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JamesMay

So, can you build a half-decent HT, in a multi-use room, with basically no money?

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So, not even two years ago, I came to this site for advice on a pair of speakers and an amp with a $2,500 budget. Got some great advice and learnt a lot about Hi-Fi.

 

Two years, three amps, two pairs of floorstanding speakers, three subs, two DAC's and a dedicated music server later, my 2-channel, main system, is (finally) finished.

 

Well, finished for now. 

 

I went a tad over budget. Ok, a lot over budget. 

 

 

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(Old pic, before the child was allowed to be free-range).

 

  • Martin Logan Motion 60XT
  • Anthem Integrated 225
  • Peachtree Audio dac-it
  • Media server running JRiver.
  • Velodyne HGS-12  
  • A bunch of acoustic panels from Trevor Lees

 

Overall, super happy, I love my setup. I listen to music with my family almost everyday. The lady of the house also has no trouble using it by herself, thanks to the Anthem universal remote and JRiver phone app (Note, best way to help with WAF in my house, make sure it's easy for her to use and put a bunch of her music on the server). 

 

Sounds amazing when watching a movie too. Our last trip to the cinema, we weren't even five minutes into the movie, before my partner said "The sound is better at home". 

 

There are however, a few problems when it comes to movies. Namely;

  1. Having limited room for a larger TV or projector, as room is open plan and speakers already restrict the view from anywhere but dead ahead. Music comes first, so speakers aren't going against the wall.
  2. Open plan upstairs is will lit.
  3. Having a two year old's bedroom at the other end of the room.
  4. As amazing as it sounds in 2.1, movies do sound better (all things being equal) with surround.

 

Now, the plan from the beginning, was to always have a room downstairs as a dedicated theatre, but herein lies bigger issues. 

  1. Space. We don't have a massive house. I have one room downstairs full of music gear (Guitars, amps, drums, PA, recording gear, etc, as seen in the other thread). My son LOVES this room, plays down there every day and I really want to start recording some stuff again soon, so that room has to stay as is. Plus, I'd have to put everything in storage and that's just a waste. 
  2. Money. Or, more accurately, a lack thereof. I also have a wedding and honeymoon in a few months time, so spending money on stuff like a theatre, just isn't happening. I may have sold my last motorbike to help fund the upstairs system, but I'm **** out of toys now.
  3. WAF. My partner is amazing, I'd like to keep it that way. She's good enough to let me have a decent size pair of speakers in the middle of the lounge room, as well as my music room downstairs. But there probably is a limit and I'd rather not find it. This is afterall, our family home, not my man cave.

 

So, that leaves one, 5 x 3.5m room. Full of all the other **** we have no storage anywhere for. Baby crap, whatever toys aren't strewn across the living room, furniture that never gets used, her work stuff, clothes horses full of washing, more bloody toys, horse saddles. We just shove everything to one end and put out an airbed, if friends or family stay over. I think everyone has had one of these rooms as one point in time, but after two and a half years in the house, it has to change.

 

Cue the catalyst for all this. I won a gift voucher in a competition, which I used to purchase a chaise style sofa bed.

 

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Not the flashest thing out, but will do if people come to visit and has storage. I could barely fit it in the room with all the junk, so I decided to see if I could do the impossible... build a room that can serve as a kids playroom, a guest room and a semi-decent HT room.

 

All with no money. Simple, right?

 

All money has to come from the selling things in the room, on Gumtree.

 

This won't be one of those fancy pants, $50k theatre rooms, not by a long shot. But I want to document what can be done by an average bloke, with basically no money or experience, buying everything second hand.

 

So, the rules for the build are as follows;

  1. Room must remain multipurpose. No black walls, seating risers or any of the cool stuff. Seating can only be above listed sofa bed, maybe a beanbag or two. 
  2. Must have no out of pockets, other than money I make from selling our junk on Gumtree. So everything will have to be used, obviously. I like a bargain but, so that'll be fun.
  3. Must have a big, wall sized screen.
  4. Must be full HD (1080). Obviously can't afford 4k, but maybe upgrade in a few years time.
  5. Must have 5.1 surround sound. Atmos down the track, but not on this (zero) budget.
  6. Must be able to watch a movie at a half-decent volume when child is asleep. Hopefully location is enough to achieve this, as there's not money for soundproofing at this stage.
  7. Must be able to use now, but upgrade down the track.
  8. Can't pilfer anything from my upstairs system. 

