Home Theater Room Acoustics
Tips and Speaker Placement info

Room acoustics are critical in order to get the most from your surround sound system - as is proper speaker placement within your room. Sound waves are lively by nature - they love to bounce around off various surfaces - the harder the surface the better as far as sound waves are concerned. The shape of your room and the material of the surfaces along with furnishings within the room are the major factors which will determine proper room acoustics. Hard, flat surfaces should be avoided if possible - and parallel flat surfaces contribute to standing waves. A standing wave is an undesireable room acoustical artifact wherein a soundwave "build-up" develops when sound reflects from a flat surface back towards the sound source repeatedly. You want sound to be absorbed if possible by furniture and other padded surfaces. Any extended or large flat surface should have an acoustic treatment for best results. Treatment solutions can include carpeting, acoustic tile or even the studio quality acoustic panels. And keep in mind even the most high dollar digital surround sound system will suffer if the speakers are not properly placed within the room.

The best theater room dimensions
The Golden Ratio for home theater room acoustics is an ancient Greek ratio called "Phi" or "the Golden Section". That ratio is one which is the room width of 1.6 times the height and the length being 2.6 times the room height. This acoustic room ratio is said to have the very best acoustic properties and has been used over the centuries since early times. In fact the ratio has been associated with the Egyptian pyramids and Stradivarius is said to have used it when building his masterpiece violins.

A rectangular room is the best average shaped room for your home theater and luckily it is general shape of most rooms in most houses. If you are designing a dedicated room try the "Golden Ratio" for best acoustic results. Dedicated rooms will also benefit from the insertion of columns along the sides for acoustic dampening (which can conceal side speakers in so equipped digital-surround systems). In lieu of columns - gathered drapes can be used to achieve nearly the same effect and add a bit of theater feel to the room. Carpet is a effective

"acoustic deadener". Floors should be carpeted of course. If you have hardwood floors you will need at least area rugs. Dedicated rooms should either have fully carpeted walls or at least up to the chair-rail area (1/3 the way up the ). If you are incorporating a theater in a living or family room - most homes have plaster walls which need some form of "deadening" acoustic treatment in order to prevent hollow or unnatural audio perception. Acoustic ceiling tile is a plus although most modern homes have plaster ceilings as well. Hopefully you have a textured ceiling which will help a bit and should be sufficient if you have good sound wave absorption by other items in your room such as carpeting and furniture. Anything fluffy you can add - even throw pillows on your furniture - will help deaden an acoustically overly "live" living room. Acoustic foam panels are available for those who would like a studio look but is rather pricey. Foam mattress pads can substitute, are much more reasonably priced and available at your local department store - although are usually some icky yellowish color rather than the cool, dark grey studio quality acoustic foam.

You don't want to make your room totally "dead" as it will sound unnatural due to the fact that you are accustomed to hearing a bit of liveliness and reverberation in everyday life. It is best to prevent an overly lively room and an overly dead room - try to strike a "happy medium" between the two extremes.

Speaker placement is paramount in order to get the proper response and spatial soundfield from your audio system. High dollar systems and speakers will sound hardly better than the average if not properly utilized.

As also covered in overall room design - speaker placement should be as follows...

The center channel speaker should be either directly above or directly below your video display.

Your right and left channel speakers should be placed to either side of your screen not too far removed from the screen yet far enough apart to give a good spatial feel to the right and left effects. You will want to angle them slightly toward the central seating area. That achieves two functions - concentrates the sound on the main seating area and eliminates undesirable standing waves.

Your rear-surround channel speakers should be located in the corners behind the seating area and again at an angle toward the main seating area.

Your sub-woofer placement is not critical as low frequencies are omni-directional however I prefer my sub at the front of the room near the screen. Some folks prefer them right behind the main seating area so they can feel the "seat-of-the-pants" rumble - you may want to experiment and see which placement you prefer for best room acoustics and bass response.

Proper attention to speaker placement - along with your room acoustical considerations will indeed enhance your enjoyment of your home cinema experience. If you need further assistance or have any qustions - please use the contact form and I will try to answer any and all of your questions.

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