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Theater Install Overcomes Challenges of 18th Century Construction, Nearby Train Noise

Building a premium home theater with perfect acoustics is challenging enough. Doing so in an 18th century heritage building, a mere 80 feet away from active train tracks, brings a whole new meaning to the world “challenge.”

Building a premium home theater with perfect acoustics is challenging enough. Doing so in an 18th century heritage building, a mere 80 feet away from active train tracks, brings a whole new meaning to the world “challenge.” High-end AV dealership, Station Earth Total Home Technologies in Fergus, Ontario, Canada specializes in high-end home theater installations and when integrator Scott Sherar got the call from an existing client in Southern Ontario with that exact mandate, he was up for the challenge.

“We faced a few challenges with this install, but the first was determining where to install the theater,” Sherar said. “The owners wanted to conserve the heritage elements of the property and 18th century construction, but also desired the addition of a home theater.” With no space in the house itself, they decided to build the theater below the garage, about 50 feet from the house. However, given the cold Ontario winters, the owners desired interior access to the theater, which meant a tunnel would need to be constructed between it and the house.

The second challenge wasn’t on the property itself, but one that presented major acoustic concerns. Approximately 80 feet from the property lies a set of active train tracks with a regular freight train schedule. To kick off the project, Station Earth brought in a team of professional acousticians and engineers who took a number of measurements when the trains went by using accelerometers. “When you’re dealing with frequencies that low, you can feel them more than you can hear them,” Sherar said.

From the beginning, the mandate for the theater was all about ultimate performance. Everything down to the very shape of the room was designed and calculated to yield the best possible acoustics. Station Earth hired Paradise Theater from Maui, HI to handle the theater’s acoustical engineering. “The level of soundproofing in this theater is truly world class,” Sherar said. “The room itself was designed for acoustical performance first with the interior design features “colored in” afterwards—a true rarity.” 

To overcome the acoustic challenges presented by the nearby trains, Station Earth and Paradise Theater decided to lift the floor. The entire theater room is floating on a four-inch slab sitting on springs with a one-inch air gap in-between. The springs and the slab are acoustically tuned to combat the resonant frequency of the trains. The room is also 100-percent isolated from the exterior room envelope. The walls were built on the floating floor slab and the ceiling is hung from the walls’ top plates. The room even has its own dedicated HVAC system connected by decoupling materials for ultimate sound isolation. 

This theater demanded meticulous detail, reaching far beyond industry standards, and the AV equipment was no exception. Station Earth turned to Pro Audio Technology for all the speakers and amplifiers in the home theater. “After everything we put into the design and construction of the home theater, there was no way we were selling ourselves and the customer short when it came to picking the right audio equipment,” Sherar said. “Not only are PRO speakers and amplifiers as good as it gets in high-end home theater, they are also high-energy and high-output, making them the perfect solution for this project.” 

Budget is typically an important factor in Station Earth’s equipment choice for home theaters, but equipment performance level is also a huge factor in their decision-making process. “When the customer asks for a system that is better than anything they’ve ever heard before, we automatically turn to PRO,” Sherar said. In this case, Station Earth brought the customer to Pro Audio Technology in Southern California to hear a demo before he made his final decision. “Having clients experience our products firsthand is an essential part of the sales process and is a major contributor to our success,” said Paul Hales, president and product designer for Pro Audio Technology. “Our dealers can explain the benefits of PRO loudspeakers and electronics, right down to the class-leading technology and advanced engineering, but honestly you have to hear it to believe it.”

When designing the room, Paradise Theater took the specifications of the intended speakers and electronics into account. Together with Station Earth, Paradise Theater built a cantilevered stage behind the screen to support the substantial SCRS-2215sm LCR loudspeakers at just the right height. To deliver the best sound quality, Station Earth and Pro Audio Technology decided on an 11.4.4-channel Dolby Atmos layout anchored by the Trinnov Alititude32 surround processor. The speaker and subwoofer models were selected and positioned strategically in order to “paint” the entire room with uniform acoustic energy. Hales even flew to Canada to calibrate the system post-install—a white-glove service included in the company’s PROCertified program available to PRO dealers to receive design and development assistance, including final system commissioning and calibration by PRO experts.

After over three years of working through the meticulous design and a multifaceted construction project, the theater install is finally complete. Considering the sheer size and complexity of the project, the construction went smoothly, including the speaker installation and post-install calibration. “The performance is definitely within the top three, maybe even at the very top, of any system we’ve ever deployed,” Hales said. “The room has very pleasant acoustics. There is nothing too live, dead, or funky about it. When you start with a perfect room and add premium equipment that has been calibrated intelligently, you are able to achieve truly remarkable sound, and that’s exactly what we did.” 

Similarly, Sherar gave full credit to Paradise Theater’s design and Pro Audio Technology’s products. “Quite honestly, I have never heard anything like it. The performance of the Pro Audio Technology system in a perfectly designed room is as good as it gets. Post-calibration, there wasn’t a single dead spot in the room, which is mind blowing really. This level of performance is only possible because of the incredible engineering of the room and exceptional AV equipment.” As for the customers, they are in home theater bliss, and their experience most certainly won’t be interrupted by any exterior noise.