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Setting Up Home Theater Acoustics


People try to find different ways to relieve themselves from the daily stresses of life. One of these stress relievers involve cuddling next to a loved one on a couch, and watching a movie. A sound system can provide that desired getaway within the privacy of their own home. Some people may want to install a home theater system for other reasons, such as to increase the value or look of their home. In either case, undertaking a home theater project can induce a sense of agony over what gear to buy, where to install it, and understanding the targeted audience for proper theater room furniture placement. It's difficult to enjoy an optimum audio performance without adequate home theater acoustics. A custom theater design with low-end speakers will have better sound quality than an untreated room with high-end speakers. Some experts assert that the speaker system and electronics layout only contributes to fifty percent of the sound system's overall volume. Neglecting to factor in home theater acoustics might cause the sound system to sound only half as good as it could, and technically should according to manufacturing specifications.

Maximizing Acoustics

rabbit-with-headphonesEvery entertainment room should have home theater acoustics to obtain an ideal balance between direct and reflected sound for a perfect listening experience. Both ears hear direct sound emitting from the speakers, and reflected sound bouncing off the walls and other hard surfaces, such as coffee tables, chairs, cabinets, fireplaces, floors, and windows. Direct sound provides the ears and brain with proper sound positioning that makes for easy listening. Reflected sound may contend with direct sound, which causes an imbalanced listening environment. Home theater acoustics balance the direct to reflected sound ratio in accordance to the critical distance from the listening position. Achieving this perfect balance provides better clarity and articulation, especially through a multichannel sound system.

Sound Absorption

Room treatments consist of introducing various theater room furniture pieces that will perform different functions. For instance, absorption and diffusive materials regulate how much sound penetrates through the walls and ceilings.

A poly-cylindrical diffuser, a noise scattering material, appears as a half raised hump protruding from the exterior wall and ceiling. Diffusers come in a variety of shapes and patterns. An estimated twenty percent of the interior wall and ceiling surfaces are covered with 2-inch thick absorption materials. Acoustic experts recommend using Rockwool, a mineral made from volcanic rock, layered in the wall and ceiling. The other twenty to thirty percent of the room should consist of scattering materials ranging between four to twelve inches deep. This level of thickness will diffuse audio waves of at least 500 hertz.

Speaker Position

home-theater-whiteCustom home theater design installers should position absorbers near the estimated points of reflect off the left, right, and back interior walls. Home owners can test for the first point of sound reflection by sliding a mirror along the room's side wall. The tester can sit at the main listening position to see whether he or she can catch a glimpse of the speaker through the mirror.

Home theater acoustics should always have absorption and diffusive materials interspersed in vertical bands all around the room. In other words, if the installer places a diffuser on one side wall, then a second diffuser should sit in the corresponding location along the opposite wall. The ceiling requires at least one or two absorption panels at the first reflection point between the front speakers and the installation point.

Bass Traps

Bass traps help overcome low-frequency resonances. Customer home theater design installers typically place bass traps in the room's corners. Bass traps diminish the negative effects of resonance, whereby indistinguishable, uneven low frequencies accumulate from the three axes of the room's corners.

The installers should place bass traps in the corners most affected by standing waves, usually found with a sound pressure level SPL meter. A standard room will typically require between one and two traps in the corners to increase clarity and provide even bass response.


Home theater acoustics flooring material provides an absorption and diffusive effect. Custom home theater design carpeting can introduce high-frequency absorption due to its relatively thin composition. Installers should focus on controlling mid-level frequencies, and simply allow the higher frequencies to provide a feeling of increasing spaciousness and air. Thick carpet with natural fibers and thick, fibrous material will provide the necessary absorption for the room's flooring. In addition, most home theater acoustics experts recommend installing a sound absorption pit at the first reflection point in front the speakers. A sound absorption pit provides excellent control over vertical reflections off the floor. It will also improve dialogue clarity and stereophonic imaging under the ideal conditions. Avoid installing too much sound absorption material in the room. A dead room with too much sound absorption sounds unnatural.

Home Theater Room

Most home theater acoustics experts recommend a dedicated room solely used for home theater purposes. Installers can strategically place theater room furniture to accomplish the needed room absorption and diffusion. Use heavy drapes with at least three inches of air space for sound absorption purposes. Bookcases can create sound diffusion if the books are staggered and not correctly aligned. Decorative acoustic panels can cover the acoustical material for aesthetic sight. Installers should optimize subwoofer placement to deal with bass resonance issues.

Audio Analyzers

audio-analyzerCustom home theater design installers may recommend audio analyzers and other audio measuring tools. Some of this equipment can run into thousands of dollars. Since the advent of the iPhone, many companies have been offering more cost-effective home theater acoustics solutions. The phone's applications should offer basic modules, such as an SPL meter, a real-time analyzer, delay finder, wave generator, stereo oscilloscope, and a line-level tester. In addition, investing in acoustical tuning equipment can save money on unnecessary hardware upgrades.

Creating Sound Balance

In contrast to popular belief, home theaters are not fully optimized until installers have equipped the room with acoustical furnishings. The core principle behind sound acoustics is that the furnishings create an ideal balance of direct and reflective sound ratio. This maximizes the intensity of the sound for a clearer and more enjoyable experience from the listening point. Home acoustics can be applied to dual-space and dedicated rooms; however, each application may require different equipment for optimal output. In addition, home acoustics can be applied to small rooms, multichannel rooms, and recording studios.

Some home theater acoustics projects can be installed by the home owner if he or she has adequate mechanical and electrical experience; however, competent installers will ensure that the equipment functions in the way it was intended. Without home theater acoustics, the sound emissions from a sound system would only be half satisfying, so look into it for a surreal experience!

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