There are two basic elements to be considered when looking to improve home theater acoustics. These are sound absorption and soundproofing. Homeowners can and do spend thousands of dollars on completely soundproofing their home theater room and installing materials that create the perfect transmission of sound from one side to the other. While they undoubtedly achieve great results for the price, you might want to take a simpler, less expensive approach to bettering the acoustical properties in your home theater room.
The fact is, most people do not have thousands of discretionary dollars to spend on state-of-the-art improvements to the acoustics of their home theater rooms. There are, however, a number of things you can do to create a nice mix of sound reflection and sound absorption in the theater room. For soundproofing purposes, you have some simple options there as well.
1. Carpeting and/or Rugs
If the theater does not already have it, carpeting between the front row of speakers and the audience is of primary importance. A soft absorbent material is essentially your first line of defense against angular sound waves that will echo off of hardwood floors. Consider laying out a big rug if carpeting is neither an option nor desirable.
2. Acoustic Wall Paneling
You don’t have to purchase top-of-the-line acoustical wall panels for this. Dark squares of egg crate foam affixed to the walls near the front speakers work well to absorb a good amount of sound. There are, however, more expensive, industry-designed acoustical panels available, but you can achieve a similar effect with thick foam rubber at a fraction of the cost. Don’t go overboard, though. They do not need to surround the room. Also, do not place any foam tiles on the ceiling, for you want it to be a hard surface, helping to blend sound reflection and absorption.
The furniture in your home theater room helps to absorb sound. Soft, plush furniture is best. Add large pillows or cushions on chairs or a couch to increase sound absorption. Remove any hard tables or chairs that are not immediately used for the room.
For soundproofing, that is, keeping outside noise out of the room, one thing you can do is add insulation between the studs of the walls. This, of course, requires a retrofit, but if you are remodeling the room anyway, factor that in. You may also double up on the layer of drywall. The additional mass will block out more noise.
5. Windows and Doors
Hollow doors and outdated windows are notorious for letting noise in. If you cannot afford to replace both, start with the door. It should be solid wood. Windows ideally are double-paned with ample space between them. This can get expensive, though, so budget for the future if you cannot take care of it now.
6. Sound Dampeners
To dampen sound as it travels from outside, consider the use of heavy velvet curtains over windows, even the entrance door. In the absence of a solid door and the right windows, thickly draped curtains can make a big difference.
When improving the acoustical properties of your home theater room, your goal should not be to squelch out all sound. You want to achieve a nice balance of reflective surfaces and absorbing surfaces to maximize the way sound carries in the room. Keeping outside noise out, though, is important for the best possible experience.