Ask the Expert: Din in the Den

Q. I'm moving into a new home, and the den that will house my home theater is 24 x 18 feet. What can I do myself to treat the room acoustically? There's a fireplace on one of the short walls, and our 60-inch rear-projection HDTV will go on the other. The long walls have a sliding glass door on one side and a picture window opposite that. The room has hardwood floors, but we're starting from scratch with furnishings and floor/window coverings and would consider carpeting or a large area rug. Paul Ackerman via email

A. JOHN CHANCE, Owner, The Home Theater Connection, Staten Island, NY, says: Given your dimensions and layout, a key goal will be keeping the room from sounding too "live." First, consider heavy drapery on the sliding glass door and the picture window. This will help absorb some of the sound and also allow you to control ambient light during the day - something to consider with a rear-projection HDTV. (For convenience, think about motorized drapes, or at least pre-wiring for such). Wall-to-wall carpeting would be a good choice for the floor; if you're intent on keeping the hardwood, however, a large area rug or two would help acoustically in the same way.

Furniture also plays a big role in acoustic design; you may want to consider large, overstuffed couches for additional absorption. Speaker design and placement, and the resulting reflection points, are important, too. Horn-loaded speakers, for example, have narrower dispersion than conventional speakers, which might be desirable depending on how far back your listening position will be. Strategically placed acoustical panels can also help greatly in tailoring the sound of the room.

These recommendations will help with absorption. However, if you hope to play movies loud without disturbing the rest of the house, sound isolation may be your toughest challenge. Kineticsnoise.com is a great place to learn more about absorption and isolation techniques and products.

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