When it comes to getting the optimum home theater system sound quality, where you place your acoustic panels is important. Although each room has its unique characteristics, there are guidelines for where to place each type of panel. So, based on my research I put together this helpful article to explain where to place acoustic panels in your home theater.
So, where do you place acoustic panels for your home theater system? The ideal place to put acoustic panels is where they will stop the sound waves from bouncing front to back and side to side. These are best placed in the corners of your room. Also, you should put them in the middle of the walls and on the ceiling.
Acoustic panels are placed to absorb soundwaves. The parts of the room that amplify the waves the most are the corners. Because they bounce back forward. But, read on and I will explain how all this works, and more detail about exactly where to put them.
How Many Acoustic Panels Do You Need for Your Home Theater?
You need roughly eight medium sized acoustic panels for your home theater. But, having more or less can work for you, depending on the size and shape of your room. You as a starting point go for:
- Two on each corner to absorb side to side
- Two on each corner to block front to back
- Two on the roof
- Two on the middle of the side walls
According to Acoustic Geometry, the best place to start installing your acoustic panels is on the side walls. Although, you should have 8 acoustic panels in total when you install each panel you can test how the sound improves.
The difference can be more dramatic if you install all the panels at once. But, doing so in order and then testing it, gives you a feel for how the different panels impact the sound quality.
Finding the Optimum Placement for the Two on the Middle of the Side Walls
You’ll need the help of a friend to get the position for these. Have them sit in the position you would when watching the TV. Then grab a mirror, a smaller one is usually easier.
Walk back and forth to the side of your friend with the mirror facing them. You want to be as close to the wall as you can. Get your friend to stop you when they can see the reflection of the tweeters in the mirror.
Go ahead, and mark this spot on the wall with Blu Tack, masking tape, or a similar something that isn’t permanent. This is the spot you want to place your first acoustic panel. Do the same for the wall opposite. Place one acoustic panel on each of the spots.
This video by GIK Acoustics shows this easy setup.
Finding the Optimum Placement for the Four in Each Corner
Stopping front to back and side to side soundwaves is done by using acoustic panels in the corners. Corners are notorious for reflecting and amplifying sound waves. You can get a bit creative with where you put these.
Based on where your furniture is and your room’s dimensions. A standard set up is to start with one acoustic panel flat against a wall facing the other wall. Then work your way around each corner. You will end up with one acoustic panel facing an opposite wall in both directions.
With one acoustic panel:
- On the front wall facing the back
- On the back wall facing the front
- On the left-hand wall facing right
- On the right-hand wall facing left
It doesn’t matter for these if you put up the front to back muffling acoustic panels or the side to side ones first.
The panels should be placed close to the corners. But, not hard up against them. As the sound waves ricochet many times they will get absorbed into the corner panel, deadening a majority of the interference.
Acoustic Panels on the Ceiling
According to sound engineers you should place two acoustic panels on the ceiling directly above your TV. They are also called clouds, in sound engineering parlance. If this isn’t enough, you can put two more above your seating area.
As we know, soundwaves travel in three dimensions, and these will catch the sound waves moving in a more up and down direction.
Different Types of Panels to Use
There are two types of panels. Diffusers and absorbers. Diffusers split the waves and send them off in different directions. It stops them from reflecting off a flat surface. The diffuser is shaped so that as the waves are split off reducing how much of them you hear.
They work in a few ways. Before, you decide what type of panels to use you need to know how they work. So, I’ve included some easy to understand the theory about how they work below. Not only will it make understanding how the panels work. But, it will also get you thinking on the right track regarding how to set up your room so you have the nicest listening experience.
The Theory Behind How Acoustic Panels Work (easy to understand)
When listening to your home theater you want to hear the first instance of soundwaves. It is easy for your brain to decode. When soundwaves start bouncing around you here the same sound at least twice, if not many many times.
It is hard for your complex auditory system to decode the sound, and overworks your subconscious brainpower. In some cases, this gives you a headache. But, in general, it tires out your brain and makes you a bit uncomfortable.
Often, you can’t tell and it’s only noticeable in a controlled setting. Like if you go to a movie theatre, and then go to your friends house and watch some music videos.
Soundwaves are energy. As we know from physics, the energy transferred from one form to another. With sound waves when they hit and bounce some of their energy gets used up but turns into heat, and by using their energy to move the particles in the air. A fact is that sound waves don’t travel forever.
Now you know it, acoustic panels trap some of the energy, spread it out, or do both. To trap the sound waves the panels are made from absorbent material. The material is fibrous and has a lot of air. As a wave lands on them. It gets reflected in a huge number of directions. The way soundwaves act is like light. Not like water.
Because water has mass, gravity pulls them down which makes them behave differently. Whereas light and sound as weightless. So imagine pointing a handheld laser into a sponge.
The laser pointer is more dull and hard to see. But, pointing a laser onto a reflective surface like a mirror or shiny wall. You can already tell that it will bounce right off. You can even see the reflected laser on another wall.
So, the soft and cushy fabric used in acoustic panels splits up the sound wave into tiny pieces and gets trapped in the fabric. Hardly any gets reflected back. So, only a small amount of the reflected sound is heard by your ears. This makes acoustic panels vitally important to have the best sound experience.
