Consider using acoustic wall panels or other methods to absord sound in your theater. When designing your ultimate man cave or home movie theater, most people forget about controlling sound reflection. You buy a nice receiver, a sub-woofer, and great satellite speakers, but you notice they do not sound as good as they can. There’s an echo and the surround sound is off a bit. So you adjust the speakers and seating only to discover the problem remains.
Have you ever noticed the gaudy curtains and carpeting on movie theater walls? They are there to control the way sound is absorbed. Otherwise, moviegoers would not be able to appreciate the full effects of the movie. Sound comes out of one speaker, flows across the audience, and is softened or absorbed by panels and curtains on the other side. It cannot bounce back.
So what can you do to make your home theater more acoustically correct? You may want the sound to bounce off of a wall. In fact, this is how sound bars achieve surround sound effects even though the sound bar in directly in front of you on top of the television. The bar positions speakers at an angle to bounce the sound waves off of a wall so they hit your ears from either side. It’s kind of like playing pool: Instead of saying “eight ball in corner pocket,” you could say “machine gun fire in right ear.”
You can use the following techniques to control how the sound waves act in your home theater:
Acoustic Wall Panels
Acoustic wall panels can be expensive if you buy them. But if you’re handy, you can make them with some foam, fabric, staple gun and some 1 x 2 pieces of wood.These images taken from hometheatershack.com show how a person made acoustic wall panels out of a frame, some insulation and black fabric. They were positioned in the sides near the screen, and also on the left and right walls. Of course, you can make the acoustic wall panels in any size, shape or color.
Alternatives To Acoustic Wall Panels
Acoustic Wall Coverings
Acoustic panels are great for sound absorption, but you can also go the low-tech way and use draperies and thin carpet on the wall. Heavy drapes can even be used to cover acoustic foam, so any sound going through the drapes will be captured by the foam. In order of effectiveness, the acoustic panels are best, followed by drapes and then carpeting.
If you are renovating that basement or spare room and were thinking about using a drywall ceiling, consider using a drop ceiling instead. Ceiling tiles have similar characteristics as acoustic panels. They can absorb sound that hits them, and depending on the type you have, can considerably reduce the sound reflection.
Carpeting and Windows
Two of the biggest killers of home theater acoustics are hardwood floors and glass windows. If you have a choice, design your theater in a room without windows and put carpeting on the floor. If you have windows in your home theater, be sure to use heavy drapery you can close when watching movies. If you already have hardwood flooring, consider a shaggy area rug or two to dampen then sound.
In conclusion, you already know there are a lot of considerations when designing your home theater, and using acoustic wall panels or coverings sound should be one of them. You do not want to go through all of the time and expense of designing a home theater to have it ruined by a room that echoes. Use acoustic tiles and acoustic panels, drapes and carpeting to dampen the sound and create that perfect movie experience. If you have questions about acoustic wall panels, read our other home theater articles.