 

 

Should be a laugh, if nothing else. Any advice, mockery, or interest in some quality baby items at super low prices, always welcome.

 

 

 

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I like how you've caged off the mosh pit in the first pic.

 

:D

 

This should be a good read though, so good luck!

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@JamesMay  , a most interesting post with lots of info.  I have both my 2 CH and HT systems in my family room, sharing the mains and subs.  Focused much more on music than movies.   Using 60" plasma, no projector.

 

You did not mention in your post, but I am assuming you have a BD player, but no HT AVR.  Given the limited budget, suggest the following to improve the HT experience:

  • The screen and projector should be lower priority.  (But I expect people who love their projectors to howl!).  I think improved sound adds more to the movie experience than larger screen. Ideally both, but go improved sound first.  Plus projector and screen detracts in shared room
  • A 5.1 system requires a HT AVR, left & right (which you have), ideally matching centre (which in your case ML 50XTs I think?), surrounds and a good sub (which you have but needs to share with music, suggest swap cable initially?)
  • Order of buying (used) HT AVR (must have pre-out), and surrounds
  •  AVR  can redirect the centre to the mains until you get one (but I am not a fan because dialogue is carried in centre); ideally match left, centre and right speakers but with limited budget, may not have a choice.
  • Feed AVR left & right pre-out to your Anthem 225.  Using your Anthem as the amp for both 2Ch and HT.  For HT, need to note where to set volume

Your thoughts?

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13 hours ago, Monk said:

I like how you've caged off the mosh pit in the first pic.

 

:D

 

This should be a good read though, so good luck!

He had to learn about the barricade 🤘

 

Must have worked too. In a last shot at avoiding bed last night, he yelled defiantly down the hallway, "DADDY, I WANT TO PUT DAVE (Grohl) ON!!!"

 

Foo Fighters at Wembley is his favorite, no Wiggles in our house. 

 

 

!cid_519D476C-A61A-41AA-A996-BF824B814EFF.jpg

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11 hours ago, Snoopy8 said:

@JamesMay  , a most interesting post with lots of info.  I have both my 2 CH and HT systems in my family room, sharing the mains and subs.  Focused much more on music than movies.   Using 60" plasma, no projector.

 

You did not mention in your post, but I am assuming you have a BD player, but no HT AVR.  Given the limited budget, suggest the following to improve the HT experience:

  • The screen and projector should be lower priority.  (But I expect people who love their projectors to howl!).  I think improved sound adds more to the movie experience than larger screen. Ideally both, but go improved sound first.  Plus projector and screen detracts in shared room
  • A 5.1 system requires a HT AVR, left & right (which you have), ideally matching centre (which in your case ML 50XTs I think?), surrounds and a good sub (which you have but needs to share with music, suggest swap cable initially?)
  • Order of buying (used) HT AVR (must have pre-out), and surrounds
  •  AVR  can redirect the centre to the mains until you get one (but I am not a fan because dialogue is carried in centre); ideally match left, centre and right speakers but with limited budget, may not have a choice.
  • Feed AVR left & right pre-out to your Anthem 225.  Using your Anthem as the amp for both 2Ch and HT.  For HT, need to note where to set volume

Your thoughts?

 

Cheers mate, this is what I was going to do originally, may even do it down the track too, when funds allow for a 50XT, a pair of 35XT's and a good receiver. 

 

Problem is, that his bedroom door is literally 6' from the seating position. While, like most kids, he sleeps through a lot, if we are watching a movie after he's gone to bed, I generally switch off the stereo and run through TV only. Hence, the room downstairs, it's at the other end of the house, so as long as it's not up silly loud, can still enjoy at a decent volume.

