Seeking advice for best audio compromise for multipurpose room - Home Theater Forum and Systems - HomeTheaterShack.com

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post #1 of 17 Old 10-11-11, 10:32 PM Thread Starter
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Seeking advice for best audio compromise for multipurpose room

Hello,

Barring a job loss prior to implementation (estimating this January for purchases), I'll be finally setting up a front projector in the basement family room this year. I've been researching off and on for ~6 years, so while I'm anxious to pull the trigger, I'm also patient. The basement itself has been 98% finished for about 2 years, only low voltage work remains. I ran conduit to likely needed locations when I built it as well as power to the ceiling where I intend to hang the projector.

My goal with this thread is to try to reach the best compromise in the space with respect to audio quality. Given the odd room geometry and limitations due to it's multi-use nature I recognize the final result will necessarily be sub-optimal. What's the best balance of speaker budget, placement, 1 sub vs 2, room treatments, etc? My goal is to try to answer those questions.

I have attached 2 files. One shows the entire basement layout for broad context. The other is an MS paint "drawing" of the "family room" detail (rotated 90 degrees CCW from the floor plan drawing). As you can see, the room is, broadly speaking, 16' x 19' x 8' high.

Users will be me, wife, 6yo kid and eventually the currently 20 month old kid. It will be a mix of music, video games and movies, TV, both day watching and night time (including when everyone but me is asleep). I'm open to headphone use to keep the volume down when necessary.

Total budget is 5-6k USD. $1500-2500 of this will be projector (model TBD - if I were to buy today it'd be the Panny AE4000 as I love the auto aspect ratio change for 2.35:1 vs. 16:9 vs. 4:3). This includes projector, receiver, blu-ray player, DIY screen, HDMI cables, speakers and any room treatments. I already have the equipment rack (but no shelves) and a roll of 12 gage speaker wire and all the coax cable/ends I need. All possible equipment will be in adjacent utility room.

Here are the boundary conditions/limitations/other info:
1) This is a multi-purpose family room. It's current primary uses are as a general play area (e.g. Lego building for 6 year old) and free exercise space (i.e. no fixed equipment). These uses will not go away.
2) Wall positions are set and very non-optimal, but they are what they are.
3) It's carpet over concrete floors. Walls are standard 1/2" drywall over 16" OC studs. Can lighting. See drawings for other geometry as it is far from rectangular in the corners. No exposed glass as the patio door is covered by heavy blackout curtains (which also provide excellent light control).
4) The furniture has little room for adjustment. I could likely move it up to 1' further away from the rear wall, but, for example, rotating everything 90 degrees is most likely out.
5) I'm sure speaker placement will be subject to nudge, moving out of the way for various activities, etc. Return placement to within an inch and a degree of original location cannot be guaranteed.
6) I'm a major geek and generally mechanically/electrically inclined so I'm open to DIY, REW, etc.
7) I have a good ear and my wife is an orchestra teacher, so we appreciate good sound. My current reference source is a set of Senn HD580 cans. I like their flat response.
8) While I'd like tower mains, budget may dictate bookshelves + stands. I prefer direct radiating surrounds. I'm leaning toward Ascend Acoustics speakers/Rythmik sub(s), 5.1 setup.
9) Since the right surround is likely to be in the main walkway, I'm leaning toward a high placement on a bracket, say 7' high, for the surrounds.

So, what say you? Just get a receiver with Multi EQ XT and let her buck? 1 or 2 strategically placed room treatments will pay serious dividends? Don't bother with good speakers it'll sound sub-par no matter what you do, etc.

Thanks in advance. I hope to check back in on this thread each evening (I do not have the luxury of checking and posting from work).

Edit: I should ad that the seating position marked as "primary" is about 15' from the projector screen (but centered) and the nearest seat is 12' from the screen (the MS Paint drawing is not quite to scale .
Attached Thumbnails
Seeking advice for best audio compromise for multipurpose room-room-layout-detail.png  

Seeking advice for best audio compromise for multipurpose room-basement-drawing.jpg  


Last edited by NegativeEntropy; 10-11-11 at 10:42 PM. Reason: Additional detail
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post #2 of 17 Old 10-12-11, 03:47 AM
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Re: Seeking advice for best audio compromise for multipurpose room

The only problem with the room is that the width and heights are multiples. This means you could have peaks at around 70 Hz. Although with the openings at the far end it may not be an issue. REW will be your best tool here. Once you have made some measurements someone with more knowledge of room treatment can advise if this room can be improved with traps.

Several subs distributed around the room will give a smoother bass response.

As for moving the speakers you could mark the floor, after you optimise the speaker placement, to make it easier to realign them?

Cheers,
Bill.

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post #3 of 17 Old 10-12-11, 06:18 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Seeking advice for best audio compromise for multipurpose room

Thanks for the reply. Yeah, I do have a few inches in my favor (actual room width is 15'10") but I'm crossing my fingers the odd shape will help, as you indicated.

I could try marking the carpet with painter's tape under the speaker corners + taking measurements. Good idea.

