Home Theater Room Design Basics - Part 4
Equipment Placement in the Home Theater
A primary consideration in any home theater room design is equipment placement. Yet, few realize that just as important as which components to buy, is deciding where to put them.
This applies to all home theater equipment, not just the speakers and your projection screen or big screen TV. Even a flashing LED from a DVD player or an AV receiver placed just under the TV screen can turn out to be distracting during movie watching.
Salamander Synergy A/V Cabinet
Why is it so important in any home theater room design?
Correct placement of system components with respect to each other as well as within your room, is a major contributor towards achieving that much-desired movie experience in the home.
It is true that it is not always possible to opt for the best equipment placement. When installing a home theater in a shared environment such as the living room, the room will eventually dictate where your home theater system components will go. Yet knowing the basic requirements for an effective home theater room design is important as it can help improve the end-result.
Detailed planning at an early stage of your home theater room design is therefore essential. Do not be tempted to proceed with a home theater installation before having done so. Inappropriate planning will not only affect your home theater experience, it may even lead to costly mistake.
Finding an appropriate place for your Home Theater Equipment
1] Though this article concentrates mainly on the dedicated home theater room design, yet most of the principles discussed still apply in a shared environment.
2] While the info detailed below applies irrespective of equipment brand, the discussion that follows should be taken in parallel with the information provided by the respective equipment manufactures.
A first step when planning your home theater room design should be to identify the correct placement of your projection screen or big screen HDTV. This represents the main center of attraction in any home theater. The rest of the equipment should then follow.
Proper placement of a big screen television or home theater screen is mainly dependent on the screen size, available viewing distance, ambient light conditions, and the layout of your home theater seating. The relevant details are further discussed in the following home theater design guides appearing under the Home Theater Design section on our website as detailed below:
The principles discussed in the above home theater design guides apply independent of whether your big screen display is a direct-view e.g. LED or Plasma TV, or a projection display such as one of the latest affordable Mitsubishi DLP rear projection TVs reviewed on our site. However, in the case of a front projection setup, there is a further point to consider.
For the best results when planning your home theater room design, the projection screen placement should be such as to allow for the positioning of the center speaker behind the projection screen. This will help to better affix the dialog with the movie action, while yielding better spatial definition in home theater sound.
As expressed in our Projector Screen Guide, one of the main functions of a good quality home theater screen is to support the sound within the home theater room. The ideal screen material is one that incorporates micro perforations to present an acoustically transparent surface for the center-channel speaker when the latter is placed behind the screen.
However, for this whole setup to work effectively, it is necessary to maintain the correct position of the center speaker with respect to the main front left and right speakers. This means the placement of the center speaker behind the screen should be such that the front right, front left and the center channel speakers should all be set at equal distance from the main viewing position. For more information on speaker placement is available in our Home Theater Speaker Placement Guide.
Modern LCD and DLP projectors employ zoom lenses, keystone image correction, and even vertical and horizontal shifts of the lens assembly itself inside the projector housing. These features give you a certain level of flexibility when planning the projector position during your home theater room design.
Zoom lenses allow you to adjust the image size to the required dimensions over a wider range of projector to screen distance.
The 'keystone image correction' gives you the possibility to project images with the correct geometry even when the projector is not in line with a normal drawn to center the projection screen surface. Keystone correction is measured as the number of degrees off center the projector can be positioned while still projecting an image with the correct geometry.
Most projectors use 'digital' keystone correction, meaning that geometric correction is achieved by manipulating the image. Unfortunately, this leads to loss of resolution and detail and should ideally be avoided at all cost if you want the best picture.
Use instead the vertical and horizontal lens shift mechanism if available; no distortion will result in this case since it is the lens assembly itself that is moved inside the projector housing to adjust the image position. Alternatively, relocate the projector.
Possible projector locations include ceiling mounted, on a floor stand between the front row of seats, or in a dedicated cabinet at the rear.
Should space allow, plan for a dedicated projection booth in your home theater room design; this represents the ideal location as it will mask any annoying noise from the projector cooling fan during periods of silence.
Finally, ensure that you remain within the supported projector-to-screen distance range for the required screen size, and keystone image correction or lens tilt support; it would be difficult to relocate the projector once you complete the overall home theater room design. If in doubt, run through your projector setup to ensure that the projected image from your planned projector location is of the right screen.
Article continues after this advertisement.
Speaker placement is an integral part in any home theater room design process. The correct placement of home theater speakers plays a key role in creating a seamless 'enveloping' surround sound so important in the overall home theater experience.
For the relevant details, please refer to our Home Theater Speaker Placement Guide. There you will find full details with respect to the different speaker placements for both movie watching and for music listening.
The points listed below just highlight the main issues you need to take note of when planning your home theater room design:
Center Speaker: This mainly carries the dialog part. Hence it should be placed just behind but close to the center of the projection screen surface as detailed above. Alternatively, place on top or just underneath your TV in case of a direct-view or rear-projection television.
Front left and right speakers: The main speakers should be placed one on opposite side of your display and equally distant from your main viewing position. Furthermore, the distance between the viewing position and the main speakers should be equal to the distance between your viewing position and the center channel.
Surround speakers: These are best located on the sidewalls of your home theater room, just behind your main listening position. In the case of a 6.1 or 7.1-channel system, the additional back-channel speakers should preferable be wall-mounted on the back wall two to three feet above your ear-level when seated.
Sub-woofer: There is no fixed position here since low bass frequencies are omnidirectional. However, it would be appropriate to experiment a bit to determine the best position since placing the sub-woofer near a wall or close to a corner will enhance the overall bass response.
No home theater room design is be complete without planning for your speaker wiring. Once you plan your speaker placement, measure the distances - add some extra per speaker to allow for a margin of error and termination. For more information, check our Home Theater Wiring Guide.
This home theater room design article would not be complete without mentioning something on related audio video equipment placement.
Home theater incorporates a full range of components - Blu ray player, home theater receiver, satellite or cable TV set-top-box, power protection equipment/UPS, etc. These will also need a home.
Many would simply position their equipment close to their projection screen or big screen TV. But they will soon find that this is a big mistake. Most of these components have their front panels filled with flashing led displays; the colored light from these displays can turn out to be really distracting during a movie.
When planning your home theater room design, consider mounting your equipment on a suitable equipment rack either on the side or back wall. These need not be very expensive; the Bush Audio Tower featured here costs less than $240 and will take most if not all equipment found in a typical home theater installation.
However, whatever option you choose, ensure that you still have full remote control access to your A/V equipment from the main viewing position. This will enable you to adjust your home theater system components for best performance for your seating position.
Alternatively, if space permits, use a media closet to house your equipment rack; the media closet can also serve as a projection booth in case of a projection screen setup. In this case, a remote with RF support such as the Logitech Harmony 900 may be required to control all your gear. A small LCD preview monitor housed in your media closet may also prove useful in this case.
For more information on audio video component enclosures and system racks, please check our Guide to AV Equipment Racks.