Room Acoustics

How to Eliminate Rattles in your Home Theater

You’ve done it! You’ve read all the reviews, tested all the gear, and placed your order. Your new home theater gear arrives and you unbox it quickly and spend the next couple of days painstakingly setting up your new speakers, hiding wires in walls, and setting up your room treatments. You’ve set up your receiver, run your room correction, and carefully placed your seating for the best viewing angle as well as the best sound. You are ready! You invite your family in and press play. This is going to be glorious.

And then you hear it.

Something in your theater is rattling. Something is shaking whenever there is a deep, loud sound. And not only that, the bass can be heard throughout the entire house! What’s going on here? How do you fix it? How do you eliminate rattles in your home theater?

Decoupling Your Subwoofer

You may have heard the word “decouple” from past reviews. Often when talking about subwoofers, sometimes when talking about speakers, erroneously when talking about solid-state devices. To decouple two things are to sever their connection. If you want to eliminate rattles in your home theater, you need to decouple your sub.

When you got your subwoofer, it may have come with two options for feet. Usually some sort of rubber or plastic cone and carpet spikes. The carpet spikes are meant to pierce the carpet to make direct contact with your floor. Do yourself a favor and throw the spikes away. They do the opposite of what we want. To eliminate rattles in your home theater, you need to take the largest source of bass and disconnect it from the structure of your room.

Unfortunately, the plastic/rubber feet provided by the manufacturers are not enough. They are too firm and still create a solid connection between your sub and your floor. We need something softer. You can experiment with putting a layer of thick fabric (comforter, a couple of towels) under your sub and testing it out. This should sever the connection between the sub and the floor. If it works, you can get something more aesthetically pleasing. The SVS Soundpath Subwoofer Isolation System is a good option as are platforms like the Pyle Sound Dampening Speaker Riser.

Author’s Note: Decoupling your subwoofer eliminates the direct path for the vibrations created by your sub to enter the structure of your home. As the driver oscillates, it shakes the sub. If the sub is connected to the floor, those vibrations pass directly through the subwoofer feet into the floor and structure of the home. By decoupling the sub, the vibrations have to pass into the air and then back into the structure. Sound loses energy as it transfers through different forms of matter (solid into gas and back into a solid in this case) so the vibrations throughout the house are reduced. Do this experiment: Stand near a door and have someone in the adjoining room speak. You may not be able to hear what they are saying in the other room standing just outside the door, but you can if you put your ear on the door. This is because you removed one transfer (solid into gas) the sound goes through.

But Stuff is Still Rattling!

Settle down, we are getting to that! Decoupling your subwoofer is step one on your journey. By reducing the vibrations that are directly entering the structure of your home, you have started to eliminate rattles in your home theater. You’ve probably also noticed that the bass is not passing to other rooms as easily. That’s all from the decoupling. But it doesn’t mean your rattle woes are over. There is still a lot of sound energy in your theater and, depending on decor, a lot of things that can rattle.

When you notice something rattling, the hardest part is tracking it down. Too often it only happens during certain frequencies and at high volumes. The easiest way to track down these rattles is to download a bass sweep and play it on repeat. While this won’t be the most enjoyable listening experience of your life (we recommend earplugs), it will reveal any rattles in your theater.

At this point, you’ll find the nicknacks, pictures, windows, or even doors that are vibrating in your theater. For most things, we recommend museum putty. There are lots of brands out there and they all work pretty well. As a whole, they feel like clay but they never get hard. You place them between the thing that is vibrating and the surface, and they hold it in place without the two touching. If you have cats, museum putty is great for holding things down so they don’t get knocked over.

If you have something that you want to move often but is vibrating, you could try rubber tape. We recommend this for doorways and behind framed pictures. Again, there are lots of options out there and they all work about the same. If you want to eliminate rattles in your home theater, these products should do the trick.

But I Still Heard a Rattle!

There is a chance that you will still have a rattle after you’ve followed all our steps. You may have older windows that don’t close securely, a light fixture and is full of loose-fitting glass panes (I had one of these), or maybe just a sound that seems to be coming from inside a wall. At this point, the “reasonable” fixes have all been tried and you have to go extreme. If you want to eliminate rattles in your home theater, you may need to shell out some serious cash. Hire a contractor (or at least a trusted handyman), replace some windows, throw out that light fixture. All these cost a lot more money and, frankly, it is up to you if it will be worth it.

In the end if you want to eliminate rattles in your home theater, our first steps will get you most (if not all) of the way there. Most home theaters will have a rattle every once in a while. Is it worth the expenditure to track it down and fix it? It’s your money. You tell us.

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