Designing Home Theaters

There is no question that a properly set-up HD home theater is nothing less than phenomenal in comparison to home entertainment centers of the past. Whether the consumer chooses an HD 1080p flat panel solution or a separate projector with a screen, there are some guidelines to follow that are important in delivering the best possible experience.

Video. One of the first questions asked by a consumer is how big should the screen be. My first question in response to this is how close do they like to sit to the screen when they go to the movie theater. Some people like to sit close, some choose to sit back, and others choose the center of the room. My recommendation is first choose what is comfortable for the client.
Generally, if you are viewing a flat panel with a screen size of 43 to 70 in., you should sit anywhere from 10 to 15 ft. from the surface of the screen. The screen itself should be mounted at a height where it is comfortable without too much tilting of your head either up or down while seated, and also at a level where, if you are in a multipurpose room, you can view comfortably while standing.

Audio. The audio component of a home theater application is every bit as important as the video component. Quality speaker reproduction performance and room configurations are equally important to provide a dramatic experience.

In most circumstances there should be five speakers of similar quality and a subwoofer/low-frequency solution in most basic home theater applications as listed below:

Front left and right delivery speakers. These speakers generally are mounted to the left and right of the screen surface at an equidistant height from the top and bottom of the screen. If possible they should be separated by 8 ft. of space for best stereo imaging.

Center channel dialogue speaker. The center channel speaker, where most dialogue is generated, should be mounted either above or below the screen surface and centered equidistant from either side of the screen.

Rear left and right surround sound/effect speakers. The rear channel surround speakers are mounted behind the seating area either in the ceiling or the rear/side walls. These speakers are where the steering mechanism on the audio tracks of the video source create dramatic 3-D sounds.

Subwoofer/low-frequency speakers. In the average system there will be one subwoofer to generate low-frequency audio for the room. My recommendation is that at least two, if not four or six subwoofers be used to provide an even low-frequency reproduction for the space. This way the effect will be dramatic and not too loud — achieving optimal, balanced and realistic sound reproduction.

The location of the audio and video source equipment is another element of the room design. Most consumers prefer to not see the electronics. There are two methods for installation. One method is to install source equipment on shelves either with or without doors. Another method is to create a rack-mounted system. The advantage of rack mounting is that service access is far simpler and the equipment is more likely to have better ventilation. Another advantage is the ugly mess of wires goes away with a properly wired professional rack-mounting system.

These are just a few simple tips to assure a positive experience for customers interested in home theaters. Call upon your residential electronics systems contractor partner to assist you in this technology. If you don’t have this resource, check cedia.org and the dealer locator service to find someone in your area. You will be glad you did!

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