If you’re thinking of upgrading the sound system for your TV, theater, or music studio – before you spend a penny on expensive speakers, cabling and stands – you should first look at the sound treatment in your room. To begin, we first need to dispel the myth that you can “soundproof” a room. Unless you are building a brand new, double-walled, floating room in your home – soundproofing is a term you should forget. You’ll never be able to confine the sound to the room you’re in – but that doesn’t mean you can’t do your best to contain it – and give it the best chance to sound as good as possible.
One of the easiest and least expensive ways to treat a room for better sound quality is through furniture placement and positioning of existing speakers. Couches and chairs are fantastic at controlling bass frequencies (called “bass traps”) – and will do wonders to reduce standing bass frequencies (the “low bass rumble” that muffles/muddies the sound). Your sound source (TV or speakers) should be directly opposite your furniture piece – which should no doubt be your listening area.
Next, assess the flat surfaces of your room. Sound loves to “bounce” around your room, using flat surfaces as springboards to do so. The more you are able to break up the flat surfaces, the more natural your listening experience will be. This can be accomplished simply by having a bookshelf in the room against a wall, hanging photos or posters, or a shelf of decorations. Anything you can do to make flat surfaces not flat will help to keep sound from fluttering around your room.
If you have a budget for treating your room – one of the best ways to break up a wall is with sound absorption panels. These panels (typically 24”x 48”) are a thick sound absorbent foam, braced with a light wood and wrapped in a light breathable cloth. Typically, one or two per wall behind your sound source and on the adjacent flat surfaces is plenty to cut out any excessive reverb or delays in a room. Sometimes, you can hang them from your ceiling (called “clouds”) to further reduce echo and delay in a room. Not only do they look nice and help your room sound better – they are a great way to add some color to a room without having to paint your walls.
Finally, if you really want to get professional, add a diffuser directly behind your listening area. A diffuser is a wall mounted piece of treatment that has multiple levels of 2”x 2” wood – designed to break up sound based on a mathematical formula. It helps to spread sound so that your ear doesn’t detect any delay in the sound. Paired with absorption panels and bass traps, these elements will neutralize any unwanted or abrasive qualities in your audio, and keep the sound in your space as natural as possible.