The Greatest Show on Earth!
Kipnis' outer limits theater, or what $6 million will buy.
When it comes to home theaters, I thought I'd seen it all. But nothing's come close to this. First, I'm going to try to describe the sheer magnitude of Jeremy Kipnis' theater. His Stewart Snowmatte laboratory-grade screen is the biggest I've ever seen in a home, and in the back of the theater, there's a Sony ultra-high-resolution (4,096-by-2,160) SRX-S110 digital projector. I'm looking everywhere, jotting down questions, and Kipnis sounds almost giddy talking about his theater's capabilities. He refers to his baby, the Kipnis Studio Standard (KSS), as "The Greatest Show on Earth." And from the looks of it, he may be right.
While the KSS is technically an 8.8-channel audio system, it uses a lot more than eight speakers and eight subwoofers. Kipnis felt that a lone center speaker sounded a tad undernourished compared with the eight Snell THX Cinema & Music Reference towers, so he opted for three Snell LCR-2800 center-channel speakers. The original contingent of eight subs sounded "really good" but, unfortunately, didn't deliver the full earth-moving-under-your-feet effect he wanted. So, he wound up with 16 18-inch Snell subs! To balance the other frequency extreme, and for the ultimate in transient speed and transparency, the Snell speakers' treble has been augmented with MuRata ES103A super tweeters. Thus, from the deepest deep bass (10 hertz) up to the extreme high-frequency range (100 kilohertz), the KSS is the most full-range system I've ever heard—and felt. The speakers are fed by a well-balanced combination of audiophile solid-state and vacuum-tube amplifiers. The KSS is astonishing in the way it delivers power, but with 11,315 very high-quality watts on tap, that's hardly surprising. Not only can it play ungodly loud, the KSS sounds phenomenal while doing so and never hurt my tender ears. The theater is big but far from huge. Its vaulted ceiling ranges from 8 feet high at the rear end to 16 feet at the screen end of the room (which is 26.5 feet wide and 33 feet long). The 18-foot screen fulfilled my IMAX fantasies, and the projector's va-va-voom color and brilliant light were transformational. I just tried to take it all in as I scribbled notes, afraid I might miss some of the juicier details.
AC power conditioning for the KSS is, again, done to the max. Next to the garage, there are two mammoth General Electric 13,800-volt/800-amp step-down transformers; all of the cabling is audiophile-grade wire, and every aspect of performance and presentation is scrutinized, even down to the 40-amp cryogenically treated circuit breakers for each and every component in the system.
How It Came to Be
I first met Kipnis in the early 1990s when he worked for Chesky Records as an engineer/producer. And later in the decade, I followed his exploits when he started his own classical music label, Epiphany Recordings Limited. Hooked on video at an early age, he was the first on his block to buy a laserdisc player in 1980 and went on to amass a huge collection of players and discs. He watched them on one of the very first projectors in the market, the Kloss NovaBeam Model 1, with a 6.5-foot curved silver screen in his Redding, Connecticut, home, where he still resides. The projector's legendary inventor, Henry Kloss, was a neighbor and good friend of Kipnis' parents, so you might say the seeds of the KSS were planted long ago. The man's passions run deep. Kipnis tells me, "I've been watching movies since I was four on really big screens in movie theaters, and three years ago, those experiences inspired me to design a home theater with the absolute best picture and sound."
But it's more than that. Kipnis sees the KSS as a laboratory, an ongoing experiment to advance the state of the art. And it's not just for himself; he's dead serious about selling the KSS to movie-industry professionals and wealthy home theater aficionados. He sees his huge screen as an intrinsic part of the experience. "It's an unprecedented level of immersion that I'm looking for." The mix of brands and models for his customers' KSS systems will be site specific, and he imagines that, unlike his installation, the componentry and speakers will be stealthily deployed. The KSS pictured here is Beta Ciné, so yes, there's an even bigger KSS, the Alpha Ciné, in the planning stages. It's intended for much larger venues, such as screening rooms or perhaps even actual movie theaters. The Gamma Ciné will be a scaled-down KSS for smaller living rooms, bedrooms, or kitchens. The Gamma Ciné will likely utilize rear-projection techniques. (When not in use, the screen will look like a wall, and all of the equipment will live behind the screen.) The philosophy of all three KSS systems is the same—nothing but the best picture and sound. Price estimates will be site specific, but the cost of Kipnis' home system would be in the $6-million range.
Scaling the Heights
Setting up the Sony SRX-R110 digital cinema projector is a demanding job, and Kipnis has invested a lot of time into maximizing its potential, all in an effort to advance the state of the art. He's an Imaging Science Foundation–certified technician and studied with video-tweaking legend Joe Kane.
The Sony projector doesn't have HDMI inputs that are HDCP compliant, but it upscales Blu-ray and HD DVD players' component outputs to its native 4K resolution. So sure, it might look even better if he could use his HD player's digital outputs, but Kipnis feels the picture quality he's getting right now is "far more outstanding and realistic than any other movie theater I've experienced on the planet." Pressing the question about keeping the KSS' video all digital, he admits that he's also considering commissioning a custom-built scaler from Silicon Optix or Snell & Wilcox. The ultimate goal is to produce a picture that's an open window to the world.
With a bit of luck, Kipnis will get to play the KSS for the likes of George Lucas, Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg, and Martin Scorsese. And who knows—they each might be so thrilled, they'll buy one on the spot. That would be great, but I wonder out loud, "Would you have done all of this if you didn't hope to turn it into a commercial enterprise? Would you have done it just for yourself?" Without hesitating, Kipnis says, "Just to see what's possible? Yes, I would."
For more information about the Kipnis Studio Standard, please visit www.kipnis-studios.com or call (203) 938-3767.
Partial Equipment List for the Kipnis Studio Standard Beta CinE:
Sony SRX-S110 Professional Video Projector
Stewart 18-by-10-foot Snowmatte 1.0 Gain Laboratory-Grade Motion Picture Screen
Players and Sources:
Sony BDP-S1 Blu-ray Player
Sony PlayStation 3 Gaming Console
Toshiba HD-XA1 HD DVD Player
JVC HMDH-5U D-VHS Recorder
SATA Drive (72 HDTV Hours Total)
Mark Levinson N° 51 DVD/CD Media Player
Pioneer HLD-X0 Hi-Vision HDTV MUSE Laserdisc Player
Surround Processing and Decoding:
Theta Digital Generation VIII 32-bit 8x Oversampling Dual Processors (13)
Mark Levinson N° 33h Amplifiers (2)
McIntosh MC-2102 Amplifiers (30)
Crown Macro Reference Gold Amplifiers (3)
Snell 1800 THX Music & Cinema Reference Subwoofers (16)
Snell THX Music & Cinema Reference Towers (8)
MuRata ES103A Super Tweeters (10)
Snell THX Music & Cinema Reference LCR-2800 Center-Channel Speakers (3)