 

I want to keep the existing setup upstairs too, as music is on a lot more than movies or TV, it's the priority. Just have a seperate setup downstairs, for movies (and the once a year I get to play XBox) only, I'm not even connecting a TV aerial up.

 

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There are settings within AVRs which allow night viewing e.g. set Dolby Volume to "Late Night"  on my Anthem MRX 710. Similar capabilities in Denon etc (check the manuals).  However, with the bedroom 6' further away from the seating position, it may still wake up the young one.  The other option is to get headphones and a headphone amp with 2 outputs. I believe the Xbox has an option for Dolby Headphone, but I have no experience with it.

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It must be said that at this point, I've only experienced a projector in person, on two occasions.

 

Once in a friends multi million dollar, waterfront mansion, where he must have dropped $100k plus into an underground theatre. I'd never seen anything like it. I actually slept in one of the recliners one night, I didn't want to stop watching movies.

 

The other time, a mates girlfriend had one on the floor, next to her mattress, in about 2005. You could barely make out the screen unless it was pitch black, even then it was all lopsided and horrid quality.

 

While I'm never going to get close to my mates room (sadly, he enjoyed it for a few months then passed away), I was hoping I could achieve something a little bit better than the other one. But I still have no idea how to turn on a projector, let alone set one up.

 

Also, my partner at this point, was sceptical. Actually, truth be told, she thought I was an idiot. She'd had friends with a professionally built room (Interstate, so I've never experienced it) and figured we'd never see a half decent result. Those friends also told me how hard a projector is to set up, how everything needs to be millimetre precise and that my room probably wasn't big enough for one anyway. But, in her usual, "It's probably better to just let him get this out of his system" style, she just shut up and smiled politely. This is why I'm marrying her. 

 

Moving on, this was a couple of weeks ago, so I cleaned out the room and put the sofa in. Found the speakers for my old LG Blu-Ray theatre in a box too, so while not ideal, that'll save some bucks in the short term and allow me to use the room. I was using it just as a Blu-Ray player upstairs, but our server has a Blu-Ray player (that I've never got around to figuring out how to work) so I nicked that for the new room. Against my rules, but who cares, still have one upstairs and now have a good reason to figure out how to work it.

 

Anyway, I sold some stuff on Gumtree and ended up with a grand total of 500 odd bucks. Good start, met some lovely people too.

 

So with that cash burning a hole in my pocket, I started having a look around. First thing I found was a BenQ W1060, with less than 1,000 hrs. Bloke was awesome to deal with and ended up scooping that up for a few hundred bucks. May have been $400, I was a bit excited. Came with the cool carry case and he threw in cables and stuff.

 

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Is this the best projector of all time? No.

Is this the bargain of the century? No.

 

But it'll last ages without a globe change (I did a little research), it's full HD and it'll do as a starting point.

 

I threw it on an old side table, temporarily hooked it up to the LG system and low and behold, we have a start.

 

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I'm guessing anyone who's photographed a projector with a phone, probably knows that it's hard to do it justice, but I was blown away.

 

Even just on my off-white wall (with screw holes in it), with light coming in everywhere, it was a better result than I'd hoped to achieve. I even dragged the missus and child down to show off my handy work. Couldn't drag either of them out for the rest of the arvo, so that helped my cause too!

 

Now I knew I could get a half-decent result, it was time to;

  • Read the manual to figure out how the thing works.
  • See if I could make it any better than it was.
  • Try not to spend anymore money.

 

 

Edited by JamesMay

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Can be done - tips / comments  - second had AVRs tend to be cheep so search around for one as the centre / starting point

 

Some of the sat sub systems ( like Kef eggs / Focal ect ) are very good for a HT and can be got second had for not much and easy to fit in a room

 

And totally left field, for this forum, perhaps have a look at some of the new top end sound bar systems, for HT only use some a actually quite good  

 

 

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Also plugged in the Xbox for a try, my god, I almost got car sick. 

 

If I sound like an idiot at this point, well, I am, but I read the manual and turns out you just push a button and you can flip it over and roof mount it! This is a better idea, don't need the liability trying to play with it. Also, I could only get so big an image, as the sofa stopped me moving it back any further. 

