Creating the Right Acoustics in Your Home Theater Room

Perfecting the acoustics is one home theater detail you don’t want to skip over.

When you picked the audio equipment for your home theater, you chose something with full-spectrum sound and speakers that produce amazing sound saturation. You’re ready to sink back into your entertainment chair equipped with heavy-hitting bass shakers and feel the surround sound immersion. But here’s the thing; if you failed to consider the acoustics of your movie room, even the best sound system can be rendered absolute trash. Then you’re stuck watching movies in a cacophony of sound bouncing all over the room and muddying things up, and no one wants that, especially if you didn’t stick with a budget for your theater seating, equipment and buildout. While you were expecting the best of the best in terms of sound capability, the acoustics of room itself can sometimes have other plans. Thankfully, getting your theater room’s acoustics up to speed isn’t too much work, and there are a ton of ways to go about it.

It might seem counterintuitive, but getting the right acoustic setup in your home theater room is about controlling sound and how it reflects off surfaces. Too much sound reflection cancels out some tones and makes others way too prominent, which can easily affect your movie watching experience—there’s a reason why all of the movie theaters from your childhood had their theater chairs made out of various fabrics with paneling up on the walls. It all ties back to controlling the acoustics and making sure the sound and audio are where they should be. 

Like most things in life, you can also take your home theater’s acoustics too far and completely block out all sound reflection, which won’t produce great sound either. You want your audio to be crisp, clear, and consistent. With too little sound reflection, you risk your audio sounding muffled and muddied. It’s without a doubt a delicate, but not one that’s overly difficult to accomplish with a little DIY work in your theater room. The gist is, you’ve got to balance how the speakers interact with all the surfaces in your media room. How do you accomplish this? There are a handful of different methods:

  1. Sound dampening insulation

There are a couple ways you can play this one. If your DIY home theater took you down to the studs, adding sound dampening insulation is easy, as is choosing a drywall made for eliminating sound transfer. The walls are open; you might as well. It’s not always the most glamorous option, but putting in soundproof insulation to your walls is a more permanent solution and avoids you having to deck your room and already-premium theater seating out in throws, rugs, and other fabrics. 

But if you don’t feel like doing open heart surgery on your walls, there are ways to get spray foam insulation in each stud section that inflates once it’s sprayed, and you just need a small hole in the wall—truly a marvel of the modern age where you don’t have to tear down your walls to fill them with more insulation. We feel we’re safely in the majority when we say that kind of DIY project for your theater room is at the bottom of everyone’s list. A few drywall patches sounds much better than a whole day-of-drywalling situation.

The pros of this method, is that it’s a one and done type deal. If you have it in you to throw in some new insulation while your walls are open in a home theater renovation, or you don’t mind throwing a few holes in the wall for spray insulation, go for it. It also doesn’t affect your theater room décor and furniture in the same way the other options might. If you otherwise like where your room is at, this might be the best option.

The major con here is that this do-it-yourself home theater renovation is ostensibly more involved than most of the other options here and does require a little but more physical effort and time than others.

  1. Acoustic panels

Acoustic panels are cool for several reasons. First, they don’t require a lot of construction knowledge or skill, which for DIY’ers is always a plus. Seriously, these are as easy as installing a leveling bracket, slapping on a little bit of adhesive, and pressing the panel into place where you need it. If you’re doing a DIY victory lap in your home theater, these are it—you’ll have them up and ready to help with the audio the same day you get them.

Second, they come in different shapes and sound absorption ratings so you can fine tune exactly how much sound is reverberating throughout the theater room—perfect for striking that fine balance between too much and too little sound reflection. Also from a design standpoint, this is ideal. If you’re wanting to deck out an entire wall in paneling, you can go with a lower sound absorption rating so you don’t unintentionally overdo it.

Third, they can be integrated as a part of your room design! They add depth, texture, pattern – a really cool option for that super-modern, slightly-industrial look that’s popular right now. When you’re up looking for inspiration for modern, design-friendly home theaters, you’re likely to stumble across photos of some pretty sweet theater rooms that feature acoustic paneling. It’s not always everyone’s first thought, but it’s a great way to add some visual interest to the walls.

And finally, fourth, acoustic paneling is typically on the cheaper end. If you’re sticking to a strict budget for your entertainment room, these could be your best friends. Or if you’re just looking for a quick, easy fix for your sound reflection woes, look no further.

