Soundproofing home theater and media rooms are a necessity to peacefully coexist with neighbors.
Audio systems are really amazing gadgets as they make our movie watching or music listening experience a really enjoyable one.
I remember it was about ten years ago when I bought my first audio system, a home theater in a box. As soon as I got it home, I quickly set it up in excitement.
The first movie I played on my new home theater system was ‘Gladiator’ and it was so awesome. My movie watching experience was on a different level and that excited me.
For a while, it was good until I began noticing how much of a nuisance I was becoming to family members and neighbors.
So I decided to sort out the situation by soundproofing my home theater room which had become the primary source of disturbance for others.
In this article, I share what I have learned from my experience which can be helpful for those who want to soundproof a home theater or media room.
Soundproofing A Home Theater Room
Soundproofing your home theater will give you the peace of mind to enjoy doing what you love without having angry neighbors knock at your door.
You also want to shut out outside noises. Car horns from the street, the dog barking outside or the sound of other audio playing systems playing in the neighborhood will ruin your cinematic experience.
While soundproofing your home theater room, there are six areas that the most attention should be focused on: The Walls, The Windows, The Door, The Floors, The Ceiling and The HVAC System. All six highlighted areas are known to be areas through which sound leaks the most.
The average American home has walls that are very thin and can transmit sound easily. Paper thin walls or Drywalls as they are popularly known, are the most common causes of sound leaking out of the home theater room.
It is no wonder that massive amount of sound easily leaves your home theater into every corner of your home and even into the neighborhood whenever you settle down to play your favorite video game, listen to a great jam or watch a blockbuster movie.
If you truly wish to have the best cinematic or gaming experience, then it is important that you completely soundproof those walls of yours just as I did.
To soundproof a home theater room wall, there are four important elements that you would be looking at.
Making your walls heavier is the first priority. A heavier wall will dampen the sound vibrations and hence, will transmit less sound. You can make the walls heavier by adding one or two layers of drywall. The choice of drywall should be the heaviest 5/8 inch thick ones.
Another effective way of making the wall heavier is by installing Mass Loaded Vinyl (MLV) Sound Barrier. When this is used alongside an additional layer of sheetrock, it greatly improves your wall’s sound blocking ability.
Decoupling is an effective way of soundproofing a wall. I would say that this is more effective than just adding mass.
The traditional way of constructing the interior wall is by screwing drywall sheets on to the studs. The problem with this is that the sound vibrations of the interior wall get transmitted to the studs and further to the outside wall causing a high amount of sound transmission.
In decoupling, we will be isolating the studs from the interior walls so that the sound transmission caused by having the wall in direct contact with the studs can be reduced. You will need to tear down the interior wall for decoupling.
There are a few methods for decoupling like staggered stud walls, double stud walls, hat channels and resilient channels which can be used with or without sound isolation clips.
All these methods will isolate the studs from the interior wall. The decoupling materials are first attached to the studs and the drywall is then screwed on to the resilient channel and hat channel.
As a result of decoupling, a large cavity between the inner and outer wall is created which is highly beneficial for soundproofing.
The cavities that exist between the two walls or the ones that are created by decoupling should be filled with absorption materials like loose fiberglass, cellulose or rockwool insulation.
The insulation should be less dense so that sound waves ‘interact’ sufficiently and lose energy as they get absorbed through the layers of fibers.
Apart from this, insulation is required so that the walls are not hollow. Hollow walls will resonate or rattle easily when you are watching a movie or listening to music.
Damping compounds are semi-solid materials known for decreasing sound transmission by altering the frequency of its vibration.
Also known as constrained layer damping, these materials are applied between two hard surfaces. In the case of walls, they can be applied between two layers of drywall.
Damping compounds convert the sound energy into heat energy. Sound vibrations, therefore, get dissipated and sound transmission is minimized.
Now you know this, waste no time! Go work on those walls of yours!
Blame it on your window anytime sound escapes out of your home theater room. So it is important to work on this area of your room.
The issue of sound escaping through the window can be fixed by improving your windows’ ability to keep sounds at bay. You could hire a professional to do it or just fix the issue yourself.
The first thing you should do is seal up the cracks and gaps with acoustic sealant. You then need to apply closed cell foams mat slabs into the frames. Ensure all the edges of the window are adequately filled as well. This way you’d block all sounds from entering or going out through the window.
Windows with double pane and an airspace in the middle have also proven to be very effective at drastically reducing sound’s passage.
If you don’t have an option of replacing your window, you can build a window plug. Read the article on ‘how to soundproof a window without replacing it’ to learn more.
Besides windows, doors are the weak links and will always be a challenge for soundproofing.
With windows, at least you have the option of removing them and covering the gap in the wall with insulation and drywall.
However, you need to have at least one door in a room for entering or exiting. The problem with doors is that it is difficult to employ decoupling techniques.
