Building a Home
Theater & Listening Room
.... and getting the acoustics right
The room, measurements and analysis
Construction of the new listening room
and home theater and polycylindrical absorbers
The Power Lines
First off all I find
myself very fortunate to have a room that can be dedicated to music listening
and watching movies.
The room is 3.2 meters
wide, 4.9 meters long and had a height of 2.4 meters. So with a little more than
15 m2 it's not a big room at all.
First problem is the
width. It doesn't make much room for placing the speakers, and the first
reflections from the side walls almost coincides with the sound from the
speakers, smearing especially the high notes. As the left side is entirely
windows and the other side is hard concrete, doesn't help at all but only makes
It has been used for music
and movie watching for a couple of years now, but now it's time to do something
The dream, the plan
The following changes are planned:
- New wooden floor on top of the
concrete. This will be chipboard on foam as it will be covered with a thin
carpet to finish it off.
- The windows on the left will be
removed and replaced with a new window door an a single window in full height.
The rest will be covered with gypsum board (drywall).
- First reflections must be treated
- Bass traps must be installed to
improve the bass response that is quite dominated by standing waves
- The ceiling will have a 1.2 meter
wide polycylindrical absorbers/diffusors in the rooms entire length, that will
serve as both diffusor and a low to mid bass trap
- The front wall and the back wall
will also be dominated by diffusing polys to minimise flutter and reflections
- The old 36" TV will be replaced with
a projector and motor screen
- A door will be inserted in the left
side of the back wall to get better sound proofing to the rest of the house
- New power lines will be installed,
to get clean power supply for all the equipment
I tried to add some .9 x 0.6 meter
Rockwool (10 cm) plated at the first reflection points on the side walls. The
result was both good and bad. The reflections was definitely stopped, but the
sound became a bit dull and the sound stage was smaller. On the other hand, it
was now possible to hear much more details in the music, which is of course not
so surprising, and the tendency for the sound to be a bit harsh in the upper mid
and treble was also gone. Another finding was that I had to turn up the volume
some 5 db, to get the same perceived level as before.
Conclusions: I'm not so sure that the
first reflections should be treated with massive absorption and that it will
probably be something to tweak into place when everything else is in place. I
think the treatment could be smaller absorption patches scattered over the wall
to give a both diffuse and somewhat absorbed field. Another idea is to make some
Click the drawing to get a larger view
Before starting the building process
there are many questions that I would like to have answered, and I hope to be
able to draw on some real life expertise on some of the acoustics forums on the
- What kind of absorbers should I
- Will the panel absorbers and poly in
the ceiling be effective?
- Should the yellow panel absorbers be
perforated (Helmholtz) instead to be more effective, and targeted the most
dominant room modes?
- Should there be placed some
broadband absorbers behind the main speakers?
- Do I need to go for more broad band
- How do I treat the early reflections
best, to get the best sound?
- Will the poly diffusers work and
will they sound correct?
Analysis of the old room
Using the Eigenmode calculator on
Hunecke.de we see that standing waves or room modes start around 35 Hz.
There is 2 modes around 70 Hz, which is definitely audible, especially the (0 2
0) on 70 Hz which has a high pressure point in the middle of the room, exactly
where the two main arm chairs are normally standing :(
Using the Loudspeaker Calculator on
Hunecke.de shows the worst modes again being 35 Hz, 70 Hz and around 100 Hz
(seen as peaks on the frequency response).
Also the reverberation time seems to lack some
dampening from 1 kHz and below.
OWA Acoustics Calculator we get a similar analysis. From this it seems that
both broad band absorption and more bass absorption is needed to get the
reverberation time to under 0.4 sec. for all frequencies. ..... the question
becomes how much?
Another simulation has been run, with
the basic changes that will be done with the room, being, less window area, and
the rest of felt side wall changed from glass to drywall. It seems that adding
only 4 m2 of broadband absorber (or in the simulation a combination of 4.5 m2 of
low freq, and 4 m2 of broadband absorber 500 Hz and up) will actually get the
reverberation time down to an almost linear 0.4 second!
I did some actual measurements and they
only confirm the above simulations.
left side including subwoofer.
Room modes clearly defined at
70 and 110 Hz.
Decay for full spectrum
The decay is a bit too slow and the
area from 400 Hz to 2 kHz is obviously affected by hard early reflections from
the "window wall"
Room size in feet (W:L:H): 10.4 : 16.1 : 7.9
The old wall covering
has been removed, a new floating floor has been laid and the wall with the new
Left: The new wall seen
from outside, where the large windows used to be.
