Should I Use a Small Bedroom as a Home Theater?
A dedicated home theater has always seemed to be the stuff of the wealthy. They buy a big house and have a special room that is only for movies. What luxury! But, as time has gone on, and kids have moved out, you’ve found yourself with extra bedrooms. Maybe they’ve been repurposed, maybe they just store boxes. But they are there. Surely, these small bedrooms can’t be used as a home theater? Or can they! Let’s discuss!
“Theater” Doesn’t Mean “Large”
When you imagine of a home theater, you are more likely to think of a movie theater. A huge room with multiple seats and a massive screen. Sure, those things exist, but a theater doesn’t have a be large. How many people would sit in your theater on any given day? One? Two? Maybe up to five? Your “theater” doesn’t have to be massive to seat that many people. A small bedroom is more than large enough for a single couch (or loveseat) that would need to be in your home theater.
Not to mention, there are plenty of reasons why having such a large room makes creating your home theater harder, not easier. It doesn’t take much amplifier power to push speakers to reference volume in a small room. Your speakers don’t have to be as big (we have a guide for our favorite small home theater speakers here), your subwoofers don’t have to be as powerful, and your screen doesn’t have to be as large. All this equates to one thing: Using a small bedroom as a home theater saves money. And everyone likes to save money.
What About the “Cinematic Experience?”
One concern people have about using a small bedroom as a home theater is somehow losing that “cinematic experience” they so desperately want. What is that? No one knows. But surely to have the same experience as going to a movie theater, part of it must be the size of the room?
That’s not untrue. But it also isn’t as true as you’d expect.
When people first delve into home theater, they come with a lot of assumptions. Many of them false (we debunk them all the time around here). One assumption is that you need large speakers in a large room to get a good movie experience. That’s just not the case. Small speakers in a small room can be just fine. You have to be more careful how you place them (and sometimes you need to buy specific speakers for compromised placements). But as long as the combination of your speakers and subwoofers can recreate the entire frequency range, you will be surprised how good a small home theater can sound.
Are There Downsides to Small Theaters?
Of course there are. With limited space, you need to have near total control of where you put speakers. While we are more flexible than most (and definitely better than Dolby), a small room leaves very little wiggle room in placement. It also often means you are struggling to get a screen that is the right size AND have the speakers fit around it easily. Plus, if you are trying to fit a large couch in a small room, there is the problem of being too close to your surround speakers.
Most importantly, room acoustics get much more difficult to control in smaller rooms. In a small bedroom home theater, the bass is going to be bouncing around like crazy. This makes having dual subwoofers (and setting them up properly) much more important. It also means that acoustic panels will have to be employed much more generously (especially bass traps) in order to get everything to sound more even.
You absolutely can set up a home theater in a small bedroom. There are some real advantages to doing so. Your equipment will be smaller and cost less. But you’ll be more limited in placement options and will have to deal with more issues with room acoustics. But if you think your small 10-foot by 10-foot bedroom is too small, think again! You absolutely can put a dedicated theater in there. And, before long, you’ll be wondering if you’ll ever go to the movie theater again!