Here are five of the most common mistakes I see when I visit a do-it-yourselfer’s home theater:
1.) Subwoofer in the corner
For years makers of budget subwoofers have encouraged people to put their sub in the corner of the room. Being close to room boundaries helps boost the overall bass output for these under-powered subwoofers. Unfortunately it also greatly magnifies the sonic issues caused by the room itself. Locating the sub in the corner puts the maximum energy into the room modes that cause “boomy,” obnoxious bass, and leads to a very inconsistent experience between different seats in the home theater.
2.) Seats against the walls
Inexperienced home theater builders always seem to stuff as many seats as they can into their theater. Usually this means that many seats, sometimes even a whole row of seats, end up against the walls of the room. This causes two big problems. First, all of the room modes previously mentioned are loudest against the walls, making it extremely difficult to get enjoyable bass for seats located there. Secondly, putting seats against walls almost always puts them way too close to any particular surround speaker. That speaker will dominate the listening experience for the person sitting near it and leave them unable to appreciate the enveloping sound of the rest of the movie.
3.) Second Row can’t see the whole screen or the front speakers
We know that most theaters have additional rows of seating to accommodate more people. The DIYer has an idea of how that should look in the room but doesn’t usually consider it beyond the aesthetics. All too often I’ll sit down in the second row and find that the person in front of me is blocking my view of a large portion of the screen. Not only that, the front three speakers are also blocked by the front row of seats, damaging my ability to clearly hear dialogue and other parts of the movie soundtrack.
4.) Walls and floor materials are too reflective
Room decorating decisions can have a large effect on the functionality of a home theater room. Hardwood or tile flooring looks great in modern homes but can sound horrendous once the lights go down and the movie begins. Hard surfaces in the room allow sound to bounce around for too long. The old sounds that are hanging around mix with the new sounds and make it difficult to clearly hear what’s going on.
Another way the surfaces of the room can be too reflective has to do with color choices. Light paint colors catch the light reflecting off of the projector screen and light up the room, taking away from the perceived picture quality and reminding the viewer that they’re sitting in a room at home rather than being transported into the story.
5.) Cheap HDMI cables or wrong cables wired to the projector
The wire run between the main equipment location and the projector can be long and is often times inaccessible after the room is finished. This means that in many cases there is only one shot to get the right wiring in place. As video technology continues to change and improve the makers of HDMI cables have struggled to keep pace with the demanding amounts of data that has to pass through their cables. The longer the cable, the more difficult it is to deliver the signal. As consumers were told that HDMI cable quality doesn’t matter, too many DIYers buried inadequate cables in their ceiling. If they had the foresight to run one or more CAT6 cables as well then there is thankfully a work around is available as HDMI can be sent over CAT cable with some additional hardware. Most people don’t know that however and usually don’t run enough, or any, CAT6 to the projector.
There are many details involved in designing and building a great home theater. Let us help to put the pieces together so yours can be something special!