  1. Bass traps

We all love a good bass fry, especially when it’s paired with bass shaker theater seats. We’ve talked about the benefits of bass in your home theater at length before, but it really ups the immersion and adds an extra layer of depth to your home theater experience. But too much bass reverberation makes things muddy and unbalanced. All of that noise kind of just jumbles around without any clear distinction. And, believe it or not, too much bass bouncing around actually cancels a bunch of it out. Physics. Weird, right? Thankfully, those high-power bass transducers installed on your theater seating don’t have to go anywhere. Enter the bass trap.

Bass traps are the perfect solution to this problem, and you only need a couple to get the job done. They help balance frequencies and make everything sound a little less rough around the edges. These mighty accessories for your home theater are typically made out of material like foam and fabric—ideal for their noise-canceling properties—and are made to tuck neatly into the corners of your room and minimize any potential intrusions on the design of your home theater.  While bass without any acoustic considerations can be loud, we don’t want to take all the boom out of those action movie explosions. 

  1. Heavy curtains

Those super-heavy floor-to-ceiling velvet curtains in traditional movie theaters aren’t just about design; they also serve to reduce sound reflection. Who doesn’t love something that serves dual-purpose form and function? Fabric theater seating—like we’ll talk about in a minute—and other fabric accessories and furniture for your entertainment room are pretty top-notch at mitigating sound. The fabrics actually absorb and take in the sound, rather than having it bounce off of harder materials, like wooden furniture, leather theater seating, and rough, uninsulated walls. 

If your home theater room has windows, a few sets of heavy curtains can serve not only to balance your room’s acoustics, but black out light intrusion from the windows as well. Once again, dual-purpose. If you already have curtains that are made of a light material, like thin cotton or linen, those probably aren’t going to cut it. We’re talking really heavy-duty here. You’ll want some kind of fabric that has a There are even types of sound-dampening curtains that are insulated for extra absorption.

  1. Fabric theater seating

It’s not like leather theater seating is going to make or break the acoustical setup of your media room—it’s kind of that in-between material that’s not really going to do anything for or against the acoustics in your room. But it is true that non-leather theater seating options like microfiber or velour don’t reflect sound nearly as much. The soft materials found in those fabrics make them the top choice in theater seats to help absorb sound and quiet some of the louder acoustics.

Kind of along the same lines, adding décor for your home theater like plush pillows, throws, and even big area rugs can help dampen some of the acoustics in the room. If you already have some theater chairs with leather upholstery, just accessorize! Throw some pillows on them, drape a couple throws over others, and you’ll be doing your room’s acoustics a favor. Whoever said no to a little bit of extra comfort? 

So, if fabric theater seating is in your design aesthetic, you get a 2-for-1, because they also help your acoustics as well!

  1. Soft flooring

Just like walls and windows, hard, bare floors will reflect sound. Don’t overlook the floor when troubleshooting your sound system issues. Wood and especially tile will mess with sound. A lot. They can turn a home theater into an echo chamber, with sound ricocheting off your floors left and right. 

The good news is, there’s a simple solution: rugs or carpets! No additional renovations needed. If you have curved theater seating that sits 4 people, try adding a big, plush area rug to the mix—not only will it help designate an official seating area and make your theater room homier, it’ll also help absorb some of that sound. The same goes for carpeted floors. There’s a reason that movie theaters had fabric floors and that retro carpet in the lobby area… well, we’re still wondering about the lobby carpet choice. With any number of movies playing at a given time, having carpeted floors throughout would help absorb any residual noise, and the same goes true for carpet in your home theater.

Last Tips for Building a Home Theater Room with the Right Acoustics

Whether your movie room project is retrofitting an existing room, or creating a whole new room addition, each presents its own challenges. Don’t get frustrated when your sound system plans don’t immediately pan out. Getting the right acoustics in your home theater can take a little trial and effort, tweaking certain layouts and materials. Think of the acoustics of your home theater room like an instrument – it’s got to be tuned to sound right. It may take a bit of experimenting. When you finally land at that crystal clear audio, all the effort and planning will be worth it, though.

A home theater is a fun thing to build, and you can totally do it yourself, especially with the right theater seating and risers vendor. But don’t overlook the details. Acoustics are technically a detail, but fail to consider them in your sound system setup and the consequences won’t seem like a detail anymore, so remember to include them in your home theater room plans.