You’ve just created the most amazing home theater space and spent thousands on your big screen and top of the range home theater system. And it’s so aesthetically pleasing. Until you turn it on, and the underwhelming, irritable noise that emanates doesn’t resonate well with you. Many echo these sentiments but hang in there. The solution for your home theater acoustic treatment layout is just a read away.
Home theater acoustics is one of the most important aspects of a great home theater. The science is simple – untreated rooms produce uneven sound. Regardless of your awesome surround sound system or the size of your screen, the difference between meh and you being lost in your own world lies in the acoustics.
Why do acoustics matter? Ideally, a home theater should give you the experience of being involved in whatever you may be watching or listening to, from the subtle gasps of emotion to a booming explosion on the screen. It should engulf all your senses. And while a room may look like a theater, turning it into that pleasurable sonic escape will take a few tweaks.
Home Theater Acoustic Treatment Layout Reflection
We’re not suggesting that you sit with your head in your hands thinking about what you’ve done. Quite the contrary. We’re here to offer some guidance so you get the most out of your theater space.
Since acoustics is all about restoring the natural balance of sound, your first goal is to control sound energy and minimize reflection. Reflection can be affected by almost anything, from the position of your speakers to the size and shape of your room.
That perfect balance of sound is attainable through two approaches; absorption and diffusion. Sound absorbers disrupt sound paths by converting energy to heat, thereby “soaking up” sound energy, while diffusion scatters it. Products made from foam and rigid wood have absorptive qualities, while diffusers are more commonly made from plastic, wood or polystyrene.
Do Acoustic Panels Really Work?
The short answer is yes, but let’s break it down. There is a difference between acoustic foam and acoustic panels and understanding this will bring balanced music to your ears.
Acoustic foam is really only ideal for absorbing high-end frequencies, and will not suffice if you’re having problems with mid-frequencies or bass. Bass traps are low-frequency sound absorbers that are usually placed in corners or wall joints where low-frequency sound tends to build up. Acoustic panels on the other hand are made for broadband absorption, meaning that these will absorb all frequencies.
The Cheapest Way To Acoustically Treat Your Home Theater
The cheapest way to treat your room would be by a bit of minor redecorating in the form of repositioning what is already in the room, but may it may not be enough on its own. Acoustical foam is the next option, and while foam will help to reduce higher frequency sound, it will not get rid of bass or mid-frequency reverberations. This may require the addition of bass traps. Acoustic foam comes at a fraction of the cost of panels. DIY may be fun, and we’re tempted to believe that it is cheaper, but we highly recommend getting a professional in at least at the beginning, even if just to help you to assess your need.
How Do You Acoustically Treat A Room?
There are a number of simple ways that are discussed in our section on how to improve your home theater, so this segment will focus on points of the positioning of your panels.
Each speaker typically has 5 reflection points; one on each wall (not the wall behind it) the floor, and the ceiling, which means that the average sound system with 5 speakers will have 25 reflection points. These are the first reflection points that you’d need to treat. Depending on the size and properties of your room, at least 3 panels would be necessary on each of the first 2 points of reflection of your front and center speakers, since most music and dialogue play out of these.
For low-frequency sounds, place at least 4 bass traps in the front corners and 2 in the rear corners. The most bass is reflected from the front corners of your floor and ceiling. Place at least another 2 acoustic panels on the front wall for a better sound stage, and 2 on the back wall for reflections. A carpet or rug on the floor will decrease reflections. When it comes to the ceiling, at least 2 strategically placed panels will cover the reflection from the front and center speakers, although these are not an absolute necessity.
How Can I Improve My Home Theater Acoustic Treatment Layout?
A good worker never blames his tools. We know that familiar feeling of buying something that apparently doesn’t perform as it should. With acoustics, unfortunately, you cannot blame your system until you’ve actually maximized the quality of your room. There are many ways to achieve that sonic euphoria, from minor redecorating and repositioning of speakers to know how to place acoustic panels for optimum performance.
If you’re working on a budget as most of us do, there are some simple but effective ways to improve your home theater acoustic without breaking the bank.
Clap Your Hands
This may seem strange, but you can determine whether your acoustics are in need of adjustment with a simple action. Clap your hands. If you hear an echo, chances are that padding is necessary. This clap may very well give you an idea of any other items in your room that are causing a reflection too.
Windows And Doors
Windows and doors are notorious for letting noise in. Ideally, doors should be made of solid wood and windows should be double pane, but if replacing windows is out of your budget, heavily draped velvet curtains work well as sound dampeners.
Carpets, Rugs And Furniture
The soft and absorbent material is essential in blocking out the sound that may reflect off the floor and is best placed between the speakers and the front row of seats. Soft, plush furniture and a few scatter cushions will also do the trick in absorbing undesirable sound.
If you happen to be remodeling or building a home theater from scratch, consider adding insulation between the studs of the walls.
Speakers should never be placed in closed cabinets for obvious reasons like overheating. And did I mention the even more obvious distortion of sound? A little shuffle of the speaker to the left or right could also do wonders to improve your audio. Try placing your front speakers at an angle of between 20 and 30 degrees, towards the seating area. If you’re using a soundbar, position it at eye level, just below your TV. It’s all about understanding your room.
Multiple Sub Woofers
Having more than one sub-woofer works wonders to minimize bass modes. The modes tend to smooth out when you have sound coming from different places in your room.
Acoustic Panels And/Or Base Traps
These of course are the go-to to improving the sound energy in your home theater. Use these sparingly, or you may just end up with a dead room since these remove the sound. Spacers between your panels and the walls are also an option. There are times when acoustic panels on your walls are just not enough, and while it is tricky to do so, the solution may just be to add some panels to the ceiling.
How Many Acoustics Panels Do I Need For My Home Theater?
There is no definite answer to this question simply because acoustics cannot be generalized. The application of the general rule of thumb will make you see why finding that x was so important – multiply the height and length of each of the walls in your room, and sum up each total to get the square footage (or meterage) of your room.
Multiply this total by the required percentage of coverage, and your answer will tell you how many square feet of coverage you need. From this, you can determine how many panels you may need, since each panel is on average 8.3 foot or 2.5m in length. The average home theater room only requires between 30% and 40% coverage. This is variable, depending again on the basics – the shape and size of your room, the number of windows and doors, whether you have concrete or wooden walls.
When most of us think of acoustic panels, we envision our walls covered from end to end. Please don’t. Remember that these are sound absorbers, and when it comes to acoustics, you’ve got to understand that every room is different, and different treatments would apply to each room.
Where Should I Place My Acoustics Panels?
Your home theater acoustic treatment layout should have placement in mind. The ideal positioning of acoustic panels is dependent on a number of factors, including:
Position of the source
The room size and shape
Any other materials in the space
The key to understanding the positioning of your panels is to have a basic understanding of how sound energy behaves. Sound propagates in any space, but in smaller rooms, sound waves typically bounce off the walls first, while in larger areas, they are more likely to bounce off the ceiling.
In a smaller room, sound waves will generally bounce against the walls first, since these are harder surfaces in close proximity to the source of the sound. Your best bet in this scenario would be wall-mounted panels, as these will reduce the waves that bounce back.
In bigger rooms or spaces, horizontal panels suspended from the ceiling at different heights will help to absorb the unwanted waves. Staggered panel heights create air pockets that will capture the sound waves and stop them in their tracks.
If you are trying to figure out the best acoustical treatment layout for your home theater you could possibly study the way sound travels here. Sound Waves resource. We hope you found this useful. Good Day!