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A Basement Home Theater Design for an AV Enthusiast

Client Profile

Mr. Sahni is an audio-video enthusiast from St. Louis, MO, and has been a member of the AVS Forum for over 10 years.

Project Overview

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.

Basement Home Theater Design Services

Scope of work for this project included:

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.

Basement home theater design
9.1.6 speaker layout with optional wides and 3rd row of tops.

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.

Basement home theater acoustic treatment
Hybrid off-the-shelf and DIY acoustic treatment design.

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.

Basement home theater baffle / screen wall
3D CAD drawings of front and rear of speaker baffle and screen wall.

The Results
Basement home theater in construction

Basement home theater baffle wall

Basement home theater, front of room Basement home theater, view to rear

4 thoughts on “A Basement Home Theater Design for an AV Enthusiast”

  1. Nyal,

    What brand of diffuser and subwoofer were used on this project and how would you compare the Procella P8 with the JBL SCL 2 you used for your showroom? I am still enjoying the baffle wall theater you designed for me based the Procella P8 and P5.

    1. The diffuser is a cut down Acoustics First Quadrapyramid. It comes in a 2’x2′ size but can be cut down into four 1’x1′ pieces. It’s our lowest cost diffuser option for our 1’x1′ checquerboard absorber / diffuser mix that we like to use to manage reflected energy in the surround field.

      The subwoofers (I am 90% sure) were Rhythmik FV15HP. I did recommend four ported 12″ in the corners, which modeled out to have plenty of output for the room, but the client wanted the Rhythmik specifically and ran out of budget to do 4.

      The “lab” has JBL Synthesis SCL-3 for LCR. I did not get to visit this project, but my general feeling with the SCL-3 vs Procella P8 is that the SCL-3 has higher resolution but less bass output. The SCL-3 is tuned for flat when mounted in wall, the P8 will get a bass shelf when installed in a baffle wall. Of course this can be EQ’d out. The high frequency differences are related to the compression drivers I am pretty sure. The Procella sound in general is quite dark and somewhat rolled off in the treble, which is a nice sound to have in a home theater in my opinion. The SCL-3 is more forward and higher resolution, though I think with judicious EQ you could easily make it sound similar to the P8.

  2. Hi Nyal, what was the reason to go with LR 37 degree and not to put them outside the picture and be closer to 45 degree recommended by cinema world? I would think separation between front channels may be a bit problem to create wide soundstage with stereo effects. I’d love to hear your opinion. Thank you. Andrew

    1. Hi Andrew, no room to put the speakers outside the screen in this theater without shrinking the screen size.

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