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Three Things I Would Do Differently in My Home Theater

Apr 18, 2011 12:00 PM, by Jason Bovberg

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Last July, I wrote an article called "Five Ways to Make Your Home Theater Better Than the Rest," in which I explored some of the great personal successes that I experienced while building my theater. These successes came after much research and many discussions with my builder. I've now been enjoying my home theater for two years, and although I remain very proud of the "wow-factor" features we managed to build into the theater, there are inevitably a few things that I wish we'd done differently. (For background on my home-theater build, see the six-part "Building a New Home Theater" series that begins here.)

Before getting into it, I should express that budget constraints were the real roadblock to some of these things. When we created this theater, we didn't have the budget for some of the features you might see in photo galleries of the rich and famous. Obviously, I envied that kind of style and AV power, but I didn't have the Fort Knox finances to accomplish something so extravagant. We simply did the best we could with the amount of cash we had. I'm immensely proud of what we ended up with and the creative solutions we applied to the space. Given that, here are the things I'd do differently if I had to do it all over again.

Acoustical Isolation

In hindsight, we spent an awful lot of time and energy on sound-dampening efforts that really didn't pay off. My contractor and I did the requisite research on sound absorption, conferring with the drywall and insulation teams about how to best keep the theater's booming sound inside the theater—rather than radiating upward into my master bedroom, which sat just above the theater. Our final solution was to use hat channel (a steel channel separating drywall from joists) in the ceiling. Compounding this solution, we used Sound Choice sound-deadening fiberboard on the ceiling—underneath the drywall—and my insulation team blew thick cellulose insulation into the ceiling joists in an effort to blunt the transference of high-end sounds upstairs.

In the end, our solution wasn't enough. Sound flows pretty freely into the bedroom, and there have been nights when I've come upstairs after a movie to find my wife in troubled slumber, cramming a pillow against her head. Yes, it's possible that some of the higher-end sound, such as dialog, has been muted by our ceiling solution, but the deeper bass is unobstructed. The wall studs aren't protected by a layer of hat channel (only the ceiling is), so the bass inevitably finds its way directly upstairs through the structure. If I had to do it over again, I'd work harder on my original idea of actually creating an acoustically separate room underneath the basement ceiling—in other words, actually framing a room within a room, leaving a gap between the wood beams so that the bass rumblings would be trapped within the confines of the isolated theater.

Projector and Screen Choice

Obviously the choice of a projector is paramount to the success of a home theater, and I really did spend a great deal of time researching the best manufacturers and units for my type of space and conditions. I should have spent more time. Don't get me wrong, I give my projector a solid A for performance, but I ran into a little annoying detail that I didn't foresee: My projector—the Mitsubishi HC5500—is particularly vulnerable to dust blobs on the lens, a condition that is even more pronounced in the dry, mile-high climate of Colorado. And these little blobs are impossible to eradicate short of sending the entire unit back to a Mitsubishi service center, which I've done twice during the warranty period. My warranty period, however, has just expired, and now I'm a little wary every time I power on the projector, expecting to see the next dust blob appear on the screen.

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