Inside look at Cornflake's Meyer Sound home cinema upgrade
Nestled in the heart of London, on the outskirts of the city’s West End, is Cornflake’s 4,000 sq ft “Smart APPartment” experience centre. Continually upgraded by the home technologists to showcase the latest in lighting, automation and sound, the designer-styled showroom’s latest £250,000 upgrade is a 4K home cinema with 360-degree sound.
Located off Tottenham Court Road in Fitzrovia, Cornflake’s home technology experience centre stands out among a row of restaurants, homes and hotels in the vicinity – signposted simply by a sign reading “The Art of Technology, Realised.” Now the integrator has further differentiated itself with its latest cinema upgrade – the UK’s first residential project with a Meyer Sound system.
“Previously, we had a HD cinema in here – 7.1 and it was good, and we sold lots of them. Everyone that came in thought it was very impressive and a fantastic cinema,” recalls Cornflake’s director and owner Gary Lewis.
“The thing is, now a lot of clients have seen more, they’ve got lots of friends with the best equipment and are also on their second or third generation property and have cinemas all over the world. Therefore we’ve had to up our game, as now trying to impress clients is getting harder and harder. And they always want more.”
When designing the system, Cornflake weighed up the pros and cons of where they could place it on price scale, and how best to show value for money to its London clientele, eventually opting for the £250,000 bracket. “It’s important to remember is in London, the value per square foot is up to £5,000+ in some areas.”
He continues, “Now £5,000 per square foot is an awful lot of real estate to give away to a room. If they give us a space like this, and we put in a basic surround sound system and a basic projector, it wouldn’t equate to even near the furniture they’d used to fill the rest of their rooms. They are willing to pay for, and want it to be the best there is.”
Realising one of the first Meyer Sound installations
The first European residential projects incorporating Meyer Sound have recently started to appear following the manufacturer's announcement that it would move into the domestic market last year.
“It’s a great time for them to break in to the residential market because we’re all selling lots more speakers than we ever used to because of the 3D surround set-up,” says Lewis. Although a deal being struck back at CEDIA 2015 with Lewis had to play the waiting game in putting all the final pieces of the installation together to offer an experience that was really going to impress the company’s clientele.
“We had to do some waiting to complete this project. I did the deal with Meyer at CEDIA a year and half ago, but then we were stuck on the projector. We looked at a lot of companies, and almost did a deal with Barco. And then we were waiting for JVC to release their laser model.”
For Meyer Sound, they believe their loudspeakers can truly envelop the viewer in whatever they may be watching; “The viewer really shouldn't be thinking whether a sound is coming from an overhead loudspeaker or from a side wall,” said Andy Willcox, global sales manager for residential markets at Meyer Sound.
"With digital soundtracks freed from the limitations of analog reproduction, it is possible to create heightened experiences in a scalable personal environment. We are very excited to be working with CEDIA-approved cinema designers, such as Cornflake, to spread our pro expertise to a wider residential audience.”
The 10-seat cinema, measuring 3.6m x 5.7m (12ft x 18ft), officially opened its doors on 23 February, 2017. A careful marriage of THX 4K display digital projection, a floor-to-ceiling multiway auto-masking screen and Dolby Atmos 360-degree sound creates what is a very impressive cinema-going experience, whether enjoying an acoustic music concert or an energetic battle scene.
The £120,000 speaker set up comprises of nine HMS-5 speakers placed in the walls and ceiling, with two X-800C subwoofers at each end of the room and four Acheron Designer speakers at the front to deliver a 9.2.4 Dolby Atmos surround set up. The HMS-5s being so large they could not fit squarely into the existing wall cavity meant the design team had to create angled niches within the studwork to house them (figure A&B below).
For Cornflake, the decision to back Dolby Atmos, DTS:X or Auro 3D immersive technology was not a difficult one – especially when offering the most suitable solution for local clients. “To be honest, the Auro 3D is quite difficult to do in a residential system, because you have to put so many speakers in. Obviously with two layers at the front, all the way round – it’s an awful lot to put in on a smaller room,” says Lewis.
