World Wide Stereo
Walks the Walk
As much as anyone in the integration space is selling products, they’re really selling experiences. At the end of the day that’s what consumer electronics provide—an experience. And, in trying to sell the consumer on that experience, it behooves every dealer lucky enough to have a showroom to craft that in-store experience in a way that complements “the pitch.”
There may be no better example of that, locally for us, than World Wide Stereo, which recently completed a massive home theater demo room redesign in their Ardmore, PA, location, just on the outskirts of Philadelphia. Completed in early September, the space is the perfect combination of a powerful A/V experience that’s molded into an elegant yet rather unassuming space. But don’t let the stretch fabric walls and blackout shades fool you. This nearly-$400,000 home theater renovation packs a powerful punch.
Soon after the room’s completion, we were invited to take in the full demo, in all its glory. And to say we were left speechless would be something of an understatement. Thankfully, though, we were able to find enough words to get through a question and answer session with Rob Marcoccia, a manager for World Wide Stereo and the guy who played a huge part in this home theater’s initial design a number of years ago, and now the recently-completed redesign.
Here’s how that conversation went down.
Connected Design: Rob, thank you guys for taking the time to walk us through this home theater redesign. First impressions for us? It’s gorgeous.
Marcoccia: Well thank you for coming. It's our pleasure. This room has a lot of blood sweat and tears and hopefully you enjoyed your experience. We really wanted to do something special. We had an amazing theater in here before, but we wanted to take it to the next level and the next level being an experience that you just say, 'Wow.' It is noticeably different than any other theater experience you can have.
What would you say, as you're going around and looking at the different parts of the theater, are the major changes to what was in here before the redesign?
Well, the one thing you won't see that's different is the cosmetics. When you walk into the room, it's going to look like it did prior to the redesign. You won't see anything unless you're really astute—we added one column because we moved some speakers. But what we did is, we have a room that's treated with stretch fabric across the whole thing, and so we were able to rework the room, speakers and acoustically, but without actually changing the design of it.
But the big changes are the speaker system we have—we have a brand new JBL Synthesis in-wall speaker system. So this theater that you experienced is a complete in-wall experience, which you would not believe by listening to it. And then we do have the full JBL Synthesis theater equipment and that's powered by Mark Levinson amplifiers, which is pretty much over the top amazing.
You guys absolutely went all out here. The total spend, if I remember correctly, was something like $387k, right?
Sounds a little bit low but we'll go with that.
I mean if I had $387k lying around… You guys certainly did it right in this room. And I know that this was a very personal project for you because you were part of the team that designed this room originally. So, with the redesign, was there anything that you sort of attached yourself to? Was there one particular part of this theater that stands out that you were most excited about?
The audio. I mean it all comes down to the audio, right? The audio is what grabs you and makes it real, and the surround processor—one of the things I didn't even show you—I have a kind of a parlor trick that we can do with this, is the surround processor that we use for the JBL Synthesis system is the SDP 75. I know it's just a number, but the processor is amazing. It allows us to compensate for the room's inadequacies. It allows us to, at the push of a button, I can reorient the entire theater. So I can turn the theater 90 degrees or 180 degrees and make the rear sound like the front or the front sound like the side—anything that we need to do with it we're able to do that through configuration, no rewiring no nothing. That's just to illustrate the power of the processing that you have with it.
That's unbelievable and one of the things you mentioned obviously this is a room built around the JBL Synthesis system. Why that system for this home theater? Why did you guys opt to go with them?
Well, first of all they've consistently over the years had some of the most impressive systems out there. If you go to any of the trade shows you'll see they win best show, there are lines around it, and it's for a good reason—it performs amazingly well. In order to put something together like this that is engineered as a whole, it takes a lot, and JBL has really figured that out. So you have that backing behind it and all the engineering and then the calibration and the way the whole system is calibrated is really the magic of putting it all together.
And to that point the calibration—you guys brought in Keith Yates, a guy who’s renowned for his work in audio and home theater calibration.
Yeah. Keith Yates helped us do the initial design. And then what we did with the JBL Synthesis system, he came in and they had their calibration team come in and actually do it. So we had eight microphones set up in the room one for every seating position, and then they had a special 3D microphone that got in the room and allowed them to calibrate and it figure out the time delays and orientation of the speakers and really make the magic happen.
