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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm in the initial concrete planning phase of my home theater (years in the making!) and am in need of some opinions. Specifically, what do you consider a minimum width of a decent home theater to be?


Okay, so I'm going to create the theater in the remnant of two bedrooms that are side-by-side. After removing the shared wall, I'm going to have a space that is 22' 6" long by 11' 7" wide. Three of the walls are "slump block" (concrete block common to the Southwest) and so my length is fixed. The width, though... that's not set in stone.


I have a drawing to show roughly what I mean (hopefully this works):




I'm going to use one of the existing closets as an equipment closet and the other (the West/Left room) gets its closet absorbed into the room above it. This would all be pretty straightforward construction.


I'm concerned about the 11 1/2 foot width, though. The drawing shows standard 2x4 walls on the North and the existing walls on the other three sides. Those are 7 1/2" slump block + 1 1/2" studs plus fiberglass insulation + 1/2" drywall. I'm definitely going to have to beef up the 2x4 wall into something a lot better and I may need to beef up the other walls, as well. They will certainly be puffed up by any wall panels I end up putting in. That means that I may end up with just over 11 feet of usable space.


Is that enough? Or will I regret it down the road?


I do have another option. If I absorb both of the closets along with the hall leading to the rooms, then I can get another 2 1/2 feet. It would look like so:




I've seen several theaters on this forum with a width around 14 feet, so I'm pretty sure that that would be fine.


But here's the problem. Doing this would be a HUGE amount of extra work. I'd need to move a skylight, and two doors, and redo two room's worth of flooring (or patch them, at least). Plus, I'd lose a closet in the adjoining bedroom, along with a storage closet in the hall. It would add at least a couple months to my project (doing this alone) and who knows how much money.


Yeah, it would be a pain... but maybe a worthwhile pain? How many of you would be okay with 11' and how many would make the sacrifices necessary to get those two extra feet?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Current thoughts include six or seven seats; four in the back row and two or three in the front. The four in the back row are La-Z-Boy sectional recliners that come from my old theater room. When they are all connected together, they take up 10' 8". For all practical reasons, that would mean "wall to wall". I'm considering removing the center drawer/table section and converting the two inner pieces into a love seat. That would reduce the size to 9' 5'. Still not enough to walk on either side, but it would have a little buffer.


The front row will almost surely be standalone recliners of some sort. That's the extent of my thinking on that.


As I mentioned, the back row seating comes from an older theater room I had in a previous house. That was also 11 1/2' wide at the seating area and was fine... but it also had 10' ceilings and expanded out to 14' by the end of the room (kind of a trapezoid). My new theater has 8' ceilings (unless I raise it) and will be the same width the entire length.


What I'm wondering about is how that would "feel". Would it be claustrophobic? Feel to constrained? Feel fine?
 

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IMHO wall to wall seating means that you let your inlaws sit in the outside seats because it is the best place to put people you hope never come back. If all you want in the front row is two seats you can center them in the room. If 95% of your theater use is just those two seats I wouldn't bother with going to the effort of widening the room.
 

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My room is 12' wide, you are only going to be able to fit two seats in the front row. Even with only two seats I'd still prefer another foot of width to allow more space for the side surrounds.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by design1stcode2nd  /t/1470471/size-matters-but-how-much/0_100#post_23258200


My room is 12' wide, you are only going to be able to fit two seats in the front row. Even with only two seats I'd still prefer another foot of width to allow more space for the side surrounds.

Good points! I hadn't considered that maybe three individual recliners wouldn't fit. Perhaps if they were skinny and I only had one set of steps to the riser...


I also hadn't considered the side speakers (columns). Hrm.


Do you find that your room feels claustrophobic at all?
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·

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Originally Posted by W00lly  /t/1470471/size-matters-but-how-much/0_100#post_23258383


14' wide would be much better then 11'

Yeah, I think that's a given. The big question is: by how much?


It's kind of like this. Say you have a certain amount of money to buy tools and you can either buy two Harbor Freight tools or one Makita. Nobody would suggest that the HF tools were as nice as the Makita, but you'd have to "sacrifice" to buy the more expensive one. Is it worth it? That's a judgement call. That's what I'm hoping for here -- people that have made a decision similar to mine and wether or not they'd do things the same if given the chance to redo it.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by granroth  /t/1470471/size-matters-but-how-much#post_23260267


It's kind of like this. Say you have a certain amount of money to buy tools and you can either buy two Harbor Freight tools or one Makita. Nobody would suggest that the HF tools were as nice as the Makita, but you'd have to "sacrifice" to buy the more expensive one. Is it worth it? That's a judgement call. That's what I'm hoping for here -- people that have made a decision similar to mine and wether or not they'd do things the same if given the chance to redo it.

I'll take your analogy a little further. If you were going to use that tool every time you used your workshop, you'd probably want the Makita. But if it was a specialized tool that only got used once in a blue moon - you'd be fine with the Harbor Freight one...


Room size will affect every use of the room. Also, essentially impossible to change later. Unlike that Harbor Freight tool, which you can always throw away when it breaks and buy a Makita.


