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I’ve always wanted a real home theater

Preface: This isn’t a #humblebrag. All my life I’ve been a *huge* movie buff. Add to that, from an early age I was a spectator to motorsport, and later in life became a participant. Oh, and I’m a gamer. Beyond that, hey, I’m a geek … and there’s geek stuff involved in building out your own home theater.

For the last 17 years, I’ve always had some version of a “big TV” in the livingroom with a stereo hooked to it. When the first-gen HD TVs came out, this involved a 65″, 450lbs rear-projector behemoth from Mitsubishi capable of 720p and 1080i.

My wife and I have a (by US standards) moderate home. By which I mean it’s stupidly large for two people, with a lot of square footage that never gets used. Quite frankly, I bought the smallest home I could find with a 3-car garage. This is due to the aforementioned interest / participation in motorsport. Remarkably, they don’t build small homes with 3-car garages (and we didn’t have an interest in buying land and having something built).

The front portion of the house is designed to be a formal living room and dining area. It has a 20′ vaulted ceiling, with the lower half open the to back of the house (sort of, there’s a half wall divider). This is a common thing with “open floor plan” homes these days. For the last 6 years it has collected dust. The oversized kitchen has a dinning area attached, and we have a table there. In addition, there’s a large family room which we normally use.

When it came time to replace flooring (the house was 10 years old and the original cheap builder carpet was trashed) I decided the front of the house could actually be useful … if I turned it into a home theater.

There was some initial pushback from the wife. Where the definition of “pushback” involves a bunch of profanity and several discussions about what your house should look like.

In the end, I won. For the most part, this is because I went full-monty and built out a system that is clean and unobtrusive.

What the room Looks like:


The screen is a pull-down over the front windows. It can be raised if having people over that doesn’t involve media. I plan to build a valance to cover the unit so it’s completely hidden when pulled up. (The center channel is still sitting on a box, I realize. It’s going to be wall-mounted or put on a little free standing shelf.)

Those are old-school DCM home theater speakers I bought in the ’90s. In time I’ll replace them, but they are still well regarded.

There’s no visible wires or electronics because everything is run from the basement:


The projector is mounted on the upper wall which is the back of the master bedroom (obviously I still need to tidy up the wiring; I forgot to buy an outlet cover. P.S. running power and HDMI from the basement up an HVAC column sucks) :


With a 25U rack in the basement containing everything, including my Wintendo (that’s a Windows PC used for the only thing it’s good for (gaming) for those who don’t get the meme) gaming rig in a 4U case in the bottom:


The gaming rig input is via more in-wall wiring which not only provides a USB port that runs to the rig, but also has an RCA out for the subwoofer and HDMI input + network for a gaming console:


For TV, I have DISH. Their units use a UHF remote. The Yamaha receiver is network enabled with an Android and iOS app for control. This means no need for IR repeaters.

It was a lot of work, a lot of fiberglass insulation stuck in my arms, and a bit of money … but in the end, I couldn’t be happier. Much more important, Laura actually likes it 🙂

Watching movies, F1 / MotoGP, and gaming on a 120″ screen? Pure bliss. It’s something I’ve always wanted, and now it’s a reality.

Tech Specs:

Projector: Epson 8350

I went with this unit because it’s pretty much the best you can buy for gaming (low input latency) and for a room than has high ambient light.

Receiver: Yamaha RX-A730

Mid-level unit in their current lineup, but it did everything I wanted including being controlled via network.

Speakers: DCM TimeFrame v6.0

These were high-end in the late 90s, still well regarded today for their ability to accurately reproduce sound.

Subwoofer is a 400W 14″ Klipsch downfire. It rattles your teeth 😀

Cabling: Monoprice (HDMI with RedMere)

Long runs for HDMI and USB require active cables. I went with Monoprice cables for both. The HDMI cables are their RedMere tech and they work perfectly. There’s a 60′ running from the projector down to the rack, and a 30′ for the HDMI input to the wall for plugging in a console. THeir active USB cable runs from the wall to the rack for the gaming PC.