Room Acoustics

Wide Rooms and Acoustic Panels

When you start to research acoustic panels and where to place them, the very first piece of advice (even in our own article) is at the first reflection points. This is the point on your side wall where the sound coming from your front speakers will hit and reflect back to your seat. This is an important position for an acoustic panel because that reflected sound can really harm how good your system will sound. But what if you have a very wide room? So wide that the first reflection point doesn’t actually reflect the sound back to your seat? Where do you place your panels? Do you even need an acoustic panel on your side wall if you have a really wide room?

Wide Rooms and First Reflections

As mentioned, the reason for wanting to place an acoustic panel at the first reflection point is to deaden that reflected sound. The slight delay from the reflected sound can confuse your ear and make your surround sound less convincing. In smaller rooms, that first reflection point is often within 30° off-axis of the speaker. In a larger room, you’ll be 60° or more off-axis. At that point, the sound given off by the speaker is very much reduced. The louder sound will be reflected off the wall behind the couch or even on the back wall! So, in a room that is wide, do you need to place an acoustic panel specifically at that spot? Do you even need panels on the side walls at all?

Panel to the side catching the first reflection.

Acoustic Panel Placement in Wide Rooms

The answer is yes and no. The first reflection points only need to be treated specifically if the reflected sound will hit your seat. If it doesn’t you don’t have to place a panel there.

But that does not mean you don’t need acoustic panels on the side walls of your wide room!

The main reason for placing acoustic panels in a home theater is to reduce the echoes (or reverberations). If you’ve ever clapped your hands in an empty room, you know that they can echo (or ring). The purpose of adding acoustic panels to your home theater is to absorb that excess sound and reduce those echoes.

While you don’t need to treat the first reflection point in your wide room with an acoustic panel, you surely need panels on your side walls to reduce this reflected sound.

Wrap Up

People often worry about making their rooms “too dead.” This is when you add so much acoustic absorption that the room sounds unnatural. These are often the same people that only have up a panel or two. In a large room (wide or narrow), you are unlikely to add so many acoustic panels as to make the room sound dead. So throw some panels on that side (and back and front) walls! It’ll make everything sound better!

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