Missouri Integration Firm Provides a Client with the Home Theater That He Always Wanted
This client, for whom Elite had done previous work, had owned several nice entertainment systems but never a fully automated home or a dedicated theater, which is the gem of this $500,000-plus installation.
Some of life’s best gifts arrive later than others.
When a retired physician in the St. Louis area built a 5,000-square-foot custom home in an upscale golf community, he knew he wanted a dedicated theater to feed his passion for classical music, opera, and film. Jeff Erickson, president of Elite Enterprises Inc. in St. Peters, Missouri, obliged and then some.
Elite Enterprises is a smaller, 22-year old company serving the St. Louis metro area with a background in big-time commercial AV integration projects, according to Erickson, a self-described “gadget nerd” who is into A/V test and measurement gear.
This client, for whom Elite had done previous work, had owned several nice entertainment systems but never a fully automated home or a dedicated theater, which is the gem of this $500,000- plus installation.
The theater’s constant-height video projection system combines a Digital Projection Titan with anamorphic lens, Lumagen video processor, and a Stewart CineCurve screen with masking.
In addition to its 13-seat theater the home also includes a complete Crestron automation system (TPMC-8X touchpanels and Cameo keypads controlling lights, HVAC, security, intercom, and A/V). Theater sound features a Bag End speaker system (11 MM-8H mid-field studio monitors, three S12E-I subs, three D18E-I subs, and two ETrap electronic bass traps) with audio processing and amplification by Lexicon, Crown, and BSS Soundweb. The constant-height video projection system combines a Digital Projection Titan with anamorphic lens, Lumagen video processor, and a Stewart CineCurve screen with masking.
Working Closely with the Builder
“Structural changes had to be made to accommodate the theater space we wanted,” Erickson said. “The theater is in the basement and required a deeper dig by the builder for the stadium-style seating. We had to work closely with the builder and architect to make sure the construction requirements for this room were properly implemented.”
Elite has used Bag End loudspeakers for years in commercial work and in some residential jobs, according to Erickson. He says that he found the MM-8H studio monitor to have a consistent coverage pattern and very appealing sound with high-output capability.
“We needed compact boxes because we were limited up front by the large screen size verses the available wall area (we did not want to use a perforated screen),” he said. “Plus, we wanted to use the same speaker for LCR and surround. Most small boxes can’t meet the criteria we established for this project.”
Using Bag End’s E-Trap for the first time, Erickson said, enabled him to reduce the theater’s most egregious resonant peaks without committing a significant portion of the room to bass traps. “Dealing with the lower end of the audio spectrum is always one of the most difficult challenges in small rooms,” he said. “Many people resort to heavy-handed EQ to correct this problem, but the real problem is not the speaker response, it’s the room. With the E-Trap, we knocked out some nasty problems in the room, leaving the speakers alone. We will definitely use these again.”
Keeping Aesthetics in Mind
The 13-seat home theater features a Bag End speaker system (11 MM-8H mid-field studio monitors, three S12E-I subs, three D18E-I subs, and two E-Trap, electronic bass traps) with audio processing and amplification by Lexicon, Crown, and BSS Soundweb.
Elite’s customized design for the theater included the appearance and location of acoustical panels and columns, resulting in a sophisticated room with dark wood with a modern flair.
“Jeff handled a difficult juggling act, incorporating effective acoustic treatment and cosmetics into a good product mix,” said Bag End president Jim Wischmeyer. “This was his chance to install a professional Bag End speaker system into a home theater. When you design a room like this, either residential or commercial, so often there are ‘cosmetic police’ making it hard for A/V people to do the best job. The trick is combining the art with the acoustics so that there is little or no trade-off in performance. Jeff did a nice job of working with everyone to ensure that the room met and exceeded the client’s rather high expectations.”
To round out the client’s wishes for a true theatrical experience, Elite installed the DPI video projector and the Stewart screen. “Because the screen was over 11 feet wide, we needed a three-chip projector with some horsepower,” Erickson said. “DPI products provide stunning results.”
Currently, Elite’s residential work accounts for 60 to 70 percent of its revenue. “An important change for me was adjusting my thinking from large-room acoustics and live sound reinforcement to that of small residential spaces with playback systems,” Erickson explained. “The goals are still great sound and video, but you are dealing with a different set of challenges and expectations that you don’t encounter in large public areas.”
Erickson said that retaining full control is essential to a design-build company like Elite. “In a lot of bid work, you can end up with an unhappy client due to no fault of your own, because the original design was bad,” he said. “We prefer to work directly with the client. We want the person who will be sitting in the room to be part of the design process. We want to impart our enthusiasm.”
The satisfaction, Erickson believes, comes in the direct response from the client, which you don’t always get when working in a public facility. “I always try first to establish who the client is,” he said. “Everyone has different priorities and different lifestyles. You have to get into a client’s head because their perceptions of technology versus the reality sometimes differ, and it’s up to you to close that gap. Compromises have to be made in every project. The key is to remember that you need to manage the customer’s expectations as well as the project.”
Bag End Is On Both Sides Now
Visit Bag End online to learn more about the brand’s commercial/residential crossover potential.
Bag End is highly regarded for its professional product line, widely used in houses of worship, nightclubs, recording studios, and film production. But the company has been dabbling in the residential market for years, according to its president Jim Wischmeyer.
In the mid-1990s, Bag End introduced its IN FRASU B self-powered subwoofer system with RCA connectors, aimed at the residential channel. “We sold hundreds and got high reviews,” Wischmeyer said. “That really put us into the residential market, but we’re small, and we didn’t have the impact of mass production. Subwoofers were just starting to come on, and our system was pricey, starting at about $1,500.”
The dabbling has grown over then years, though residential still only represents five percent of Bag End’s business.
“We’ve all taken our lumps with the economic downturn,” Wischmeyer explained, “so crossing over into other compatible markets is important to us. A lot of residential contractors do the occasional commercial job, and that’s where we’re a good find to supply both markets as well as to provide some expertise.”
Bag End devotes a page in its price guide for residential systems, and has re-packaged recording studio products as home theater systems.
“Clearly, residential is a much bigger market,” Wischmeyer concluded, “but I don’t think there’s a silver bullet for increasing it. I’ve never been one to bet the farm.”
Elite’s Commercial Crossover
There’s been a lot of talk about CEDIA ESCs crossing over to light commercial work, but Elite Enterprises actually came from the other direction, having added the residential segment to its pro division more than 10 years ago.
“I started on the pro/ commercial side doing clubs and small church jobs,” said company president Jeff Erickson. “From there we grew into larger sound reinforcement and mixed A/V projects for clients that included many churches, colleges, the St. Louis Gateway Arch, the St. Louis Zoo, and a local minor league baseball park.”
At first, residential work was a hobby for Elite, but with the advent of HDTV and given what he saw in the burgeoning home automation realm, Erickson’s interest peaked, and Elite Home Systems was born.
“I liked the idea of working directly with the sole decisionmaker/ check writer, verses dealing with committees or company employees who were spending other people’s money,” he explained. “And it looked like residential had some good profit potential. I started to get a feel for where our niche was. We bring a lot to the table, due in part to my background in acoustics and systems design.”