Very BIG Room? Music and Home Theatre Challenge

Could anyone please comment on issues that come to mind when setting up audio and home theatre in a big, barn like room?

I have been asked by a friend for some advice on a soon to be renovated "great room" which will be converted from a barn that was attached to their house.

Therefore, the new room will connect with the kitchen and extend to approximately 25' wide by 60' long with 14-15 foot ceilings.

The walls are made of stone and the floor is hardwood.

At the far end of the room, there will be a new chimney and fireplace installed, and the only brief I have so far is that will do lots of entertaining in this room, have a bar, and approximately 3 different seating areas within the room, and would consider a large projection or display device over the new fireplace.

The room is naturally pretty dark, which I hope will help with the video aspect.

As a Magneplanar fan, I would like to recommend 3.6s and all the Maggie surround sound speakers, but I need to learn more about their tastes and preferences.

I do know my friend loves to watch football and tennis, so I am also thinking HDTV in a big screen format.

But any ideas for such a project would be greatly appreciated.
I won't comment on the audio part, there are just too many options, but if as you say, the room is naturally dark, and as big as it is, I think a projector and a large retractable screen would be way better.

If it was a barn, I assume it has a pitched (cathedral) ceiling with the high point in the middle running the long dimension. The slickest way to do the screen over the FP, would be to construct a level soffit about 9 feet above the floor and projecting about 3 feet out from the fireplace end. That would provide a natural place to install a motorized screen so you wouldn't have to look at the damn thing when you're not using it. As for flat or other type TVs over fireplaces, it just looks wrong! Whether the TV's on or off, its presence competes with the fireplace and you're not sure what to look at, the fireplace, or the TV screen! I always advise my clients against it.
I am of the opinion that the only way to really be sucessfull with a home theater is in a really big room. Planar speakers would not be my choice for this application, the cost of amplification and limited dynamic range can be a challange. Front projection would be my first choice here as well. The fireplace can be a handicap both visually and sonically.
im with unsound,im not sure planars will cut the mustard in such a big room with high ceilings,maggies are not well known for great bass response even in a average size room with averagre ceilings.

a room that size needs BIG full range speakers.

I agree with Unsound and Bigjoe, front projection would be best (he can have another tv in one of his other locations) for casual watching. I agree on the fireplace and I think that most who have them here at the forum will agree also...have him build it off to the side somewhere out of the way if he can.

Planers, I like them and own them (Apogees), I also own big cone types (VMPS)...While I like my planers better than my cones from an audiophile's very clear which speakers can move more air, really what it's all about in a kick-butt hometheater setup.

These would can help him rebuild them!

I too can understand your desire to consider the Magnepans as they are a wonderfully musical and awesome value speaker. I too owned the 3.3/3.5's for 6 years and it was mighty tough to let go of their strengths. They are perfectly suited for music-based systems in moderately sized rooms, but ultimately their lack of dynamics makes them not an ideal choice for HT setups in any sized rooms.....forget about it in the room you describe. The series 20 will not be any different here.

I will comment however that all planars are not created equal and perhaps the SoundLabs might be a viable choice if you are seeking the strengths of such a speaker. There is a new model, nearly 9' tall, that is supposedly even more efficient than the latest versions of the other SL models. As an owner of the A1s, there is not an issue of covering the low end at all. In an HT based system, you will have any number of subwoofers so no speakers need to cover the bottom octave anyway but the SL's cover this area like the Magnepans can not match at all.

Speaker issues aside, I recall that A'gon member Mike Lavigne did quite a writeup on the efforts to build a big room, electrical circuits, acoustical treatments, etc. I would think he could steer you in the right direction in many key areas.
I say look at some older klipsch Heritage speakers like the Lascalas or cornwalls, or Chorus. These are all around 100db efficient and work great in a big room. I have the Klipsch Epics Cf3's. They are 100 dB efficient and they can crank with uncompressed sound that can easily fill a large room. I can only imagine a room with those all around, it would be awesome. Their size and looks are perfect for a big space like that as well. Or look for some speakers that are used in a movie theater. I also vote for a front projection system of some kind. Mine is a 90" diagonal but will soon go up to a 106" when I get my new projector.
That room will be alot of fun to create. Best of Luck for your friend.
any comments on Wilsons for BIG rooms?

