My eternal quest for the perfect Super Bowl entertainment room

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Credit: Derek Walter

I finally found the right gear for a Super Bowl extravaganza.

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I’ve been on a quest to find the perfect Super Bowl room setup, and I have finally found it.

Since I moved to a new house in September, it has been on my mind. We picked a house with great views...and not as much space, especially in the basement. Yet, for the “big game” you want a big screen. It’s better if Cam Newton appears to be celebrating in your living room. You also want to hear every bone-rattling tackle in high-def audio.

I started with the Epson Home Cinema 1440 ($1,700) projector. My goal was to make the best use of space. Ironically, if you have limited space, a projector is a smarter display option because you can have one entire wall (or screen) dedicated to the TV image and the other wall for the equipment you need, including the projector and your TV sources. Even a slim HDTV needs a larger TV stand, all of the gear, and the HDTV itself all on one side of the room.

This particular Epson model is well-suited to the game, which starts at 5:30PM CST this Sunday. I know my guests will start arriving after lunch with cheese-trays in tow. Since sunset is around 5:20PM and I know we’ll want to watch the pre-game, I picked the Epson Home Cinema 1140 because it has a 4,400-lumens bulb that works fine even on a sunny day in the afternoon. The projector casts an image as big as 25-feet diagonally and runs in 1080p resolution.

Before I did the install, I had to make a tough decision about my room layout. In my basement, there’s one long wall, and the opposing wall has a bathroom door and an entryway. I have a lot of gear I want to use with the projector, including an Microsoft Xbox One and a Sony PlayStation 4, an NVIDIA Shield TV, a Roku 4, a Tivo Bolt, and a Harman receivers. I also want to be able to mix and match sources, adding them easily without constantly running out of space.

Installing the gear

I decided to use an Ikea Vittsjo bookshelf that costs $79. It has long glass shelves that form into eight “boxes” for my gear. The setup took only 15 minutes or so. Because the Epson 1440 has feet on the back, you can set it on any shelf and point up or down toward the opposing wall. I planned to put a sectional and a lounge chair in front of the shelving unit.

I used a Harman AVR 1710S receiver ($550) because it has multiple HDMI inputs for all of my gadgets, plenty of power -- 100 watts per channel for up to seven speakers -- and even lets me stream directly from my iPhone or iPad using Apple AirPlay. I used it mainly for the HDMI video, though. For audio, I ran a 25-foot digital optical cable directly from the Tivo Bolt. I use the same cord with the consoles and any other source (like the Roku 4) to avoid cable clutter.

To summarize so far: I had all of my gear on one Ikea bookshelf with the projector. I had one digital optical cable running over the ceiling tiles. It’s pretty slick and organized.

For the audio, I used a Definitive Tech W Studio Micro ($899), which includes one soundbar and a sub. It simulates surround-sound in a convincing way and has a ton of power for those linebacker takedowns, the halftime music by Coldplay, and any other audio.

The wall in my basement was full of nail holes and other dings, so I used a Visual Apex Projecto Screen HD110 ($206) which supports a 9-foot image and can be rolled up into a bag or even used outside. I mounted the screen to my ceiling tile brackets, which normally might be risky but the screen weighs only 30 pounds -- it worked fine once I screwed in some support brackets. (The screen comes with a metal stand, but the unit was too tall for my dropped ceiling).

Lessons learned

What did I learn? First, this is the best setup I’ve ever had for the Super Bowl. Using the Tivo Bolt, I can play the game in HD and project an image that’s 9-feet wide diagonally. The soundbar makes the best use of space with one digital optical cable and no speaker wires. At this size, it feels like you are in the stadium at the game, and my audio is bone-crunchingly loud.

My main takeaway is that you have to think about your room layout. My setup is ideal -- I am using the space on one wall for a bookshelf that fits perfectly between an entryway and the bathroom. The opposing wall is also the perfect size for the 9-foot screen.

With the projector mounted on the top shelf and pointed down, I was able to place my sectional right on front of the bookshelf -- my room now accommodates six adults. I won’t ever go back to any other method of storing and connecting all of my gadgets. This is partly because I have a bad back, so the bookshelf lets me connect gear and insert game discs without bending down. Yet, it’s also a great use of the space -- much better than any TV stand I’ve seen.

If I want to add more speakers, I’d have to run the speaker wires through the walls or under the carpet and over the ceiling tile, but I’m happy with the soundbar. It still supports 5.1 audio and creates Dolby surround-sound, albeit using a 3.1 spatial array. It sounded convincing to me. I’d rather have a spatial array than the cable clutter, but you might prefer real 5.1 speakers.

My only gripe is that the Harman receiver is a bit under-utilized. I connected everything by HDMI, but from the consoles, the Roku, and the Tivo, I have to connect the source to my digital optical cable each time. It’s a way to avoid running speaker wire. Also, the NVIDIA Shield TV doesn’t have a digital optical port, but I was able to output the Bluetooth audio to the soundbar.

I’m set for the big game now. Now, I need to get started on the snacks.

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