The Single Best Upgrade for Your Home Theater
People often want to know what is the single best upgrade they can do to improve their home theaters. Some of them will already have a full Atmos setup. Others will have just started on their home theater journey with maybe a soundbar or a couple of speakers. If they ask online, they’ll get a litany of equipment suggestions. A second subwoofer. A better center speaker. Maybe even upgrading to external amplification. With nearly 20 years in the home theater game, I can tell you that none of these suggestions are correct (and I absolutely agree that getting a second subwoofer is a must). So, what is the best upgrade for your home theater?
Acoustically Treating the Room
There are sexy recommendations (equipment) and there are the recommendations that will make the most difference. People love buying gear. The new speaker smell, the pretty blue lights on a new amp, and bigger screen…these all make sense to people. Slapping acoustic panels on a wall just doesn’t have the same feel.
Room acoustics have a major impact on the sound of your home theater. You can keep adding speakers and electronics to your system and realize no substantive improvement in your sound experience. That’s because your room is having such a large effect on what you are hearing that the marginal improvements you might have are being drowned out by the room.
What Room Treatments Do For You
Have you ever been to a restaurant and not been able to hear the person sitting across from you very well? This is because of room acoustics. The sounds in the restaurant of people talking, dishes clanging, cooks cooking…they are all bouncing around unchecked. Without any acoustic panels to deaden some of those reverberations, it becomes very hard to hear.
This is the same in your home theater.
As your speakers and subwoofers are sending out sounds, they are bouncing off the walls and around the room. Adding acoustic panels will help reduce the volume of the reflections which will, in turn, make the direct sound clearer. It will reduce how the subwoofer waves interact making your bass more uniform. This will increase the effectiveness of your room correction program.
But They Are So Ugly
When some people want to improve the performance of their cars, they don’t want to hear about getting a basic tune-up and keeping to a regular maintenance schedule. That’s boring! They want to hear about adding air intakes, superchargers, and big exhausts (I think, I’m not really a car guy). Keeping your engine in good nick will absolutely make your car run better and last longer. But getting new stuff just feels better.
Acoustic panels are the same. Treating your room is the single best home theater upgrade precisely because it makes the biggest difference. Sure, getting a bigger subwoofer might be easier to brag about online, but you are just paying to turn it down. And acoustic panels? They don’t have to be ugly. There are movie poster options out there, printed panels, and all sorts of colors, shapes, and sizes. Many think that panels are ugly because the people that have them either make them themselves or realize that the room will be dark most of the time so don’t spend extra on pretty ones.
Treating your room might not be the upgrade you want to do to your home theater, but it will be the single best thing you can do for your sound. If you are serious about making your home theater sound better, add acoustic panels. If you just want to buy new gear, that’s fine too. Just don’t be surprised if it doesn’t sound that much better.