Finishing the paint,
and mounting the new window.
Materials for the
first poly, between the main speakers, ready to be mounted.
Front poly installed.
It covers the 3 main power lines coming down from the attic, and is half filled
with Rockwool. Now it needs a
The framework for the
ceiling poly has been mounted. It is a meter wide and will be half filled with
mineral wool. The supports have been spaces unequally to broaden the resonance
frequencies where it will act as a panel absorber.
Wiring for lights and
speakers are being done ...... hope I don't mess this up :)
Down lights mounted
in the side panels .... starting to look good :)
For the side panels I opted for two kind of Helholtz
At each end are placed a cavity of a little more than 20
litre with a large 110 mm port. At 17,5 cm deep this should give a resonant
frequency of 71,5 Hz.
47 cm one port, minimum length = 16 cm => 73,7 Hz
17, 5 cm => 71,5 Hz
The middle part of the side panels
The middle part of the side panels are
perforated by about 150 x 10 mm holes. This gives a broad (low Q) resonant
frequency of 110 Hz
A lot can be read about the construction of corner
SuperChunk on Studiotips.com. These are broadband absorbers, that if made
big enough will also work down to very low frequencies.
I have opted to make a very small version to give some
absorption behind the main speakers. These will not work very deep in frequency,
but will help linearize the room response and give some general absorption in the
whole audio frequency range. Remember hat these together with the corner cubes
are the only real broadband absorbers in the room.
The corner placement is of course optimal as this is where
the sound pressure is highest and the absorbers most efficient.
I like to get the absorption as far away from the
listening position as possible. You have probably tried to walk past or stand
beside an absorption wall (common in many office environments). This is a
strange listening experience indeed, and the closer you go the more profound is
the feeling. This I would like to avoid fully in the listening room. Pacing the
absorption as far from the listening position as possible will make the room
acoustic more uniform and the experience in the room much better.
The Chunk are only 15 cm deep (20 cm wide in the front) but
more than 1,5 meter in height. The filling is a cover of a very
heavy fibreglass floor plates (2,5
cm) (130 kg/m3) and a normal rockwool.
Various stages of the construction. Dark blue
felt used as cover.
The purpose of the corner cubes is to provide a very
broadband absorption where it is most efficient, in the corners where 3 planes
meet (walls and ceiling). The corner cubes are made of medium heavy glass fibre
Industrial Plates 2
from Isover (IP 2, 100 mm, 60 kg/m3), which is cut into 30 cm x 30 cm glued
together using a spray glue, and covered with a nice black felt (bought at
car moding shop, usually used to cover sub cabinets) on all 3 facing sides and
grey on the rest.
I used plates that are covered with alu on one side, as
this was what I could get. Don't think it plays any role in this application,
as long as it is not facing the room.
They are quite effective, and you will immediately hear the
Not that difficult to build, and a very nice and good
As I have become the happy owner of a JBL HT1 THX
certified speaker set, that I got for near nothing, I decided to build a podium
for the 2. row (a coming sofa), and use it to double for the subwoofer casing.
The subs are kind of old school, with pretty large ported cabinets (120l) and
with 12" units with relative small magnets and limited Xmax and a power handling
of only 100W!!
But this aside, I can only tell that they will produce
enough bass for modern movies, to satisfy most people. Anyway they will be
supported by my Peerless 12" XLS with 400W class-d amp, when it gets ready. The
subs will only be used for movies and not for critical stereo listening
Old cabinets and speaker 12" JBL unit.
Building the cabinet in 22 mm
particle board ( .... ouch, quite heavy).
Room for the two bass cabinets, and a 19",
3 unit rack for the amplifier. and 2 smaller unused hollows.
Wiring done, Acoustilux filled and the amp
mounted (LAB Gruppen 300. 2 x 100 W RMS)
Speakers mounted, grilles mounted, carpet
fitted, alu flight case angles and corners finishing it all off.
To minimize the influence og washing machines, and other
noisy equipment, I decided to lay 4 new power lines into the room. I'm really
not a believer of reference power cords to all equipment, or any other snake oil
rip off, but having a clean power line all the way from the house inlet, can't
be such a bad idea.
I installed 4 groups, 2 with 10 A (240 VAC) automatic
fuses, and 2 with 13 A fuses. the two lines with 13 A fuses where laid with 2,5
mm2 cable and the other 2 with 1,5 mm2. Every line included an earth line.
Now I can rest assured that no noise from within the house
will be disturb my listening.
Fuses and HPFI relay.