Featured Home Theater System: Mark in Albuquerque, NM

Mark in Albuquerque, NM

Everyone has their own unique audio journey. Our latest featured system owner, Mark from Albuquerque, NM turned an old set of old hand-me-down, outdoor speakers from his Dad and a potentially “hot” Laserdisc player from a friend into the best sounding room in his dorm. Fast forward a decade or so and now he has a home, a family and the luxury of a little more space to build out a proper home theater surround sound system. That is, until a little one came along, which forced his dual SVS subwoofers and other components into a smaller room, which was a blessing in disguise, especially after Prime Bookshelf speakers were added to the mix.

The Setup:

  • Google Chromecast
  • Logitech Squeezebox Touch (for streaming music)
  • Samsung 46" LCD (from 2009, so old!)
  • 7x2x4 2-inch thick DIY acoustic panels

Questions And Answers:

When did you first get into audio?

It’s been a long process for me. I’m 41 and went to college in the early to mid-90s. Got my first taste of surround sound in 1994 and I went in looking for a stereo receiver to plug in my CD player and the salesperson put on a laser disc from Aliens with the scene at the end where the mother alien is getting on the ship and the tail is whipping around trying to get at Ripley and the sound was just coming from all around. Needless to say, I walked out of there with a new surround sound receiver.

My speakers at that point were some outdoor speakers and hand-me-downs that my parents had given me for college. I went to school in Boulder and I think my roommate thought I was crazy for having all those speakers but it was a good starter system. My friend gave me a laserdisc player, which in hindsight, I think he stole, but there was a place where you could rent Laserdiscs in Boulder so that was pretty cool to have available.

How did you decide on Prime Bookshelf Speakers and dual SB-2000 subwoofers?

I bought the dual SB-2000 subwoofers about a year before the Prime Bookshelf speakers. I had a JBL system that got upgraded and was running some B&W tower speakers and the JBL subwoofer died and started researching new subs, and SVS got such rave reviews and user comments on AVS Forum, and with the 45-day return policy, I figured I might as well give it a shot. At that point I started doing some research and learning about why dual subwoofers were better, and I convinced my wife it was a good idea, and then we went with the dual SB-2000s which really filled up the room and house with bass.

Life came along a few months later and I ended up moving all the home theater equipment out of the living room and into a smaller, enclosed room. And it actually ended up being a good thing. I knew my B&W towers would be too much for the room physically and acoustically, especially sitting six feet from the screen. I always wanted to have three identical speakers in the front because I’ve read it has advantages over a horizontally designed center.

I had actually been listening to the AVRant podcast for quite a while and they had nothing but good things to say about the Prime speakers. Plus, I knew after owning the subwoofers that if the speakers were even half as good, I’d be happy. I picked up three of the Prime Bookshelf speakers and it’s been great, even beyond what I expected. Of course, I’m curious to know how the SVS Ultra Bookshelf speakers would sound now.

What impact have the speakers and subwoofer had on the performance of your system?

After we moved everything downstairs, I’ve never been happier with the how the system sounds. Adding the acoustic panels helped out a lot, but just transparency of the speakers is so much greater. I’m a musician, and I listen to a lot of classical music, and I can hear the differences in older vs. newer recordings. Some of them are from the 50’s and transferred to CD and I feel like now I’m hearing the pure recordings rendered by the Prime Speakers, where before I was hearing the B&W speakers more. If that makes sense.

What impact have the dual subwoofers had?

It’s been a bit of a journey getting them set up exactly to my liking. At first, in the big room, I had them up front behind the left and right front tower speakers. I ran Audyssey in the big room to level match and EQ the subs, but it wasn’t until I was in the smaller room before I really did some a more detailed set-up. I got my old Radioshack SPL meter out and ran some more test tones to make sure I was getting a flat frequency response instead of blindly trusting the Audyssey. Going from the single JBl which was on the verge of exploding to the dual SB-2000s just dramatically changed the system. And then the tweaking I’ve done in the smaller room took it to a whole different level.

I remember watching Interstellar, which just has some crazy bass, and my parents were visiting and the whole house was shaking and they were just like, “What is happening!” But in my experience, it’s not hard to get a subwoofer to shake the house, it’s getting it to integrate well for playing music that’s more challenging. I didn’t really understand how subwoofers work until I got the SB-2000s. I just thought, it produces bass and didn’t really think about placement or how set-up might affect the sound. But having the two SB-2000s in the smaller room was an eye-opener made such a difference because I never really knew what pressurizing a room with bass felt like until I had the two SB-2000s working in the smaller room.

What are some of your favorite scenes for demoing the audio in your home theater?

For a long time, my go to demo was Bolt. The opening sequence where they’re fighting bad people is pretty awesome. There’s a couple bass drops during the intro that just really hit hard and there’s explosions and tons of surround action that draws you in.

Also, the launch scene from Apollo 13 – that gets the floors rumbling a little bit. One of the early scenes from the first Pirates of the Caribbean when the Black Pearl first comes to the island and they kidnap Keira Knightley and it’s just a great overall movie scene. There’s also a moment at the beginning Pirates, when she falls off the castle wall and falls into the water and the gold medallion reacts to the water and sends off a bass pulse that I never noticed before I had the subwoofers. It was just one of those subtle audio moments you would never heard without a subwoofer.

For music, there’s one CD that has really great bass and is a great sonic test of any system – Rite of Spring with the Cleveland Orchestra from the early 80s and there’s some serious bass drum hits that are recorded very well and it’ll test the limits of any system.

Any tips for setting up a home theater in a smaller sized room?

I would really encourage people to look into acoustic treatments and panels. It made a huge difference and allowed me to really hear the speakers for what they are and not the room reverberations. There’s some great resources on the AVS forum and Real Traps website, as well as Youtube on how to create them. After adding them, it showed the extreme value of products like the Prime Bookshelf speakers. We’ve all been told you need to spend thousands of dollars to get great sounding speakers, but you might not even be hearing the speakers true output if the room is not treated properly.

Anything else you’d like to share w/ the SVS community?

I was really surprised by how much fun it is to have a small dedicated room versus a living room set-up. If you’ve never thought about having a smaller room system, it can be a great experience, especially if you have speakers with excellent transparency and set the room up correctly. I’ve never been happier with my system.

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Jul 19, 2019