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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Actually it's The Two Jims II, since it's the successor to my original Two Jims Theatre.

The name comes from my deep regard for James B. Lansing and for Jim Fosgate.

The original Two Jims was really just a typical HT in the living room while we rented a condo for seven years (and saved up for a down payment on our house). So there were windows, room openings, light colored walls, hard surfaces, and typical house noise to deal with. At the same time, there was a real 110" diagonal Da-Lite screen, a big Seleco SVD500 CRT projector, a full JBL 7.1 Performance Series speaker complement, and Fosgate Audionics FAP T1 pre/pro and FAA 1000.5 amplifier (x2) electronics.

It sounded really good in a very bad room, where movie watching was pretty tough in the daytime.
 

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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
The Two Jims Theatre, part two

When we finally had our 20% down payment saved and the added advantage of falling prices, we found a nearly perfect house, totally and tastefully remodeled, with two bonus rooms on the bottom floor. One was destined to become our fitness and music room, and the other would become The Two Jims II.

There are no windows, and it is partially below ground.

At first, I merely bought a new Mitsubishi 1080p projector and some Poang chairs from Ikea, then set up all the old equipment: JBL Performance Series, Fosgate Audionics electronics, and the old sources. I put in a couple of rugs and added bass traps and called it good. (I was lazy, okay?)
 

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Discussion Starter #3
The Two Jims Theatre, part three

In January 2009, I had what I consider the opportunity of a lifetime. I could get a complete JBL Synthesis® Array One THX Ultra2 system from an authorized dealer. It had been used as the demo system at CEDIA and would come with full warranty and service.

Once I acquired it, then I had one of those "What have I gotten myself into?" moments, since I knew this would require real effort and probably a lot more money to get the room right for a system of this magnitude. Acoustical panels, sound diffusers, dedicated 20A circuits, in-wall cabling, new construction for an equipment closet, 19" racks, real carpeting, a high end screen, room darkening paint and wall coverings, changes in the lighting, oh boy!

I got some bids, the cheapest of which was $32k just for the construction, and I thought maybe I'd just sell all the JBL gear and forget about it.
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
The Two Jims Theatre, part four

Once I recovered from the overwhelming sense of being in over my head and short on $$, I determined to do everything myself. Now DIY can't provide the required JBL DACS calibration, so I had to pony up the money for that, and I paid for some consultant advice on what to do. (And I'm very glad I did! What an amazing result!) Otherwise, I bought, installed, and/or built everything.

The total cost, including all materials, acoustical panels, diffusers, Stewart Screenwall (perfed), racks, and a Furman 20A conditioner was about $10k, not including of course the cost of the Synthesis® system or the value of my time, estimated at 400 hours so far.

This process began in early February 2009, and finished in mid June. By finished, I mean 98% finished. There are a few odds and ends to finish up. Four months is a long time to work on a project, but since I'd waited 50+ years to get to this point, what's a few months?

I really wanted to do it as well as I could, so there'd be no second-guessing later on why I didn't do something or why I took a shortcut just to get it done faster. :doh: The philosophy was simple: Do whatever was needed to made the room the best it could be, then if possible make it somewhat attractive.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
The Two Jims Theatre, part five

When calibration day finally arrived, it was an exciting time. The system was already set up and tested for operability, and it sounded amazing to me. Maybe I didn't need to spend the $$ on calibration?

Wrong!

When it was over three hours later, I had gone from amazed to stunned. Stunned as in "What just happened? I need a moment to absorb this transformation." My buddy who came over to help and take some pictures (we schlepped cables, set up mics, carried heavy cases, plugged in connectors, you know real technical stuff) was pretty impressed, too: "My pants legs were fluttering..." :yikes:

I've posted some Web pages that include the construction, installation, and calibration of the system. Apparently my site and IE 8 don't like each other, so if you're on Windows, try Firefox or another browser. If you're on a Mac or Linux, no worries.

http://web.me.com/dougsemark/JBL_Synthesis®_Two_Jims_Home_Cinema/Welcome.html
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
I am enjoying the room, thanks, and so is everyone who gets a chance to see and hear it. I hope it encourages others to believe that similar projects are possible for them.

Oftentimes we see projects that are stupendous (and expensive) in nature, and we believe anything of that caliber is out of our reach, so we settle back for upgrading a component or getting new drapes and feel we've moved upscale. Or we believe our rooms are too small or not constructed as we'd like and because we can't do a "big" job that it's not worth the effort.

It is worth the effort. I realized that before I ever fired up the new speakers. The change in the room was palpable, audible, and visual. The addition of the proscenium and screenwall made a big improvement. The live end/dead end environment created by the absorbers and diffusers was transformational. The isolation of the equipment into a dedicated closet outside the room perimeter made an amazing difference. Even the painting of the front of the room, the hanging of drapes, and installation of carpet transformed an empty, hard, echoing room into an intimate cinema space.

Would I like bigger? Yep. Would I like fancier? Um, maybe, maybe not. Cuz what I really have is an amazing room with an astounding sound system that fit my budget, my house, and my talent. It's easy to be very, very happy with it.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
You know the Stephen Stills song, Love the One you're With. That's how I had to moderate my HT aspirations as far as the room was concerned. Originally I had thought I could remove a wall and have a nice 4,500 cu. ft., three level space.

