Simple “Soundproofing” for your Home Theater – Five Easy Tips!
We’ve talked about the complexity of soundproofing your home theater before. So now that you’ve had that reality check, let’s get down to brass tacts. The fact is you don’t need “true” soundproofing for your home theater. What you need is for less sound to make it out into the rest of the house. We get it. And we can help. Just realize that we aren’t going to get anywhere near real soundproofing. You’ll never eliminate all the sound out of your home theater following these tips. But you can (might?) reduce it.
Author’s Note: We are assuming that you don’t have access, skill, or desire to do drywall work. These tips are for an existing room with no access to walls or attic. If you have such access, you can do much, much more. But most people are working with existing rooms. This article is for them.
Add A Door
The first thing you’ll want to do is to eliminate all direct paths for the sound. This means closing off your home theater from the rest of the house. This means adding a door. From a bass perspective, this means you’ll need smaller subwoofers and it’ll be easier to place them. You’d be surprised how much easier it is to deal with sound in a home theater when the room is enclosed. If your room isn’t closed off, that should be step one. If the room you are in can’t be closed off, then you should consider a different room.
Make It a Solid Core Door
While you are installing a door (or if you already have one), consider making that door a solid core versus the less expansive hollow-core door. The solid core door will further reduce the sound passing from your home theater by adding more mass for the sound to pass through. If closing a door reduces the sound out of your home theater, a solid core door will reduce it even more. If you already have a door to your home theater, replacing it with a solid core door will make a difference in your level of “soundproofing.”
As we step through your (new?) door and into your home theater, the next soundproofing step is to eliminate as many paths for the sound to get out as possible. The first thing to do is to make sure that there is no direct transmission from your speakers and subwoofers (yes, two) to the rest of your house. This means decoupling those speakers. There are many easy ways to do this. If your speakers are on stands, you can place mousepads or museum putty between them and the stands. You can get special pads or feet for your subwoofers or tower speakers. The key is to make sure there is something soft between your speakers and the floor. The speakers are vibrating as they make sound. Those vibrations will travel into the structure of your home if you don’t decouple them.
Eliminating these vibrations won’t soundproof your home theater, but it can make a surprising difference. If you are not sure if your speakers/subwoofers are properly decoupled, place them on a stack of thick towels or a comforter and play the system loud. Go to a different room and listen. If you hear fewer rattles, you need to decouple your speakers.
Use Backcans on All Speakers
This may or may not be something you can do. When installing in-wall or in-ceiling speakers, many have open backs. The back of the speaker is also making a ton of sound. If you don’t control this sound, it will easily leak into the rest of the house. If you bought speakers are don’t have a back enclosure, you can add an aftermarket one. This will reduce sound transmission into your walls and ceiling and subsequently into the rest of your house. Our favorite is from Dynamat specifically because it can be used on existing speakers. They aren’t cheap, but they work. The “enclosure” is vinyl and can be pushed through the existing hole. You will want to do a little research (PDF) first to make sure they’ll work with your speakers. While they show use with a round speaker, there is no reason it won’t work with a rectangular one.
Install Socket Sealers
One of the lesser-known flanking paths for sound is through power outlets and light switches. If your outlets or switches are on an exterior wall, the wall should be insulated and you shouldn’t have much of a problem. But interior walls are often empty and are easy paths for sound to leak into the adjacent rooms.
We’d love to say there was an easy way to fix this, but most of the solutions out there require you have access to the outlet box before it is installed. If you don’t (and we assume you don’t), then the best soundproofing you can do is to seal the outlets and switches in your home theater with socket sealers. These are foam gaskets that can often be cut to the proper shape to fit any single gang outlet. These will help keep the air from leaking out of your home theater and with it, the sound.
In reality, if you want to better soundproof your home theater, just do a search on how to weatherize a room. Any solution that will keep air from flowing from room to room, will also reduce sound transmission. Just be careful that you don’t overdo it. The space under the door for the home theater may let sound out, but it is usually used as an air return for your room. If you block that (a common recommendation for weatherizing your front door), you won’t get proper airflow through your home theater. While that may be good for sound, it is bad for heating, cooling, and breathing.