Media Wall

The majority of installations in the UK tend to focus either on discrete audiovisual systems or whole house control. Here is system that really does have a very different flavour.

When the client, a young, single businessman bought his new flat in Soho, he wanted to be able to indulge in his love of music and films. Although this seems like a fairly common request for a custom installer, the problem was how the client liked to use the system.

In this case, enjoying music meant being able to mix his own sounds on his trusty SL1210 record decks, at nightclub volume levels. This combined with his very specific design requirements for the flat, provided an unusual brief for the systems designers at Zebra.

What was unusual for us was the opportunity to make much of the equipment the focal point for the living room. Unless we have been asked to create a dedicated cinema, we usually design system so that all the components are completely hidden away, explained Robert Sinden of Zebra. This system was always going to be a lot more fun and as the project developed our remit became the creation of a multi media room rather than a cinema.

The customer originally purchased his first 5.1 system from us, ten years ago and at that time the ultimate performance was all that was important. We filled up his home with stacks of subwoofer and huge floor standing speakers to give him the sound he wanted as he really was looking for SPL levels that you just couldn’t achieve with most domestic hifi. Fortunately, over the years we have learned much better ways of giving our clients the performance they want while also making sure our systems looked great once installed.

We regard the loudspeakers and the acoustics of the room as the two biggest limiting factors on the audio quality of our systems. Distortion levels on most quality electronics are tiny these days, however speaker distortion and in particular the varying frequency response when they are placed in rooms is still the biggest problem in most audio system. Because of this and of course the huge visual impact that using traditional hifi speakers can have, we design our audio systems around the loudspeakers that we will be using and their optimum locations first.

In this case as the L/C/R speakers had to be installed in cabinetry, satellite speakers were a necessity to avoid the booming mid bass that would have occurred if a conventional speaker had been installed. My recommendation for M&Ks active studio monitors, the 150Ps was made after we had installed the same speakers in a 100 seater demonstration room for BMG music. The music company had requested these speakers for their new surround sound dem room as they were aware that these speakers are often used in the making of many big blockbusters movies. The system sounded simply incredible and also provided the mad volume levels that the pro world demands.

After a brief demonstration of these speakers and the projector that we had recommended, the client was convinced and the issue became shoe horning the long list of components that took his fancy in to his beautiful living room and looking at the acoustic and lighting control.

Like most contemporary interiors these days, initially the space was an acoustic tragedy and would have spoilt the sound of any decent music system. Multi channel sound really does require more absorption than in a more conventional room and after much cajoling from ourselves we convinced the interior designers to install an interlined, fabric covering on the side and rear walls of the room. This helped tremendously, however we also treated the front of the room with absorbent panels around the TV monitors and above and below the left and right monitors. With the promise of a least a decent sized rug on the floor we thought this gave us a reasonable space for surround playback.

The final detail in preparing the space for the system was the addition of 4 Lutron lighting control panels and the black out blinds. As the blinds had to be completely discrete, we installed them in between the outer double glazing and the additional internal panes.

The end result is a little like being caught up in a bijou James Bond set. The plasma set and banks of TV monitors all around the room switch off as the room darkens without any signs of curtains or blinds. Finally, as the projection screen drops down in front of the plasma set the motorised steel doors glide shut in front of the fireplace, totally blacking the space out for watching a movie.

All that’s missing is a little friendly white pussy!