“Also Dolby is a much bigger brand, they’ve got an awful lot of clout behind them. And they will, and pretty much have won the war of 3D audio brands – this can be seen by just looking at all the marketing cinemas are doing, it’s all about Dolby Atmos.” He adds, “For us, we’re promoting Dolby Atmos because that is a brand that are clients know and other people know.”
A Trinnov Altitude 32 processor powers the system (suited for use with Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Auro-3D). In addition to the receiver, a bespoke 3.6m x 2.02m screen was commissioned to cover the front wall. Designed with multiway masking from the top and bottom of the picture, the £13,000 screen recognises the format of any film or programme and auto mimics the ratio then masks accordingly to perfectly frame content.
Modelling tools were later used by acousticians to optimise the cinema’s seating layout and specifying where custom insulation panels for dealing with reverberation, reflection and resonance. This included intelligent analysis software being used to check real-life performance and the build the room to the agreed model.
"Dolby Atmos will, and pretty much have won the war of 3D audio brands..."
Lewis comments: “An awful lot of work has gone into the acoustics of the room as well. When you’ve got this amount of speakers in, the reverberation and the echoes you can get in the room can completely ruin it so a huge amount of work has gone into the acoustic treatment.”
CATS Packs (cinema acoustic treatment system) was also specified to reduce space lost to insulation padding without comprising on performance. With a depth of 50mm, the panels cause waves to be scattered and dispersed through irregular shaped facets. A mix of hard and soft CATS panels were deployed in across the walls and ceiling, and finished with acoustically-transparent fabric stretched over frames. A thick wool carpet incorporating three layers of acoustic underlay and soft furnishings help further with the room’s acoustics.
With speakers and the screen in place, Cornflake eventually opted for the world’s smallest native 4K projector, JVC’s laser DLA-Z1 model (priced around £13,000), after testing dozens of alternatives, such as Barco. “In our world, the clients want Ultra High Definition, so although they [Barco] had laser projectors, a 4K laser projector was absolutely massive, and we couldn’t give away that kind of real estate in a room,” says Lewis.
“There’s arguments for and against 4K Ultra High Definition, but it’s here to stay. And HDR brings a whole new spectrum of colours that we’ve never seen before, certainly never on projection, and the newest laser models also turn on quicker.”
The chosen JVC projector offers 3,000 lumens and a high contrast ratio (incorporating three separate 4K D-ILA devices each dedicated to a single colour; red, green and blue). A 100mm extra wide diameter lens allows the product to project 4K resolution to every corner of the screen, complemented by five dispersion lenses to ensure precise projection of 4K resolution graphics.
Special lighting was also put in place to show homeowners a range of options for their home cinema. “We’ve used a selection of fittings to emphasise the various elements of the design. For the soft, low level lighting, the ceiling has had an LED tape light installed within the coffer with CRI (colour rendering index) of 95 to enhance the warmer tones in the furnishings, and particularly complement the vivid red leather-clad columns, just as the colours would appear in natural daylight,” commented Mark Kavanagh, consultant at Future Light Design.
“To create further interest, linear lights were set within recessed profiles around the perimeter of the room. In the ceiling, we commissioned downlighters finished in the exact same RAL emulsion colour to make them almost invisible. These lights create a wall-washing effect and draw attention to the wall panels. Featuring the latest Dim-to-Warm technology, they can be dimmed to a soft glow as required from the iPad,” he adds. From an iPad, clients can also dim all lights in preparation for a film with the swipe of an iPad, pre-set in tandem with the film starting.
Visits to the new cinema are by appointment only and can be pre-booked with Cornflake.
Carlucci di Chivasso Cohesion CA1338/053 acoustic fabric
DT Dynamic Multiway Masking screen
JVC DLA-Z1 projector
Meyer Sound Acheron Designer front speakers, X-800C subwoofers and HMS-5 surround speakers
Trinnov Altitude 32 processor