My A/V Room was finally built out and the initial acoustic treatment installed, so the next task for my home theater was installing the equipment and cabling it all up. A full list of equipment that the room contains is also provided here in the first post.
A/V equipment List (in rack order):
Cyberpower Pure Sinewave 1KVA UPS – Rack Support
Panorama monitoring displays
Denon DVD-5900 + SD SDI mod
DVDO iScan VP50 Pro with SD/HD SDI
Toshiba HD A3
Denon DVD-3800BDCI + HD SDI mod
Thorens TD160S turntable + Hadcock GH228S arm + Lentek Entre1 cartridge and head amp.
Denon AVP-A1HDCI with Audyssey XT32 upgrade + Pro kit.
Velodyne SMS-1 equalizer for initial sub EQ
Rane AD22d – for sub distance matching (added later)
Gaines 248 balanced line interface to drive the subs (added later)
Audyssey XT 32 Sub EQ for initial sub equalization (now removed)
3 ME30B one third octave equalizers for LCR EQ (added later)
Cyberpower 750VA Simulated Sinewave UPS – Projector Bulb Protection
5 Genelec 1038’s for music and film
4 Genelec 8040’s for rear and side film surrounds
2 Genelec 8030’s for film front heights (added later)
2 SVS PB12 NSD subs
2 SVS SB2000 subs (added later)
BenQ W10000 with Darbee Visual Processor – ISF calibration by Kevin Miller
Panamorph UH380 lens with automatic sled
Da-Lite Matt tensioned dual mask screen – 115” diagonal for 2.4:1.
Speakers, Receiver and EQ
So why did I choose a Genelec speaker solution? Firstly, I wanted a professionally accepted speaker that was used in both recording studios and cutting rooms and whose acoustic design was an integral part of the amplifiers design and the required crossovers. The five main speakers (L/C/R/LS/RS) are 1038s’ and are tri-amp with tailored electronic crossovers, lots of power and, hence, headroom to spare, and they are THX and PM3 rated. They have good HL & VL dispersion angles, very low distortion at high acoustic levels and a + – 2.5dB anechoic response on axis from 35Hz to 20KHz. These monitors, like most other large monitors, should be flush mounted in order to minimize corner edge diffraction effects.
I do not like mixing speakers for a range of technical issues, not to mention differences in sound quality, so I elected to use the Genelec 8040s’ for surrounds and the 8030s’ for heights as they both have a similar sound to the 1038s’. They are bi-amped with active compensated crossovers and also match the HF crossover frequency for the 1038s’, performing well when non-flush mounted due to their design. Sure, for the money there are many other speakers to choose from but they are not used in professional recording studios or cutting rooms for reference listening. I had listened to Genelec’s in several professional rooms and was aware of their capabilities and limitations. The main issue for me is that the 1038’s seemed to have a predominant upper mid-range, even when voiced flat. This issue became even more predominant in my final listening tests and is yet to be resolved totally to my satisfaction through EQ.
Unfortunately, I have no pictures of the height Genelecs as I forgot to take them before fastening the (difficult to remove) covers. You will need to look at the previous room layout PDF to see where they are mounted at the top of the front LHS and RHS corner absorbers.
At the time I purchased it, and for its price, there is no other Pre amp that provides the range of flexibility, processing and technical performance as the Denon AVP–A1HDCI, particularly after its latest XT32, 3D and audio processing upgrade. This upgrade while adding a range of new useful features, unfortunately, removed the ability to have two different, fully equalized pairs of surround speakers, one for music and one for film. This resulted in a different approach for supporting my dual surrounds, more on this in a later post.
Initially I just used the AVP Audyssey XT equalization to EQ my two subs. This never sounded very good, so I quickly moved on to using a Velodyne SMS-I to pre-EQ the subs, with the AVP Audyssey XT to fine tune the EQ’d subs. Not having suitable room acoustic measurement software and my lack of experience with this combination did not produce acceptable bass results. So I initially settled on using an external Audyssey Sub EQ that used XT32 to pre EQ the two subs as it also contains Sub EQ HT, something even the upgraded AVP did not fully support. This Audyssey Sub EQ was later replaced by the SMS-1 as I found that the Audyssey Sub EQ, even in combination with the upgraded AVP Audyssey XT32 EQ did not handle the equalization of the later 4 sub arrangement very well, see later post.
I mentioned in the previous post that the two pairs of surrounds are deliberately set to be at the same distance from the MLP and their sensitivity is set to ensure that both sets of surround speakers require the same signal level to create equal SPL’s at the MLP. This was necessary as the upgraded AVP no longer supported individual EQ for two sets of surrounds. Luckily, Audyssey selected the same sub crossover for both sets of speakers and they both use the same HF crossover frequency. All this allows me to use the Audyssey EQ for the 1038‘s music surrounds to drive the smaller 8040 film surrounds. I can load the Audyssey files for either pair (when being really anal), but I am unable to hear the difference when using the 1038 EQ on the 8040’s for film. However, using the 8040 EQ on the 1038’s for music is not a good match. This arrangement allows me to easily switch between the music and film surrounds using the X10 powered outlets to activate the pair of surrounds that I need to use, both pairs being driven simultaneously from the L/R AVP surround outputs. Further details on the performance of these two pairs of surround speakers’ measurements will be found in a later post.
The following signal processing was added at a later date together with the two rear subs. See the diagram at the end of this post to see how they are connected. There use and setup will be discussed in a later post.
Also added later, three Rane ME30B one third octave analog equalizers for the front left, center and right speakers. I occasionally use these in order to ’tilt’ their frequency response by 10dB from 20Hz to 20KHz, creating what is for some recordings, a more balanced sound. They are hard wire bypassed for the majority of listening. Further details will be found in a later post.