Now that has been covered, I’ll explain to you the different types of panels and the various shapes you can find on the market.
A)-Diffuser acoustic panels:
These are rounded or triangular in shape. As the sound waves hit the acoustic panel the sound waves get spread out as they bounce off. They also get absorbed by the material.
This is because of the shape. As waves hit against it they are spread out. When the sound is spread out the energy isn’t as concentrated so isn’t as powerful.
On top of these diffusers are also made of sound-absorbing material that muffles the sound as well. So, together they provide a powerful sound stopping combination.
o when setting up your decor, look to place ornaments and furniture in places where they will give you extra sound deadening characteristics. Like putting vases in the corner of a room -vases are round so they work like a diffuser-, childrens foam toys and soft toys act as good absorbers.
There are different shapes you can find on the market. The most recognizable are egg crate, spade, and grid acoustic panel patterns. The main thing you are looking for is a surface that isn’t just flat. So, choose a pattern you like the look of.
Neither performs better than the other. When evaluating the acoustic panels you want to look at their Noise Reduction Coefficient, abbreviated as NRC. These are generally written on the acoustic panel specifications. Higher numbers are better, and they are on a scale from 0 to 1. An example of a high NRC is 0.85.
02)-Absorber acoustic panels
Use these the same as diffuser acoustic panels. A good set up is to have two diffuser acoustic panels either side of your seating location, and have the rest as flat acoustic panels. Diffuser acoustic panels stand out because of how they’re shaped.
So, limit how many you use. If it’s just your man cave, go nuts and put up as many diffuser acoustic panels as you think you need. After all, only you’ll see it.
But, if you have friends and family over, go with just two diffuser acoustic panels, and make the best absorbers. That way they won’t stick out as much. As always, it’s a balance of form and function.
How Do You Attach Acoustic Panels to the Walls?
Don’t glue them directly to the wall, you won’t be able to get them off without leaving some foam stuck to the wall. Instead, glue small pieces of craft cardboard directly to the back of the panel. After that, just use a piece of Blu Tack or special double-sided tape that comes off of walls easily to mount them to the wall.
What Acoustic Panels Do We Recommend you to buy?
The best acoustic sound panels according to different extensive reviews are the:
- They are small, 1 ft x 1ft (30cm x 30cm). You can add more or less depending on how many you need. That means they are very customizable.
- Inexpensive. Relative to other acoustic panels they are cost effective, leaving more money in your pocket.
- Comes in different colors -charcoal, burgundy, and olive green-. You can choose the right color for your room, and create an interesting interior design.
- High noise reduction coefficient (NRC) score of 0.95 out of 1. It is very effective at dampening sound relative to other acoustic panels that don’t have as high an NRC score.
- Comes in different colors -charcoal, burgundy, red, and blue. Similar to the Auralex Sonoflat. It also has different colors to the Auralex Sonoflat, giving you the option to get the right color for your room.
- Very thick panel. Offering greater sound absorption (NRC of 0.80), that gives you better sound within your room compared with other panels. Though not as good as the Auralex Sonoflat.
But, Do Acoustic Panels Really Work?
Acoustic panels have been scientifically tested, tweaked, optimized, and are part of a whole field of study called acoustics. You can be rest assured that acoustic panels greatly enhance the sound quality of a room.
They do this by absorbing sound waves that bounce back. Sounds that bounce off of walls, floors, and ceilings in essence playing the sound to you twice. This makes for a confusing sound experience to your brain. Lessening the sound quality and home theatre experience.
There are numerous studies that have been done proving these facts. You can find links to these articles here.
Should I Use Acoustic Panels, is There Something Better?
Although, other materials can be used on your walls such as carpet, hanging rugs. it is more costly and produces an inferior result to using acoustic panels. Unless you already want to put up hanging rugs on your walls as art pieces, it doesn’t make sense to install carpet or other sound absorbing materials on your walls.
There aren’t any better materials to use. If there were acoustic panel manufacturers would use it in manufacturing their acoustic panels. The aim of the study of acoustics is to produce the best sound quality possible.
Acoustic panels should be placed on the walls, and ceiling. A good starting point is to begin with 8 medium sized acoustic panels.
These are: two on each corner to absorb side to side, two on each corner to block front to back, two on the roof and two on the middle of the side walls two on the ceiling. This way they stop front to back, side to side, and up and down sound waves.
You can go further and add additional panels if you like. Some rooms are larger or aren’t square and additional panels can add to the sound quality of your home theatre system.
- Wikipedia: Absorption_(acoustics)
- Takafumi Shimizu, Hiroshi Onaga. Study on acoustic improvements by sound-absorbing panels and acoustical quality assessment of teleconference systems. Applied Acoustics, Volume 139, 2018, Pages 101-112, ISSN 0003-682X.
- Kaamin, Masiri & Mahir, Nurul & Kadir, Aslila & Hamid, Nor & Mokhtar, Mardiha & Ngadiman, Norhayati. (2017). Sound absorption study on the acoustic panel from kapok fiber and egg tray. AIP Conference Proceedings. 1901. 130012. 10.1063/1.5010572. Published by the American Institute of Physics
- GIK Acoustics video.