 

So I ordered a roof mount. It was literally as cheap as I could find, $18. Hopefully it arrives today and I can install on the weekend. I'm going to have to chuck a piece of timber in the ceiling (it'll be between studs) but shouldn't be too hard. I used the highly technical method of standing on the sofa, holding the projector above my head, making sure the distances in the manual were right too, worked out perfect.

 

I was also watching it a bit with the missus and as I walked in front of the projector to grab another beer, I noticed that my shadow seemed to make the image sharper around the dark spot. Don't know how else to describe it. Figured this may be the reason that screens had the black border, so I did some research on stereonet. Seems there's more to this projector business than just chucking on a wall, so after reading a bit, I started looking at what screens cost. Doesn't need to be fancy or motorised, just thought it may actually make it a little better to watch.

 

Saw them priced from $15 on ebay, up to thousands. I had no idea, but I figured that the cheap flat ones were going to be a bit average. As always, in my travels, i found what looked to be an awesome screen, in the perfect (I hoped) size, for sale. More importantly, it was cheap. I read how you should get everything set up first, then work out what size, but a patient man I'm not and a bargain waits for no one.

 

So I went on a mission to have a look at this thing. Perfect condition, 100", fancy spring loaded screen tensioning bit, with a thick, black flocked border. It was thicker than I expected, but figured that would add to the affect. Seller wanted $160, grudgingly accepted a couple of pineapples but. Probably just so I'd leave. Wrapped her up in bubble wrap and off home.

 

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Now, I don't know anything about screens, but again, this thing seemed well built and survived the trip in one piece.

 

Used the highly technical method of balancing on a shoe and the centre speaker to make sure it looked ok size wise..

 

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Then, for the first test, after balancing projector on a shoe box, on top of the sofa, it came alive!

 

 

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Wow. I can't believe how much I've spent on TV's before, without knowing how great a projector could be.

 

My partner is a mad keen LOTR fan, so I chucked on one of the Hobbit filmes and told her to come have a watch (again, impossible to photograph well with a phone).

 

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Now she's on board! She's actually off to Spotlight today to make up some curtains for the two doors (glass panels), to stop light during the day.

 

Now we are getting somewhere. Technically I'm $50 over my $0 budget, but having someone collect some more stuff today, so will be close enough to even.

 

Hopefully if I get a chance this weekend I can get the screen and projector mounted. Also want to pull bases off the speakers and mount them on the walls too. 

 

Then hopefully sell some more crap and start improving the sound.

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Thanks for the advice guys, get all this installed properly and then start looking into sound. Might even leave the LG for the time being, until after the honeymoon and go straight to an Atmos and 4K UHD player, but see how into it we get.

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On 12/07/2018 at 10:20 AM, Chill3 said:

Can be done - tips / comments  - second had AVRs tend to be cheep so search around for one as the centre / starting point

 

So, with this advice (cheers), I had a plan.

 

But first, I had to get some work done.

 

Mounted projector on the roof, was actually an incredibly quick and easy task. I have however, learnt why you don't buy the cheap ones. It'll stay perfect to watch a movie or two, but if left for a week, it slowly moves. Not a massive issue, just annoying. I'll be pulling the thing apart and tightening on the weekend. Ran some cable ducting on the back wall too, tidied it up a touch.

 

Also installed the screen, simple task, as well as wall mounted the speakers.

 

I put up some curtains over doors and windows, but even with blind behind them, light was still getting in. Seeing as those windows aren't visible from outside (unless you go down the side of the house), I decided the easiest fix was some black plastic that concreters use, taped on the windows themself. With the blinds closed, it's impossible to see it's there and the room is now pitch black, even in the day. This made a massive difference. I'll be doing the curtains properly, when I get time (just on hooks at the moment), but for now, they do the job. 

 

Also, used some frequent flyer points that were going to expire, to pick up a Chromecast for the room. Now we can watch Netflix too, so added bonus. 

 

So, time to enjoy watching...

 

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Testing Netflix.

 

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And of course, The Jungle Book for the child. He prefers Star Wars, but we humour his mother.

