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How to Get a Home Sound System that Looks as Good as It Sounds

Custom KEF home theater sound system in a Salt Lake City home.

Exploring Sound Options that Appeal to Your Sense of Style

We understand that most people love great sound, but not everyone loves speakers. So even though we can wax ecstatic about speaker drivers, cabinet design, woods, and automotive-grade metallic finishes, some of our clients might yawn and say, "Can I just get the sound without seeing the speaker?"

We hear you, and of course, you can. Architectural speakers are built into walls and ceilings and virtually disappear. While they have been around for many years, the design and quality of architectural speakers have changed markedly over the years – they can now match the quality of their standalone counterparts. So if you are designing a new media room or home theater, you can have the sound quality you want without upsetting the room's aesthetic, no matter how many speakers are in the system. 

Let's explore some hi-fi disappearing speakers you can use in your Salt Lake City, UT, home sound system

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All About Acoustics for Dedicated Home Theater Rooms

Custom home theater room in a Salt Lake City home.

Acoustic Treatment Can Take Your Sound from Good to Great

We're going to let you in on a little secret. That immersive, spectacularly intense sound you want in a home theater is not all about speakers and audio components. Many don't realize that getting the sound dialed in for every seat in a home theater is no mean feat. The secret sauce often comes down to acoustic treatment. 

In this second blog on home cinema sound this month, we’re going to focus on how acoustic treatment completes the sound installation for a home theater room. Sure, it’s not as sexy as the Sonos Faber and Focal speakers we discussed last month, but it can be just as important. A well-treated (acoustically) room with a good sound system might actually sound better than an untreated one with a great sound system. Read on below to learn more about how we apply acoustic treatment to perfect the sound quality for home theaters in Salt Lake City, UT. 

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How to Choose Speakers for a Home Theater: Freestanding vs. Architectural

Sonus Faber home theater speakers in a Park City, Utah home.

No Need to Choose Between Aesthetics and Sound Quality

Everyone loves great sound for music and movies. Not everyone, however, loves to see what makes the sound. Audiophiles love high-end equipment like McIntosh, Magnepan, and KEF, which are meant to be seen and heard. Others don't want to see any equipment, whether it's speakers for whole home audio or the home theater.

In this month's blog posts, we're going to focus on home theater sound and aesthetics. One of the things you might not know is that you don't have to sacrifice aesthetics for sound quality. If you don't want to see the speakers in your Park City, UT home, the choices for high-end sound are still amazing, but they do require careful planning and installation. On the other hand, if you like the look of speakers, you might be wowed by the beauty of some top brands. Keep reading below to learn more about home theater speaker options that are sure to please no matter which way you go. 

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Freestanding vs. Architectural Surround Sound Speakers

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When You Might Choose Freestanding Speakers

You’re Adding Speakers to an Existing Room

One of the key differences between freestanding and architectural speakers is installation. Freestanding speakers, whether bookshelf or tower, don’t require opening walls. If you’re upgrading an existing room and don’t want to tear into walls for built-in speakers, then choose freestanding instead.

You Prefer to Showcase Your Audio Gear

Whether you’re upgrading an existing room or building from scratch, you might still choose freestanding speakers if you love the aesthetic appeal that they add to your home theater. After all, many high-end tower and bookshelf speakers today are works of art! Still, keep in mind that large speakers—especially those placed on either side of your display—could distract viewers from the screen.

SEE ALSO: Home Theater FAQ: What to Know About Screens and Projectors

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How to Use Acoustic Treatments to Maximize Sound Quality

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Acoustic Panel Placement

The first element in acoustic treatment is taming reflections. The goal is to subdue reflections, absorbing just enough reverberation so that the sound is natural and presents precisely what the artist and sound engineer intended. Acoustic panels come in different noise reduction ratings, called NRC (Noise Reduction Coefficient). A panel with an NRC rating of .50 means that it absorbs 50% of the sound waves that hit it and reflects the other 50% back into the room.

Acoustic panels should be used at the reflection points of your speakers. For front stage speakers, depending on how they’re aimed, these points could be on parts of the back and side walls. In non-rectangular rooms, other walls may be reflection points, too. Some reflectivity will depend on the types of speakers in your theater, as some are more directional than others.

With a full Dolby Atmos surround system, you have many sets of speakers that are reflecting sound. However, acoustic panels and other treatments are just one part of the sound equation. The seating, flooring, wall coverings, and other furnishings also serve to absorb sound. A professional home theater designer (like Show & Tell AV) understands how furnishings, décor, speakers, and material choices will affect the sound and can recommend the right acoustic treatment strategy for the space.

While there’s no one way to treat a room – each will be different – you can count on some general principles. Side walls in a surround setup will see the most sound reflectivity, so panels with higher NRC ratings may be used for them. Alternatively, décor such as curtains or other soft wall coverings can serve as part of the treatment. In back walls, diffuser panels help disperse sound waves as opposed to deadening them. You want your movie soundtracks and music to be dynamic, so you don’t want too much muffling that takes away the liveliness.

Additionally, front walls can usually benefit from acoustic treatment on either side of the screen. If you have an acoustically transparent screen with front stage speakers behind it, panels on the front wall can also help with those reflection points from the rear, side surround, and potentially ceiling speakers.

