Tracking $20M Project: Grand Room Challenges

Curved walls in 3,200-square-foot grand room pose acoustical challenges for sound system.

Tracking $20M Project: Grand Room Challenges
Mark Sipe · April 19, 2011

The grand room, the largest room in the house, is larger than many homes at 3,200 square feet. Thirty-foot ceilings with a wood coffered ceiling. One wall is floor-to-ceiling glass, the elevator shaft is covered in offset glass panels, and the rest of the walls and floor are made of stone.

If this wasn’t enough, the room has curved walls that focus the acoustical energy back into the center. The original design of a Renkus Heinz audio system would have made our job easier, but it still didn’t ensure perfect sound. Due to budget restrictions, this was one of the first things the client cut out.

Curves in a room collect energy and send it back towards a single point. The master sitting room had just the right height and curve to the ceiling to make a terrible sweet spot in the center of the room. Standing there, you can hear the echo coming at you from all sides, kind of like a nightmarish fun house. Placing a table in the room killed the echo.

Totem was chosen in the home theater and the grand room, due to it’s unique acoustic properties, as well as performance and value. The budget only gave me so much to work with, and, in combination with all the acoustical challenges, we really had to get creative. I wanted to place the subs under the undulating balcony and create some bass loading against the wall. The ceiling is three levels and lots of curves, gotta’ love curves, except when it comes to mounting boxes.

The architect and client didn’t want too many penetrations and wanted to make sure we covered the whole room. I was more concerned about reflections and bass loading (I wanted some loading but not reflections). We ended up choosing the dead space under the curved floating stairs. I would get some bass loading and the subs would be closer to the primary seating area. The subs are Totem in-walls with dual 8-inch drivers, one passive and one active, giving us four total subs.

Four speakers under the balcony and two more of the Tribe in-wall in the upper soffit above the window will only kick in for large parties when we have lots of people to act as diffusers. I have other challenges coming up on the sound front, but at least we have a plan and are moving forward. Once the system is active, we’ll use an Audio Control amplifier with the ability to individually EQ and set the level of each speaker.

We continue to come up with creative ideas to make this a project we can all be proud of. But at this point, the end just seems a long way from where we are.

  About the Author

Mark has been both a commercial and residential integrator and systems engineer for over 25 years. He works with Builders, Homeowners and Architects to design and support all types of projects around the world. He is also a software developer (SalezToolz) and mad scientist/inventor (Xspot Products) all developed around what he saw as a need for the businesses he works with and supports. He has been a CEA Mark of Excellence judge the last 6 years and CE Pro Best awards Judge. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Mark at [email protected]

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