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Home Theater Acoustic Treatment and Soundproofing

Improving Acoustics and Soundproofing your Home Theater

Author: Eric Zuck

Last Updated: February 9, 2024

Read Time: 14 Minutes

Improving Acoustics and Soundproofing your Home Theater

Author:

Eric Zuck

Last Updated:

February 9, 2024

Read Time:

14 Minutes

Author: Eric Zuck

Updated: Feb. 9, 2024

Read Time: 14 Minutes

Movie watching looks different for everyone. For starters, going to the theater isn't even the most popular option anymore, because we live in a post-Netflix world now. In fact, many movies release both in-theater and through streaming, and after a few months, most every only-in-theaters release can be found on one streaming platform or another.

According to Statista, as of 2018—pre-pandemic, mind you—only around 13 percent of Americans stated that they prefer to watch movies in a theater, while 54 percent stated that their favorite movie watching location was at home. While some took to theaters once restrictions lifted, the fad has quickly faded. Home is still king.

The ability to pause for a bathroom break whenever you want has always been the best part of watching from home. The pricing of buying or renting new release movies on streaming platforms may be expensive at times, but with a comfortable place to host a few friends or family members, you can easily get your money's worth splitting the cost.

However, maybe you fall somewhere in the middle and want that movie theater experience with the luxury of streaming and pausing to your liking. If you're like me and have always dreamt of having your own home theater room (significantly more plausible than the in-home bowling alley, if you ask me), don't cut any corners on sound quality.

No matter your budget a few components are key: a high definition billboard-sized TV (or a top-of-the-line projector), a killer sound system, and recliners that you can sink into and never escape from. But perhaps most often overlooked when designing that perfect home theater is all the soundproofing and acoustical treatment. If you get all this right, you can feel like you’re sitting in a state-of-the-art theater, and you don’t even have to put on pants.

Movie watching looks different for everyone. For starters, going to the theater isn't even the most popular option anymore, because we live in a post-Netflix world now. In fact, many movies release both in-theater and through streaming, and after a few months, most every only-in-theaters release can be found on one streaming platform or another.

According to Statista, as of 2018—pre-pandemic, mind you—only around 13 percent of Americans stated that they prefer to watch movies in a theater, while 54 percent stated that their favorite movie watching location was at home. While some took to theaters once restrictions lifted, the fad has quickly faded. Home is still king.

The ability to pause for a bathroom break whenever you want has always been the best part of watching from home. The pricing of buying or renting new release movies on streaming platforms may be expensive at times, but with a comfortable place to host a few friends or family members, you can easily get your money's worth splitting the cost.

However, maybe you fall somewhere in the middle and want that movie theater experience with the luxury of streaming and pausing to your liking. If you're like me and have always dreamt of having your own home theater room (significantly more plausible than the in-home bowling alley, if you ask me), don't cut any corners on sound quality.

No matter your budget a few components are key: a high definition billboard-sized TV, a killer sound system, and recliners that you can sink into and never escape from. But perhaps most often overlooked when designing that perfect home theater is all the soundproofing and acoustical treatment. If you get all this right, you can feel like you’re sitting in a state-of-the-art theater, and you don’t even have to put on pants.

Free USA shipping
Free USA shipping

Popular Home Theater Soundproofing Materials


Sound Lock™ Door Seal Kit
RSIC™ Sound Isolation Clips
UnderBlock™ Rubber Floor Underlayment

How to Soundproof a Home Theater

Getting a home theater room just right can be tricky if you don't know the right questions to ask. There are three main questions to ask that can make or break your project:

  1. Can your home theater block sound from outside/adjacent rooms?
  2. Does sound from your home theater leak into those adjacent rooms?
  3. How is the sound quality inside your home theater?

Steps to Home Theater Soundproofing

Knowing those three questions will get you that much closer to enjoying movie after movie in the comfort of your own home. That leads us to our three steps to improving the acoustics and soundproofing your home theater. Make sure to turn off your cell phones and en. . . (Yeah, right! Your theater, your rules!) Grab your popcorn, some candy, and a drink, and let's dive right in:

  1. Choose a room for your home theater. For soundproofing, you don't want to select a room next to high activity areas or noise sensitive areas like studies and bedrooms. If you do, more soundproofing is needed to keep sound in and/or noise out. You have to think about the size of the room, and you obviously don't want light in there either. So much to think about!
  2. Soundproof your home theater. Your theater sound system is going to be loud! Containing that sound inside your home theater will be appreciated by all other cohabitators. On top of that, if you want an immersive experience, your room needs to be soundproofed from the outside world. We'll show you how to do that well enough that you can let that sound system fly!
  3. Acoustically treat your home theater. Ah, the quality factor! Doing everything you can to create a sound barrier between you and the rest of existence will be for naught if you don't get the theater acoustics under control. Getting the right absorptive material around you will take your home theater room to a 10!
acoustic panels for home theatre
acoustic panels for home theatre

Step One: Choosing the right Room for your Home Theater

For home theaters, size matters. If you just want a single row with 3 seats, you can get by with a room that's about 14' x 14'. That'll give you room for a big screen that isn't too close, and some captain's chairs. To do stadium seating, plan on about 6' in additional room length to add that second row and then 6' more for the third row. Remember, with each row, you're adding a step, so you'll want to account for the ceiling height.

