Soundproofing for In-Home Media: The Basics

Filed in Design, Home Building, Multifamily by on May 16, 2018 0 Comments

spilled popcornThere’s a saying among home cinema designers: “Want a movie room that’s just like the Cineplex? Add some crying kids and throw some gum on the floor.”

A dedicated home theater — a room specifically designed for watching movies, televised sports, shows, and even gaming — can make for a better viewing experience than a commercial theater.

A critical element to constructing the ideal home theater — as well as high-end listening rooms, home recording studios and musician’s practice rooms — is sound isolation. This  requires soundproofing techniques that keeps sound both in and out.

It’s in the Walls

Low-frequency soundwaves are long and can easily pass through standard stud-and-drywall construction, which means that without the right insulation, everyone in the house (and perhaps even the neighborhood) will know when the Death Star’s been blown up. Sound absorption devices, bass traps and diffusers won’t lock sound in — although they can improve the sonic experience of the room itself greatly.

Likewise, the racket of a nearby laundry room or the hum of a furnace or AC unit can invade the viewing or listening area, robbing the user of that immersive vibe that should come with a good reference system.

Adding mass is one trick, and the easiest way to accomplish that is to double-up on drywall. Damping products such as mass-loaded vinyl barriers can also help. One technique for true audio connoisseurs that’s especially effective is “decoupling” the room’s walls. The options here include double-framing — building two walls back-to-back with a gap between — or staggered-stud wall construction.

isolation clip

Isolation clips: This side faces the drywall . . .

isolation clips

. . . while this side faces the stud.

Another option: Isolation “clips.” The clips include a rubber bushing on one side that rests against the studs while the opposite side of the device has a bracket that clips to a rail, or “hat channel,” which supports the room’s drywall.

Machine Noise

There are other considerations here as well: Many dedicated home cinemas make use of a two-piece system — projector and screen — and the projector’s fans can be noisy. As a result, equipment is often placed in an adjoining room, or an isolated box is constructed to house the projector.

Amps often need cooling fans too, and racks with those devices designed specifically for electronics can be stashed cleverly with the right forethought. No matter the solution, the equipment must be easily accessible for servicing and upgrades, and devices that deliver content (Blu-ray players and gaming consoles) may need their own space in an area that’s easily reachable.

Since a perfect home cinema is a tight, windowless room, HVAC systems designed for minimum noise and maximum comfort are a key consideration, too.

Outlets and switches can be points that leak sound in both directions. Fortunately, a variety of products to mitigate noise are available from “putty pads” that surround electrical boxes to seals that sit right behind outlet covers and switch plates.

This NAHBNow guest post is from Ed Wenck, content marketing manager for CEDIA, the industry association representing those professionals who manufacture, design and integrate goods and services for the connected home.

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