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September 7, 2011

Home Theater Design: Four Key Considerations

Filed under: How-To — Tags: , — Amie C @ 6:58 pm

Recently a friend of Axiom  appeared on Facebook to tell us his Axiom’s were still going strong, 6 years after they first made the flight to Indonesia.  I could immediately picture his room, because at the time, dedicated home theater rooms weren’t that common in North America, let alone around the world!

Home theater design has come a long way from five-speakers-stuffed-into-the-basement-rec-room.  People have managed to convert empty spaces above garages, or taken over other rooms to build a truly decked-out home theater room.

How can you build your dream room?  Here are four key considerations to take into account as you put pencil to paper (or mouse to screen):

1.  How Will You Use Your Theater?

Is your family the kind that like to pile in with all the neighborhood kids and a maybe even the dog and cat, to watch the latest installment of Pirates of the Caribbean?  Then  you’ll probably want to look at a room with flexible seating options.  Think couches, ottomans, and lots and lots of cushions.  Oh, and maybe think washable, too!

If you are a more serious movie watcher who invites people in to watch the latest concert dvd or a grip-the-armrests action flick, you may want to consider dedicated seating (tiered, if your room height allows it) that lets all the viewers in the room have their own seat, much like a movie theater.

2.  The Rooms Around Your Dedicated Home Theater

If you’re fortunate enough to have a space completely isolated from the rest of the house, you can skip over this consideration.  But if your theater is near bedrooms or other quiet rooms, you may want to consider a few ways to control the sound output.

A few easy ways to minimize sound traveling are to add draperies to the windows (or even to walls with no windows; use plenty of throw cushions, and carpeting.  If you have standard home construction with hollow doors, try to find a solid door you can use for this particular room.

If your budget / construction options allow, you can actually build a staggered stud wall or install special sound-deadening sheet rock.  Read more about these options in Soundproofing Your Home Theater Part One and Part Two.

3.  Budget

Yup, the evil B word.  But a lot of decisions follow from your budget, so you might as well sit down and figure out what you can afford to spend.  Remember, if you can’t do it all at once, you can start by upgrading one item at a time.  A slipcover over an old couch is not a bad thing if it means you can get a really powerful subwoofer a few months sooner!

Here’s a graphic from our article on Building a Basement Home Theater, which shows you the rough allocation of dollars for equipment.  Forgetting the cables and wiring can be a costly mistake, especially if you want to opt for costly name-brand cables over standard copper runs. (Not a practice we advocate, but everyone has their own preferences.)

It may be surprising to think of spending as much on speakers as on your display, but if you’ve had the chance to hear a flat panel television’s built-in speakers, and then added a good pair of stereo speakers to the mix, you’ll know that great sound makes all the difference in having an amazing home cinema experience.

4. Get the Right Display and Home Theater Speaker System For Your Room

I know, I know, it’s a cliché – but size really does matter!  Getting a video display that looks great – not too big or too small – is a key element of home theater design.  If you choose front projection, go to and use the Home Projector Calculator to figure out the desirable “throw” distance vs. zoom ranges for specific front projectors at various price points.  Then go back to Consideration #3 and budget for a screen.

Similarly, speakers that are too small won’t give you the sonic impact to keep up with your big screen display.  If your room is greater than 2,500 square feet, floorstanding speakers are a must.  If they don’t suit your home theater design, consider having a custom cabinet built and using built-in speakers.

That’s it! Four things to consider when you’re designing your dream space.  For a breakdown of an existing home theater room from a budgetary standpoint, visit our ‘Hollywood Mogul Home Theater Design‘ page.

President’s wife 🙂 Defacto, that makes her an audio guinea pig, whose only request to the lab is to always run sample products in colors that blend in with the rest of her home!

She considers herself the Audiobyte’s Number 1 fan.

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