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A Basement Home Theater Design for an AV Enthusiast
by ct_acoustic_frontierJanuary 28, 2022
Mr. Sahni is an audio-video enthusiast from St. Louis, MO, and has been a member of the AVS Forum for over 10 years.
Mr. Sahni first approached Acoustic Frontiers in 2015 to provide a basement home theater design as part of a basement conversion he was planning. Fast forward to 2018, and Mr. Sahni was ready to proceed with the project!
The AVS build thread can be found here: HT1.0.
A key challenge was a very low 7.5' ceiling height, a common issue in basement conversions. The width and length of the room were around 15'x24' after sound isolation construction.
The layout we came up with included a single row of home theaters seats, with bar seating at the rear to accommodate additional guests. In many home theaters, there is a desire to include as much seating as possible, but we advise clients to design for the most frequent and most important use case, rather than the edge cases.
Here are some of the considerations when adding a 2nd seated row:
Adding a 2nd row of theater seats means a tall 12" or 15" riser in order that the 2nd row can see the screen. A tall riser is required because most people want an immersive viewing experience in the front row, which means a big 120"-140" wide screen.
The 2nd row makes the sound worse for the 1st row, which is typically the prime seating row in the theater. Why does it make it worse? Because the rear speakers need to be elevated for clear line of sight to the first row, which also compresses the angular separation to the last row of top speakers. The 2nd seating row also acts as a big reflective surface, which worsens the acoustics for the 1st row.
Theater seats add cost - each additional seat adds at least $1000 to the project budget.
In this project, and a few others we have done recently, we have discussed the considerations with the client and settled on alternate seating arrangements. In this project we did one seating row and one row of bar seating. Another configuration we often recommend is one seating row on a single step riser with bean bag seating in front, such as in The Aurelian Theater.
[caption id="attachment_4393" align="aligncenter" width="640"] 9.1.6 speaker layout with optional wides and 3rd row of tops.[/caption]
Another interesting part of this basement home theater design was the acoustic treatment, where we utilized a hybrid approach that combined off-the-shelf hybrid absorber / diffuser panels from GIK, diffusers from Acoustics First and DIY absorbers. The client wrapped the hybrid areas in a site-constructed fabric panel.
Many people only consider two options for the acoustic treatments: off-the-shelf panels or a full fabric stretch. Off-the-shelf panels can be restrictive in terms of their design, both acoustical and aeshetic. Fabric stretch walls can be expensive, both in labor and materials cost. By using a non-traditional hybrid approach we were able to optimize acoustics whilst keeping an eye on overall budget.
[caption id="attachment_4394" align="aligncenter" width="639"] Hybrid off-the-shelf and DIY acoustic treatment design.[/caption]
Acoustic Frontiers provided the Procella P8 / P5 / Revel C763L speaker system together with the Seymour AV screen and Acoustics First diffusers.
A hybrid angled baffle / screen wall was constructed to provide the best acoustical environment for the LCR speakers as well as bass trapping.
[caption id="attachment_4395" align="aligncenter" width="640"] 3D CAD drawings of front and rear of speaker baffle and screen wall.[/caption]
In the Client's Words
"I have been a member of AVSforum for long time. Over the years I have followed the home theater section closely and I saw several projects done by Acoustic Frontiers. I have only read good reviews about the company and saw several projects highlighted on the forum that were designed by them. After speaking to several local dealers/installers, I requested Acoustic Frontiers design my theater and hired a local GC for most of the construction. Working with Acoustic Frontiers was a pleasure. They are very knowledgeable, flexible and completed the work on schedule. I never felt I was being oversold or pushed in particular direction. They truly customized the design as per my budget and liking and I am very happy with results." Mr. Sahni.