Reader's cinema: Best seat in the house

This HCC reader saw a loft cinema and decided he had to have one too...

The owner of this impressive loft-conversion remembers clearly the moment when he saw another dedicated attic install and thought ‘I want one!’. Yet, unlike many of us, this wasn’t a mere dream – within a few weeks the process of turning an almost unused space into home cinema heaven was under way.

As you may be able to tell from the accompanying images, this isn’t a completely self-done conversion. The owner, a leading voiceover artist (cool!) who wishes to remain anonymous, was sane enough to call upon a loft-conversion specialist (Truss Loft in Yorkshire) to do the grunt work and RB Vision for the installation of the cabling and electronics. The former also had to find a way of providing access to the room, which meant constructing a whole new staircase. Something to bear in mind if you’re planning your own project!

The system uses an Onkyo TX-NR1009 receiver (upgraded from a TX-SR609) in partnership with a seven-channel array of KEF CI in-wall and in-ceiling speakers. The subwoofer is now a Bowers & Wilkins DB1 (it was a Monitor Audio GXW15, and before that a B&W PV1D – it’s quite a long story). Video comes courtesy of a Panasonic DMP-BDT310 Blu-ray player, Samsung SMT-7800 Freesat receiver and a Sony PlayStation 3, fired onto the 110in projector screen by a Panasonic PT-AT5000E (meaning 3D is on the cards). Control of all the electronics is handled by DemoPad software on an Apple iPad, and a Rako lighting system helps set the scene. We particularly love the floor-level LED light strips.

Sofa so good

Like any installation, there were problems that had to be overcome. After eagerly awaiting delivery of the leather seating, our AV-Holic was left in turmoil when the two-part, 12-foot sofa was unable to fit up the staircase and into the room (luckily, the retailer replaced it without fuss with an easier-to-fit solution). And, once the room was finished, he also decided to re-paint the walls above and around the projector screen in a less-reflective dark grey. Other than that, though, we’re told the only problem was ‘knowing when enough was enough.’

Mr ‘X’ also has nothing but praise for his installer, RB Vision, and believes the cost of hiring professionals is completely worth it. ‘The prices I paid for the speakers, amp, Freesat box and projector, etc, were exactly the same as the lowest price I could find on the internet. It was clearly marked how much I was paying for the labour. Two guys were here all day for several days. If I had the time I would love to have set it up myself and saved a few quid but, truth is, I couldn’t wait that long!’

There are some areas where money has been saved. Firstly, our voiceover guy decided against fitting acoustic plasterboard for sound-proofing. ‘I nearly did,’ he admits, ‘but with so much Kingspan [insulation] and the quilt stuff which goes on top, we decided not to. It’s a detached house so the neighbours don’t hear anything.’ Well, apart from the ‘opening night’ when a run-through of choice demo scenes with the AVR on its THX setting caused some consternation in the neighbourhood. ‘Three of the neighbours reported hearing gunshots and explosions at around 1.30am. Whoops. We don’t listen that loud these days.’

Acoustic panels are also currently off the agenda. ‘The cost was a bit more than we thought, so we decided we’d have a go until funds allow us to justify the expense. Some MDF, some foam and an electric staple gun (so much fun) – and my better-half with her Art degree happy to help. Has it made any difference? I have no idea.’

One aspect of the room that the owner decided couldn’t be skimped on was picture calibration – ‘if you are going to all the trouble to give yourself a great setup with amazing equipment and it delivers a great performance, why would you not book an expert to squeeze out that extra juice to create perfection?’ he reasons. A 12-hour visit from the THX-certified staff at did exactly that, particularly with regards to improving the black levels and shadow detailing from the Panny PJ.

Ready for action

With its mix of high-spec electronics, touchpanel control, subtle lighting and gorgeous interior, this is a cinema room that anyone would be proud of – and it’s certainly getting a lot of use. Movie sessions take place around three or four times a week, from a growing collection of Blu-rays. DVDs, we’re told, aren’t allowed.

When he wants to demo the system’s capabilities to friends, he’s been using the opening sequence of The Dark Knight, the sandstorm scene from Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (‘it really shows off the 7.1 sound’), and Blade Runner to highlight the prowess of the DB1 subwoofer.

While the entire project was based on an impulse decision, this movie fanatic has no regrets. ‘I am over the moon with it,’ he says. ‘I have wanted one for 10 years now and I can honestly say there is no need to ever go to the cinema ever again.’ And that’s the whole idea, isn’t it?

Kit checklist...

KEF: CI series in-wall and in-ceiling speakers
Bowers & Wilkins: DB1 subwoofer
Sony: PlayStation 3
Samsung: SMT-7800 Freesat receiver
Panasonic: PT-AT5000E Full HD 3D projector
Panasonic: DMP-BDT310 Blu-ray player
Onkyo: TX-NR1009 AV receiver
Apple: iPad with DemoPad control software
Rako: Integrated lighting

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If you’re currently building a cinema room, or have just finished one and are enjoying the benefits, we want to know about it!

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This article first appeared in the August 2012 issue of Home Cinema Choice