Cinema room evolves from Pioneer Kuro to bigscreen projection

HCC reader's room now rocks JVC e-Shift PJ and 8ft screen

Long-term readers may recognise this cinema room. First featured back in HCC #182 in April 2010, it's the pride and joy of 43-year-old movie fan, Chris England. Yet since its debut, the room has undergone some changes, with a plethora of new hardware and the addition of a projection system. Chris got back in touch, eager to share the joys of his new second-generation setup.

The projector and electric screen are, of course, the biggest development, and our AV fanatic reveals that it was always his intention to go large. 'When we did the original room in 2009 we made it ready for a projector/screen, but the budget didn't allow doing everything at once. Also, I didn't want to add a cheap projector where I would be disappointed with the results compared to my stunning Pioneer KRP600A. I decided to add it at the start of this year. I could wait no longer and the price/quality of projectors had radically changed from two years before.'

With his mind made up, Chris returned to his local Reading branch of Sevenoaks Sound & Vision, which had been involved during the previous installation. Choosing a JVC DLA-X55 for his light-cannon proved a no-brainer.

'I went for the JVC based on price, recommendations and reviews. Sevenoaks gave a demo and it was superb. Ideally I'd love to spend £20,000 on a SIM2 (we have friends with one and the quality is amazing) but what you get for £5,000 is astonishing with the JVC.' Chris admits he was tempted by the same brand's DLA-X95 for double the price, 'but I need an excuse to upgrade to a 4K projector in a couple of years!' 

Central command
Driving the JVC projector, which fires at an 8ft Grandview Cyber Series electric screen, is Pioneer's heavyweight SC-LX86 AV receiver. The Pioneer acts as a hub for Chris' various sources, including a Sony PlayStation 3 console ('bring on the PS4!'), Apple TV, Virgin Media V+ receiver and a Denon universal Blu-ray player. 

Both the Pioneer receiver and Denon deck are new additions, the former replacing his previous Pioneer SC-LX71 and the latter taking over disc-spinning duties from a Pioneer BDP-LX91.

The Denon brings 3D capability to the party. Is this something that Chris is excited by? Not really, he reveals. 'I am not a big fan of 3D – I've watched many 3D films at the cinema and have always been disappointed that it takes away from the vibrant colours of 2D. That said, I did get the 3D glasses and adapter to go with the JVC X55. I still think I will be sticking with 2D for my main viewing experience at present.'

The mood lighting is provided by a pair of Philips' LivingColours bulbs, with their own handset. Control of the other sources is currently achieved by nothing more high-end than the Pioneer AVR's remote. 'I managed to put everything on there. I control the lighting, Denon BD player, AVR, TV, projector, Apple TV and Virgin set-top box all from that one control – Sevenoaks were quite impressed!' 

Chris still employs a Xantech remote device for the closed cabinet, and would consider upgrading to an iPad control system. 'I think the iPad control for the Pioneer is excellent,' says Chris, 'but I want everything on one controller. I may consider an iPad remote upgrade at some point. Sevenoaks set up the projector to trigger the screen on/off as well and it works a treat from the Pioneer remote.'

AV knowledge
Despite perhaps being known as a retailer, Sevenoaks were highly involved in the room's transformation from media den to full-on cinema room, and Chris gives them praise.

'Sevenoaks helped recommend equipment, helped with design and came out to do the actual installation. They've been really helpful, with good balanced advice, and are always a pleasure to deal with. Any problems are promptly rectified and I would highly recommend them – they have all the skills and experience you need to ensure you have the most optimum viewing experience. 

'They also have great demo environments,' continues Chris. 'They can quickly put together your configuration to help decide the best options. In this particular upgrade, they installed the projector on the mount, installed the electric screen, added in cabling/power and balanced/tested the system end to end – it was well worth the money.'

In fact, Sevenoaks also helped him spend a little bit more than originally planned – he ended up upgrading his speakers from Monitor Audio's Radius to the slightly larger Silver line. 

'The Sevenoaks guys made a passing comment that the RX6s would sound great with the setup I had. Next day I was in the shop and taking them home. I was so impressed with the difference that I also upgraded the surrounds to the RXFX speakers. Sounds have more depth, clarify and impact. It's a mixture of improved speakers, better amp/player and improved HDMI cabling.'

Ten-year journey
Like all HCC readers, Chris says that he's always been into watching movies at home, and has slowly evolved his setup as the technology has changed – 'I'd say I've been into it more seriously for about ten years now.' He loves the effect his room has on friends and family, as it now offers 'an immersive movie experience.' For demos, he's currently wearing out his Skyfall Blu-ray due to its blend of picture quality, including beautiful black levels and sound mix. Yet the take-off sequence in Apollo 13 is still one of his favourites – 'and for a 16:9 demo, Avatar is amazing on this setup.'

The original cost of the system and build (which required the removal of a fireplace, installation of a false wall and the construction of speaker recesses – as well as running cables in-wall) was around £17,000. The upgrade has set him back a further £10,000 but he's sold some of the old equipment. If he was doing this all from scratch again, Chris reckons it would cost around £23,000, including the installation costs.

Cable conundrum
Chris also says that if he had access to a time machine he would think more about cabling. 'The biggest challenge on the update was putting in the new Chord ten-metre HDMI cable as it had to go around a few bends, so if I was doing it again I'd invest in putting in dedicated piping for long cable runs to make changing them easier in the future.

'I'd also advise folks to test items. Whilst the JVC's eShift is fantastic for good source images (amazing with Skyfall, Avatar and many others) it's awful for grainy images as it amplifies the grain.'

Next on our AV-holic's kit list is, unsurprisingly, a step up from eShift and onto the real thing – Ultra HD. 'I want 4K content with a 4K player and a 4K projector!' In the meantime, though, the JVC X55, alongside the Apple TV ('amazing for the money') is Chris' favourite purchase.

What about the venerable Pioneer Kuro? 'Nothing comes close to it,' insists the proud cinema room owner. 'I have looked at the latest Panasonics, etc, but the Pioneer still offers a stunning picture and there are not many panels that can touch its quality still today. I think that it will live on the wall until it fails...'