Top Tips for Home Entertainment System Design

A home entertainment system is perhaps one of the biggest modern luxuries an individual can install in their home. By combining the perfect sound with an ideal image, you can snuggle up in your favorite chair with family and friends, and enjoy visual and audio masterpieces for hours on end. Of course, while a home entertainment system may look effortless; ensuring it fits seamlessly into your home and provides the best possible results can be a challenge. Designing a media room that not only has the aesthetics you're looking for, but the performance capabilities too, makes the concept far more difficult than plugging a lot of electrical devices into a room.

The idiosyncrasies involved with video and audio performance, bulky equipment, and room components all conspire against you, presenting a number of design challenges. In fact, this is one of the many reasons why people choose to access the help of professionals when installing their own theatre. If you are planning on installing a home entertainment unit, the following tips should help to ensure you're covering every aspect of excellent entertainment, from audio clarity, to visual appeal.

Choosing the Right Room
It's possible to have all the most expensive equipment installed by the most experienced professionals, just for the wrong room to ruin your experience. Most people decide to install a home entertainment system based on the fact that they already have a spare room in their house that they want to optimize. However, if this room doesn't come equipped with the right features for theatre performance, you may have some work to do before you're ready to grab the popcorn. For example, the shape of the room can have a huge impact on your viewing experience. While square rooms can produce strange harmonic distortions in sound, rectangular rooms allow for the sound to project more evenly to the audience. When choosing a room, remember the following factors:

1. Color
While a home theatre may seem like a good opportunity to go wild with color, bright hues can reflect light back into the screen, or leave a hue on the picture that dilute the onscreen image. Using darker and neutral colors can help to give you a more clear and authentic viewing experience.

In a room designed for home entertainment, the fewer windows you have � the better. Glass reflects audio, leading to distortions, and can let in light that can ruin your viewing experience. This is one of the reasons why converted basements can make good home entertainment rooms.

3. Electrical
Before you jump in and start buying expensive equipment, you may benefit from having an expert come and check the electrical capacity of your property. Older homes may not be capable of supplying some of the higher-end equipment used today, so it's worth examining your power levels before you make any big investments.

Optimize Your Audio
The audio technology we use today is incredibly advanced, and competition among various manufacturers has helped to develop some of the best home entertainment equipment in the world. Of course, if you've ever moved into a new home, the chances are you've noticed that certain rooms have a thinner, more echoing sound than others - this is because of acoustics. When designing your home entertainment system, you'll have a few factors to consider in regards to sound and audio performance:

 1. Surface Materials
When choosing the surface materials to design your room, sound performance should be at the forefront of your mind. Concrete and hardwood floors often reflect sound, making the room sound �echo-y�. The idea should be to choose surfaces that are more capable of absorbing the vibrations, such as carpets, drapes, pillows, and plush sofas. For a dedicated cinema system, you may even stretch to a full acoustic treatment for the room.

2. Speaker Placement
The standard home entertainment system for most homes feature 5.1 surround sound systems, meaning that you have five full-range speakers, supplemented by a low-range woofer. Placing the right speaker in the right place is crucial to making sure your sound is incredible. Speakers should be kept around 20 inches from the walls, and the woofer should be placed towards the front of the room. Most theatre lovers place two speakers on either side just behind the viewing area, and three at the front of the room.

3. Distance
An ideal audio experience would have every speaker an equal distance from your ears. Unfortunately, since you only have two ears on the opposite sides of your head, you'll struggle to meet this level of perfection. However, you can come as close to the ideal goal as possible. For example, Audioholics suggests a formula that means every 1.1 feet of distance equates to a 1 millisecond delay.

Maximize Viewing
Finally, the heart of any home theater system is a high-definition screen situated for incredible viewing. While it might be tempting to turn the entire wall of your theatre into a gigantic screen, that isn't necessarily the best option. It's crucial to consider your viewing distance in accordance to screen size so that you can maintain an immersive experience. If you sit too close to a huge screen, you'll lose the impact of the image. When maximizing your viewing setup, remember the following points.

1. Optimum Angle
Most experts in ergonomics suggest positioning your home entertainment display so that the center of your gaze naturally lands somewhere between the top edge and top quarter of a monitor or TV. Keep in mind that if you plan to have multiple seating options, then you will need to ensure that all chairs have an optimum angle.

2.  Perfect Distance
An incredible viewing experience is also defined by your distance from the screen. The space between you and the screen should be between 1.5 and 2.5 times the width of your screen diagonally. In other words, if you have a 60-inch television set, then you'll need to sit no closer than 7.5 feet away. The distance calculation makes sure that you can fully appreciate the entire image � not just a portion of what you're seeing.

3. Height
Finally, the best height for your television or display situates the center of the screen at your natural eye level. Although choosing the right height might seem obvious, some people still choose to elevate their display so that they're craning their necks to see it. If you do put your screen in a higher place, make sure you have reclining seats, or that you can adjust the angle of the screen to face your seating area.

Designing your home entertainment system can be a complicated process that requires a great deal of thought and planning. However, the guidance outlined above should help to ensure that you approach your theatre dreams from the right angle.
If you've already installed a home entertainment system in your home, do you have any tips or solutions that helped to maximize your experience? Let us know in the comments below.
Don Teemsma, President/CEO of Ideal Plumbing, Heating, Air & Electrical brings decades of experience and expertise in the plumbing, HVAC, electrical and remodel industries. His second-generation family owned and operated business located in San Diego, CA serves residential and commercial customers. In his spare time, Don volunteers through various organizations, including the San Diego Fire Rescue Foundation, San Diego Rotary Club 33, and Mt. Helix Park Foundation. Most of all, he enjoys spending time with his family.

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