Demos and Prizes (… Lots of Prizes) Dominate Pacific Northwest Home Theater Meetup

With more and more high-end dealers closing shop, opportunities for real demos are drying up, leaving local meet-ups as one of the few ways for enthusiasts to demo the latest gear. So I decided to host my first Pacific Northwest Area Home Theater Meetup in my hometown of Port Orchard, WA. What started out as a gathering of a few friends turned into a massive event with nearly 50 people in attendance! Given the general scarcity of these types of events, the strong turnout is great news for the enthusiast community and hopefully a sign of more to come.

The event really started the night before when Mark Seaton of Seaton Sound came over to help fine-tune my theater room. The room—a dedicated, 21 x 16-foot space above my garage—was designed and built by my wife and I. The room has seating for six with the second row elevated on a platform designed by Auralex, which also serves as a broadband diffusor. The room is fully treated with bass traps and absorbers from GIK Acoustics and Real Traps.

I recently upgraded my subwoofers and welcomed my first pair of Seaton Submersive HP+ subs, which operate in a master/slave configuration with a 4,000-watt amp for one sub and slave plate for the other. Each cabinet features dual opposing 15-inch drivers in a sealed configuration and is designed for co-location setups (since the subs have to be treated as one), which is perfect for my setup. It also gives you the ability to buy one Submersive now and add a slave later at a much lower cost versus buying two regular Submersives. For the second part of my subwoofer upgrade I added a pair of SVS’s flagship SB-13 Ultras. These sealed designs feature the company’s best 13-inch drivers coupled with a 1,000-watt custom BASH amp. With 6,000-watts of power, four 15-inch subs and two 13-inchers, the setup can handle anything you throw at it—and do so at reference levels.

That night Mark toiled over the Anthem ARC room calibration results and fine-tuned the system for optimal crossover points and levels. Roger Dressler, formerly of Dolby Laboratories, also made it over to observe our process and offer a few tips of his own. After some head scratching with the ARC settings in my reference Anthem Statement D2V 3D surround processor, we finally had things where they needed to be.

The day of the event was a beautiful Saturday and after sending word out via several Websites we had a large number of guests confirmed from the local area and as far away as Central Oregon. I wasn’t expecting this many guests so I reached out to a few home theater manufacturers and movie studios for help with raffle prizes and received a phenomenal response. JVC donated drawstring backpacks that served as a gift bag we gave to each guest. Inside each bag were two Blu-ray discs from an assortment of titles donated by Warner Brothers, Magnolia Pictures, and Lionsgate, a stainless-steel coffee tumbler from Source Interlink, the parent company of Home Theater (now Sound & Vision) and an LED flashlight contributed by Mark Seaton. Not bad for a local meetup!

Goodie bags galore.

Home Theater and Then Some
Rather than just trying to cram everyone into my theater room I created multiple setups for people to enjoy. Downstairs we converted my daughter's playroom into a makeshift two-channel room with a pair of Paradigm Signature Reference S8 loudspeakers driven by Emotiva's XPA-1L monoblock amplifiers, an Emotiva Emotiva's XSP-1 preamp, and an Oppo BDP-105 universal Blu-ray player. The XPA-1L’s are a variation of the XPA-1 monoblocks and can produce pure Class A power up to 35 watts! The XSP-1 is Emotiva’s reference preamplifier with a fully dual differential gain stage and a phono amp. The BDP-105 has been my reference player since its introduction and filled in perfectly as the music transport. We even swapped it with the preamp for direct duty to the amps just to mix it up once in awhile.

The two-channel room, featuring Paradigm Signature Reference S8 loudspeakers and a pair of Emotiva XPA-1L monoblocks.

In my family room we had a couple things going. Sony was nice enough to lend us their latest soundbar offering, the HT-ST7, which features DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD decoding, three HDMI inputs, and Bluetooth streaming from a smartphone or tablet. The bar has nine drivers, seven discrete amps, and a wireless subwoofer. My Panasonic 65" VT50 plasma was calibrated by my long-time friend Tyler Pruitt of Bionic AV, which gave guests the chance to see the results you can achieve with the latest calibration tools. Tyler, a THX- and ISF-certified calibrator, even donated a free calibration as one of our raffle prizes.

The family room, featuring my Panasonic 65-inch VT50 plasma and Sony’s new HT-ST7 soundbar.

The Main Attraction
Without a doubt the main attraction was my theater room. I kept movie and music demos rolling throughout the day to demonstrate what can be achieved in home theater today. Just a few days earlier I had installed a brand new Legacy Audio speaker setup comprising the spectacular Focus SE towers, the Marquis HD center, and Phantom HD surrounds. This is a truly full-range audio system sporting no less than six 12-inch woofers across the front soundstage and dual 8-inch drivers in the surrounds. As good as the bass performance is, the brilliant midrange and detailed top end is the real star of the Legacy show. These are some of the most musical speakers I've ever heard and their effortless presentation was one of the biggest highlights of the day. The front soundstage was driven by a pair of newly acquired Emotiva XPR-1 thousand-watt monoblocks, while the surrounds were powered by the XPA-2, the latest addition to the popular XPA line.