The invisible sound

When working with modern homes, clean sight lines and uncluttered spaces are of utmost importance. In this Southern California home, the family wanted great sound, while keeping their home’s décor as pristine as possible. Magnolia Senior System Designer Brian Chan had a few tricks up his sleeve to give this family the impressive sound they wanted, with a nearly invisible look the homeowner found equally as impressive.

A great room to entertain

With high ceilings, incredible art and a giant couch fit for all, the only thing this great room needed was – well, entertainment. But as important as it was to bring in the finest audio and video, it was equally important that the room be the focal point, not the technology. To help look at this space and discover what might be possible, Brian Chan, along with Project Manager Shawn Reed, did an onsite walkthrough of the home, designing and engineering a system that was big and robust on audio and video, yet subtle in design.

But subtly has its challenges, especially when you’re dealing with such a large room with existing features that were equally as large. “The biggest hurdle,” Brian told us, “was the fireplace. It puts out 50,000 BTUs, so the manufacturer recommended 6 feet of non-combustible space above it.” With an 85" TV to be mounted over it, six feet would leave your neck craning to the sky. To fix this issue, the homeowner put in a custom deflector that pushes the heat away from the TV, allowing Magnolia to mount the TV in the perfect spot.

For sound, big bulky speakers were never an option, as it didn’t fit the home’s, or the homeowners’, design needs. So it was important to find the right architectural speakers to deliver the big amazing sound the family wanted. Looking at the space, in-wall speakers would go on either side of the fireplace while four in-ceiling speakers would be used for the sides and rears. But one issue still remained: where to put the center channel speaker? With the fireplace and heat deflector taking up the ideal spot for a center, Brian turned to a bit of audio magic to bring the center channel sound to life. “I talked to David Baker, my connection at Bowers & Wilkins, and he suggested we do a phantom center.” By choosing the correct two side speakers, and placing them correctly on the wall, they would fool the ear into thinking a center channel existed. And the sound? Let’s just say you’d spend days looking for a center speaker if you didn’t know Magnolia had performed this little trick. Then Magnolia made the sub disappear by installing a Bowers & Wilkins subwoofer into the wall that uses only a small port to deliver the bass.

One last amazing aspect to this space is that it’s Dolby Atmos® enabled. By choosing a Marantz Dolby Atmos receiver, when the family wants to watch Dolby Atmos compatible movies, the receiver will automatically adjust the sound to the 360° all-around-you sound of Atmos. The fronts, sub and ceiling-mounted rear speakers provide the surround sound, while the two ceiling-mounted mid speakers delivering the above-you sound of Dolby Atmos.

“We wanted our music by the pool without bothering our neighbors. This system really accomplishes that.”

Personal space, personal sound

As the homeowner told us, “We are a very social family, yet we all want our chill time.” So Magnolia helped family and guests relax in their own space by installing Samsung TVs with Sonos PlayBars in the two guest bedrooms. Now they can have their own individual entertainment – whether it’s music or Satellite or Apple TV. They can close the door and do what they want. Magnolia also installed this setup in the kitchen so the family can enjoy music and sound when gathering-time moves into the kitchen – which it often does.

For control, Brian chose a Control4 home automation system. Because this is the couple’s vacation home, having a home automation system that was easy enough for any of their guests to use was important. Control4 gives them that while also allowing them to monitor the house while away.

A system with the right personality

As understated as this system may be, it fits perfectly with the personality of this house and the homeowners within. Less of a big screaming shout, more of a reserved golf clap, this house is ready to deliver the big roar when called upon.

“The uniqueness of this job is that everything has been integrated in such a modern fashion,” Shawn told us. “We tried to keep things as hidden as possible. A lot of people are more in your face with their electronics, but this house is much more subdued. You don’t see the pop and the flash, but it’s all there, it’s just understated. That’s the homeowner to a tee, he’s sophisticated yet understated; it emulates his style and personality perfectly.”

“Working with Brian and Shawn we got the right balance of the quality we wanted in the equipment and the subtlety we wanted in the design.”

The magicians behind this projectBrian Chan: Senior System Designer
Shawn Reed: Magnolia Project Manager
Napoleon Jackson: Installer (Not pictured.)

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