When Paul Self refers to what came before Audio- Visions’ new Design and Technology Experience Center at its main office in Lake Forest, California, he uses the word “vignette.”
“The goal was to achieve suspension of disbelief,” said Self, who is AudioVisions’ director of marketing.
Two-and-a-half years in the making, Self and a team of specialists achieved just that. A slatetiled vestibule leads in to a 2,500-square-foot home with a well-appointed kitchen where a carafe of rosÈ and two wine glasses make it appear as if the conversation will resume momentarily. A flip of the remote in the family room changes the focus from a cozy 60-inch plasma that pops up from the floor to an eye-popping 110-inch Screen Research drop-down screen illuminated by a SIM2 DLP projector encased in one of the architectural pillars that corner the space. Spin around and you’re looking toward the game room and sports bar areas, all of which flow nicely into each other without ever losing their identities. In the home theater, AudioVisions has elegantly integrated top-tier AV technology, such as Revel’s Ultima Series Salon2 speakers and the Mark Levinson No502 Media Console.
AudioVisions’ Experience Center was designed to “evoke” the custom-home lifestyle.
Much of what imparts such authenticity to the Experience Center is the fact that creating it was pretty close to an exercise in homebuilding itself. It resides inside AudioVisions’ vast warehouse and headquarters building. After gaining parent company Best Buy’s approval to move forward (the electronics retailer acquired AudioVisions in November, 2005), Self’s team, including acclaimed interior designer Rich Starley, Martin Van Koolbergen of KGM Lighting, and acoustician and performance space designer Russ Berger, put together the vision for the Experience Center, and bit by bit it took shape on an architect’s CAD screen. One thing that Self emphasized—and Berger executed— was to shield the Center from any noise from the enveloping building.
“Russ planned for an NC-20 environment inside,” Self said.
To achieve that, Berger used a 550-pound front door specifically designed to not transmit vibrations. Walls were filled with additional insulation. The ceiling was pre-hung using Kinetics isolation springs. The Center’s ducting for the HVAC system’s 23 zones was baffled to dampen handling noise; in fact, the theater has no return registers. Instead, air is returned to the system via vented traps hidden in the toe-kick of the stage.
The Experience Center is also future-proofed to a degree. For instance, the opening in the floor that the 60-inch plasma rises out of was cut big enough to accommodate a 70-inch screen in the future. The Crestron Adagio sound system in the family room is already 7.1, (though audiophiles are already gazing longingly at 10.2).
AudioVisions’ Experience Center wasn’t designed so much to approximate the customhome lifestyle as it was to evoke it and to make the integration of technology into the home feel completely transparent. It’s something that Self says is readily achievable in anyone’s home, noting, “When you can put something like the Revel/Mark Levinson package we have in our home theater into someone’s home to maximize the performance of the systems and the space, then you’re really hitting the mark.”