes and wireless stream music from anywhere in the residence.
For the amps we finalized on the Denon AVR-X2000 AV Receiver for the Outdoor Home Theater Zone. This amp was more than powerful enough to drive the Emotiva UOM-6.2 Outdoor Speakers and could easily be connected with Control4 using its LAN Port. The Audiocontrol Architect 210EQ would be used to power the Napa Sound Labs 31ODS speakers which were placed around the residence. The Architect 210EQ is a favorite of ours because it allows us to easily make any EQ adjustments required when calibrating with its front panel EQ Knobs. Another big advantage of this amp is it is stable down to 2 ohms. We were able to connect all of the Napa Sound Labs 31ODS speakers in parallel and not overload the amplifier. For the subwoofers we used the AudioControl Rialto 400. In Bridged Mono mode this small package was able to put out 400 Watts RMS, perfectly in delivering a deep tight punch from the subwoofers throughout the entire Outdoor Venue.
We would integrate Control4 automation so that the client could easily control the electronics in the Server Room using their smartphones or tablets. This would allow them to change sources, adjust volumes and wireless stream music from anywhere in the residence. In order to be able to play multiple sources across the different zones in the Outdoor Garden Venue, we installed a Control4 C4-16ZAMSv3-B 16 Zone Audio Matrix Switch. This switch allows us to send up to 16 analog audio sources to 16 zones with independent bass and treble control for each zone. To take advantage of Control4’s new shairbridge feature, we chose to use the Control4 HC-800 controller in this project. That would allow us two additional independent audio outputs from the HC-800 controller directly into the Control4 Audio Matrix Switch along with the Apple TV audio output. This gives the client the ability to have three independent media streams simultaneously playing if desired throughout the Residence. With the Control4 app on their smartphone or tablet they can easily choose which zone they want to stream audio too and control the volume for that zone independently from other zones at the residence.
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 ENS202EXT are placed as Outdoor Weatherproof Access Points in different sections of the Outdoor Venue. A thirdEngenius ENS202EXT is placed inside 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.
Components and Cables
AV Receiver: Denon AVR-X2000 7.2 Channel Network Home Theater AV Receiver
Outdoor Satellite Speakers: Napa Sound Labs 31ODS 8 Ohm 50 Watt Stake or Tree Mount Speakers.
Outdoor Home Cinema Speakers: Emotiva UOM-6.2 Outdoor Bookshelf Speakers 150 Watt 2-Way Speakers with Powerful 6.5’’ Woofer and 1’’ controlled dispersion silk dome tweeter
Outdoor Subwoofers: Napa Sound Labs 250 Watt DB8 Passive Subwoofers
Stereo Amplifier to Power Satellite Speakers: AudioControl Architect 210EQ 2-Channel 240 Watt Per Channel RMS Power at 2 Ohms
Mono Amplifier to Power Subwoofers: AudioControl Rialto 400 Stereo Amplifier with 200 Watts RMS Power at 8 Ohms in Bridged Mono Mode
Automation Controller: Control4 HC-800
Audio Matrix: Control4 C4-16ZAMSv3-B 16 Zone Audio Matrix Switch
HDMI Over HDBaseT: AudioControl HDBT-SR1 HDMI Over Cat6 AV Signal Extender
Network Switch: Netgear GS316 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet Switch
WiFi Access Points: Engenius ENS202EXT Outdoor Wireless N Access Point
Media Player: Apple TV 3rd Generation
Speaker Cable: Monoprice 16 AWG Speaker Wire
HDMI Cables: Tributaries UHDP-010B
Stereo Analog Cables: Tributaries 2A-015B
Initial testing of the system demonstrated to us a large disparity between the bass and the mids and highs of the system. In the Home Theater Zone the Emotiva UOM-6.2’s held their own with the sub and we began to calibrate the 5.1 setup in that zone. We time aligned the mains with the subwoofer and kept the crossover at 80hz. We also set the actual distances from each speaker to our sweet spot and calibrated all five speakers and subwoofer to our reference level.
We felt an immediate improvement in movie watching and dynamics and clarity was better then expected for such an open space. The sense of envelopment we hoped to achieve though was not as prominent as we would have hoped for. Compared to a closed home cinema room, the outdoor space didn’t give us the feeling like we were right there in the action and allow us to get immersed in the scene. The dialogue and surround effects were spectacular with the combination of Emotiva and Napa Sound Labs subwoofer. The Denon AVR-X2000 drove them flawlessly and provided good realism and detailing. When listening to music in Multi Channel Stereo we also found the Denon to be a solid performer and drive the speakers without any strain at high volumes.
When playing music in the swimming pool and outer garden areas on the Napa Sound Labs 31ODS with the Napa Sound Labs DB8 subwoofer is where the disparity between lows and highs really became amplified. This was one of the main reasons we chose the Architect 210EQ amplifier is so we could EQ the speakers to find a good balance between the main and subs and ensure the mains don’t distort by trying to play frequencies they are not capable of. After setting the crossover to 110 hz and increasing the gain in the frequencies from 150 hz to 500 hz a few db we felt a nice improvement in overall sound quality. The Napa Sound Labs 31ODS were not over compensating with high frequencies anymore and were properly filling the mid range frequencies as well.
When playing music in all zones together we noticed a significant decibel difference between the home theater zones and other zones though. We would have to keep the home theater zone at almost 12 db less in volume so it would match the output the other zones were playing at. Otherwise in the outdoor stage it provided a tunnel effect of sorts where the Emotiva Speakers just stood out so much more compared to the Napa Sound Labs 31ODS speakers. After some programming through Control4, we were able to set start up volumes for all the zones. This ensured a neutral sound when all zones launched together and no one zone was out powering the other resulting in an uneven sound stage. If the client wanted to raise or lower the volume in any specific area or zone after the cold start volumes were initiated they could easily do so through the Control4 app on their mobile phone.
The Final Verdict
The concept of watching movies in the great outdoors and listening to music while having pool parties is pretty important with a property of this size. In looking back at this project there are a few changes we would make if we could though. It would have been preferable to keep the home theater zone in a more shaded area and use a brighter projector. The picture could not be viewed at all in the daytime. Most projectors will lose the fight direct sunlight, but by introducing a bit of shade and brighter projector with a better contrast ratio some daytime viewing would have definitely been possible. Another change we feel would improve the setup is integrating the same speakers in all zones. We used the Napa Sound Labs 31ODS for the versatility in mounting on tree trucks or in the ground with spikes. But, a lot of effort was put into keeping an audio balance between the Emotiva’s and Napa Sound Labs satellites. We could have probably put Emotiva across the entire venue but more spread out, as opposed to several Napa Sound Labs 31ODS placed nearer each other.
The final result was definitely something the client was very satisfied with and find very easy to use with the introduction of Control4. Media streaming is fast and efficient with the Engenius Outdoor routers. All the equipment does an incredible job of braving the forces of nature, and have definitely raised the bar for this already picturesque Alibaug Beach House.