Understanding the Basics of
Designing a Complete Media Room.
On these pages, we have several blogs about different aspects of media rooms. We have covered topics like surround sound, types of screens, projectors, TVs, and how media rooms and home theaters differ.
However, we'd like to take a step back this month and go back to basics – what exactly is a media room? Using the word "exactly" may not be the best choice, as there is no definitive answer that’s perfect for every homeowner. But we can break down all the essential elements that can make up a proper media room, versus a space in your home that just has a TV in it.
We will cover the major aspects to consider in any media room design. Some of them may be very familiar to you, and some less so, but it doesn't lessen their importance. If you're considering a fresh media room installation in your Somerset County, NJ home, an upgrade, or perhaps turning your family, living, or game room into a top-notch media space, then you’ll want to continue reading below.
Visit our Media Room page for everything you need to know- What is a Media Room? At Bravo AV, we think of a media room as a multi-purpose space where you can watch shows, movies, and sports with the latest audio, video, and control technology that delivers an engaging media experience. Above all, the media room should complement your lifestyle by being easy to use and optimized for the way you like to enjoy your media entertainment. There are three major factors that influence a media room: video quality, audio quality and aesthetics. Are you interested in having the latest and greatest television or display technology? Do you enjoy listening to beautifully reproduced music? Do you want your home to be picture perfect? See our Knowledge Center article Media Room Questions to fully define what you want from your media room. The Display It all starts with the TV or Projector, but it goes far beyond that. The display, like a large flat-panel TV, is often mounted on the wall to optimize space or can be inside custom cabinetry. Projectors are also an option, from ultra-short throw projectors that can sit on a media cabinet by the front wall to traditional models that hang from the ceiling or are mounted on a back wall. Both of these options accommodate larger screens than a TV, which may mount on the wall, drop down from the ceiling, or hide behind doors or inside a wall-unit style cabinet.
The Audio System
An AV receiver is the heart of the system that acts as the nerve center of your system, routing all audio and video inputs to your display and speakers. Receivers include amplifiers, switching capability, network connectivity, support for a myriad of sound formats, and many more features to provide an all-inclusive solution. Separate components can also be used, like surround preamplifiers and multichannel amplifiers for larger spaces or where higher performance is required.
Sources are the components that provide audio and video signals to your media system. They can be cable and satellite TV boxes, media streaming devices like Apple TV and Roku, Blu-ray players, game consoles, or digital media servers like Kaleidescape. Sources can also include separate music streaming devices, turntables, and CD players as well, depending on your media room.
Speakers are the components that deliver the sound. This can take many forms depending on your preferences. High-end soundbars can provide excellent sound quality and surround sound in some rooms. Some soundbars can even be customized to your TV and finish preferences.
Typically, a media room has at least at least 5 speakers: Left, Center, Right, and two side-surround speakers. In some larger spaces two additional rear speakers are added on the back wall for a total of 7. However, with the advent of Dolby Atmos soundtracks media room can have the traditional 5 or 7 speakers along with in-ceiling Atmos speakers to deliver the utmost in immersive sound quality. In components and speaker systems, a channel is a separate audio signal path – the ones most commonly found in an AV system are as follows:
Center Channel: The center speaker in a media room setup carries the primary amount of information and all the dialogue. Ideally, center speakers are placed within one or two feet above or below the horizontal plane of the left and right speakers and above or below the display device, unless placed behind a perforated screen.
Left Channel: The left speaker carries the left audio channel information.
Right Channel: The right speaker carries the right audio channel information.
Side Surround Speakers: Speakers located beside the listener that reproduce the surround sound channels of surround-sound-encoded audio programs.
Rear Surround Speakers: Speakers located behind the listener that reproduce the surround sound channels of surround-encoded audio programs.
Atmos Height Speakers: Speakers located in the ceiling that reproduce the Atmos sound-encoded audio programs. This has become increasingly popular, especially with an increasing amount of movies and shows including these enhanced soundtracks.
Subwoofer: A loudspeaker dedicated to producing bass (sound with low frequencies.) Subwoofers typically add that shake and rumble to your media room.
Seating is a critical aspect of the room. It should be comfortable for media viewing but adaptable to socializing. Could your media room have theater-style seats in it? Of course, and maybe a mix of that and other sofas and chairs are appropriate depending on your preferences and space. The seating choices will influence how the room is used, and vice-versa – the choices are yours to make.
Lighting is a critical piece of a media room. You may want to watch movies in a dark room, but not so dark for a football game. Automated lighting control, integrated with the control system, will markedly increase the convenience and enjoyment of your media room.
Control and Automation Options
Perhaps you know of someone who has an impressive media room, but operating it is a complicated affair. That should never be the case; the system should have an easy to use interface that anyone in the family can figure out and easily use. The control system should extend beyond the audio and video equipment, too, covering other connected functions like climate control, motorized window treatments, lighting, and more.
Surge Protection: Other equipment may be required to connect your system properly, protect it, and maximize its performance. This includes surge protection, so your expensive electronics are not lost to power surges, lightning strikes, brownouts, or other dangerous electrical signals. Power conditioning equipment also helps in cleaning up any noise in the electrical supply to ensure the best possible video and audio performance.
Cabling: The right cabling and wiring are also essential. Speakers should be matched with the correct gauge of wiring for optimal performance, and the right choices need to be made for cables depending on the distances the signals need to cover. Ideally, you also don't want to see any of them in the open, so the right installation will safely hide them out of sight. Please see our Knowledge Center article on speaker wire. Acoustics: The size and shape of the media room will affect sound quality. To make the audio system sound its best, acoustic adjustments may be made. One is to use room corrections software and/or manual tuning to ensure the audio is correct for the room, with the right amount of bass and proper control of frequencies to not overemphasize any. The other way to fix acoustic issues is with materials, which may include a combination of décor choices as well as materials that can be applied to walls. For more information please see our Knowledge Center article on acoustics. Budgeting While for some cost may be no object, the reality is everyone has a budget range in mind, and a media room may be just one part of a significant home remodel or a new home. For more information on budgeting for your media room, please see our Knowledge Center Media Room Budgeting Worksheet. Are you thinking about a media room for your New Jersey home? Get in touch with us by filling out our contact form or by chatting live with us below. We look forward to hearing from you! For additional resources, please visit our website’s Knowledge Center. Here, you will find dozens of articles relating to Bravo AV’s services. Additionally, you can check out our photo gallery to explore our previous work. Bravo AV is proud to be an HTA (Home Technology Association) Certified Installation Firm and professional A/V experts. Tom Curnin, the owner of Bravo AV, is a CEDIA Professional Designer, a certified THX Level 1 home theater professional, and a member of the Home Acoustic Alliance trained to Level II. You can contact Tom directly at (908) 953-0555 or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.