 

Anyway, all is good, except one major problem. The sound blows. I remember how amazing I thought that LG system was when I first bought it all those years ago, but now, after having a taste of the good life upstairs, it sux. Really sux. I never realised before, but it must have the crossover between mains and sub set at about 300hz! There is absolutely no body whatsoever and the sub sounds like it only plays one frequency. This would not do.

 

So, I was half tempted to just go spend a bit of money and put a decent system in, but I somehow, in the spirit of the thing, managed to resist long enough to hunt for a bargain.

 

Came across a bloke selling an Onkyo TX-SR309 receiver for cheap. Hs 3x HDMI inputs, so I can have X-Box, Blu-Ray and Chromecast all hooked up at once, so It'll do for a start.

 

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Also picked up some Sherwood speakers.

 

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I figure that surely, they have to sound better than the POS LG setup. If nothing else, they look cool, so why not have a try?

 

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So here we are, as of last night. It's not hooked up, but a start. I promised the good woman pizza and a movie tonight, so I'd better get home early and finish setting everything up. Might paint that cabinet black over the weekend too. 

 

After all the crap I sold on Gumtree, I'm actually out about $250, including some cables. All up, still under about $800, which doesn't buy much anymore, so value wise, I can't complain.

Edited by JamesMay

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So, after a week off thanks to the flu, we are almost done. Yes, I've said this before.

 

Anyway, after constantly mucking around with the projector, I came to realise that it's kind of important to mount it in the middle of the room. May seem obvious, but it wasn't. I did manage to eye it within about 20mm, but also failed to take into account the fact the lens isn't in the centre of the projector. Rookie error. Few new holes and a bunch of Sellys and the thing is now in the middle. Dumb ass. Also tightened it up, fixing the droop that was somewhat embarrassing.

 

Wired up the new speakers and receiver and the difference is night and day. Few hiccups like the delay between audio and video outputs, but after reading the manual and having a play around got it all sorted. Only issue remaining is that the sub really needs some volume to come on automatically, but can live with it for the time being. Undoubtedly, all of this gear will end up replaced sooner or later, so for now, it'll do.

 

Also grabbed some more curtains and rods and tried my hand at curtains. Yes, the missus was going to do it, but I'll be waiting until 2027, so I just did it myself. I still need to iron the creases out of them, but I'll wait a week and let them get most out just by hanging there.

 

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So, with the extra $100 spent on curtains and associated crap, we are now up to a grand total of $350, give or take.

 

Is it the most amazing setup in the world? No. However, chuck a Blu Ray on and I tell you what, there isn't much to complain about. The screen is big and bright and the sound isn't bad at all. As awesome as turning it into a dedicated room (against the rules) with paint, etc, would be, I'm more than happy with the outcome and have well exceeded what I thought could be achieved on such a tight budget.

 

For not much more than the cost of a night out with dinner and a movie for the family, we now have our own little place to escape to. Also, the popcorn is way cheaper, they have beer and you can pause it to use the bathroom!

 

Now, if I can just get one of those driving simulator setups, with the steering wheel and pedals...

 

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Ha ha. I enjoyed reading through this. It really encapsulates the joy of getting into home theatre. This is how most of us start. The only problem? It never ends!

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A thoroughly enjoyable read.

It's great to see what can be done with wheeling and dealing and a very minimal dollar outlay. Well done.

So I guess the answer to your thread title is, yes!:party

 

 

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Upgraded to a better AV unit and 9.2 channel Yamaha (NS 555) speakers now, but the projector and screen haven't changed.

 

Edited by JamesMay

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7 hours ago, JamesMay said:

Upgraded to a better AV unit and 9.2 channel Yamaha (NS 555) speakers now, but the projector and screen haven't changed.

 

somehow missed this thread, great to see the progress made. from telly to projector and surround sound and my goodness the room has come along over the time ! well done :) shows what can be achieved in homely surrounds :) 

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Nice to see you put up a nice large whiteboard for your child to scribble on with crayons. It clean off easily? :P

 

Joking aside, you don't worry about the screen been messed with?

Edited by Mobe1969

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