Joe and his wife Marjory live near Portland, Oregon. For 20 years they lived in same house and were always disappointed with the entertainment center in their family room. One day they decided to do something about it.
"We wanted any new setup to have a mixture of high tech and retro flair," Joe says. "To understand our entertainment-center woes, you must understand where we started."
This was their original system. The issues were many, Joe says. It wasn't aesthetically appealing. It took up a lot of space. There were wires going everywhere that were visible from all angles. And lastly, it was almost impossible to work on because everything was hard to get to.
They decided to design a custom cabinet and have it built into the wall. They wanted one that would be aesthetically appealing, take up minimal space and allowing easy access to all the components. The idea was to provide a modern (hidden) wiring solution.
"I'm no carpenter or designer," Joe says, "so I used the closest thing I had to design software (Corel Draw) and hacked together a rudimentary design."
Lastly, since this design was going to be built into the wall, he needed to decide how to handle the back side of the cabinet, which protruded through into the adjacent room. He decided shelves would be in order for the back.
They found a couple local contractors to work on the project. One was a cabinet guy who was confident he could turn Joe's design into a workable cabinet. The other was a carpenter who was responsible for creating the hole in the wall and various other remodeling tasks.
Joe was very pleased with the final product. It contains all the components while only protruding 6 inches into the family room.
The television is a 75-inch LED with 1080p resolution.
"We haven't made the jump to 4K, but we have set ourselves up for it," Joe says. "All the components support it. The issue for us is, we like to occasionally watch 3D movies and it is not supported on new TVs, so we'll probably ride this one out for a couple more years before we transition."
The speaker setup is 9.2. However, Joe's ultimate goal is to go full Atmos. The system supports it -- it just requires adding 4 new speakers.
Joe says they've almost completely cut the cord for television, but where they live they can't get receive a TV signal over the air, which means they still need a cable box for local channels. The components hidden behind the door on the left include this cable box and a Samsung Blu-ray player.
An upper compartment stores the networking brains of the system. Along with a a NAS drive that streams all their music and videos, there's a cable modem. They've run Ethernet to all their components rather than going wireless.
The white device is a WeMo Maker that adds smart-home functionality to the room.
Joe says they've set up this entire home entertainment system -- and even the fireplace -- to be controlled remotely via smartphone or Alexa.
Joe connected the WeMo Maker in the previous picture to his fireplace on/off switch. Now all Joe has to say is, "Alexa, turn on fireplace" and she fires up the flames, as well as the fireplace fan and an overhead family room fan. Previously, the WeMo was mounted on the wall. Now it's hidden, tucked away inside the cabinet.
"We're PC gamers," Joe says. "In our previous setup, we had a PC in the entertainment center that was big and had a lot of wires that added to the clutter. It's been moved to another room, and we now use the much more compact and sleeker Steam Link to connect to it (or any of three other PCs in the house) for gaming."
Let's pull out for a look at the surround setup. The room is pretty large, so getting all the surround speakers in a single picture was a challenge, Joe says. The middle surrounds have their grilles on in this shot.
Joe says: "The sound quality between these surround speakers and the Marantz that drives them leads to a high level of immersion when viewing movies with Dolby or DTS 9.2, while losing no quality when listening to music."
Now let's go into the room behind the entertainment center. As Joe said earlier, this cabinet is built through the wall, so it has a back side to it. As shown in the diagram, this is the bookshelf on the back side.