How to Keep Sound from Bouncing Around - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 1 Old 01-25-2007, 07:52 AM - Thread Starter
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How to Keep Sound from Bouncing Around

Hard surfaces can kill home theater acoustics. Use these tips to minimize the distortion.

You may love your tile floors and your wood-paneled walls and ceiling. You may envision building a home theater space with granite countertops in the back, or you might simply clad the vertical surfaces with good old drywall.

Well, guess what? All those beautiful and hard building materials can be bad for the sound in your home theater. They can make the audio echo, reverberate and sound shrill.

The ideal-sounding home theater would have thick wall-to-wall carpeting and some fabric walls. But that doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your flooring or wall choices. The latest studies show that reverberations and echoes don't matter much in small-to-average-size rooms, especially if you have some padded furniture and other soft materials to help absorb excess noise.

Problem #1: Echoes and Reflections
Just as a shiny object reflects light, any hard surface reflects sound. Too many hard surfaces can cause the audio to reflect so much that it creates echoes and reverberations, which make it harder to hear the dialogue in a movie clearly. Spaces like this are often said to be live or have a bright sound.

Here's a quick test to tell if your room will have sound reflection problems. Stand in the middle of it and clap your hands. If you hear an echo or slight ringing afterwards, the sound from several speakers will be harsh. You'll need to add absorptive materials.

Mix it up - Sound reflection is not all bad. All home theaters need some sound reflection, or the audio might never reach your ears. The idea is to have the right mix of reflection, caused by hard surfaces, and absorption, caused by soft surfaces.

The Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association recommends that 25 percent of the surfaces in a room be absorptive and 25 percent be diffusive, the latter of which helps to spread the sound throughout a room.

Absorptive materials include carpets, padded sofas and chairs, heavy drapes and curtains. You can often add enough of these to eliminate any echo or reverberation. So although those leather chairs look great, fabric chairs and sofas do a much better job of absorbing unwanted sounds.

Spot rugs work well, if they're large enough to cover the floor of most of the main seating area. Look for rugs or carpets with thick padding.

Diffusive materials are generally uneven surfaces that help spread the sound throughout a room. These are often placed in the back of a room or on the ceiling to help scatter the sound.

And while hardly ideal, a hard surface such as a rock foundation wall or fluted woodwork can actually act as a sound diffuser, so don't be too quick to cover these up.

For more ways to keep sound from bouncing around, check out

Jason Unger
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