For those fortunate to have space in their home, a home theater room is something that a lot of people are turning towards. It seems like a perfect place to relax after a long day. The room does not have to be particularly big, but proper seating, the right screen, and proper sound all make a huge difference.
One of the biggest challenges for people building a home theater room is making sure everything sounds right. Not only does it need to sound right inside the room, but the noise can’t leak into other parts of the home.
What are some of the best ways to handle this? Soundproofing a room takes a little bit of time and a bit of money, but it is doable in old or new construction. It all comes down to picking out the right soundproofing method and taking the steps necessary to do it the right way so that it will last for years.
Determining the Amount of Necessary Soundproofing?
The first thing a person needs to determine is just how much soundproofing the theater room needs. Some people just want a little bit of soundproofing done to make things sound slightly better. Others want to make the theater as isolated as possible, making it rival a typical movie theater out there open to the public.
The more important complete soundproofing is to a person, the more expensive the process will be. There are many different sounds in a theater room, ranging from as low as 10 dB, all the way to 110 dB.
It is hard to soundproof a room well enough to hear the faintest whispers in a movie or television show. It is also a challenge to block an explosion from being heard in every corner of the home.
Understanding Sound Transmission
Sound waves can basically be described as simple vibrations, so the goal is to set up enough barriers to reduce those vibrations entering and leaving any theater room.
Every time sound hits barriers, it slightly moves the surface to create noise. Soundproofing is all about reducing vibration, and although it is impossible to eliminate it completely, there are ways to make it significantly better.
Why Sound Transmission Class is Such an Important Measurable
The common way to measure soundproofing is to use Sound Transmission Class, also known as STC. Everything has an STC rating, and it goes off the number of decibels it can help reduce.
STC ratings for a typical wall tend to be somewhere in the 30s. That is when loud speech can be heard in between rooms, but maybe not completely understood. There are certainly opportunities to soundproof an entire home, but some people do not want to spend that kind of money to eliminate sound between rooms.
Getting an STC rating to at least 50 is the goal for most people who set up a home theater room. If it can get above 60, it is going to start to resemble what a theater sounds like open to the public.
It takes not only the right material but the right construction to make it all work. Some people do everything by themselves and get this type of STC rating, but professionals are going to provide a better bet.
Best Ways to Soundproof a Home Theater & Make it Sound Better
Soundproofing a home theater is really no different than soundproofing any type of room in a home. It comes down to understanding how soundproofing works, and what is the most effective.
There are four significant soundproofing elements, and they are mass, decoupling, absorption, and damping. If a person can address all four of these elements, they have a very solid home theater set up. Here is what needs to be done to make that a reality.
1. Add Mass to Walls in a Theater Room
Sound vibrations caused a lot of concern if there is not a lot of mass to the wall. The heavier the wall is, the more difficult it is for sound to pass through and make a vibration. Adding mass means lessening the vibrations, and reducing Sound Transmission Class ratings (source).
A very basic layer of drywall is going to make a wall have an STS rating of about 32. Adding insulation will increase it to the high 30s, but that is not going to work for most home theater setups.
Adding more and more insulation is one way, but there might be a need for other soundproofing methods as well other than just adding a lot of mass.
Also, the best way to add more mass ofter the insulation is by adding a second layer of drywall. Make sure the type of drywall is not your standard 1/2″ but a 5/8″ sheet of drywall.
The added thickness the 5/8″ sheetrock delivers makes a big difference in terms of blocking noise from either coming in or going out of the home theater.
2. Decoupling the Wall
Once mass is only going to do so much, the next step is to turn to decoupling. The coupling is another way to reduce the connection between two surfaces by creating some type of air cavity.
Anytime sound passes through an air cavity, it loses a significant amount of energy. A big cavity can make a huge impact on soundproofing in a short amount of time. The problem is, it can be a little difficult to decouple walls for a home theater room fully.
Building a room within a room is the most effective way to create decoupling in a home theater room. This is when two separate walls are not linked in any way to each other. This creates a very large air cavity that kills a lot of sound.
It makes sense to fill these air cavities with some type of insulation that is not all that dense. The insulation needs to be loose enough so that the two walls do not really connect at all.
It is impossible for the two walls not to share the floor, so go with some type of underlayment to help with soundproofing if needed. An acoustic mat (Amazon) is one way to achieve that.
3. Double Stud Wall
There are a lot of similarities between a double stud wall and a room within a room construction. The only difference is that the two studs are not going to be completely separated.
Instead, the sets of studs connect to a common base plate. That makes it easier to set up compared to a room within a room. That is a bit of a complicated matter since the studs need to attach separately to the floor.
There is no doubt plenty of people have had a lot of success with a double stud wall when it comes to soundproofing a home theater room. It creates a huge air cavity, and people do not have to stress out about results too much. Once completed, the STS will be somewhere around 60. (source)
4. Staggered Stud Wall
Yet another option is to go with a staggered wall to save money and space. There is still an air cavity that is created, but it does not take up as much space as one might think. The downfall is that the STS will not quite be as solid as the other options, but it is still at around 55. (source)
It is not going to end with the same results as other ways to decouple walls, but it is still worth exploring if a person does not have any other options. It is probably the easiest to pull off for someone who wants to do it themselves without any professional help whatsoever.