For audio comparison purposes, the AVP has copper stereo connections to both the Denon A100 and Denon 3800 for analog CD playback using the AVP balanced and unbalanced stereo CD inputs. Looking at the AVP schematics there is no significant electronic design differences between these two inputs, that in my opinion, is audible. The level difference of 6dB between balanced and unbalanced audio inputs can be adjusted for within the AVP.
A quick comment upon the room and speaker symmetry. Close examination of the front subs shows they are not mirror images of each other and are, therefore, located at different distances from both their accompanying front Genelec’s and side walls. This difference can actually be measured and affects the individual combined responses of the LHS and RHS Genelec’s with the subs. It is not huge, nor is it audible to me, but it is definitely measurable.
The system runs 1080P24 for all video sources – SD or HD. The projector frame rate doubles that to P48 using the HDMI input. The 5900 and 3800 players are both modified to provided an SDI signal, so I have the option of either watching the HDMI with HDCP output or the SD/HD SDI output via the DVDO VP50PRO with no HDCP. Audio is always processed by the AVP, either from the HDMI connection, the Denon DL4 link or optical connections.
You can see the difference between the SDI and HDMI output, especially for SD. I have my own belief as to why this is so, as both are supposed to carry exactly the same digital data. I think that it may be related to increased data jitter from the HDCP “processing” that occurs within the HDMI hardware link, just as audio clock jitter audibly effects any audio link. Hence the advantage of Denon Link for CD, DVDA and BluRay audio, which is audible compared to just HDMI audio. All I know is that I can see a very small difference between these two outputs. Is it important to me, not really. It was more of an academic exercise as I dislike the issues that arise from using HDCP. Unfortunately, the data for the SDI hardware is taken from two different locations inside the players. One is the actual output of the MPEG decoder, the other is the input to the HDMI chip. In the latter case the data actually has to pass through the scaling hardware so I have no idea what that it is doing to the signal even though it is not scaling it.
Finally, there is a Darblet attached immediately to the rear of the projector using a male to male HDMI adapter. It really adds that little something extra to the image, is set to HD50% and never touched. Well, occasionally I bypass it to make sure it is working correctly and not causing any artifacts.
I still love the sound of well recorded and pressed vinyl compared to many of my CD, DVDA and BluRay discs. I am not a vinyl ‘junkie’ as I admit that some of these plastic discs sound outstanding. Yes, even better than some of my vinyl albums.
In order to reduce vibration, my turntable sits on an isolated 25lb granite slab that in turn is isolated and sits on a pull-out drawer. The head pre-amp is situated inside the slab at the front. This keeps all my phono cables as short as possible. More information about my vinyl playback system can be found here.
I still feel that there are a lot of vinyl albums that can give CD’s a real “run for their money”. I have all of the original Sheffield Lab recordings and enjoy the sonic excellence of the performances that many provide. Naming just a few, Harry James, Amanda McBroom and Jim Keltner. However, having said that, these days some of the SACD’s and high bit rate DVDA’s provides stunning stereo and 5.1 performances as do the new range of Audiophile remastered 45RPM discs. Read my Vinyl and Sheffield Lab post and vinyl reviews here.
Cables & Cabling
All the connections between the players and the receiver are via standard 6′ HDMI cables. I do not currently need certified cables as I am not yet running 4K. The connection to the projector is a 35 foot Accell active HDMI cable. It can support up to 1080P60 and I have never had any issues with it. The cable may be powered either from the Drablet HDMI connection or, as I currently have it, powered from a small power adapter. It has a nice feature that uses a small red LED on the projector HDMI connector that gives you the operating status of the cable.
Analog audio cables are always a hot topic, so I will keep my comments short and simple. I make and terminate all my own copper cables, including CAT6 for Denon Link. I only require one pre-made optical cable to support the DVD 5900. All analog audio cables are made from multi-strand plain copper and do not contain any twisting or wrapping of strands at soldered joints. All connectors are by Neutrik and gold plated to reduce any oxidization effects. I employ balanced connectivity wherever possible for all cabling interconnects and all the runs to my satellite speakers. The original cartridge to head amplifier cables were silver multi-stranded low noise cables that use an insulated central conductor, that is then wrapped with a carbon impregnated plastic and then the screen. These cables were recently replaced with custom-made Litz wire cabling; see my turntable, arm and cartridge upgrade post here.
Besides the two pairs of copper cables that take stereo analog feeds from the A100 and 3800 DVD players to the AVP the only other analog audio cables are the speaker connections, all at line level.
- The Genelecs and all balanced connections use Belden 1192A Star-Quad cabling to ensure the highest possible interference rejection as some of these cables are up to 35 feet long. These cables are again plain copper multi-strand and are located well away from any magnetic sources or power cables. This cabling is also used for any short inter-equipment connections for the sub signal processing.
- The subs require unbalanced line level signals. These interconnects were originally made using multi-strand plain copper psuedo-balanced cabling. The hot and cold carry the unbalanced signals while the screen is ONLY connected at the source end to the ground connection. Again all cabling is run as far away as possible from any AC power or magnetic sources. When I upgraded to 4 subs the requirements to go from balanced to unbalanced, add level control and sub delays was dealt with using a Gaines 248 and Rane AD22d, (shown above). The use of these will be discussed in detail in a later post.
The next update will review the early Studio 6 Digital AudioTools and preliminary Audyssey acoustics measurements. Sorry, no detailed Room Equalization Wizard (REW) graphs yet. They will all be revealed, and discussed in a future post.
My original setup and hardware was all modified to support professional HDSDI connections. I have always found HDMI with HDCP to be a nightmare on trying to get things to lockup quickly and correctly. However, the continuing cost of these modifications, some attendant audio system design issues, plus the advent of 4K forced me to give up on HDSDI and return to HDMI connections. A sad day!