Inside the World’s Loudest Home Theater
Photography by Robert Wright / Copyright Kipnis Studios © 2013.
His media room just won a spot in the Guiness World Records list for being the Loudest Personal Gaming System. How loud? This room gets to 132dB. Think of it like this, a jack hammer is about 120 dB, and a Boeing 747 is 140dB. The Kipnis theater falls in between that.
Kipnis doesn’t actually play his system at that volume. If he did it would shred his eardrums and turn his brains into grits in a short amount of time. He needs those eardrums because besides playing Xbox 360 games and watching Blu-ray movies, he uses that room for audiophile music mastering as part of his business, Epiphany Recordings.
Kipnis isn’t new to this award. His cinema space has been recognized by the Guiness people six times so far, and there’s little chance of anyone taking his crown away, considering this home theater, which is always a work in progress, has cost him about $6 million. But cinema is an obsession for him, not to mention a business. He runs Kipnis Studio Standard, which designs and installs high-end home theaters, though none quite as elaborate as his own, which is part home theater, part laboratory. Here he tries out new equipment and new concepts, and is always a little ahead of the curve.
For instance, while 4K may be a popular buzzword now (with few actual products using it), he had a 4K projector years before most people knew what that was. In 2006 he set up a professional Sony SRX-T110 projector which displays a resolution of 4096 x 2160. That’s greater than today’s accepted Ultra HD resolution of 3840 x 2160. Kipnis also uses a Meridian 4K reference projector. Both projectors are serious light cannons, with the Sony boasting 11,000 lumens. But he needs firepower to light up his 24-foot wide Stewart Snowmatte screen. The screen employs 4-way motorized masking (controlled with an iPad) that will accommodate any image aspect ratio.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The Kipnis home theater isn’t any ordinary basement renovation. This “home” theater is situated inside a 2,250 square-foot concert hall room, with vaulted ceilings and a balcony. It features a specially-designed floor and non-parallel walls to make it acoustically awesome.
His audio system, headlined by a Theta Digital Casablanca III preamp/processor and truckload of McIntosh amplifiers, includes two MC2301 monoblock tube amplifiers and 72 (yes, 72) McIntosh MC2102 stereo tubes amplifiers. With a few other scattered amps, this room is powered by 96,000 watts and 1,392 vacuum tubes. All that muscle goes into Snell THX Music & Cinema Reference speakers (14 towers, 24 subwoofers) plus 14 Murata Super Tweeters and three Snell THX Music & Cinema Reference center channel speakers.
He’s also picky about details and commissioned custom drivers for all his speakers. He customizes the wiring all the way down to the solder, plus custom designed circuit breaker and AC transformer wiring. Including the recently added height channels, he calls the room a 12.12 system that’s capable of playing from 100 kHz all the way down to 10 Hz.
His source components include a variety of disc players and DVRs, but mostly he watches movies from his five MacBook Pro computers with several terabytes of content stored on them. Of course, being a bit of a gamer (hence the Guiness award) Kipnis also has an Xbox 360 and a Playstation 3.
Delivering power to this room, in his backyard Kipnis has two General Electric high voltage isolation transformers (13,800 Volts to 240 Volts / 800 Amperes). One is set aside for the analog components, while the other gives juice to the digital parts of the system. The are also balancing transformers as well; “just like NASA,” he says.
If you think this whole system is a bit extreme, you’re right, and Kipnis would agree with you. This is a passion with him. You can hear the enthusiasm in his voice as he describes the thrill of watching actors 10 feet tall on his screen. He notes with pride that his speakers can generate a steady 9 knot wind and gusts up to 12 knots.
“The purpose is to create a mirage effect - that you find yourself completely immersed,” he says. “It’s like having an IMAX in your home.”
In addition to all the audio/video overdrive, Kipnis likes the total experience he gets from a decorative lighting system, which his uses especially when listening to music. The custom designed lighting system includes a combination of Chauvet flood and spot lights (40 of each) in various colors, all computer controlled, so he can create any ambient scene he wants.
One would think keeping up such a complex system, especially with all the tube amps, would be a chore. In fact he explained that the vacuum tubes generate a chimney effect, so dust won’t settle on them. Nice.
While tweaking and upgrading is a constant professional infatuation with him, one of his biggest home theater dreams doesn’t even involve his own theater. “I’d love to redo the White House cinema,” he says. I don’t think President Obama has that on his agenda right now, but we’ll do our best to pass the word on.