When is a Home Theatre not a real Home Theatre?
While a seemingly obvious question, If you are considering investing in a dedicated Home Theatre or Home Cinema room you should know the answer.
But do you?
If you are like 90% of our customers, then you probably only have half the answer.
This unfortunate reality is largely due to the fact that every second HIFI & Audio specialist out there seems to have a different definition of what ‘makes up’ a Home Theatre in the first space.
Is it the Hi-Fidelity speakers? The 4K UHD screen? The fancy sub-woofer? A combination? If you are thinking along these lines then you definitely need to keep reading.
Quality equipment is only a small part of what makes up a real Home Theatre. In fact, even the most expensive equipment will perform terribly in the wrong acoustic environment.
So, lets dive right in and set the record straight.
Here is what makes up a real Home Theatre:
In summary, to create a real Home Theatre is a feat of engineering and requires years of experience and expertise to get right. There are only a handful of ‘proper’ cinema design companies in NZ and AU but a quote from any of the good ones will cover at least these 7 points.
1. Highly detailed room design documentation
To have a real Home Theatre you need the room to be designed based on maths and acoustic principals. This is advanced engineering and requires an expert who is willing to do all the proper documentation. See the room design documentation pictures below to get an idea of what to expect.
2. Proper Audio & Video Calibration
In a real Home Theatre, audio and video are calibrated based on the size of the room and the features within it. Great calibration takes expert tools and years of experience. Are they considering all elements in the room? Has the audio reflection and dispersion of the glass window or solid cedar bar leaner been taken into account? If not, even expect the most expensive speakers on the market wont perform ‘as advertised’.
3. Acoustic treatments
In line with the previous point without acoustically treating the inside of your room, the sound will bounce around and distort your experience. Great engineers will use acoustic panels, bass traps, diffusers & abortion panels in precise quantities and exact locations to ensure the movie sounds exactly the way the director intended.
4. Sound isolation
Even after you have calibrated the room and treated it acoustically, without properly preventing sound from outside the room entering, your experience will still be disrupted. Depending on the room, combating this might include putting in wall, ceiling and floor isolation products. Sound isolation has the added benefit of providing a place for adults or teens to enjoy movies and games late at night without disturbing other members of the house.
5. The use of proper cinema lighting
A professional room requires professional lighting, period. To do this properly requires lighting control to automate lighting scenes to the perfect levels. These scenes ensure that ambient lighting levels in the room and the lumen output of the projector are balanced so that nothing takes away from the intended immersive viewing experience.
6. Air conditioning considerations
With so many things to remember we often see inexperienced cinema design teams forgetting about air conditioning. Real Home Theatres ensure indoor air quality is enhanced, noise from the HVAC system is minimal and the correct temperatures are maintained. These ensure your room is a more pleasant room to be in and allow you to spend more time comfortably in the room enjoying the experience.
7. Interior design & cinema furniture
Lastly, real Home Theatres are both acoustically and aesthetically a work of art. From wall panels and interior design finishing’s to cinema seating the room should always look and feel as good as it sounds.
If you are planning a real Home Theatre and this room is important to you, we would highly recommend having the room designed by a professional Home Theatre/ Cinema designer.
You can use the principles above to help discern quality designers from those ‘winging it’ .
That being said, it’s important to emphasis that most of the smart home companies and HIFI shops in NZ are only offering lookalike Home Theatres which are really just equipment placed in a room by the best guess calculation.
True acoustics is a science and the latter approach will only sound and look as good as it can under the conditions that it is installed. Don’t be fooled by aesthetics these rooms might look like Home Theatres but acoustically they are generally terrible sounding rooms.
Some companies might also provide flashy 3D renders showing what the interior design of the room will look like however they will not provide any engineering documentation. This is a major red flag.
As we discussed above, ensure you are getting room design documentation. Including all details pertaining to sound performance and propagation in the room with first, second, third reflection points, dispersion fields of speakers, SPL levels at the seating locations and more. These are the kinds of things you should expect to receive from a professional Home Theatre designer.
If you would like more advice on your specific room before you make any further equipment or cinema design investments, please feel free to fill in the form below and we will get our cinematic expert to give you a call.