written by Mike Shea on 2 May 2002
Note: My screening room has recently gone through some major modifications. My previous reference system, no longer in use, is now archived.
For six years I have been building the ideal screening from for todays film. While I have gone through a number of different components and environments, my current screening room is the most transparent vehicle for the film-maker's intent. This article will outline the components that build my current screening room.
Monitor: Mitsubishi 55819 55" 16x9 Rear Projection HDTV: I have had both CRT based and LCD based displays but none has matched the overall performance of the Mitsubishi. It has perfect color representation, excellent picture quality, a great size and a good price. It has no problems with aspect ratio switching and has enough inputs for up to three 480p or greater sources. It is the first TV I purchased that gave me no buyer's remorse. From the day I turned it on, I have been perfectly happy. A great set.
Source: Panasonic RP56 Progressive DVD Transport: With the purchase of a monitor capable of displaying a progressive signal, it was time to upgrade to a progressive player. The Panasonic RP56 had been highly reviewed as one of the best available for the price. It contains the Faroudja FLI2200 de-interlacing chip, included in a lot of high end line multiplier systems. It is an inexpensive player with great overall quality, though the usability isn't so great. It took quite a while before I realized I needed to press a progressive button on the front. A great player for the home theater nut, but not so easy for the typical American family.
Decoder / Amplifier: Yamaha DSP-A1: While not compatible with newer Dolby Digital EX and DTS ES 7.1 channel sound, the DSP-A1 has been one of the strongest pieces of my home theater for the last four years. It has plenty of power for everything but the largest speakers. It's sound quality is unsurpassed and the internal DACs never cease to amaze me. I have all but ignored all DSP modes in favor of the raw signal from the DVD and removed my two front effect channels. Though expensive at the time and though there are many capable receivers out on the market with similar features for less money, I am still very happy with my DSP-A1 integrated amplifier.
Audio Monitors: B&W 602 mains, 601 surrounds, HTM center: Good speakers are always a safe bet. I have had these five B&W speakers for five years and have loved them every minute. They cover the 70hz to 20khz frequency ranges very well, they are very pretty to look at, and the sound quality is great. They all include the ability to bi-amp or bi-wire, have very solid construction and will last a good long time before needing replacements. When purchasing speakers, make sure to think 10 years ahead. They can possibly outlast every other component.
Low Frequency Monitor: Hsu VTF-2 Subwoofer: Having moved my Energy XLS-8 subwoofer to my desktop theater, I moved in the highly respected Hsu VTF-2 subwoofer to my screening room. With a variable tuning frequency, clean bass down to 25hz, and a $500 pricetag, it is probably the best subwoofer within this range. Perfect for the mid-range theater system and an excellent sub for my setup.
Controller: Home Theater Master MX-500: After tearfully setting aside my Philips Pronto I switched over to the tactile Home Theater Master remote. This remote acts much like a standard button-based remote but with far more simplicity in normal operation and tons of expandability. For $100, it is a no brainer.
Room Treatments: RPG Profoam Level 1: Though one could argue that good carpeting, good wall hangings and plush furniture can help tame reflections within a room, the Profoam was an inexpensive way to make sure I had proper treatments at the critical points of reflection. The walls are further treated with two blankets at major reflection points. The furniture is thick, continuing to help tame reflections. Thick black drapes over blinds keep out almost all light, but nighttime is the only time it is pitch black.
Interconnects: Monster Series 3 Interconnects, MTX-1 Speaker Cables, Kimbercable 4PR Bi-amp center cable: I have gone through a lot of interconnects in my system, but the Monster series of interconnects has always made me proud to show the back of my components. They build high quality interconnects that do exactly what they are supposed to do. The new MTX main speaker cables are preterminated at 10' lengths with a new form of modular connection tip called mlock. This allows me to have banana plugs on the receiver end and angled spades on the speaker end. I use two sets of 8' Kimbercable to bi-amp my center channel speaker to the DSP-A1. Monster 16 gauge white speaker cable powers the surrounds.
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