...thinking Watt Puppies, not Max, or WHAMM or Alexandria or whatever.....

and appreciate all the cautions about Maggies in a big room.

However, would those concerns be mitigated somewhat by sitting closer to the speakers? Or would the sound still be swallowed up?

Thanks for suggestions so far.
One option to consider is a line source speaker which has less db drop per distance than a point source speaker. I have seen and heard the Wisdom Audio million dollar home theater set up in a large venue with the sound radiating clearly throughout the exhibition hall of the Reno Home and Garden show. Very impressive! I ended up getting the Adrenaline Rush speaker system because of the impression it made on me. You might not want to spend a million dollars but I am sure that there is something about the line source phenomenon that will impress you.
Nope, can't do the Maggies for your room/application...pass.
It will be a dynamic downfall for you, and you'll be the only one excited about the prospect of good sound in the room.
I would recommend higher dynamic output systems,like Infinity Prelude MTS system for higher end, refined sound with dynamics and efficiency (multiple drivers/850w 12" woofers). Also, NHT's powered sub systems, like VT3's and such for the clear, detailed, uncolored, "Maggie sound" from piston speakers. These will give give you a solid blend of the clear refined sound you like,wiht the authority and projection of sound you need, with prescence/impact.
On the Mid-fi level, Klipsch Reference Horns will also be solid in the room, limit side and floor reflections greatly, for better sound in your difficult acoustic space for reflections..even a bit more than the other Dappolito designs. Still, all these Dappolito/horn/THX designs will help you here when you sit back further into the room, or are in the middle/back.
Again, otherwise, you need lots of acoustical pannels around the room, which you should do anyway, however.
Here's another "movie theater sound system" to look at and read about, to give you input. Check out, and consider.
Still, if I were putting together your system, and you said "Maggies" to me...I'd steer you toward the Infinities or NHT's likely. Otherwise, Wilson Cub's for more money, but tricker placment, high sensitivity and such. If you mentioned Wilson, I'd recommend these, they're Dappolito configured, as refined as you'll want, more placment options, and designed for movie playback, and high end sound.
good luck...lot's to consider.
Oh, I'd do big LCD or DLP for you in that room, yes.
Probably on at least a 140" screen or larger, and scaled to 720p or better
BTW, really in that large room, I'd be covering the concrete walls with 2x4" framing with drywall to help soften the sound. The hard walls will make your sound, well hard! Good for Viagra, not your sound system. You need balance here, not unyielding sound.
The blance of reverb should still be good, with the cement walls directly behind also. Then, just do some diffusion pannels around the room, on sides/front. This will be all you'll need trust me. You should be good to go large bare wall surfaces for you on front/sides!!!
Hi cw, (long time no chat)

The best speakers i have heard in a REALLY big room are Avantgarde Trios/Basshorns and the new MetaPrimos (preferred the Trios/BHs to MPs - bass on an array of BHs is magnificent). I love the way large horns can "project." To do it more cheaply, one might get away with Oris horns with LaScala-type bass cabinets and if one were sitting close enough, they would do very well. Another possibility might be something like Edgarhorns with his Seismic subs or even the set-up on sogood51's link. Cheers!
Shiva - You beat me to the punch ... Klipsch Heritage all the way. Belles and K-horns with a pair of the RSW 15" subs or go all out with Velodyne's DD-18.

Also might consider Klipsch cinema systems ... I have read they are impressive for HT. As much as it would be fun to dive into an "audiophile" system it would be tough to cover that big an area. 1500 sq ft with high ceilings, thats a lot to cover. Most companies would be thinking PA system - the Heritage line seems to be a good trade off. Room for those horns to breath! You could actually run 7.1 and get the effects to work. I bet it will be mind blowing HT no matter what way you go!

Good luck - I'd love to see some pics when you're done.

Thanks for all the good info so far, gentlemen.

Funny, my new room is 20x25 and it is starting to feel like a cramped, nearfield set up.

