February 17, 2009
| by Lisa Montgomery
Weatherproofing is important to any home in Canada. But to a media room? You bet, says Greg Kraus of London, Ontario. To prevent noise from outside the theater from interfering with the movie presentation, he implemented many of the same weatherproofing techniques used to seal out the cold winter drafts from his home.
“The best thing you can do for your theater is to kill the ambient noise,” says Kraus, who in addition to being an A/V enthusiast is a salesperson at London Audio, a home theater design and installation firm in London, Ontario. He describes ambient noise as anything you might hear in the background other than the movie audio, such as a furnace kicking on, the hum of a fan, conversations filtering in from other rooms, even the whirl of a DVR and other audio equipment. “Particularly in basements, furnaces can be a real problem,” he says. “It’s the first thing I notice when I walk into a client’s or a friend’s home is the noise from the furnace.”
Kraus’ plan to combat furnace and other outside noise was build double and staggered stud walls around the planned theater space. Double walls were placed between the theater and the rooms that house the furnace and bathroom. Fifty-eight bags of Roxul Safe and Sound insulation were packed inside the walls and ceiling. The walls were finished off with Quiet Rock drywall. An insulated, outdoor-rated, sealed door was installed at the entrance to the mechanical room and to the theater itself to ensure that no sound would seep through those openings. Kraus would also use exterior-grade plastic enclosures for housing the light switches and electrical outlets. The housing for the recessed ceiling lights was sealed and caulked while a wooden box was built around each one to isolate the fixture from the floor above.
With a plan for the walls, ceiling and doorways laid out, Kraus turned his attention to the heating and cooling ductwork. Much of the existing metal ductwork was replaced with flexible insulated ducts. “They work almost like a muffler,” Kraus explains. “When the furnace comes on, they prevent any mechanical noise from coming into the theater.” Another piece of advice Kraus offers when working with the ducts in the media room is to keep the runs long and curvy. “Short runs tend to bring in more noise,” he says.
Last but not least, Kraus blocked of the noise of spinning fans and hard drives by locating all of the audio and video sources in the room with the furnace.
Killing the ambient noise was only one part of Kraus’ plan to create a great-sounding home theater. He would also focus on enhancing the room’s own sonic characteristics to reduce the unwanted echoes that happen when sound waves bounce uncontrollably off walls and other surfaces. For starters, the small stage underneath the 104-inch Stewart Filmscreen screen was filled with 2,400 pounds of play sand. “The sand ensures that the wooden top of the stage doesn’t act like a drum by vibrating when the speakers play,” Kraus explains. Acoustic paneling and bass traps designed by Kraus were installed on the walls and ceiling for sound absorption.
The finished room is so quiet you can hear a pin drop. Just as important as having no distractions, says Kraus, is able to play his audio system at a lower volume. “I don’t have to play it loud to hear it,” he says. While silence reigns in the theater, Kraus designed the lobby and snack bar area sound like a bustling city street. To create the effect Kraus downloaded 1930s traffic noise from the Internet and put it on a CD. The audio is distributed by a Russound whole-house audio system to a single in-ceiling speaker. Kraus added to the outdoor ambiance by using exterior light fixtures and installing faux cinder blocks on the walls.
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Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.