AV Education on RHT
Buying a New Home With A Good Sounding Media Room
Written by Bob Hodas
A number of years ago, a good friend of mine built a beautiful new house in Napa, California. He had made a bundle working for a professional audio company that had taken the industry by storm with a forward-thinking new product. I went up to visit him and was I ever impressed with his home. It was spectacular in almost every aspect. What wasnt spectacular were the acoustics of the room in which he set up his favorite speakers. He set the system up in his vast living room, which had an Rt60 (reverb time) that rivaled my old high school gymnasium. I could see for this discerning listener that making his music playback match the grandeur of the overall home was going to take a small miracle.
In this feature, we will address some of the issues you should think about when you start looking for your next home. Concerns about mortgages and bathrooms and where to put the in-laws often reign over which room your theater or music system will live in. With the following key thoughts in mind, you can have the best of both worlds.
Here are some of my initial thoughts on the basics of what you should look for in a new home with a good-sounding audio room.
1. I advocate a rectangular room for the best audio performance. I dont like L shapes or square rooms.
2. Avoid large unsealed openings to a walkway or another room. A good room should have doors not open entryways.
3. Look for symmetry, no bay windows on one side unless that is the wall the speakers back will go on. The same goes for a fireplace. Things like bay windows or an opening on one side can ruin the imaging since the first order sidewall reflections will not match.
4. A cathedral ceiling can be a bad thing as it can focus reflections back down into the listening area and bass can build up in the peak. A slanted ceiling, like at my house (Sound Tips 4), can be a good thing as long as the speakers are at the low side of the ceiling. The angled ceiling will throw some of the first order reflections to the back of the room and away from the listening area.
You should also refer back to Sound Tips 2 regarding room size. You dont want a room with a bunch of ugly modes piled on top of each other. Would I venture a minimum size? Thats a difficult question since Ive heard some very small rooms sound spectacular, but I think you want at least a 13.5 x 12 floor plan, assuming an 8 ceiling. For me, the higher the ceiling, the better. Considerations are more complex if you plan to put in A/V and have two rows of seats. Even though the best placement for the speakers may be the long wall, this may not work out for the projector throw or seating.
The issue of sound isolation is going to affect you in a big way. Unless you live alone, you generally cant make as much noise as you want at all hours of the day or night. Addressing isolation in an existing house structure is a difficult issue. Most homes are not built with much sound isolation in mind and the hollow walls and stud spacing are not ideal. Unless you are prepared to build a room within a room, you will never get yourself totally isolated from the rest of the house or your neighbors. Some of my clients know their neighbors and made arrangements to listen from the neighbors house while they had the music cranked up. This will give you a good idea of how much work you have ahead of you.