Featured Home Theater System: Martin J. from Milton Keynes, UK
Martin in Milton Keynes, UK
With 30+ years of audio video knowledge under his belt, SVS featured home theater owner Martin from the UK has never stopped refining his immersive cinematic experiences at home. After upgrading to a mix of SVS Ultra and Prime speakers, along with an SB-4000 subwoofer and adding room treatments, he reached the apex of performance through a 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos/DTS-X surround system with sound so real and impactful, it’s unnerving. Now, he’s hearing things like never before, in the best way possible.
- SVS SB-4000 subwoofer
- SVS Ultra Center Speaker
- SVS Ultra Bookshelf Speakers (Fronts)
- SVS Prime Bookshelf Speakers (Rears)
- SVS Prime Bookshelf Speakers (Surround Back)
- Yamaha NSIC800 In-Ceiling Speakers (Atmos)
- Handmade speaker stands for centre, fronts and rears
- Denon X4300 Dolby Atmos/ DTSX amp
- Denon POA T10 power amp
- Panasonic DP-UB820EB 4K player
- Optoma UHD65 projector
- Sapphire 122 inch 16:9 screen
- QED silver anniversary XT speaker cable (for all speakers)
- QED Performance subwoofer cable
- 3 bass traps
- 9 acoustic panels (600mm X 1200mm)
Questions And Answers:
When/Why did you first start getting into high performance audio and home theater?
I started young. Probably about 16 years of age with a 14inch colour TV, a Jamo centre, some smaller front and surround speakers and a Pioneer Dolby pro logic amp. I watched all the great and the good on VHS and was drawn into the world of home theatre quickly. I enjoyed reading up on the subject and seeing just where it could take me. My dream was always to have my own system, in its own dedicated room.
At the start though, it was my bedroom. But I still considered the treatment of the room and on advice collected from Home Cinema Choice magazine, I hung two large rugs on the walls. The room was small though and with the upgrade bug that soon kicked in, I went for larger speakers, Mission floorstanders. I then attended a show a local store put on and won a new amp in a raffle. This meant that I no longer lived in the pro logic world but now entered what was then called AC3 or Dolby digital 5.1. I upgraded the speakers and added a better sub the REL QBASS. The screen got bigger and over a number of years, although I was without a dedicated room, I still went 32 inch widescreen, then 92 inch screen (with a 720 projector), then 102 inch with a Sanyo 1080P projector.
When I recently moved with my partner to a new home, she wanted the speakers out of the front room so I managed to negotiate a room I could turn into my own home theatre. It took time to research how to do it, get advice from those who had already done it and budget for what I really wanted. The room was painted a dark shade of grey.
My B&W M1s and my B&W PV1 subwoofer were doing a great job but one day I invited a friend around who questioned how low the sub was going. This obviously niggled at me and having done even more research, I updated the sub to the SB-4000.
What was the impact of adding the SB-4000 subwoofer?
Phenomenal to put it bluntly. I have gone from a 40W REL QBASS, to a 150W B&W AS2 sub, to a 500W B&W PV1 (the one my friend said was a little lackluster). So I wanted impact. I wanted power. I wanted to feel the bass and really experience it, rather than just hearing it. I am a member of a number of Facebook groups associated with Atmos and home theatre and SVS subs came very, very highly recommended. I asked for advice and got it from people who had very simple but elegant set-ups, to those with monsters of power in their living room! I discussed options with people from all around the world, including the support teams at SVS.
I wanted to push as far as I could go and budget was important as well as size. I could not quite afford the PB-4000 and it was slightly too big for my room.
Why is bass important to your listening experience?
I watch a wide range of films. Many of these have, especially recently, tried to up their game in terms of the soundtrack and the experience of the listener. I am always keen to watch a good film, but ideally, I want to be engulfed in sound and bass is a key aspect of feeling that. I want an explosion to sound and feel like one. I want a car door to sound like one and I want thunder to sound exactly like, well, thunder. I needed a sub that I felt could do that and the SB4000 was my choice.
How was your experience blending the Prime and Ultra Speakers? Can you comment on the soundstage, dynamics, overall audio experience of your 7.1.4?
Having spoken to the people at SVS, there was no doubt that the Ultra speakers and the Primes would blend together. There was no concern there. Upfront, I simply wanted the best speakers I could afford. I thought about the Prime Tower speakers and the Prime centre but so many people were positive about them, but encouraged me to consider the next step up. At the end of the day, you want the impact, the power etc but you also want the quality.
The 7.1.4 set up is all about the experience. I wanted to believe I was there, and it worked. It is absolutely true that the Dolby and DTS formats surround you with sound but to be cocooned in it, you need to go further. I spent some time on the distances, the angles, the heights and the treatment of the room. This gave me the real sense of dynamics in the room from the high highs to the very low lows. I listen to films with Atmos and experience objects falling behind me, above me. I hear people (and sometimes animals) walking around in the room above me. I hear sounds away from the speakers, object based. It is sometimes unnerving but it is truly sensational at times.
The soundstage, even though my room is only 6.5m by 3.5m, is huge. It really opens out the sense of where you are. If you want to feel enclosed, it will do that, if you want to feel in the wide open landscapes, it will do that too. The SVS sub and speakers absolutely convey that. I have no trouble hearing new and exciting things in films I have seen a hundred times compared to my old speakers.
What benefits did you get from using acoustic room treatments?
When I cleared the room to set up the dedicated theatre, there were a lot of large blank walls. I noticed straight away that echo was a problem. Again, I did my research on acoustic panels, where they should be placed and what their actual job was. The sound shouldn’t be dead in the room, there should still be some echo but with the panels, I can control it. Rugs on the floor also helped and objects at the back of the room stopped reflection. Bass traps were also added to help tighten what I was hearing and these too helped.
Tell us about your custom stands.
I wanted the speakers to be in exactly the right place. I did quite a bit of measuring and found that shop bought speaker stands were either too short, too tall or ridiculously expensive for what I wanted. So, I bought some MDF, sleepers, and skirting board. Sprayed the skirting and MDF and stained and varnished the sleepers. It meant that I could really be quite technical with the speaker placement and not simply put them roughly where I wanted.
The Ultra centre is angled towards my listening position, the fronts are at my ear level and the rears are slightly above ear level.
What was the biggest challenge when setting up your system? How did you overcome it?
Having to stop, wait and collect all the information. I knew I couldn’t just rush into it. I had to do my research based on my budget. I was seeing systems costing £100K and above, aspirational set ups but I was able to look at them, take inspiration and ask questions. I didn’t sulk and become jealous of what they had, I thought about how their set ups could inspire my own.
So the biggest challenge was to do it properly and was about knowing it would take time to do it right.
What are some of your favorite music and movies for really pushing your system?
I’m not really a music fan so don’t play much through my system but to really show it off, on the DTS 2016 demo disc, Cymatics in DTS-X is stunning. Everything about it screams the impact the format can have.
Film wise, I currently love Godzilla King of Monsters for the tremendous BASS. The SB-4000 lapped it up. A Quiet Place is wonderful for the Atmos effects as is Gravity, Diamond Luxe edition. The Matrix is a wonderful new Atmos track where even from the opening titles, you know you are in for something great. I find the Dark Knight and the Dark Knight Rises, even in 5.1, are a real subwoofer test.
Why is having a high-performance home theater important to you?
I enjoy going to cinema as many do, but I find too many distractions can take the enjoyment away. I often wait for the release of a new film on 4K as I know my enjoyment at home won’t be spoiled. I have tweaked the system with a sound Level metre and pushed it to reference level so I know I am getting the best I can for now.
My dream would be to add a second SB-4000. As a teacher, I have always been mindful of budget so this is something on the wish list. I have to wait for a permanent post to come up before I can treat myself again!
As I have mentioned, I want to experience the sound (and picture) as best I can. I want to be immersed in sound and want to believe I am in the film. I think that Atmos and DTSX, via my SVS speakers, does that.
Anything else you’d like to share with the SVS community?
It takes time to build exactly what you want. It has taken me over 30 years to get to where I am now but boy has it been a great experience. I have loved seeing my hobby grow into something I love to share, but also love to keep to myself. I smile, a lot, when I am watching films now and shake my head at the impact the SVS speakers and subwoofer has to my enjoyment. I demo films all the time, play a scene from this film and that film. I ask my son if he was kept up the night before with all the bangs, crashes and explosions. If he says no, I joke that I will have to turn it up! (He is a heavy sleeper and even though I can rattle his radiator, he sleeps through it like a baby!)
Above all, look at other’s set ups and read up about the work they did to create their theatre. Never put your own set up down because it isn’t the biggest or the loudest. If you enjoy watching films on it, if you feel transported to another galaxy, or into an explosion and it puts a smile on your face, it is spot on.
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