I'll likely have to decide 1 sub vs. 2 before taking any measurements - I can see it being a decision of, for example, 2 subs @ $500 each vs. 1 better sub @ $900 (I've got my eye on a F12 or F15 Rythmik). Sub location options will likely be limited to the indicated corner (not optimal, I know) or the front wall somewhere.
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post #4 of 17 Old 10-12-11, 10:50 AM
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Re: Seeking advice for best audio compromise for multipurpose room

I'm not an expert in room responses, but from what I've noticed in the past playing with placement and what not, I don't think that is a very good place for the sub. You will probably not get very much low end gain being so close and it will probably need to be phased 180 degrees.

I'd do front and center myself. It should fit below the center channel just fine, and give a good room gain to the seating area.
post #5 of 17 Old 10-13-11, 07:47 PM
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Re: Seeking advice for best audio compromise for multipurpose room

I would certainly suggest trying to balance the effect of the blackout curtain with some broadly similar acoustic treatment opposite to maintain left-right symmetry. After that, as robbo266317 says, you will need to make some measurements when everything is in place and take it from there.
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post #6 of 17 Old 10-13-11, 10:06 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Seeking advice for best audio compromise for multipurpose room

Thanks for the responses.

It looks like learning REW is in my future The curtain balancing I can experiment with via mocking up with blankets and such.
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post #7 of 17 Old 10-14-11, 08:11 AM
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Re: Seeking advice for best audio compromise for multipurpose room

Picking up on some of your points:

"7) I have a good ear and my wife is an orchestra teacher, so we appreciate good sound."
and
"Don't bother with good speakers it'll sound sub-par no matter what you do..."

I think you will find that above a certain price point, it is worth spending a reasonable proportion of the extra money on acoustic treatment in parallel with better loudspeakers etc. Don't ask me what that price point is, though, it depends on your circumstances - how willing you are to install acoustic treatment vs considerations of décor and domestic bliss. Of course any treatment you put in must be tolerant of the general use of the room. There's not enough information to even attempt to do the sums to determine how your room might sound, but a first glance gives me the impression that it won't be too bad. As you say, a compromise seems inevitable because the drier acoustic you want as a theatre may well feel too oppressive as a playroom. If you do decide that you want to deaden the room (lower the reverberation time) for theatre use, I'd suggest that you might want to consider covering over some treatments, or use (say) hinged panels, when the room is in use for other purposes.
If you want to try doing the sums, it's quite easy given a spreadsheet, the hard part is getting the data for the materials you use. And a further complication is, the maths uses assumptions that aren't valid on small rooms and the answers will be wrong anyway, hence the suggestion to try it and see what your ears and REW tells you. And then tweak as necessary.

The good news is making your own treatments isn't that hard given reasonable DIY skills, so as "a major geek and generally mechanically/electrically inclined so I'm open to DIY, REW, etc." you shouldn't have too many problems. There is loads of information on the web about constructing various absorbers. I suggest reading some of the articles regarding studio treatment in "SoundOnSound" (available online: look under "Technique" - "Studio SOS" in the back issues).

You should find that as the acoustics of the room improve, the loudspeaker and seating positions become less critical.
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post #8 of 17 Old 10-14-11, 02:55 PM
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Re: Seeking advice for best audio compromise for multipurpose room

One quick tip re speaker placement (and re-placement): If you expect you will have to move the speakers around a bit, take a tip from the live theatre crews, and mark the speakers positions on the floor with some gaffers tape (or even a little bit of spray paint once you're REALLY sure and if you're worried the kids will move the tape!). Put it UNDER the speakers (Mark 1 or 2 corners, or front/back, the full square... whatever works for you), so you don't see it when they're in place, just when they've been moved. Then it's a breeze to put the speakers back in in the exact same place every time... just "hit your mark" like the actors have to.
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post #9 of 17 Old 10-14-11, 09:05 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Seeking advice for best audio compromise for multipurpose room

Excellent advice - thanks!

I have been re-reading some of the articles I downloaded on speaker placement and acoustics. I also checked out the site you recommended BarrRobot. I think the use of acoustical treatment will be severely curtailed by WAF but we'll see. She's open to the idea of trying dark fabric near the projector screen to mock up a darker paint on the ceiling. If I convince her of that, she may be open to a few room treatments!

Making any treatment kid durable will be a challenge. I can see accommodating diffusion (say, building a bookshelf) being easier than absorption.

Perhaps wrapping an absorptive acoustic treatment in canvas covered with an art print would be doable from an appearance perspective.
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post #10 of 17 Old 10-15-11, 11:18 AM
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Re: Seeking advice for best audio compromise for multipurpose room

Another very viable and effective option for 'durable' absorbers is the use of perforated metal.

They are actually very similar in terms of the degree of difficulty as the porous framed variety and they VERY effective and extremely resilient.

You have the choice of employing a metal brake to create the bends at the sides (one could easily take a few panels to a metal shop an pay them a few bucks to do this extremely simple task), or attach the panel(s) to a wood frame. Also, they can be powder coated as well (at additional expense at a car paint facility).

Not necessarily too much different in price, these are the go to designs for use in commercial and industrial areas - and especially in gymnasiums, etc., where the possibility of being impacted by basketballs, tennis balls and other varieties of impact are common.

I suspect kids would fit into that category as well.
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