Tip # 39:
So you are going to do it right this time. You have all the cool gear picked out, TV, Surround system, all the latest gear. Now you want to design the enclosure for it. If this is going to really finish off the new system it should be designed just right. You probably have an idea of the type of finish, and where it will go, so the actual mechanical aspect of designing the wall unit and having it built are all that stands between you and the full Monty.
We have helped to design and build many wall units over the years, and maybe we can help to make your new creation all that you envision. Feel free to rob what works for you and modify what doesn’t. So without further buildup, let’s set out the basics.
The best designs end up with the TV in the center of the unit. Hopefully a fireplace or window doesn’t modify this basic tenant, but if it does, try to get as close as possible. Locate the main speaker locations, if they are to be incorporated, as wide as possible. This will offer the largest sound field and the least likelihood of affecting a tube type TV with their magnetic field. The gear and accessory racks are usually located between the TV and speaker locations. If space does not permit this, locate the gear and speakers in a single rack area. The center channel is located above the TV, and may or may not sit on a shelf; it’s up to you. The subwoofer location (s) are under the gear racks or the speaker locations if space permits. Let’s use this best scenario basic design to talk about the nuts and bolts.
When designing the TV space, if you are going with a TV you will eventually replace, make the opening large enough to accommodate the largest TV you would purchase for the space. Adding a frame insert can reduce the visual size of the space; velcrow’d in place that masks off the unused area around the smaller set. The largest rear projection TV’s, currently available, have maximum dimensions around 64″w X 70″ h X 28″ d. Locate power in the center of the opening rear wall.
In order to give maximum flexibility the equipment racks should have shelves 24″x24″ and be adjustable for height. If there is an unfinished room directly behind the wall unit, removable panels at the rear of the gear locations in the wall make hook up a breeze. If you choose this option, a switched light for hook up illumination is a great touch. If not, rather than drilling holes in the rear of each shelf for wire runs, cut 2-3 inch relief channels across the back of each shelf. If your support system requires the rear outside edge for support, make sure you leave enough to handle the weight on each side, three inches is usually enough. This will give you a much easier time when running cables, and allow you to run the shortest possible lengths.
A very nice clean option for running all the external cables into the wall unit is to use jack plates. They are available in all types of configurations (speaker, sub, cable, etc) and look much nicer than a bundle of cables exiting a hole. Painting the rear wall black will help to hide the wires from sight, too.
Don’t forget power. Power plugs located near the bottom of each rack, and not behind the receiver location (that’s where all the other wires are going, and is the biggest traffic jam in the rack) are best. Locating a small light above the rack, is a very nice touch too. It can be designed to come on when the door is opened, or switched on with a discrete switch, giving you the ability to actually read the writing over all of the buttons on your cool new gear. When deciding on how many power outlets are needed remember, you can never have too much power!
In the subwoofer cavity, isolated boxes a minimum of 24″ square are required. Many subs require one of these dimensions to be even larger, so make sure you know the size of your subwoofer. If the sub can sit directly on the floor, standing free of the stand, there is less chance of it resonating the entire cabinet. Lining the enclosure with ½ inch felt is also a good idea to damp down resonance. Don’t forget a power outlet here too!
If you would like to hide all the gear behind solid doors, that can be easily accomplished by running an IR repeater. This will allow full remote control of your components without having to open the doors. If you chose this option, talk to us on what your system will need. IR repeaters are system dependent as far as the individual items needed to run any particular system. Make sure the doors are on self-closing hinges as well with rubber bumpers to stop vibration.
All of the main speakers can be framed into the cabinet in the same fashion as a smaller TV. You can also build grilles to cover the entire opening of the speaker enclosures to give a more finished look. Speaker grille cloth is referred to as acoustically transparent cloth in the trade, and any good fabric store will have it available in the color of your choice. Just buy the color you want, bake a frame that fills the opening and stretch and staple the cloth in place. Voila!
Well, those are the basics! Just add wood and stir. You probably have a couple of ideas we haven’t touched on, and hopefully we have given you some too. Remember, your theatre wall will be a lasting asset in your home, so do it right, and be happy! Good luck!