One of the real unique aspects of this redesign is that this really serves as a self-made case study for both new and existing World Wide Stereo clients. Of course, new clients are going to be impressed by the demo, but for your existing clients who come back, they’ll see this redesign and now you can talk to them about how they may want to think about redesigning their home theater.
You’re absolutely correct. First of all, this shows that we’re always pushing ourselves. We're never just like, 'Hey we get it we're done. All right. We can sit back and relax.' We're always looking to grow and change. We want the best experience for our clients and what we can deliver. And so we try to carry that to our clients.
And then, like you said, it is the opportunity for clients to come to us and say, 'Hey I do have a theater that we did 10 or 15 years ago. What can we do to actually make it better?' And now I can say categorically here is a whole new level of experience that you can have. It's like getting a whole new theater, a whole new level of experience. It really is. It's day and night.
What was prepping for this project like for you?
Well I am bald. I'm probably a little bit more bald now than I was before the project. No, but seriously, it was not really as bad as that. We knew how the room was constructed. We had the advantage of having the fabric walls stretched. So it was really majorly coordination. And then it was a great partnership with the folks at Harman. They really helped us out with our design and making sure that we had this, because this was our first Synthesis theater. And then it was just a matter of timing and project management, which is what we do in all of our projects.
And so we were able to, from start to finish, do it in less than two months. And that was really difficult but it was really fantastic because that was deconstruction—because we had to pull everything out of here to start with—and then rewire, pull out the speaker systems, put in new speaker systems, reinstall, put the furniture back in, do the calibration, then we had control systems integration, electrical needs were taken care of. Everything happened, but we have a great team here.
You mention the rewiring and all. What's really amazing about this project is that this wasn't just a take out and drop into place kind of thing. You guys had to do a lot of moving around and custom fitting for this. You didn’t make it easy on yourselves.
Well, we had to build a custom column that's actually in the window. And to make it look good—so that took a little bit of design work and getting that done. Then we did have to pull out the old speakers and rework all the holes on that, so we did a bit of drywall repair. And then we moved everything behind the walls, behind the fabric, but you can't tell. I mean, it's just smooth. There was a lot of coordination but the fundamentals were all in place so it allowed us to move quickly.
Were there any major design challenges in this space that you had to consider?
Oh, absolutely. The room is anything but ideal. We're in a retail location in commercial construction. So we weren't able to do a lot of things that we wanted to. And that's actually kind of plays into, when you build a theater, no matter what your budget is there's usually some kind of constraints, and it's just making the right decisions. So what we really had to do is focus on the acoustical treatments in the in the room itself. So we have one wall that's fully treated that's opposite the window. We have treatments on our front wall where the speakers are and up in the ceiling. And then we have blackout curtains that come down and shades and the two things together worked really, really well at helping control some of the sound and dampening the outside world.
What are some of the other parts and products that make up this theater?
So, we have the CineCurve screen, and then the projection is a Sony VPL-5000ES. And really the JBL Synthesis system is pretty special in that we're using the Mark Levinson number No536 Amplifiers for our left, center, and right speakers. And then we have No535H's for our sides and for our Atmos speakers. And then we have three JL Audio subs and a JBL sub as well. We also have a Kaleidescape Strato and Premier merged together, and there's a piece called Costar that allows it to read as one library.
What was the strategy for you guys behind building out a theater like this? Obviously the demo itself is impressive, and you talked about always pushing yourselves. But why create something like this? What does this space say about World Wide Stereo?
Well it's kind of based on our core philosophy, which is we sell gear but really people are buying experiences. So when we come into the theater, we have all kinds of compromises as far as colors, you know, they might be a lot lighter colors in a theater than you might want to see, but it makes it an inviting place. And we want people to feel comfortable first and that allows them to relax and open up and experience it.
What was Bob’s reaction when this pitch landed on his desk?
Can you sell one? No, you know, he's all about the experience, and he's looking for something special. And we do this because we love it. You know, this is not an industry that you're in because you want to get rich. This is something you do because you love it, and you're a part of it, and you want to share that. Having people come through there, watching them change from the, 'I don't like movies, I don't like technology, I don't like concert videos,' and you put them in the seat, and by the end of it they're like, 'That was great! I had no idea.' That's part of it. It's opening people up to experiences that are special. I mean all we get in this world are our experiences, so why wouldn't you want the best ones possible?
This is certainly a space that does that. So thank you guys again for taking the time to let us come and experience it and learn a little bit more about what went into it.
Well thanks a lot, we appreciate. I'm really glad you were able to come out and experience it.