Jeff
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by granroth  /t/1470471/size-matters-but-how-much#post_23260249


Good points! I hadn't considered that maybe three individual recliners wouldn't fit. Perhaps if they were skinny and I only had one set of steps to the riser...


I also hadn't considered the side speakers (columns). Hrm.


Do you find that your room feels claustrophobic at all?

Not claustrophobic at all. Spacious? No, but not claustrophobic.


I don't want to fill up your thread with my stuff but here is a shot showing the space I have with two average size recliners (mine are not wide nor are they narrow although these are full recliners so you would gain another 5 inches by losing one arm rest)



The side surrounds are parallel to the headrest of the first row. My columns and speakers only take up maybe 8” so they are quite narrow and there still isn’t a great deal of walking space. 85% of the time there are only two of us using the theater, 95% there are four with two of those being small children so it isn’t an issue for me.


Best thing to do is map out your room, include all the things that will eat up width in the walking space, acoustic treatments, columns, speakers, etc and decide on how much space you have left for chairs.


Then if you can mock up with boxes or surplus totes, furniture etc. that walking space and see if it feels comfortable.


Take a look through the small theater builds thread to see what people have done in some tight spaces.
 
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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks, everybody. I don't know that I'm any closer to making a final decision but the answers I've gotten have really filled out some excellent reasons for either result. jautor is absolutely right that I only have one shot at this and having the space gives me substantially more flexibility for the future. design1stcode2nd showed that it's absolutely not a requirement, though, considering his excellent theater in limited space. Perhaps even more convincing is the Small Theater Builds thread, which leads to HT builds like "The Arthouse" -- which absolutely floors me with what can be done in an even smaller space than I have.


Handily, I'm still a little time out before starting. The minimum start time would be the end of June. Considering that the build would require a period of uninsulated and un-airconditioned space in a Phoenix summer (not to mention 160-180 degree temps in the attic)... well, maybe I can wait a few more months until it cools down. We'll see if I can wait.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tedd  /t/1470471/size-matters-but-how-much/0_100#post_23269740


How tall is the room?


And what are your seating wants versus needs?

The room is 8' high. I've debated raising the ceiling a bit. The walls are all block and there is no second floor, so the ceiling joists (probably) just exist to hold up the drywall. It could be straightforward to make a "bowl" or "cove" in the ceiling and give me a couple feet more. Not at all sure that would be worth it.


Seating wants vs needs? Technically speaking, it's all "wants" since absolutely nobody "needs" a theater at all
But yeah, the main issue is that I'm not entirely certain. My last (much much more rudimentary) theater only had four seats, and it was completely fine 99% of the time. The 1% of the time when I needed more (movie party), though, really stands out to me. Sure, the vast majority of the time, it'll just be my family watching movies... but part of the reason for creating such an elaborate theater is to have movie night with friends and extended family. That requires more.


Six seems to be the true minimum, then, if you factor in the four of us plus one couple. I'd like more.
 

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Something else to consider, your length is almost exactly 2x the width right now, and you may run into some pretty significant room modes on the low end to deal with regarding sub placement and EQ. Pushing out to 14' wide would be beneficial.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by uscmatt99  /t/1470471/size-matters-but-how-much/0_100#post_23270619


Something else to consider, your length is almost exactly 2x the width right now, and you may run into some pretty significant room modes on the low end to deal with regarding sub placement and EQ. Pushing out to 14' wide would be beneficial.

Ah, right.. the acoustics. I don't know very much about the details of acoustics (yet) but I think the heuristics are roughly:


1. Absolutely never want a room where all three dimensions are the same (a cube)

2. A room with two identical dimensions is better, but still bad

3. A room with dimensions that are direct multiples of each other is going to cause issues

4. Dimensions that have a shared multiple can also cause issues


So... ideally, you'd have a room where at least two of the dimensions are unique prime numbers (13x19x8).


If I'm wrong about any of that, then feel free to correct me because, as I said, I don't know very much yet.


With that in mind, my room at (roughly) 11x22 is the 3rd worst possibility. A room with 14x22 is better, but it violates #4 by having multiples of 2 and very nearly multiples of 7 (14x21).


I do wonder with rules of thumb like this, just how precise they are. For instance, if I were to add on 1' to the screen wall, making the length 21', would the 11x21 (no shared multiples) be safe from bad room modes? Or is it close enough that it doesn't matter?
 

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You've got it. My knowledge is only cursory, but I ensured my room dimensions were relatively favorable before framing of the room occurred. These are not rules of thumb, they are actually pretty straightforward. You're going to have room modes at whatever wavelengths cause maximum summation or complete cancelling out of their amplitudes. These will add in 3 dimensions, so if they differ in all three dimensions you'll get more smoothing at any given 3D coordinate. If the same wavelengths cause problems in 2 dimensions (length and width for example) you could get huge peaks and nulls that no software will be able to tame at some locations, hopefully not where your head sits. It will take multiple subs appropriately positioned in combination with bass trapping to get even response at listening positions. That's the side benefit in your case of bumping out that wall, you'll have a bit more room for moving subs around for optimization.
 
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