So, the only viable option is to replace your door with a heavy and dense one. In addition, there are other issues like the door jamb and the gap under the door which are difficult to tackle. There are ready-made doors that have been designed to address these issues but they are quite expensive.
I have a dedicated article on soundproofing doors as well, which you can check out.
The Ceiling and Lights
Yes, this is another outlet through which sound travels out and into your home theater room.
In the case where your home theater is located downstairs, just underneath your momma’s bedroom, you know what that implies, I’m sure you do.
But you shouldn’t let the location of your home theater stop you from having all the fun you deserve with your sound system.
To fix this, you should soundproof your ceiling. There are many ways you can do this. You can use the same techniques employed for a wall that can be very effective.
Isolate the Joists
The best option would be to isolate the joists. To isolate the joists, you will have to install new joists between the existing joists and two inches below.
So, when you install the drywall on the new joists, the sound will not be transmitted to the room above. Other ways to soundproof the ceiling is to use decoupling techniques and double layer drywall with damping.
You can indirectly soundproof the ceiling by soundproofing the floor above which will be covered in the next subtopic.
The aspect of lighting is also very crucial, as a soundproofed ceiling with lights built in will do you no good owing to the holes and spaces they leave. Ensure to suspend light fixtures or make use of low profile fluorescents.
This is another vulnerable area through which sound can escape your home theater. There is a common misconception that this is applicable only for home theaters located on higher floors.
Floors are after all connected to the walls. Sound vibrations from the floor will be transferred to the walls and further to the room on top through the interconnected walls.
Fortunately, for basement home theaters, this amount of sound is less and can be controlled without much of effort.
When it comes to floors, you will be dealing with two types of noises namely: impact noise and airborne noise.
Impact noise is mostly applicable for home theaters on higher floors. This is the noise which is created by footsteps and moving furniture.
Airborne noise is sound being transmitted through flanking paths such as doors, windows and walls.
In order to stop sounds and vibration from traveling down and out of your room, you should apply such soundproofing materials as a soundproof underlayment.
Choosing the right underlayment is important. Check out my top recommendation here.
Other ways to soundproof your floor are listed below.
- Interlocking Floor Mats
- Carpet Padding
- Noise Proofing Compound
- Deck Screws
- Rubber Floor Mats
For details, check out my article on soundproofing floors.
An important aspect that must not be missed out is dealing with all sources of flanking noises. Flanking noises are those which enter a room through indirect paths.
Apart from doors, windows, floors and ceilings, the ductwork of the HVAC system can be a major source of flanking noises.
Sound easily travels through air and the HVAC vent is similar to a gap under the door which can easily let sound enter or leave the room.
Here is what you can do to soundproof HVAC vents.
Using duct liners are a cost effective way to soundproof HVAC vents. Duct liners have insulating materials on the inside which attenuate the sound as it travels through the ductwork.
As the name implies, these ducts can be bent. By bending the ducts, sound will have a tough time traveling through it and this can help.
Building soundproof soffits around the ductwork would insulate the sound coming from the walls of the ductwork. Of course, it is only practical to have soffits for exposed portions of ductwork inside the room.
A baffle is a box which is designed for making the sound travel through a maze so that it loses its energy easily. The ends of the box are connected to the ductwork.
More about soundproofing HVAC system can be read in my guide on the subject.
Soundproofing A Media Room
Most people think that a media room and a home theater room mean the same thing.
Ideally, these are two different terms that refer to two different parts of a house, serving different purposes.
Differences Between Media Rooms & Home Theater Rooms
Layout and Design of Both Rooms
Media rooms are designed to include activities other than watching movies such as hanging out with family members.
An example would be a room in which a movie is going on but the lights are not out. People can talk in between and answer calls. The seating is also flexibly arranged. Simply put, a media room is nothing more than a living room.
Home theaters, on the other hand, have layouts that are meant to replicate a real movie theater. You have cinema lighting, seats facing the screen, the lights are turned out and no one is allowed to talk during the movie.
The Caliber of Audio Equipment
There’s also a big difference in the kind of audio and visual equipment to be found in both rooms.
As I earlier mentioned the goal of creating a home theater is to replicate a real movie theater. So the caliber of audio equipment to be found in a home theater is usually stronger than that in the media room.
While just about anyone can install both audio and visual devices in a media room, this isn’t the case with a home theater room.
For proper installation of audio and visual equipment in a home theater, it is important to hire a professional or a home theater installation company to get the job done to avoid glitches.
How To Soundproof A Media Room
Now that we know the key differences between media rooms and home theater rooms, it’s easy to guess that media rooms do not require very stringent standards for soundproofing.
In media rooms, your main concern will be to block outside noise. Outside noises are mostly in the mid and high frequency range which are not too hard to isolate.
The principles of soundproofing remain the same, whatever the room.