The location of your room is absolutely key. The most basic thing you can do is pick a room or part of the house that will require the least modifications and won’t easily disturb others. Ideally, something on the ground floor away from living areas, bedrooms, and offices, and within close proximity to the bathroom. Particularly, if there are no adjacent rooms—whether on the side, below, or above—you'll have the best experience, and you won't have to do as much work. The ideal space is a rectangular shape with no windows, just one door, and walls with enough space to add acoustic paneling. 

If you get the right location in your house, you have more leeway to crank up the volume to immerse yourself in the movie without driving the rest of the house crazy. Whether the room is perfect or the room is the only choice you've got, we're going to help you make it work so you can get the sound right for the full spectrum of experiences: from the quiet speeches to the musical score to that giant explosion. Good acoustics and sound quality will substantially improve your cinematic experience.

Step two: Home Theater Soundproofing

Soundproofing is super important so you can blast your entertainment as loud as you want without anyone complaining. The sound from home theaters can be difficult to contain because it ranges so widely. Low bass will rumble down to the floor below, and high frequencies can penetrate to bedrooms down the hall.

The standard for how well a wall or barrier blocks airborne sound is something called an STC rating. For your home theater we recommend a minimum STC rating of 50. For reference, most professional theaters have an STC rating of 65. You can achieve this too if you’re willing to do some remodeling.

There’s a lot that you can do, from plugging up leaks with acoustic caulk to replacing the entire flooring, but how soundproof you make your personal theater all depends on your budget for the project and your goals. If your home theater is in the basement, then check out our basement soundproofing article for more advice. For now, we’ll walk you through some soundproofing fundamentals, but you can always call us for a custom plan for your soundproof theater room.

Focus #1: Seal the Windows and get Home Theater Window Coverings

Did the Batcave have windows? No, and neither should your home theater room. If that's out of your control, though, and you need to know how to seal windows, we can help with that. For the best effect, we recommend Fantastic Frame™ Soundproof Window Inserts to reduce sound through your window by up to 80%. You can put home theater blackout curtains in front to enhance your immersion experience.

Focus #2: Install a Home Theater Door

Windows and doors are the weakest point in any room. So, the next place to focus your energy is on door soundproofing. The recommendation is that your home theater only has one door. Our Sound Lock™ Soundproof Door can get up to an STC 56 and is your best option. It's a beautiful wood door that you can paint or stain to add to the blackout effect. Our Sound Lock™ Adjustable Door Seal Kits are another great option if you're wanting to keep your existing door. Please note that this should only be used with a solid core door, as a hollow core door is poor at blocking sound and just doesn't belong in a home theater room. The only viable solution for a hollow core door is a soundproof door cover if your budget doesn't allow for a new door.

Focus #3: Soundproof Your Home Theater Walls

Now that you’ve soundproofed the doors and windows, you should focus on the walls, ceiling and floor. Contractors aren’t particularly concerned with soundproofing when building houses (the code doesn’t require many soundproofing best practices) so a typical wall in a residential home has an STC rating of about 30. Remember, for your home theater we recommend a minimum STC rating of 50.

If you live in a quiet neighborhood and your home theater only shares one wall with the rest of the house, you're in luck! That means you really only need to work on that one wall. Your best solution for soundproofing home theaters is our RSIC-1™ Isolation Clips. You'll remove the existing drywall, install the clips on the studs, snap in 25 gauge hat channels, then hang your 5/8" thick drywall. While you have the wall open, be sure there's insulation inside the wall cavity for added airborne noise protection. As always, seal up the entire perimeter and any gaps around penetrations with acoustic caulk. Now you have soundproofed walls in your home theater room with roughly an STC 55!

Focus #4: Soundproof Your Home Theater Ceiling

The likelihood that you'll need to treat the ceiling isn't high (ba-dum-tss), but if you have a room above the home theater, you may want to consider treating your ceiling. Unless the room above already has a soundproofed floor, you'll want to make sure your home theater isn't bogged down by footsteps or airborne noises from above. Still, soundproofing the floor above might still be the best course of action.

The best way to soundproof a ceiling is to remove your existing ceiling drywall and utilize our RSIC-1 clips. We also have a RSIC-1™ Low Profile Resilient Sound Isolation Clips which are great for ceiling soundproofing with limited space. If your concern is footstep noise, this is the only solution available, and it's a great one! By decoupling the ceiling from the floor above, you've stopped the transmission of vibrations from ruining your movie. Best practice requires a 1/4" gap around the perimeter of the ceiling and any penetrations in the ceiling to keep the ceiling decoupled. You can then seal those gaps with acoustic caulk.