5. Resilient Channels and Sound Isolation Clips
Decoupling does not always require having more than one wall. Resilient channels and sound isolation clips can help with the process, as well. They both work in different ways, but people have been using them in different rooms for years and years.
A resilient channel is a very flexible metal channel. It attaches to the studs so that the drywall is connected only to the resilient channel itself. This makes the wall floating instead of being attached the normal way.
If not done correctly, it will not be very effective with this setup. Make sure to take the extra amount of time to attach everything with screws to the drywall correctly, and not connect to studs.
The reason why people go with resilient channels is that it is one of the cheapest options out there for decoupling. If a person does not know what they are doing, it is fairly easy to mess up. The good news is that even if a professional is needed, they do not charge nearly as much to work on a resilient channel as some of the other options.
Sound Isolation clips are another way to work with decoupling despite only having a single stud wall. It is different than relying on a resilient channel, as these clips are put directly on the studs.
Drywall is screwed onto a hat channel, which then gets placed inside the sound isolation clips. It is very important not to have any contact between the screws and the studs in the setup.
Sound isolation clips come in many shapes and sizes, and some people have their personal preferences as far as whether they want clips or a resilient channel.
A resilient channel does well with high frequencies, but struggles a bit with low frequency. For low-frequency assistance, sound clips might be the better way to go.
6. Sound Damping in a Home Theater Room
Damping is considered to be one of the final steps when it comes to soundproofing any type of room. There seems to be a common theme for a lot of people to rely on Green Glue (Amazon) as the biggest damping compound out there. There are other brands out there for sure, but this one gets a lot of publicity for helping out right away.
Damping is important in a home theater because it helps with low frequencies more than anything. There is less of a rattling sound at low frequencies, which is always positive. Some combination of decoupling and damping is going to provide quality results.
7. What if the Walls are Made of Concrete?
Drywall is the most common type of material for the walls of a home theater, but there are plenty of people who have concrete options as well. For example, anyone who decides to put a home theater in their basement can probably rely on concrete as a way to help out.
Many are well aware of the fact that concrete has a good STC value, but what they might not realize is that it is a solid transmitter of sound at low frequencies. This can be a little problematic for people when looking at the big picture.
That might not matter in some cases, but it would definitely be noticeable in a home theater. That is why, in many cases, another wall made of drywall is necessary to help with soundproofing.
Decoupling with a concrete wall means using suspension brackets or spacers to help out. It creates enough of a gap between the concrete and drywall so that there is very little sound transfer.
Concrete definitely has a few different problems that people need to deal with, but most people find a way to make it work. At the end of the day, most agree that starting with a concrete wall is better than starting without one. There is also something to be said for the extra amount of protection when it comes to sound.
8. Best Way to Soundproof Without Construction?
There are many reasons why people might want to soundproof a home theater room without doing any type of permanent construction. Maybe they want to test out whether or not the room will be a thriving area for people to hang out in. There is also the case of people not wanting to damage a rental for one reason or another.
The best way to soundproof a home theater room without doing any permanent damage is to use mass loaded vinyl. It is very affordable on nearly any budget, and it is easy to put up for temporary or long-term solutions. It might not look as professional as some of the other options detailed in this article, but it does a better job than just about anything else.
There are many benefits to using mass loaded vinyl over alternatives. For starters, it is about as thin of a mass as a person can add while seeing results. Some people sandwich it between two layers of drywall, and it does a pretty good job without anything else. It is easy to cut to any shape, so people love having something versatile around that helps.
Is it Possible Soundproof a home theater room the DIY Way?
This is a tough question to answer, simply because there are various levels of do-it-yourselfers out there. It is one of the harder things a person can do, simply because a home theater room should be extremely quiet. This is not as simple as adding mass and then being fine with everything else. Most people want to eliminate sound coming in or going out, and they wanted to look professionally done as well. This is where a professional might be able to step in and help.
Of course, it is impossible to see the results all at once without really knowing how it all shakes out. Just put in the time and effort, and everything should come together nicely.
There is definitely a lot of challenges when it comes to soundproofing a home theater, or any room for that matter. Some people think that they can’t ask for help, but without question, a person should consult with a professional if they are in over their head.
It might seem like doing everything without professional assistance can save time and money. One costly mistake can actually make it a huge challenge in the end. There really is no such thing as a shortcut that actually works, especially when trying to soundproof an entire room.
With the right material and a positive mindset, there is a way to make a home theater a reality. Do not be afraid to read up on what techniques work best, and how it might work out an individual’s home. Some people are going to end up having more success than others when meeting the goals they put together in the beginning.
In the end, soundproofing is a bit of a learning process. Start with something simple, yet practical to understand the impact. After that, explore some of the other options out there before finding what works best.