Ideally, you would want to soundproof a media room like a home theater room. However, if there are space or budget constraints, the approach can be a bit more conservative for media rooms.
If you are not able to apply any of the techniques covered for home theater rooms, here are some things which you can do.
Seal Up The Gaps
You must seal up every gap in your media room’s wall that may have come about following the installation of lights and other electrical appliances. You should fill up these gaps and holes in electrical outlets with a non-conducting fireproof putty.
There are also gaps and cracks that you may find in other places such as windows and door frames. These should be insulated with acoustic sealant.
Install Isolation Bushing
Is your audio system so powerful that when you play music or watch movies its vibration extends from the media room into other parts of the house?
If you answered yes to that, then installing an isolation bushing on your media room’s wall is just what you need to keep the vibration within the room.
To install this, have them fixed on your media room’s wall studs and parallel to your ceiling joists.
Make Use Of Soundproofing Tapes
Adhesive soundproofing tapes are also very helpful to improve things.
This tape can be peeled off and easily cut with scissors. When used to hold wall studs and panels, they perfectly do the job of noise reduction as they break the sound path.
Noise Reduction Curtains
Are there really curtains that reduce sound? Yes, there are!
There are lots of beautiful curtains out there in the market that not only reduce sound, but also block light and UV rays.
Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a great looking curtain fixed in your media room that not only improves its aesthetics but also blocks out unnecessary light and soundproofs at the same time?
Think about it!
However, remember that these will only serve to improve things to a reasonable extent and not do wonders. Read my dedicated guide to noise reducing curtains.
Modify Your Audio System
The next guideline on how to soundproof your media room has to be “Tweaking your audio system.”
You’d agree with me that the source of noise coming out from both a media room and home theater is nothing else but an audio system.
You can employ high fidelity bookshelf speakers to your audio systems, as they provide clarity without their volume being raised to the maximum. This may sound a bit silly but if you think about this seriously, it will make sense.
You could also make use of a subwoofer isolation pad which will dampen the bass of your subwoofer.
This might come off as strange, but arranging your media room furniture has a tendency to absorb the sound produced from your sound system and tone down the echo.
The sound absorption will not have a direct impact on soundproofing. But, if you can put the heaviest furniture of the house in your media room, it would be a bit helpful.
I’m not saying that you should clutter up your room but you can interchange the furniture with the heavier ones in other parts of the house.
In addition to such furniture, thick and tough rugs, large bookshelves, etc also help.
For those who initially don’t have the budget for real soundproofing equipment, this should work in the interim for a media room.
There is a lot of misinformation about soundproofing on the web. You need to be aware of these so that you don’t make mistakes that are costly and regrettable.
Myth 1 – Egg Cartons Soundproof a Room
This is the biggest myth that has been prevalent for decades. Egg cartons don’t have mass, so they are pretty useless for soundproofing.
And imagine, what your room would look like after you cover them with egg cartons. Besides, sticking them all over the room will involve a huge wastage of time.
Myth 2 – Acoustic Foam is Good for Soundproofing
Another one is with regard to acoustic foam. The sad part is that a lot of companies market foams as soundproof materials. Foam is just the opposite as it just does not have any significant mass for any kind of soundproofing.
Myth 3 – Mattresses and Blankets on Walls Will Do the Trick
Same goes with mattresses and blankets. The confusion between soundproofing and sound absorption is the root cause of thinking that these materials are good for blocking sound.
Mattresses and blankets are mostly light, so they are also useless. There are heavier ones but they are difficult to put up on the walls.
Myth 4 – Carpets on Walls Will Soundproof a Room
Carpets may be helpful for deadening the sound a bit. But, hanging heavy carpets on the walls is a tough task and will not benefit that much.
Myth 5 – Acoustic Wallpaper is Good for Soundproofing
The wallpapers marketed as ‘acoustic’ or ‘soundproof’ are so thin and light that they will not make any difference to the sound after you put them up.
Myth 6 – Blown In Cellulose Insulation is Effective
While low density cellulose in between the wall is good, blown in cellulose insulation is high density. High density insulation will reduce the soundproofing effect of the cavity in between the walls.
Myth 7 – Soundproof Paint Blocks Noise
There is no such thing as ‘soundproof paint’. The paint layer is thin like any other paint and hence, will not have any influence on soundproofing.
It’s been an awesome experience sharing these vital tips with you on “how to soundproof media rooms and home theaters.” I hope you found them helpful.
I can assure you that these techniques will make your gaming, music listening or movie watching experience a real pleasure.
It might cost you a good amount of money to ensure your media room or home theater is adequately soundproofed. However, the pleasure of watching movies or listening to music at loud volumes without worries will be worth it.
Thanks for reading! Before you go, take a minute out and check out the best insulation materials for soundproofing and acoustics which I highly recommend.