When homeowners make their wish lists for dedicated home theaters, they generally think about the electronics systems: screens, video equipment, and speakers. But rarely do they consider how well those systems will perform in the dedicated room. If you are building or remodeling a home theater, addressing room acoustics from the beginning of the project will go a long way to ensuring your clients are satisfied with their experience.
"Having the room set up to perform the right way acoustically is definitely the best thing that can be done," says Patrick Roche, general manager for VisionAire FX, a complete home theater systems manufacturer. "But it is the last thing most people think of."
Three functions are key to controlling a room's acoustics: absorption, reflection, and diffusion. Building a home theater from the studs out with materials that absorb sound and treating the finished interior with acoustical panels is a good way to ensure high sound performance. Using acoustical insulation and sound-deadening fiberboard in the walls also helps eliminate sound transference to other rooms.
Where budgets do not allow replacing all the wall materials, acoustical panels alone can improve the room's sound. Acoustical panels for home theaters, like those offered by Sound Walls, Whisper Walls, and VisionAire FX, are wall- or ceiling-mounted; provide absorption, reflection, or diffusion; and are covered in attractive fabrics.
Three key areas of a room should always be treated, according to John Bubernak, president of acoustical solutions manufacturer Sound Walls: the room's two side walls, the screen wall, and -- if the room has many hard surfaces -- the ceiling.
"Most people do speakers to the left and right of the screen and will need absorption in the front, absorption and reflection to the sides, and diffusion to the rear," says James Theobald of Theodore Kalomirakis Theaters. "But it varies from layout to layout. It's best to hire a design professional."
Ensuring that a home theater has good acoustical performance lets homeowners get the maximum benefit out of the electronics they've invested in and creates a better home theater experience overall, Theobald says. "You want to feel like you're in an authentic theater."
Parasound. The THX Ultra2-certified Halo C 1 multichannel A/V controller features a 5-inch front panel video monitor, automatic room calibration, balanced XLR audio and BNC video connections, a DSP engine, multi-zone capability, and two remote controls. Multichannel processing with four additional output channels can be programmed by the user. The controller can be used with the maker's HaloControl software. (415) 397-7100. www.parasound.com.
SpeakerCraft. Consisting of three models, the Starlet series of in-line wall speakers features 61/2-inch fiberglass woven woofers that deliver clear bass and ribbon tweeters that produce a wide range of frequency. An extruded aluminum enclosure allows the speakers to be retrofitted through small cut-outs, also allowing the speaker to be moved later with minimal wall damage, says the maker. (800) 448-0976. www.speakercraft.com.
Bass Industries. The Alternative Home Cinema Seating line features a futuristic, high tech, yet elegant appearance, says the maker. Apollo, Orion, Futura, Helix, Matrix, Odessey, and Cinema Chaise offer alternatives to traditional loungers or theater seating and are available in leather, velour, Connaisseur Ultimate Nu-Suede, or custom upholsteries. (800) 346-8575. www.bassind.com.
Sharp. The SharpVision XV-Z10000U high definition Digital Light Processing front projector uses Texas Instruments' Mustang/HD2 DLP chip set to provide widescreen images in cinema quality with high contrast and brightness. A DVI terminal ensures compatibility with next-generation equipment. (800) 237-4277. www.sharpusa.com.
Bang & Olufsen. The BeoVision 5 42-inch plasma screen features integrated loudspeakers and can be mounted on a wall. A customized bracket and stand is available for freestanding installations.The screen can be integrated with a variety of the maker's other home theater equipment. Loudspeakers are available in red, black, aluminum, blue, and green finishes. (847) 590-4900. www.bang-olufsen.com.
Sonance. The Ellipse 2.0 LCR and Ellipse Surround in-ceiling speakers are elliptically shaped to improve performance in a surround sound home theater. Sonic Eye Technology allows the tweeter/midrange array on each speaker to pivot up to 20 degrees, which enables more options for speaker placement. The acoustical enclosure, staple template, and FlexBar mounting system ease installation, says the maker. (800) 582-0771. www.sonance.com.
Bose. The Virtually Invisible 191 speakers can be flush mounted in either walls or ceilings and feature both rectangular and circular grilles that can be changed during installation. The grilles can be painted to match wall or ceiling colors. Two 21/2-inch full range drivers are positioned in the maker's Articulated Array design to provide Stereo Everywhere performance. (800) 444-2673. www.bose.com.
Vutec. Designed as a masking system for wall-mounted plasma televisions and projection screens, the ArtScreen features hardwood framing and a retractable art piece. The homeowner's choice of image is displayed in the frame when the television is not in use, then retracts to allow television viewing. A remote control is included and a wide variety of standard images are available; custom images can also be produced/reproduced. (800) 770-4700. www.vutec.com.
Auton. The Flip-Down Plasma Unit is designed to conceal a plasma television in the ceiling. Measuring 42 inches wide by 111/2 inches high and 32 inches deep, the flip-down model features a manual override switch, remote control, adjustable limit switches to control lift stopping points, and gear guards. The unit operates off a standard 120-volt AC outlet. Custom sizing is available. Screen is not included. (661) 257-9282. www.auton.com.
Sony. The new Grand WEGA LCD-based rear projection screens are available in 60- and 70-inch screen sizes, and both widescreen models feature built-in ATSC tuners, i.LINK and DVI-HDTV digital interfaces, Uniform Brightness Screen technology, and enhanced Memory Stick media playback. (800) 222-7669. www.sony.com.
For more product information, visit ebuild, Hanley-Wood's interactive product catalog.