One of the biggest challenges to creating a top-notch home theater — especially in urban areas — is sound isolation. While it's important to keep external noises out, it’s just as critical to prevent sound from escaping and penetrating other rooms in the home, or worse — traveling far enough for the neighbors to hear.
Low-frequency sound waves can often travel dozens of feet. And modern movies, especially in the horror and sci-fi genres, commonly rely on special-effects frequencies that are so low they can only be felt, not heard.
Traditional sound-absorption techniques may include a variety of upholstered furniture, carpeting and fabric window treatments. But many home builders consider one of the best ways to ensure true sound isolation for a home theater is to build a room within a room — essentially building one box inside of another.
This technique can be further enhanced by using sound isolation clips that attach drywall to a furring channel to deaden vibrations, as well as a variety of other products to seal outlets and switches.
But this box-within-a-box solution comes at a price, not just from the additional costs of labor and materials, but also from a reduction in usable square footage: These will often be the deciding factors, depending on the client's wants and needs.
Decisions regarding cost and space might be easy for some home owners, but certainly not for all. CEDIA’s Senior Director of Technology and Standards Walt Zerbe suggests that for clients who are more tentative, builders should allocate as much time as is needed to review project goals and thoroughly explain potential pros and cons.
“Home theater design is all about compromise to find the right balance of square footage, design elements, cost and performance," Zerbe said. "Bottom line, if peak performance is the main goal, physics are physics; square footage will go down, and the costs will go up. Ultimately, there are no 'magic' materials that will substitute for proper design and construction.”
The primary contributor for this post was Ed Wenck, content director for CEDIA, the industry association representing those professionals who manufacture, design and integrate goods and services for the connected home.