Step 4: Acoustic Treatments

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series How to Design a Dedicated Home Theater

People who are new to acoustics (and sometimes even seasoned audiophiles) sometimes doubt the importance of acoutic treatments. Do not make this mistake. Your room is by far the most important instrument in your audio chain. In other words, the greatest speakers in the world may sound bad if they are playing in a poorly treated room, whereas even cheap speakers can sound good in a properly treated room.

Assuming you have been following my four part process for designing a home theater, the goal at this point in the process is to determine how much absorptive material your home theater requires and where to put it. First, let’s talk about the latter.

In a multi-channel HT environment, many experts advise the acoustic deadening of the front wall and the absorption of first reflection points. In general, this means that you will put some type of sound absorbing insulation along the front wall (behind your speakers) and on the side walls, at ear level, between the seats and screen.

The type of insulation can be Linacoustic or OC703 or some other type (the fluffy pink stuff works if you have the space and some way to conceal it, such as behind a false wall covered in acoustically transparent fabric).

Here is a picture of the insulation installed at the front of my room, behind my false wall (please ignore the puny speaker — I have since upgraded considerably):

home theater bass traps behind false wall

The panels on the side wall are simply OC703 wrapped in red burlap and mounted to the wall, and although only the left wall is shown here, the right wall has an identical installation of panels.

home theater acoustic panels

Bass traps are generally in high demand, and lots of people use wedge traps to straddle the corners of the room. In the top picture on this page, you can see the acoustic cotton bass traps installed in the front corners.

To determine when you have enough absorptive material in the room, you can run your own RT60 calculations, or you can hire someone to do it for you. I recommend the former. At some point I will post a primer on how to do it yourself.

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