A photo of my soundproof home theater

How To Soundproof Your Home Theater Like A Boss.

There is nothing quite like a good game on the big screen with a pint and some salted peanuts on the side, all the while relaxing on the coach in the comfort of your own home.  

Ah, the simple joys in life. 

A nice sized television with healthy sound is the best combination since sliced bread. The downside is, sometimes that healthy sound is not so healthy for the others in the house and especially if the neighbour’s start to complain about it. 

The only solution in this case is to soundproof your home theater room so that you can enjoy anything you like in there without disturbing anyone else while doing it. Absolute sinful pleasure.

The main factor in soundproofing your theater room, is to keep the noise inside the room and have as little of it escape as possible. You’re probably wondering right now how this might be possible without spending an absolute fortune. 

Well, the answer is pure and simple – It’s the walls.

The trick is to add mass to your walls to absorb as much sound as possible, making sure that not much of it will escape from the room. 

After successfully soundproofing my home theater room effectively and affordably, I am very happy to share the techniques and methods that I used in kitting it out in the hopes you can do the same. Can’t be too careful in this endeavour after all, one has to take into consideration other family members and crabby neighbours. 

Leaving the sound to drift as it may, could have far reaching consequences. Public disturbance and an angry wife is never a good combination.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at how you can do the same.

An infographic showing the steps in soundproofing a home theater
This infographic illustrates the steps in soundproofing a home theater.

Understanding Soundwaves and How They Work

Understanding how soundwaves work is the first step to successfully soundproofing your home theater room. Knowing how they travel will help you in the long run to plan accordingly and not miss anything that might be a cause of sound leakage. 

As we know, sound travels in waves and when these waves come into contact with a solid object, most of those waves will be absorbed yet the rest of the wave that was not absorbed will travel straight through that object as a vibration. (For instance, your furniture, walls etc.).

Have you ever noticed how lower bass frequencies travel further than higher pitched frequencies? The deeper the frequency, the more likely it will travel straight through a solid object.

Every object has its own, what’s called sound transmission class rating. This means that different objects have different capacities to absorb and carry sound. The same is true for walling materials such as drywalling. 

Drywalling for example has a STC of roughly 40 decibels. As this is one of the most used materials for building walls, you can imagine why noise levels travel as they do in most homes. 

This also explains why a good set of speakers with a max output of 110 decibels, will be heard loudly in the next room. As only 40 percent of the 110 will be absorbed by the drywall, the person in the next room or your neighbour next door will hear a loudness of 70 decibels.  So in actual fact, to your neighbour the sound would be as loud as your set-up being in his own lounge. 

Understanding soundproofing in 4 easy steps.

To get a proper understanding of what soundproofing entails, I will break it down into 4 principles for better clarity.

  1. Dampening (absorption)

Dampening is the principle of reducing the amount of vibrations that can move through an object by adding a material that will absorb the sound and allow less of the waves to carry through the object. 

  1. Mass

    Mass is the most basic principle in soundproofing. The way to achieve this is     by adding extra cladding to your walls to absorb and buff the sound inside a     room.

  1. Decoupling

    Decoupling is an ingenious method of soundproofing, with it’s sole purpose     being to stop sound travelling further than the wall itself.

  1. Dampening & Absorption

    By combining point 1 and 2, you have a very effective method of not only     absorbing but also trapping the sound within a room.  

Right that’s enough of the science lessons let’s take a look at how you can soundproof your own home theater.

If you would like to learn more about the differences between soundproofing and sound absorbing I wrote a neat little guide to help.

How To Soundproof Your Home Theater Room

There are varying degrees of soundproofing a home theater room. It can be as simple as a bit of DIY or it can lead you down the road of major interior structural change. Either way, you will have to get your hands dirty, so haul out that toolkit, dust it off and prepare for an adventure. 

Depending on your budget and freedom to do as you please, will depend on the next steps. If you own your own home, tearing out your drywalling to install soundproofing materials would be just the thing, yet if you are renting I am sure there are laws against this kind of thing. 

Regardless though, even if you cannot change out the walls, there are other methods that will give you the same absorption that is needed to buff out the sound. 

Let’s take a look at the various ways you can achieve these results.

Install Mass Loaded Vinyl Barriers

This is one of the best choices for soundproofing your walls. Mass loaded vinyl is a very popular solution for sound absorption in your theater room. 

In a nutshell it is a roll of vinyl that is loaded with metal particles that are designed to add mass to your walls. What makes it special is that it is elastic while still being viscous making it a brilliant solution to absorbing vibration while still keeping it’s shape.

Depending on whether you are wanting to delve into some serious DIY or not, there are two options for installing this sheeting. 

You can either lay it behind your drywalling to give it extra mass or simply attach it to the drywall boards on the face of your walls. As it is not the most good looking sheeting, you will need to give it a good coat of paint to suite your decor. This is not a problem as the sheeting lends itself very well to being painted. 

The best sheeting I have found till now is the MLV form TM Soundproofing (see it on Amazon)  highly recommended for its quality and star rating. 

Add Absorbent Acoustic Panels

Installing soundproof panels around your speakers will drastically reduce noise and echo.

These acoustic panels are readily available online and come in a variety of different colours and designs, making them look more like wall art than a soundproofing solution. If chosen and hung in the right way, they could add quite nicely to the aesthetic in your theater room.

