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Click for bigger image of Audiofix home theatre demo room construction. I have been working on a design for a premium demo space at Audiofix for many years on and off. On Good Friday 2010 we finally started construction. The design philosophy is very much that the room should appear like any normal living room but perform far better than most living rooms, media rooms or for that matter most "home theatres" do. There comes a time when the frustration of seeing one ordinary room after another reaches a point where simply desribing the correct way to go about building a great cinema or music room needs to be backed up with a 'living' example of how it can be done.
Click for bigger image of Audiofix demo room construction. The aim is to use normal materials that most builders in Australia are familiar with so that our example can be quite easily repeated in your own new home or renovation. The goals for any room used for music or cinema are summarised easily enough but can be difficult to make happen in the real world. I hope these notes help to convince both yourself and your builder/designer that the extra cost and trouble is worth it. The key features a room needs to allow maximum enjoyment of movies and music and let the equipment perform at its best are summarised below.
Click for bigger image of Audiofix demo room construction. The first thing to get right is the actual room acoustics. This has substantially less to do with fancy Gyprocks, insulation in walls and expensive "acoustic treatments" than many would have you believe. What is required is the appropriate room shape and dimensions. In many cases carpeting, lounges, and drapes offer more than enough absorption (absorbers being the most common "acoustic treatment" on offer). The construction of the walls and ceiling is very important but has more to do with isolation, which is important but won't change the basic acoustic qualities of the room. In other words you can have the quietest most "isolated" room possible but it will almost certainly sound ordinary if the internal acoustic qualities of the room are not dealt with too.
Click for bigger image of Audiofix demo room construction. Limiting the amount of reflection of sound within the room is generally surpringly well controlled by the soft furnishings in the room. Any more absorbtion than this can lead to a room that becomes unusually 'dry' and both music and movies can lose their life and excitement. What is needed is to avoid gross reflections in the first place and use as much diffusion as possible from either natural furniture type items or specific treatments that offer diffusion rather than absorption. Excessive absorption or difussion at any one frequency range can also create a room with weird acoustic characteristics. This is a subject that is best discussed in person as it can get quite complicated and of course varies from room to room.
Click for bigger image of Audiofix demo room construction. In our demo room we have 'designed in' a number of features to help reduce the need for artificial treatments. The convex curves in the ceiling is perhaps the most unusual one. This helps with difussion as a convex curve smears sound off itself rather than offering a hard, focused reflection that a normal flat ceiling would. We have of course avoided the use of tiles or polished timber flooring. These have no place in a quality listening space. Large areas of glass should also be avoided but in a real home some windows maybe used but for both reasons of acoustics and light control will need to be covered by heavy drapes. Too many heavy drapes will cause too much absorbtion in the same frequency range so windows need to be kept to a minimum.
Click for bigger image of Audiofix demo room construction. Perhaps less original is the use of a coffered ceiling or bukheads. This helps with distributing bass modes as does the relative dimensions of the room. Use of bookcases and of art against or on the walls will act as diffusors as well. Part of the plan is also to add some high performance custom fabricated quadratic diffusors (as used to great success in recent room I co-designed with Kiat at Duntech Australia) but they will be a fine tuning aid as unlike Duntech's room this is not an all out state of the art room, but an attempt at getting the very best performance in a normal domestic looking space.
Click for bigger image of Audiofix demo room construction. The next most important item on the shopping list of the would be cinema room designer is indeed 'isolation'. It is very hard to "suspend disbelief" if you can hear the old goat next doors wipper snipper in the quiet passages. This is where the heavier, denser grade walllinings and wool come in. The best trick is to in effect build a room within a room. This is what we are doing at Audiofix with a complete new wall against the existing structure with insulating fibreglass and polyester between both the two walls and inside the new wall. Some call this floating walls. Sound hates radiating through differnet medias or densities. Each density change attenuates the sound wave.
Click for bigger image of Audiofix demo room construction. This is why two 90mm stud walls 25mm apart, clad with 2 layers of dense Gyprock on one side each and a thickness of insulation between the two walls offers the same amount of isolation as a 600mm thickness of solid contrete. Obviously one needs to be very careful with air leaks as the smallest leak will let in an amazing amount of sound. Air con should be ducted and long ducts (oversized) are necessary (with many bends/corners) to isolate the room from the air con unit and as mentioned car taken with sound coupling and air leaks. Windows tend to be the weak link in regard to isolation so a 'plug' inserted in the window when you aren't airing out the room is a good idea.
Click for bigger image of Audiofix demo room construction.
Comfort and light control are the next two issues. Air con is a definite whether living in a warm or cold climate. The temp needs to be 21 degrees celcius or thereabouts and the heating or cooling system needs to be designed to be very quiet, make that silent! In regard to light and projection, the projector needs to be silent but thats is easy these days as any good projector is more or less silent. To get the best from your projector the room needs to be light proof and the colours on the walls and floor both neutral and deepish tones. This wil help with contrast and of course any bold colours will mess with the apearant colour balance of the projected image. Some kind of remote lighting controller is a nesessity, which brings me to my next prority.
Click for bigger image of Audiofix demo room construction. Ease of use is a major problem in nearly all the rooms I have been asked to improve. A table full of remotes demonstrates to me that you used the wrong system installer/designer and that you probably have all sorts of trouble getting your system to play a movie and even if you can I bet the rest of the family has trouble. A properly programmed touchscreen remote is not an option, it is a nesessity! When this unit also controls lighting and air you have all the control you need in the palm of your hand and know that you never need to go looking for that extra little remote that has probably been eaten by the dog or slidden down the back of the sofa to never be seen again. Comfy chairs with a low back are also a requirement. A high back will ruin all your good room design work as your ears should not be wrapped in sound absorbant foam and leather.
Click for bigger image of Audiofix demo room construction. Part two of this room summary is here
This page was last updated 02-04-2011
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