I am thinking more and more that a bit of Rives type room consulting would have as much an impact on this installation than anything.

A longer and more philosophical conversation is why there should be that much difference between good home theatre and good music, but perhaps that should be another thread.

Another piece of the puzzle:

above this room will be an IDENTICAL room, which is where there new master bedroom suite will go. Although this is likely to be carved up internally with walls, closets, bathrooms etc.

Therefore, they have asked for a < $5000 40" plasma for the foot of their bed.

I have had great luck in my own bedroom with the inexpensive Pioneer HT receiver and the Infinity 750s following recommendations from some of you and might just suggest the same.

So are there any good HD plasmas WITHOUT the cheesey internal amp and speakers?

Hopefully that frees up more cash for the BIG room downstairs.
Klipschorns all around. It will save them a bundle of cash on extra subs and bigger amps too......since the speakers are so efficient and put out gobs of tight bass.
Panasonic's commercial plasma's might work fo you Cwlondon, but, for the big room I'd still suggest a front projector.
Agree with Klipschhorns or Avantgardes. Also consider hanging some decorative carpets from rafters to help tame room reflections.

Best regards!

Bob Wood
While all the recommendations for horn loaded speakers make a lot of sense, they will sound very different than Maggies. Though I recommended against Maggies for this application, I do like them. On the other hand horns are not my cup of tea.
I agree that horns are not many "people's cup of tea". However, I suggested them for 2 reasons: efficiency and tons of tight solid bass. They will save a lot of money on amps and subs.
I feel very strongly against Maggies in most applications due to the very narrow "sweet spot". One person gets to sit in simply amazing sound while everyone else is missing the point. If I have a 1 chair listening room with a 400+ watt amp, Maggies are an amazing choice. Otherwise, forget it.
Please put me down for the "horns are not my cup of tea" category.

Therefore, more recommendations of dynamic speakers that could fill such a room would be greatly appreciated. Other than Magneplanars, I have only had Apogees and Martin Logans. I rarely meet a box speaker I like.
How about a hy-brid type?...check these out. The largest (M-6) are "Targeted at large auditoriums and advanced home theatre installations in need of extremely high SPLĀ“s, i.e. over 130dB with very low distortion, Model 6 offers all the advantages of Model 5 and, in addition, features a true, no-compromise open dipole woofer section containing no less than 30 woofers per channel".

Also...check out their PA systems!

Ok, no horns....
Speakerlabs can put out loads of bass and can be much less directional.
Otherwise, I like B&W Nautilus series, Coincident and maybe wilsons for this large room.
O.K., how about giving us a budget? Please indicate all the needs, such as speakers (how many?), power, cables, source, etc.?
Ditto to the big full range speakers. My sound room is about 32.5 x 19.5 x 12 and it has a large doorway into a substantial kitchen / eating / relaxation area about 14 x 24 x 12+. Even with four 15 inch woofers and four 9 inch mid woofers in cabinets large enough to be coffins, the bass is relatively weak in the kitchen (this is being driven by two monster amps with 2.4kva transformers in each). I had to upgrade the speakers from four 12 inch woofers and four 7 inch mid woofers because the bass wasn't enough in my listening position. So I'd recommend some big speakers and they may still need to be augmented by subwoofers for that kind of an area. BTW, I love Montana speakers but go with what you and your friend like -- I'd just plan on going big!
For those who say horns are not my cup of tea, I would like to bring up a few points. I live in So. California, where we have many great movie theaters. The sound to my ears in some of these theaters is impressive to say the least. When a movie calls for a band to play on screen for instance or a great score, the sound is huge and live sounding. I am thinking of the last Lord of the Rings Movie, when they lit the fires that jumped from mountain to mountain. If you heard that score in the theater I was in, you would be unable to be anything but impressed by the grandness of the sound, in MYHO, Fantastic! The clarity and openess of the sound, the lack of compression at all volumes, and the huge dynamics that easily fill these large rooms makes the movie experience great fun, unless of course they play it too loud. I would think you all have had some similar experience at some time or another and it all comes from horned speakers. Anyways, I wanted that sound in my home and so looked into horns, which led me to my KLipsch Epics CF3's. They are 100dB efficient @ 1watt and yet can handle 200 watts continous with 1000 watt peaks. That sounded impressive to me. I purchased a pair of of this site on blind faith as I had never heard them before. Out went my Audio Physic tempos and in they went. They didn't dissapoint either. They are great at low volume and have uncompressed concert hall slam when cranked up. Whats not to like about that. Well, thats my rant on a old thread that no one may read.
As I've said earlier and as Elevick and Shiva have pointed out there are very sound reason for suggesting horns, especially in this application. If one is trying to simulate the sound one hears in a movie theatre, it makes even more sense. I have no desire to replicate what I hear in movie theaters. I certainly hope we can do better than that. While Shiva points out all that might be good in horns in a theatre he does leave out all that is bad. I haven't been to a movie theatre in California, but I have in New York and elsewhere too. I suspect that the top N.Y. theatres have sound sytems comparable to what ever any other locale might have. Well, I find them just dreadfull. As Shiva carefully suggests they can be too loud, where even whispered dialogue is shouted into the cinema. Despite the many speakers there is no real soundstage and side and rear speakers are always gimicky and too self evident ( hight tech special effects aside, you know Star Wars et al.) The honkyness is absolutely annoying and I always leave with a mild headache and my ears ringing. I don't suggest that my priorites are the same as everyone elses and horns may be just the ticket for some. As for me, not my cup of tea.
"...I have no desire to replicate what I hear in movie theaters. I certainly hope we can do better than that." (Unsound).