Then as the contractor explored the process, we discovered that the wall in question was both load bearing and an earthquake shear wall. Hooray, California!

So then it was a matter of which room or neither room. Instead of a 30x14'6"x10'9" room (with 8'8" at the very back), now it was a choice of 14.5x14.5x10.67 or 16.5x15.5x8.67. Quick math showed 2,090 cu. ft. vs. 2,220 cu. ft., and the 2,220 cu. ft. room had the advantage of no outside entry and no stairs intruding on its space. Plus, 14.5x14.5 is a killer with room modes.

Could I really put such a big system in such a modest space? Even if I could, should I?

Thankfully, the folks at JBL Synthesis® were very helpful in bringing me back to earth. The system is designed for rooms from 1,500 cu. ft. to 16,000 cu. ft. "That's quite a range," I remarked.

"If you do the right things to the room, it'll be fine. In fact, better than fine. You will never run out of headroom, and the room will sound much bigger than it is."

You know, they were right.

As I get the chance, I'll share some of the design and build challenges and how they were met, even with my limited budget and DIY necessity.
 

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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
I had some members from AVS and Lansing Heritage over for a mini JBL event which culminated in a session in The Two Jims.

We got in about three hours of serious listening, then capped it off with grilled jumbo shrimp (garlic and olive oil), wedge salads, olive oil sauteed vegetable medley, French bread, succulent grapes, fresh strawberries, nuts, and chocolate. Oh yes, wine and beer, too.

We started with JBL 240Tis, followed by XPL160s, L100s, S/2600s, Performance Series 5.1, SVA Series 5.1, XPL200, and finally the Synthesis® One Array in the HT.

Curtis, one of the AVS guys brought a disc of especially nice music for demo and we played the same track on each system as we moved from floor to floor and room to room. It was fascinating hearing the personality of each speaker as it rendered the same piece of music.

It was a real JBL-ucation for the AVS guys, who hadn't heard any of the JBLs except for the L100s. I think they were genuinely stunned by the S/2600s, the Performance Series, and of course by the One Array--maybe even struck dumb by that experience.

They asked a lot of questions about equipment, calibration, and room design. It reminded me that I've ignored posting some of that here. So, I'll get to it.
 

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Discussion Starter #14 (Edited)
One of the first questions my guests asked when we entered the room was about how the room sounded. This was before any music had been played.

The query was along the lines of "This room sounds really good the instant you walk in. Yet, I don't see anything too fancy. What did you do to get it sounding so good?"

I commented on the front wall first. I pointed out the barely discernible 2'x4' and 2'x2' black acoustical panels lining the wall behind the screen and speakers. The panels are four inches thick in the bottom corners (bass traps), 2" thick everywhere else, except 1" thick behind the center tower behind the screen. This fundamentally deadens any possible action from the front that is not intended. Add in the insulated wall separated by an air space from the adjacent wall for no transfer, and it's very quiet and inert.

It's akin to the old "dead end" approach.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Then we talked about diffusers and their role in keeping the room controlled but alive. Due to the dipole/direct personality of the S4Ai surrounds, the direct radiators provide the location cues and the dipoles provide the spatial ambience.

The JBL tech told me exactly where diffusers were needed and when the should be supplemented with small absorbers. Since each surround fires 45° to the front, 45° to the back, and 90° into the room, the diffusers were spaced to be in the center of the 45° projections, except for the ones in the very front.

This really creates a sense of space larger than the room's modest dimensions and creates a nice dome or bubble around the listening positions. I'll attach a diagram.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Hopefully it's clear that the blue boxes represent the S4Ai surround speakers, the green ellipses are the polycylindrical diffusers, and the black arrows represent the center of the radiated sound.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Once the sound hits the diffusers, it's radiated in a wide pattern and interacts with the direct sounds coming from the surrounds' 90° (direct into the room) signals and the prominent direct sound coming from the front channels.

Here the red arrows show the direct sound and the gold arrows vaguely represent the wide diffusion off the rounded surfaces of the Steven Klein Sound Room "Saturn" polycylindircals.
 

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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
As I explained to them and you can imagine, it was quite a circus with the JBL guy telling me to put a surround here, a diffuser there, then pulling out strings and tape and rulers and levels and laser pointers and cardboard cutouts and moving all that stuff around until it all meshed. That's when I wished I could afford to just pay someone to do it. :spend: Moving a surround an inch one way or another meant everything else had to be moved, too. :paddle:

More than once I was ready to tell him I was done :hissyfit: but he kept after me until it was laid out right. Then he told me to get it all installed permanently and he'd be back in a week for inspection and possibly the calibration.

After that, and getting the carpet in, putting small absorbers underneath each surround, and bass traps in each rear corner, I had a very nice sounding room. I could hear the change every time I walked in, as could my visitors from AVS and LH.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
It helps to visualize the surrounds, JBL Synthesis® S4A1. There are actually three pairs of speakers in each surround.

In the top half there are two pairs of drivers, offset at 45° from the wall and 90° from each other. These radiate forward and backward. These pairs of 1" Ti dome and 4" paper cone drivers are in an acoustically dampend chamber.

In the bottom, there are two more drivers that radiate 90° from the wall, direct into the room. Another 1" Ti dome tweeter is paired with an 8" Al inverted come woofer for direct sound.
 

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