Every room in your home sounds different based on the surfaces within and how they reflect, absorb, or spread sound. This is known as "acoustics," and the shape of the room, height of the ceiling, distance between the walls, and types of surfaces all play an integral role. If you're not happy with the way your home theater sounds, don't rush out and buy new speakers. You might simply need to tweak a couple things to get the improvement you're looking for. And here are six simple ways to make those improvements.
Avoid Square Rooms
If you're still working on choosing a space for your home theater, try to avoid a square room if possible. The uniform length of the walls has a habit of distorting sound more so than a rectangular room and even one that has an odd shape with different angles. Certain frequencies can reverberate, causing the overall sound to become unbalanced.
As a side note: rooms with high or vaulted ceilings tend to lose the bass, so you may need to invest in multiple subwoofers.
For the most part, hard surfaces will reflect sound, whereas soft ones absorb it. Sound reflection isn't a bad thing, but too much of it and your movie-watching experience will be subpar. However, there needs to be a balance.
If your home theater is in a room with wood or linoleum floors, consider adding carpet to improve the sound quality. If that's not an option, at least throw down a few area rugs, focusing on the floor between the seats and speakers.
For the same reason that carpet can help, a set of curtains over any exposed windows can do the trick. But even if you don't have windows, you may want to hang curtains on several walls, maybe on either side of the screen. Not only will they give a "true theater" feel, but they can also help absorb the sound waves. And remember: the heavier and thicker the curtains, the better.
Use CD/DVD Storage Towers
Strategically placing furniture and small items like storage towers or bookcases around your theater can help. As stated earlier, sound reflection isn't a bad thing, so long as you have the right amount. Having a few small, hard surfaces that are irregularly situated around the room—like books, DVDs, and CDs on shelves—can positively impact the way your movies sound. The best place to put them is behind the sitting area or along the side walls. And OCD sufferers beware: the more haphazard, uneven, and scattered the small surfaces are, the better the sound quality.
Implement Acoustic Panels
If you've ever stepped foot inside a recording studio, you've probably noticed that the walls are usually covered in foam. A lot of people mistakenly think that this is soundproofing material, but really, all foam does is absorb sound, minimize reverberations, and overall improve the quality of the sound. If it helps, think of sound like water. If you pour a gallon of water over a kitchen sponge, some of that water will get absorbed, while the rest of it will spill to the surrounding area.
Improving sound in your theater is all about the right amount of absorption. And this is where acoustic panels come in. But since most people don't want pieces of foam hanging on the walls of their theater, a lot of companies have overcome this barrier by creating attractive acoustic panels that look like pictures. And you can hang those panels on the walls of your space to improve the sound and esthetics.
Tweak the Layout
If you've laid down carpet, hung curtains and acoustic panels, and distributed some bookcases or towers here and there and the sound still isn't right, why not rearrange the room? Sometimes, all it takes is a little tweaking to get the hard and soft surfaces in the correct arrangement to properly reflect and absorb the sound.
If you're in a rectangular or odd-shaped room, one tip is to put the screen and the speakers against the shortest wall to maximize the sound projection. Check your space for any large surfaces that are hard, and cover them with fabric if they can't be moved. Be aware of everything in your space, and that includes plants and pets. For instance, if you have 5 big dogs that enjoy watching movies with you, their presence will affect the sound, but you're more likely to notice it when they're not around.