How to choose and set up the ideal room for a home theater

You’ve decided that a big-screen TV and a couple couches in a busy living area is no longer what you want in an entertainment center.  You’re ready to take the next step: a beautiful home theater.  That decision was probably the simplest one in your quest, because a lot of factors go into creating the ideal home theater for your and your family’s needs.The amount you want to spend is perhaps the most critical factor.  Home theaters can run anywhere from $1,000 to upwards of $50,000, depending on who does the work and the number and quality of accessories and amenities you choose.  Once you have a budget in mind and before you run out and start buying the pieces that will bring your home theater to life, consider this very important factor: where your theater is going to be set up.

Location

In determining what room your home theater will take over, consider potential noise levels.  How will the sound affect neighboring rooms and spaces?  Will people – in particular, young children – be sleeping nearby?  Will business be done in an adjacent office while a movie is playing?

These may not be concerns if you plan to have a speaker arrangement that doesn’t overpower.  And none of this will be any kind of concern if you have your theater room sound-proofed.

Shape of the room

Sound studies show that the more square the room, the more odd harmonic distortions are likely to be produced, even when using the best of speakers.  Ideally choose a room that’s longer than it is wide and put the screen and primary speakers against one of the short walls to allow sound to project more naturally.

The problem with windows

The hard surface of windows reflects sound back into the room, often with some degree of distortion.  For this reason, a room with few windows is best for a home theater.  If your theater room is full of windows, you might consider covering them with heavy drapes for a partial block of reflected sound.  Wooden indoor shutters will likely do an even better job.

Another problem with windows is the light they allow into a room.  You’ll have to decide how much light you can live with while enjoying your home theater.  For optimal light blocking, look into blackout window treatments, available from most quality drapery retailers.

Types of walls

Drywall is a good type of wall for a home theater because of its ability to absorb sound.  And any type of wood is better than brick or concrete.  In the latter case, build new walls within the room using top-grade drywall.  For the ultimate wall, go with acoustic panels that are designed for use in home theaters.  A cheaper alternative is stick-on carpet tiles.

The floor

The best floor covering is carpet with a thick, comfy pad underneath.  Not only will this effectively absorb sound but it will provide comfort for younger children, who seem to always enjoy sitting and lying on floors when watching movies.

Furnishings

Why does your voice echo in an empty warehouse?  Because there’s nothing in it.  Make sure your home theater room has an appropriate amount of sound absorbing sofas and/or padded chairs, tables, lamps, wall décor, etc.  The result will be a beautifully compact sound with minimal distortion.

Next step: electronics

After you’ve chosen your room and know how you’ll set it up, it’s on to selecting the electronics that will power your home theater.  The options are numerous.  For larger, more intricate arrangements, it’s best to go with a professional who specializes in installing home theaters.  For a less involved project, there are numerous books and online guides to help you in buying the perfect audio and video equipment and getting it set up correctly.

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