Home Theater Room Acoustics

Home Theater, Room Acoustics

Room acoustics and your home theater

The acoustics of your room and the way it is decorated can affect your sound almost as much as your home theater equipment.

The acoustic environment is often overlooked in home theater design.  You can have some very expensive audio equipment placed in a room that is entirely hardwood floors, drywall, and glass throughout.  The effect is a highly muddled, boomy, echoing, fluttering listening experience with generally disappointing sound quality.  Ever wonder why speakers sound better (clearer highs and tighter bass response) in the store showroom than they do at home?  The answer is the room.  This is why audio salesmen take you into a special listening room to test the speakers; it is an acoustically tuned space!  I would like to show you how to bring that experience home.

Optimizing the room

A quick acoustical test: clap your hands. Do you hear “ringing” afterward? That means your room is “live,” reflecting too much sound, which can spoil the surround effects.

You can do a few things to help:

  • If you have hardwood floors, try placing some area rugs directly in front of the speakers.
  • Close the drapes when you’re watching or listening.
  • Use bookshelves — with books — to help tame reflections.
  • Set up a clear line of sight from speakers to listening seats.
  • Have some people over. Physically speaking, we’re great absorbers.

If you’re lucky enough to have a room dedicated to your home theater, you have a lot more control:

  • Balance hard and soft surfaces; for example, compensate for a hard ceiling with a carpeted floor.
  • Pull your front speakers further into the room than your TV.
  • Experiment further with speaker placement.

Consider specialized room-tuning components, such as wall diffusers and bass absorbers. Although most are not visually attractive, they can work wonders for your sound.

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