I beg to dissagree with Unsound, but you can't really!!!...especially for movie soundtracks. The Things a good horn setup(especially quality active stuff) can do are perfect for movies in a large venue! They project pressence(what most audiophile speakers can't do) in to a space that's immediate and grabbing! You can easily hear dialog and ever detail in a good setup, and they are dynamic as hell!!!!...again, something you can't get on home gear for the most part, especially audiophile dainty!
I've sold Wilson's, Thiel, Dunlavy, B&W, Meridian, SFaber, Logan's, Maggies, you name it. They can't compete with horns for an all out dynamic assault. And that's the majority of the passion, the thrill, excitement and heart of a good Movie system, sorry. Still, to each his own.
Just don't expect anyone but you to be impressed with your system for movies if you use a lot of these's a big yawn for most.
At the very least, on high end gear, you need to boost the efficiency and coherence/focus of the system usually, to get the dynamics and solidity of immage out! Otherwise, it's airy and delicate alright, which is really drown out when the volume goes up, and the dynamics overwhelm the audiophile speakers. Basically, they have serious dynamic limits, and are dynamically un-transparant. That's the truth...ok if you listen at a flee's volume level, and listen to small scale music most often.
Also, a well designed horn system on the right gear is a well balanced thing.
That said, the movie theater has to be setup properly and calibrated correctly, and many aren't! It's easy to over crank the bass, have blown woofers unrepaired in the theater not working, improperly EQ'd, etc in these theaters, just like any home. Management varries. However, in a good THX certified cinema, it's very good!
Also, tubes work very good often with tube gear! My Klipsch's (I've got Infinity's too) are superb on a Jolida! They're 100db effecient, and very well balanced with the tubes...many should try.
Well, I did get rid of my Klipsch Heresey's to get Cornwalls. However, I got rid of the Cornwalls to buy Coincident Conquests. These are enough for a huge room but find some Victorys or even milleniums and you will be set. Coincident are almost as efficient as Klipsch yet no horns! The sound isn't anything like klipsch. These will set you back a few more bucks though.
I still say he's better off with good active-woofered higher end speakers like MTS prelude Infinities. This will tremendously help you overall, as you wouldn't have problems integrating your woofers and mains...thus no separate subwoofers.
I know, I know,...sounds like your loooking for more "essoteric" speakers, even more obscure findings from the audiophile mix.
If that's the case, I'd seriously look at Wilson Cubs! These are fast and higher sensitivity desings, and are used in a number of dubbing studio and recording houses. Very high end sound, and stellar for movies.
Again, I'd tend to shy away from some of the other speakers you mentioned, serving double dubty for music/HT in your large venue, wanting higher end aspirations.
But you know, Martin logans might be just what you want. Who's to say. Also, the Logans will sound better with limited acoustical treatment as well, as they cancel out off axis. Then however your off axis seating, and listening around the room won't be good for music however. You've got to sit right in front of Logans, just like Maggies!
Another more expensive propossition in high end active systems that might work for ya, are ATC actives.
Na, I'd still look at Wilson Cubs first.
Good luck either way. Maybe a good saleman can close the deal for ya...make you take something home! (lol)
Otherwise, you're gunna have to just guess/hope, and find out what works
OK now this thread might go on forever....