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3 Acoustic Treatment Solutions to Improve Audio Performance

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Acoustic Panels

Acoustic panels are thin, discreet wall panels typically made of foam or wool that are used to absorb sound. Because soundwaves easily bounce off hard surfaces, which can cause unwanted reverberation, acoustic panels help reduce the number of rebounding waves and dampen unwanted echoes.

Acoustic panels can range in density to absorb more sound or less sound, depending on your unique needs. It’s important to find a balance as too much absorbed sound can create a dead space.

Acoustic panels can also blend with your room décor or look like artwork on your walls. While they may be in full view, you and your guests won’t even notice them as acoustic treatments.

Diffuser Panels

Like we mentioned earlier, absorbing too much sound creates an eerily quiet space, which can be just as bad as having too many echoes. Diffuser panels help reduce soundwaves from causing piercing echoes without fully absorbing sound so that you still experience an open and natural soundstage.

Diffuser panels are typically made of wood and are three-dimensional, with pieces that stick out at varying lengths. When soundwaves hit these panels, they disperse and return to your ears at different intervals so that you’re not “slapped” with sound all at once. The result is a better sense of spaciousness in your home theater or listening room.

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What Are Acoustic Treatments and Why Do You Need Them?

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What Are Room Acoustics?

Simply put, room acoustics describes how sound behaves within a space. Think of how your speech would sound in an empty room with bare walls and tile floors versus a carpeted room with plush furniture and heavy window drapes: piercingly echoey in the first and soft and quiet in the second.

Because the sound that comes from your speakers is a mixture of direct and reflected sound, the surfaces and objects that make up the theater or listening room in your Salt Lake City, UT home can significantly impact how you hear sound in the room—no matter how great your speakers are. If uncontrolled, reflected sound can distort your audio experience.

Problems Caused by Untreated Rooms

If your room hasn’t been designed with sound in mind, perhaps you’ve experienced these problems:

  • Harsh high frequencies
  • Muddy bass
  • Collapsed soundstage
  • Poor speech intelligibility
  • Imbalanced sound

Even if you can’t put your finger on any outstanding sound issues in your home theater or listening room, you may be settling for an otherwise lackluster auditory experience that could be immensely improved with an acoustic treatment installation.

SEE MORE: How Can You Optimize Your Home Theater Audio?

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3 Trends in Home Technology to Watch This Year

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These Picks Are Expected to Gain Serious Traction in 2021

With trends in home automation and control always on the move, we like to start the beginning of each year with educated predictions of what we believe will take the spotlight over the next 12 months. The pandemic undoubtedly shaped the wants and needs of smart homeowners in 2020, and we don’t expect those opportunities to shift course very much as we enter 2021.

With that said, we believe this year’s home technology trends may already be here. These categories sat on the fringes in 2020, and we expect them to continue their momentum in the coming months to accommodate the wants and needs of homeowners who are figuring out new ways of living well amid the effects of an unprecedented pandemic. Learn about these fast-growing trends below.

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Home Theater FAQ: Choosing the Best Seating Type and Placement

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Create a Stylish Space that Facilitates Longtime Comfort for the Whole Family

We’ve said it before: Commercial cinemas are currently in free fall, which has inevitably pushed home theaters into the limelight. A private theater isn’t just a great investment to consider as we spend more time at home; it’s a great investment for any time! What’s not to love about enjoying an immersive movie-watching experience without having to leave the house?

If you’re tinkering with the idea, we can help. As a leading home theater company serving Park City and the surrounding areas in Utah, we know a thing or two about creating a standout home entertainment environment. In this blog, we’re rounding out a three-part series on home theaters by answering your common questions on seating and placement. After all, the seats you purchase and where you put them will determine every other decision you make to create a stellar movie-watching experience.

Read our answers to your common home theater seating questions below and check out part one on audio and part two on displays.

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Home Theater FAQ: What To Know About Screens and Projectors

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The Questions to Answer for Choosing the Right Home Theater Display

With the closure of many Regal theaters and others due to pandemic fallout and major blockbusters pushing back release dates, the options for movie nights out are getting thinner in Salt Lake City and across the country. You may be considering bringing the cinema experience home with a dedicated home theater.

While we hope commercial cinemas survive and prosper, a dedicated home theater is an excellent investment for any time. The large screen and immersive sound will make any video watching session a memorable experience. In this blog, part of a three-part series on home theaters, we'll cover common questions and answers about the video part of the equation – size, types, technology, and more.

The good news is that the choices are ample and can fit budgets from relatively modest to the cost-no-object variety. No matter what you want out of your home theater, there are options to match.

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Why Sony is the Best Choice for Your Home Entertainment

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Work with a Professional Home Theater Company for the Best in Home AV

Sony is one of the best-known home electronics companies in the world. During your lifetime, you’ve likely used their televisions, speakers, and game consoles. They are one of the standard-bearers in the AV industry for a reason, and no line of products showcases the company's commitment to quality and innovation quite like their Sony ES components and XBR 4K displays.

Even though some Sony ES products are available at retail stores like Best Buy, the best way to take advantage of these high-end models is to get them through a professional installer. Deploying these components to their full potential requires a home theater company with the experience and expertise needed to know what products work best depending on the space, application, and more.

As you read this blog, you’ll find out why Sony continues to be the go-to partner for AV professionals and also learn about the top products available for your home in Park City, UT, or the surrounding areas.

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