Before I even had a theater, I knew I wanted one. My wife and I always enjoyed watching movies – and we were one of the first torch-bearers for Netflix (and still are). When I took a new position in another state, my wife stayed behind to seel the house, etc, while I started work and began looking for a house.
The house I found had a fully finished 14' x 23' basement with 7' finished ceiling. Bought it that day. Soon the basement was home to our 27" TV and various A/V equipment, along with exercise equipment and our now "old" couch and loveseat. Less than one year later I bought a used NEC VT540 off eBay and set it up projecting onto a bare white wall. Nice, but I could do better. So we painted the walls and ceiling a dark blue color (using American Tradition paint from Lowe's) and I picked up a nice Da-Lite perm-wall 80" 1.2 gain screen from eBay (for a cool $140!). Now we were in business. That setup lasted me about 2 years before the lack of contrast forced me to upgrade.
About the time I was considering getting a new projector, a friend saw our setup and offered to buy everything. Bingo! A chance to upgrade everything and avoid selling stuff on eBay. Sold!
What you see here is the new setup, with all new projector, receiver, speakers, and DVD player. At some point during this 2-year period, we moved the futon from the spare bedroom down to the theater and bought a nice mattress for it. I then built a platform and raised the couch up for theater seating. Visitors love this part when the see it and immediately sit back there.
I went with the Epson TW100 based on several reviews and comments. Truly an exceptional value for the price ($3600) and the contrast ratio of 800:1 allows us to see more of the blacks we've been missing the last few years. We've kept the same screen but that will probably change in the near future with a larger 92" that I will probably build myself.
The receiver is the Denon AVR-3803 with 110 watts into 7 channels with DD, DD EX, DTS, DTS ES, ProLogic II, and Neo 7.1 processing. It also up-converts composite video signals to s-video (or component – I cannot confirm this).
The DVD player is the V, Inc. Bravo D1 with DVI output. The only reason this thing exists is for the DVI output and the Epson TW100 has a compatible DVI input. It allows for (and does in fact deliver) pure digital signal from the DVD through the projector. Sometimes the results are stunning, with movies taking on an almost surreal HD quality. But most of the time the picture simply looks like that of a great progressive scan player.
HDTV is supplied by our Dish Network Model 6000 satellite receiver with the 8SVB module installed. Philly has 9 or 10 HD broadcasts now, with really only 3 or 4 being high quality. But the Epson displays them beautifully. We'll soon be upgrading to add the "enhanced HD adapter" to get HD signals directly from the satellite, too. I also listen to several of the digital quality "radio" stations from Dish. The Eurostyle techo and Hot Hits stations really highlight the subwoofers, while the classical stations can really get into the upper frequencies where the B&Ws really shine.
Speakers are numbered and varied. The anchors of the sound system are the B&W DM602 s3 2.5 way speakers in the front positions. Exceptional sound and clarity with transparent highs and pretty clean lows to about 55 Hz. The center is the matching B&W LCR600 s3. All three front speakers are bi-wired for the best possible clarity from the receiver's amps. I built stands for all of these using a much-quoted formula available everywhere on the web. My support tubes are filled with a mix of lead shot and sand and the stands have integrated spikes for further isolation.
The side surrounds are the Cambridge SoundWorks S300 multipole speaker. I prefer them in bipolar mode, though some prefer them in dipolar mode. The speaker aims to please all by integrating a switch between these and direct mode in the bottom. Clean sound and versatile.
The rear surrounds are BIC America DV52si mounted on the ceiling, aimed toward the rear listening/watching position. There are also 2 subwoofers: front is the excellent Cambridge P500 and the side/rear is the Velodyne CT100. Boom, baby!
The only "bad" part of having a fully finished ceiling is that I must run conduits (available at Home Depot and Lowe's) across the ceiling to get the connections to the projector. However, when they're painted you hardy notice them. And I'm not adventurous enough to try to wire these things above the sheetrock.
All in all we're very happy with the new system. The whole upgrade project cost about $7200. But if you include the Dish Model 6000, the 8VSB module, the cables, connectors, rack, conduit, paint, and everything from before, the whole thing would come in around $8500.
The only thing I would change would be to ask Epson to make the TW100 in black instead of white. That's the only advantage the old system had over the upgrade: the VT540 was dark gray and most folks didn't even notice it in the room. Hard to miss the white TW100 now. But the picture quality more than makes up for this one annoyance.
All in all it's an excellent setup. If you have any questions, please email me.