When it comes to setting up a home theater system, the visual elements are the easiest part. If you have selected a high-quality TV or projector and screen, you will enjoy crystal clear HD picture without much effort. Your sound system is where you should focus most of your planning and preparation. Home theater sound design is not simply a question of choosing quality speakers. You also need to consider and optimize the acoustics of your theater space. Excellent acoustic design entails the following basic steps: 

  1. Carefully plan the best placement for your surround speakers. Arrange all the elements of your space in such a way that your surround speakers are placed in optimal positions for the best audio experience.
  2. Consider using sound-absorbing treatment. Sound absorbing materials can be place on your walls and ceiling to help create that authentic theater audio set-up. Think carefully about where to place these on your walls. You can even make your own sound-absorbing panels without spending too much. 
  3. Incorporate your furniture and drapes into your acoustic design. Sound reflective glass and window surfaces should be covered with drapes or curtains. All the fabric in your room, from your curtains to your couches, can play a role in optimizing the acoustic environment.

Let’s look at the principles behind these steps.

A guide to home theater acoustics

The key to understanding home theater acoustics is in knowing that the space itself – the walls, the ceiling, the furniture, etc., is just as important to your audio experience as your sound system itself. The whole point of a home theater system is to create an immersive experience. When you sit down in front of your screen, the room itself is part of that experience. It is not the same as simply sitting in front of a TV screen. The system extends beyond the screen, surrounding and enveloping you. The sound waves emanating from your speakers bounce off the walls and furnishings before reaching your ears, which means that every element in the room has an effect upon the quality of your experience.  

Why room acoustics matters 

A home theater that has been designed with room acoustics in mind will help to create a viewing experience that is more immersive and involving. It draws you in more effectively, it envelopes you, and enables you to enjoy the full benefits of your home theater equipment. 

Acoustics is all about minimizing reflections

The essential principle at the heart of home theater acoustics is that sound waves bounce off all surfaces they hit. Certain frequencies will bounce around the room and build up in certain parts of the room, while being virtually inaudible in other parts. Other frequencies might be canceled out completely. With this in mind, the way to achieve immersive, high-fidelity sound reproduction is to minimize the number of reflective surfaces in the room. Windows, mirrors, and other glass surfaces should be covered with drapes, and walls should be adorned with acoustic panels, and other soft surfaces that will dampen the natural reflective capacity of the brick, cement, plaster and paint. Think soft: harder surfaces are more reflective, and so should be covered with, or replaced by softer alternatives. 

For more information on home theater components and home theater design, contact On the Wall today.