Home theater seating can be one of the most important but overlooked elements in your entertainment space. After all, a comfortable seat for two to three hours of viewing is essential to your home entertainment enjoyment. Comfortable seating can provide a better experience. Uncomfortable seating, meanwhile, will yield unpleasant experiences, no matter how good the audio, video and other elements. Simply put, a chair is not a chair is not a chair. There are many similarities in home theater and media room seating, and quite a few differences to consider as well. Here are 10 things to look for when shopping for home theater chairs.
Look and Feel - Many types of seating, from traditional theater chairs to recliners and divans, are designed specifically for home theaters and media rooms and come in leather or fabrics and colors of your choice. Some companies also offer different grades of leather.
The Drink - Many chairs feature cup holders. Some even have hidden cup holders that pop out from the front of the seat or from beneath a sliding panel in the arm.
The Kick Back - Reclining “lounger” seats often have motorized controls to allow your upper body to recline and your feet to raise. Manual recliners have levers and are less expensive, though they don’t offer the range of settings as motorized chairs do. If you go motorized, check the volume of the motors, because you won’t want them whirring away during a movie whenever someone adjusts a seat.
The AHHHHHH Factor - Some companies sell massage and heating options. Just be sure to check the noise and vibration levels to be sure they’re not distracting.
Rest your head. A headrest can be a great for your head, but it can be lousy for your enjoyment of surround sound if the speakers are to the sides or in back of you. Articulating headrests allow more neck and acoustic flexibility.
No Back-row Blues - If you have two or more rows of seating, keep the back row in mind. Some chairs are specifically designed to recline while remaining only a few inches from the wall. Others have tall seats that can be used in lieu of a floor riser, so back-row occupants can enjoy unobstructed views.
Think Layout - Take measurements, know the width of seats you want—some companies offer several options—and check to see how much room you need for the seats to recline, if that is in your plans. Some seats can be coupled with shared armrests to build entire rows, even of large recliners. You can curve a row of seating, amphitheater style, with “wedge” units between the seats that allow more than one arm to rest. And if you’re looking for help to position them optimally, ask if the company provides that service as well. Go into your search knowing how many viewers you want your room to occupy.
Hidden Options - Check for options like storage compartments and swiveling tables—some come out of the armrests. Also find out about on the amount of customization possible. Can you get this chair with that armrest? What if you want to do something that has not been done before?
Getting Framed - Most important, check for build quality and comfort. Some chairs have wooden frames; others have metal. Hardwood frames should be fine, but definitely ask how they are constructed.
No Butts About It - Don’t opt for the first chair that feels like you’re sinking into a cloud. In other words, don’t let your butt be the judge. If you’re watching a movie, you’re going to be parked in a seat for a while, so seek a firm but comfortable cushion that will treat your backside right over time. With foam seats, look for high density ratings, but ask about the ratio of virgin to filler materials, as filler materials can yield higher density ratings but will break down in a short time. The more virgin material you sit on, the better.
Bonus Tip - Don’t forget to relax.
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Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates