Home Theater Acoustics – Listen to Your Speakers, Not Your Room
Once you take a decision to make an investment on some type of home theater gear, the next thing you will probably be doing is to make a visit to the home theater showroom and you are simply impressed by the high end system and buy it at an exorbitant price and take it home. You are full of excitement, spending a lot of time fixing and installing it and finally when you actually slide in your preferred DVD, you find that you are not getting the same smooth and thrilling audio experience you felt when it was played for you at the shop. So what went wrong?
The main thing to be noted is that once the AV system delivers reasonable quality of sound, the possible reason for unsatisfactory audio could be the room acoustics, which is the most ignored aspect in setting up your home theater. When the listener is at some distance from the speakers, what he hears is what is known as “far field”, as the sound is in fact coming to him indirectly from the surfaces of room and not from the speakers. The speakers disperse the sound in all directions, and the room gives the effect of a big filter, amplifying some sounds while moderating others.
How to go about this task? If you can afford it, better hire a consultant who is an acoustically qualified professional and it will be worth your investment. If cost must be kept down, you sure can improve the room acoustics, just by following some simple rules.
- If it is within your capacity, tackle excessive external noise, (HVAC, footsteps, traffic etc.).
- You wall area to the extent of 20-40 percent must be covered with acoustical absorption panels in order to lessen reverberation, echoes and flutter.
- Install absorptive bass traps in corners for minimizing building up low frequency sounds.
There are several products for noise control available for keeping undesired sounds from getting into your home theater. Duct silencers and duct and pipe lagging can minimize HVAC noise, isolation clips and vinyl noise barrier can decouple ceilings and walls thus interrupting the transmission of sound wave, and acoustic doors with door seals can also help. The purpose of these is to increase speech intelligibility in the soundtrack of the movie by reducing the signal/noise ratio. Bass traps and acoustic panels are available in different materials and prices. Panels wrapped with custom fabrics can be made to match the room’s decor, so also prefabricated panels and ready-made kits. The bottom line is that an average sound system in an acoustically treated room will perform better than an expensive sound system in a badly tuned room.