but philosophically, I have a hard time with this home theatre sound vs music sound debate.

If a so called audiophile speaker gets washed out, or sounds wimpy, or cant articulate dialogue etc, I would say it isnt a very good speaker and we should all give it a miss?!

I do understand that chamber music and Vietnam movies present different challenges, but at the big buck, high quality level, I dont know why there should be such a great divide between home theatre sound and music.

If highly dynamic, extremely sensitive speakers sound loud or fatiguing on music, then why wouldnt they sound loud and fatiguing after 2 hours watching a movie?!

Now we could argue that dynamic, sensitive speakers including some horns lend themselves well - within a certain price range - to the wide dynamic swings of movies and also have enough bottom end oomph to reproduce explosions, or car crashes or whatever.

And perhaps my taste in movies is more Woody Allen than Arnold Schwarzenegger, but so far, I side with Unsound:

I want it to sound BETTER than the cinema.

At least the ones I have heard which certainly includes 90% of the lousy mulitplex screens. And I live in NYC. God help the people in Peoria or wherever.
Lol...Cwlondon, it sounds like you'll not end up with more dedicated "HT speakers" anytime soon, ey?!!
You know, having sold "quality high end audiophile" speakers over the years, I would say the statement "a good speaker is a good speaker" is about as missleading as it gets really. What a good speaker is, is really different to different people. There are many so called "high end" designs that I should really be classified as "limited application designs" if you ask me. But then again, it stands to reason why many people "in the know" in this biz, consider, if not implement, 2 separate systems for movies and music! They mostly fall in love with something about a particular speaker they use for their fav music(again, probabably stuff like Jazz at the Pawn Shop, Dianna Krall, and similar tempo stuff), and they stay there. These are mostly very pretty, clear, detailed, open, airy, laid back sounding speakers, that do many many things right!...don't get me wrong. In these areas, these speaker "get things right" IMO. ON THE OTHER HAND, when it comes to highly dynamic stuff (often music you don't hear many audiophiles playing much, if any of..except perhaps Correy Greenberg), these speakers aren't so good, and infact fall flat on their faces! They are the antithesis often of what is dynamic, powerful, and anything but flat and squashed out, even at modest levels. In short, the speakers offer limited control over the drivers, inneficient design, low sensitivity, too laid back of a sound in reality, etc! Basically, they lack real dynamic trasparancy to be truely more accurate in this respect! If you think not, just take most any high end audiophile design out there, play some Metcalica, any Techno genre, some hip hop, any heavy drummed up new world, and definitely some overly demanding DD/DTS material through the speakers, and you'll know what I mean...very lackluster mostly.
On the other hand most of the pro audio offerings will stomp the living daylights out of the audiophile kit, even at low volume levels dynamically, and in terms of pressence.
Laidback audiophile speakers make you lean into the sound, and are not so solid and distinct. They're trade-offs here, for certain.
So what speakers do the "balancing/cross-over act" well, and do justice for all? They are rare breads IME. And you should wisely consider if you're trying to "get it all".
But make no mistake, if you're stuck thinking you like the sound from whatever music you heard through some audiophile liking, just remember you're not getting the whole picture.
As for horn speakers, a good horn system can indeed be setup and balanced well with proper gear and system integration. Sounding honkey I guess is all personal. I've owned wonderful sounding (again, depending) Thiels, Sonus Faber, B&W, Infinity, NHT, Merlin, and other speakers over the years, and they all did certain things well. That said, I've rarely had an occasion to call movie theater speaker systems fatiguing personally! Mostly because they're balanced. If anything, a BRIGHT speaker is fatiguing, when the trebble runs too hot. Other than that, maybe the manager has the system turned up way too high, or at THX levels...yes, those guy's at THX are insane! It's too loud, yes.