Focus #5: Soundproof Your Home Theater Floor

Much like your ceiling, floors are likely to be your least place of concern, but if your theater is above another room or you don't enjoy the rumble of the subwoofer, the best floor soundproofing technique is putting down UnderBlock™ Rubber Floor Underlayment under your carpet to help deaden vibrations from travelling through your floor. You'll notice substantial improvements in STC ratings (airborne noise), FIIC and IIC ratings (impact noise), 50 to 70+ for both depending on the type of construction. You won't be hearing any complaints from those below your home theater.

Step three: Home Theater acoustics

While soundproofing a room benefits everyone outside that room, improving the acoustics is what benefits those enjoying the show! A home theater works a bit differently than your typical room because you're optimizing for peak sound quality. Your speakers are always the consistent sources of sound, and they don't move.

So, let's think of sound as moving like a billiard ball bouncing around a pool table. Every time it hits a hard surface, it changes direction while losing a little bit of energy. By interrupting the sounds at the “angle of first reflection”, or the first bounce of that billiard ball, you are interrupting the most direct path sound can reflect to your ear. The key to acoustics is controlling the reflections.

If you don’t control reverb and echo, that reflected sound will muddle up the noise and make it harder for you to hear Bruce Willis make another quip as he tears through bank robbers in Nakatomi Plaza, or in my case, hear Prue give her judgment on an upside down cake on Great British Bake Off. Like soundproofing, your acoustical treatment should look at the walls, ceiling, and floor.

Focus #1: Home Theater Wall Panels

One of the quickest and most effective ways to acoustically treat your home theater is by installing acoustic panels throughout your space. Our easy-to-install panels come in a variety of custom shapes, sizes, and colors to fit the aesthetic of your entertainment haven.

First, determine how many panels you’ll need with the help of our acoustic treatment calculator to get the approximate amount of square feet of paneling you should install. It’s not necessary to completely cover the walls in acoustic panels, because our acoustic materials for walls have a high NRC rating as it is. In fact, complete coverage on walls can be counterproductive as absorption taken to the extreme will make the room start to sound ‘dead’. A dead room loses some of the dynamics of sound. It’s kind of like yelling underwater; the sound becomes flat and less engaging.

After you’ve assessed how many sound panels you need, you'll then decide where to install them. There's a neat trick you can do to find the first angle of reflection with a friend and a mirror. Take a seat in the captain’s chair holding the mirror. Your friend can then place the acoustic panel on the wall where the mirror allows direct sight of each speaker. All acoustic panels should be placed at least 6 inches apart to maximize absorption, but you can break that rule if you’re going for a certain aesthetic. Set your home theater sound panels at about the height you would a picture frame. You should also add bass traps into the back corners of the room to treat for those lower frequencies. If you are dueling your theater as a gaming room, an acoustic panels gaming setup might look a bit different.

Focus #2: Acoustic Panels for Home Theater Ceiling

The ceiling is another hard surface that you'll need to acoustically treat to achieve a high-level sound quality. Just about any of our acoustic panels can be attached to the ceiling, and the right one for you will depend on your budget and desired aesthetics. This is our top recommendation for ceiling acoustic treatment because you simply can't beat the absorptive qualities they have. PolyZorbe™ Polyester Acoustic Panels or Acoustic Pro™ Anchorage Fabric Panels are our most common. An alternative is our Timberwool™ Wood Fiber Panels, which can be painted to match any room aesthetic.

We're often asked about acoustic foam. We like to use foam in situations where sound frequencies are high, aesthetics don’t matter, and durability isn't a factor. While it is very good at absorbing high frequency noise and some mid-frequencies, most foams are very poor at absorbing low frequencies. Some foams can also be very cheap and are often not Class A fire rated, which is important for meeting code. We wouldn't recommend foam where it can be easily picked at, and we beg you, please don't use foam for soundproofing!

Focus #3: Acoustic Flooring for your Home Theater

We're probably not telling you anything new here; get carpet! This is already a cozy space, and carpet is the obvious choice. It's great at absorbing sound, and it feels nice on your feet. This isn't a public movie theater where you have to worry about people's dirtying up the place. Treat your feet and your home theater with carpet.

home theatre acoustic panels
home theatre acoustic panels
Free USA shipping

Popular Home Theater Acoustic Panels


PolyZorbe™ Polyester Acoustic Panel
EcoVerb™ Cotton Fiber Acoustic Panel
Acoustic Pro™ Anchorage Fabric Wrapped Panel

Get a custom plan with second skin

Whether you're into high octane action, intense dramas, or bubbly rom-coms (we love both), home theaters provide a great escape without the sticky floors or overpriced snacks. Since most contractors don’t build houses with theaters in mind, it’s up to you to get a little creative, but you don’t have to do it alone! Reach out to us anytime with some information about your space and what kind of setup you’re interested in building. We can help you customize a plan to create a home theater that would make George Lucas jealous.

Have questions about your project?

Call us at 1.800.679.8511