As they don’t cover much wall space, it would take quite a few to clad out your room from top to bottom in order to make a full difference in sound absorption, while also being quite expensive. 

I would say as a temporary solution to help buff some of the noise in your room, they do make a difference if placed carefully around your subwoofers and speakers. 

For some inspiration check out these stunning accoustic panels, they would look great on your walls I think.

Decoupling Your Walls

Decoupling has to be the most effective method that you could use to soundproof your theater room. Albeit, it is time consuming and does take some physical labour as well as DIY skills, however the end results are well worth it.

This process is not as complicated as it sounds and is actually quite easy if you follow these simple steps:

  • The best way I have found, is to take down your drywall and install double thickness drywall on each side. This will add to the mass of your wall and increase the absorption.
  • Once you have removed the original wall, you should be left with only the studs on which to hang the new walls. At this point, filling in the void with an insulation foam and perhaps some vinyl sheeting will create the seal that you are wanting to achieve. The heavier the materials the better, as mass is exactly what you are wanting here.
  • This step now is one of the most important steps – installing your decoupling mounts. These mounts will ensure that the studs will be protected from any of the vibration making sure that the sounds will never reach the other side of the wall. 
  • Once you have filled all gaps with your insulation materials, it is time to hang your wall back into place on the decoupling mounts. 
  • All that’s left now, is to paint your wall.

The decoupling mounts and insulation work hand in hand to give you a soundproofed wall. The only thing that can still travel through this is air, so be sure to pile on the insulation to keep it to a minimum. The heavier the insulation, the better the results. This also helps quite a bit with subwoofer noise, as the bass levels travel further, the insulation will be the best bet to curb it. 

Wall and Ceiling Insulation

First and foremost, it is very important that you measure the surface area that you want to cover, and then decide if you will be installing it on the inside of the wall or attaching it to the face side of the wall. 

It works on the same principal as decoupling where you will be filling in the void between the boarding. Again, the heavier the materials that you use for insulating, the better equipped it will be to absorb the vibrations coming from your system. 

Remember to bear in mind the colour you choose if you are going to install it inside of the room. 

There is a large selection you can choose from for insulating your room, so be sure to do a bit of research before going forth and ordering. 

In my experience the best insulation I used throughout the process was  Green Glue. It has stood the test of time and my home theater room is very well insulated. 

You can also hang soundproof blankets on your wall, this is very effective when you have them on the wall facing your speakers, I wrote a helpful guide about soundproof blankets if you are interested.

If you are happy to take on some DIY, installing soundproof insultion will really soundproof your home theater.

Isolating Your Ceiling Joists

Based pretty much on the same principle as decoupling your walls, isolating your ceiling joists works basically in the same way. You will have to rip out your ceiling for this in order to add in the insulation and replace your existing joists with new ones – being sure to keep them isolated from the old ones. 

While ceilings already have their own insulation, they tend to transfer sound waves quite easily.

When installing the new joists be sure to place them 2 inches lower than the first ones. Make sure that the new joists are heavy and able to better reduce the levels of vibration.  Adding extra insulation between your ceiling and the floor above you will also go a long way to preventing any soundwaves that might sneak up and through. 

Dont Neglect The Flooring

Be sure to not overlook your flooring. A great way to buffer the floors is to lay carpeting with soundproof underlay. This makes a huge difference in isolating the noise inside the room and keeping it from disturbing your neighbours downstairs. 

If you are unable to lay carpets in your room, the next best step would be to invest in some very heavy thick rugs and lay them across the floor.

Insulate Doors, Windows and Vents.

The best way to stop the noise from leaving the room is to seal up the perimeter of the door with acoustic sealant. Be sure to plug all gaps and properly line the post of the door. This will create a vacuum once the door is shut and keep the sound inside. 

I found Green Glue to be the most effective as it is specifically made for this use and is also has elastic properties. For the gap at the bottom of the door, look for a good seal. Bottom door seals are generally spring based and will lower itself while the door is closed and spring up when you want to open the door. 

Windows

The most effective solution for the windows is to honestly just remove them all together. If your home theater is a dedicated space, it will only add to the ambiance and feel that a theater would naturally have.

In the event that this cannot be done, you can insulate the window panes with a good acoustic sealant. However, if you have the means, I would suggest installing double glaze windows as this acts as a sound buffer in itself. 

Another solution would be to make a window plug. Just as the name suggests, it’s a box that fits directly into the window box  with a felt stripe around the edges to trap the sound. Remember, the more snug the fit, the better the sound absorption. 

You can also fit soundproof curtains which will also act as blackout curtains whilst stopping noise from outside coming in.

HVAC Systems

Seal around your vents very well using acoustic sealant and be sure to cover any gap that might allow air to flow (bar the actual vent). For the vent itself the first thing to do is install sound baffles. These disperse soundwaves and will instantly reduce sound leakage. 

The other option is to rip out the existing HVAC structure and replace the metal pipes with flexible tubes instead. This could prove to be costly and time consuming though, so first try the other options before making that decision.

Last Thoughts

Sound proofing your home theater can be a time consuming project, yet in the end a very satisfying and worthwhile one. Depending on your budget and desire, you can go to the extreme or just do the basics. Yet I must warn you, once the bug bites, it bites. I can become something of an obsession, yet happily so. 

Hope you found this post helpful. Please feel free to share, like and leave me a comment. I would love to hear how your project worked out and if you have any extra handy hints that worked for you that was not mentioned in here.

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