How They Did It: The KA Theater

Ed Wenck | Jul 01, 2021


Audio Images is on quite a run.

The Southern-California-based integrator has taken Global CEDIA Awards for the last three years, winning top honors for media rooms that they entered in 2018 and 2019, and Best Home Cinema accolades for this stunner. The project – a remodel of an existing theater after the home had been damaged by a flood – was referred to Audio Images by the general contractor, and included a pretty big challenge: One wall was essentially dedicated to a hidden bank vault.

 Audio Images’ Mark Ontiveros explains, “The homeowner had already contracted the bank door vault as well as a motorized ‘van door’ that was to slide in front of the bank vault door to allow access to it, so we had to work with those vendors (especially the maker of the motorized sliding door apparatus), and the acoustical engineering company, as well as the finish carpenter and the wall fabric contractor to achieve the end results that we got. It was by far the most difficult aspect of the room. We still achieved proper speaker placement as well as acoustic treatment placement.” Those results were accomplished with the help of legendary audio expert Anthony Grimani of PMI Engineering– complete with Grimani Systems Delta Active DSP speakers across the front.

The shell of the space was a bit too long, according to Ontiveros. “The footprint of the room stayed basically the same, except the screen wall got pushed closer to the viewers so as to allow for the room’s air conditioning unit and existing home runs for all of the wiring that existed previously. That unit backs up to a new sound-isolated wall that is located behind the front LCR speakers and the screen, and can be disassembled in a relatively short time frame for annual service of the unit. The soffits that existed around the room were also modified in order to gain some feeling of additional height and open up the room.”


It’s Quiet

The noise floor is excellent: NC 20, so essentially silent when everything’s shut down. When the 11.4.4 system’s fired up, however, the results are best described as “startling” – especially when it comes to Grimani’s tuning of the bass in this room. Ontiveros notes that a showing of Saving Private Ryan, for example, delivers a kind of “shock and awe” experience that left the client speechless. As for keeping that sound in, Ontiveros says, “The room is located in the bottom level of the home, adjoining the garage and a hallway as well as concrete on the side of the left wall where the bank vault door is. We had to use a mixed bag of sound isolation types, but in the end, the resilient structures of the walls, ceilings, and even the floor build-up keeps the room isolated from the rest of the house very well.” A mix of diffusion and absorption treatments, plus turning the riser for the chairs into a bass trap (or Helmholtz radiator) rounds out the audio solutions.

The display package overcomes any issues that might have been presented by the interior designer’s choice of fairly light-colored walls. “We went with a Barco due to its overall brightness and picture quality, but the model we chose specifically was due to its 120Hz refresh rate for video gaming,” says Ontiveros. The deets were laid out in Audio Images’ awards entry: “The video system comprises an acoustically transparent 138-inch-wide, wall-to-wall screen that spans the entire available width of the room at a 1.78:1 ratio, along with a Barco Wodan HDX-4K projector. Full-field calibrated white output comes in at an eye-popping 173 Foot Lamberts, with 1,400:1 contrast ratio. Properly sized riser platforms ensure unobstructed sight lines and comfortable viewing at all seats for everyone’s enjoyment.”


A Win for the Racks

Originally, all the gear had been placed in another location (essentially now at the front of the theater) prior to the flood damage, but the homeowners wanted to reclaim that space for a hallway to an addition to the home. “The area for the racks and the power systems was a no-brainer, as there used to be some storage cabinets in the garage that were not really getting used for anything serious,” notes Ontiveros.

Folding glass doors that front the space and the ability to simply slide the racks in and out for service and upgrades make the equipment space special, but Ontiveros notes that, “The piece de resistance was the blue LED lighting that glows in the space.” The Audio Images team matched that light to the color used in the branding of the company that the client owns.

An award-winning rack setup is labor intensive, of course. “The amount of time is over the top, something like 400-plus hours -- relocating the home’s existing AV head literally took a mile of wire just to do the extensions, and the terminations were at least a week’s work for two techs,” says Ontiveros.

The final piece of the puzzle? “The power is horrible in that particular area of the county, so it was super critical that we add the RoseWater SB20 for power conditioning, surge suppression and backup system to the mix, and that is just for the ‘technical power loads.’

“The ‘dirty power’ -- or loads that have motors (such as a refrigerator, the small wine cellar chiller, a garage freezer, and so on) -- were put on a separate UPS from SurgeX. We also put everything on a series of smart relays to allow us to do remote reboots and other power management to keep everything running all of the time, even in a power outage.”

The judges were beside themselves. Comments included: “This is exceptional work – this is a great example of a reference-grade theater — documentation and racks are first rate — power management is superb — I’ll take it!”

To see a complete equipment list for the KA Theater, check out the CEDIA Awards site here and here.

Audio Images


CEDIA Member since 1995


Best Home Cinema, Global

Best Home Cinema, Americas, Level III

Best Dressed Racks, Americas