But, to each his own. I simply find most of what you'll find in the high end houses, marketed as audiophile high end stuff, as really really difficult to get sounding addequately involving and exciting, not to mention effective at reproducing movie soundtracks with any degree of accuracy (from how they were mixed to sound), pressence (exciting), or effectiveness!
Just think how it would sound poping some Maggies up in a giant movie cineplex, and trying to play LOTR's through em! If you can immagine, it would sucketh...IMO of course.
The same will hold true in your large space, trust me.
However, I can understand someone's bad experience with horns. In that case, I would still suggest higher efficiency, more focused, multi-driver arrayed speaker designs, that will focus the sound, maximize dynamics/impact/speed, limit distortion (if not cancel it out completely), and have the pressence and involvement movie mixes were designed to give....not flatten out, obscure dialoge, and sound too polite and laid back. Again, not what movies were mixed through, or designed to play back on. A good speaker is not a "good speaker" here to generalize, I'm sorry. That just doesn't play for quality home theater.
My pick for you to consider, is multiple high end driver Infinity MTS's with 850w/12" powered subs, adding multiple larger subs to the system as well. Another is Wilson Cub's, and matching surrounds around the room, with several, maybe Paradigm Servo 15 subs driving the room. Older Dunlavy SCV's work, with some SCIAV's flanking the room are good candidates on the higher end, but also do movies well (see "widescreen reviews" master reference system).
NHT VT3's on a smaller budget, and matching VS3(?) surrounds is good for the money, and more audiophile clear, if not quite as much resolve as better.
Or MAYBE some of the multi driver Dynaudio stuff is worth a look, with good amplification...but that would be lower on my list for the money...
Anyway, using single woofer/mid and single tweeter designs, ribbon speakers, and similar is not how to do HT, especially on a large room scale! I think you'll lose here.
Anyway, good luck, as there's not really much in the high end that's super super for movies for your application in a large room.
In fact you can pretty much swich out everything in the high end relm, and get the same results for your situation. In that case, I'd get as lest expensive as possible. Otherwise, simply know you're going to have to seriously sacrifice your effective movie sound experience for your musical taste/prefference, and what you've got your mind set on. You mostly won't have it all that way.
Again, hope it turns out well for you however
Movie Theatres sound like crap period...............I had to put my boots on to read some of these posts. LOL

A couple of bits of information to help you. I am an industry professional with over tweenty years of experience.

1: Planners can not work in a room of this size unless they are gigantic and really expenisve.

2: You must control slap echo and other room anomolies but using acoustical control devices, RGP, Echo Buster, Skylines, Carpeting, underlaying ASC tube traps, etc.

3: The other possiblity is to make the room smaller and more acoustically managable by building a partion wall.

4: You can throw money at the problem and use speakers capable of filling up a large room and which generate prodigous bass response. Check out Escalante Designs Freemont: 93 db sensitive, handles 1,000 watts, bass down to 18hz these are marvelous speakers built by the famous designer Terry Budge, who was the man behind Wilson's most famous designs. These speakers are $15,000.00 but will easily compete with speakers costs much, much more!
IMO, depending on the budget, I suggest two companies. Meridian 568.2 or 861 and Blue Sky Sky System One or Big Blues. Its a combo that will truely shock you.
Find a pair of Infinity Kappa 9 speakers as your front mains. They will give you enough bass to fill that room. They can be had for about $1500 per pair. Better yet, if you can find two pair of them to run front and rear, you'll be in for a real treat. Each speaker has two 12 inch woofers that emit serious bass if your amps have the muscle to drive them. They are also excellent speakers for two channel music if you feed a good amp and preamp to them. They are very dynamic.

I have a room your size with 20 foot ceilings.... the Kappas will serve you well. They are also very beautiful speakers.