Quiet Home Theater in Duplex...Is That Even Possible?

Discussion in 'Speakers & Subwoofers' started by James Zos, May 7, 2003.

  1. James Zos

    James Zos Supporting Actor

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    In a year or so I plan to buy a house, but for now I've just moved into a duplex. This is the first time I've ever lived in a duplex and I'm not sure what to do with my HT. Out of concern for the guy living in the other half of the duplex, I set my HT (Klipsch ref series and KSW12 sub) into a back bedroom, as far away from his half of the duplex as possible. As it turns out, this room probably could not be worse for HT. The room is very small, square shaped, and has wooden floors (the entire duplex has wood floors) and in it my beloved system now sounds like a cheap radio, the kind your bank might give you for opening a new account. When I use DVDs I'm familiar with to test it, I find that entire sound effects are lost. Just gone. And dialogue, particularly male dialogue, is extremely hard to hear.
    I've tried treating the room with a carpet (covers about two-thirds of the wood floor) and drapes on the walls, but it hasn't really made much of a difference. I would really like to try building acoustic panels and mounting those on the walls, but my girlfriend is hell-bent against the idea for aesthetic reasons, so I don't know what else I can do. Find some heavier drapes maybe, put a pad under the carpet, I don't know. I'm afraid that without the acoustic panels, the room may simply turn out to be unusable for HT.
    Which brings me to my BACKUP plan...move the HT into my living room. It's rectangular, and has plenty of furniture, bookshelves and plants, etc, to break up those flat bare walls.
    But...on the other side of the living room wall is where my neighbor's half of the duplex begins, and I don't want to annoy him with the sound of gunshots and car chases and whatnot...I'm hoping my HT will have a lot more clarity in the living room, which means I will be able to still hear everything clearly while listening to it at a low volume so as not to annoy my neighbor.
    Is this possible? What about the sub? Even if I turn my system down, there is still the problem of the sub. Since my front speakers are bookshelves, I run everything small and put the bass through the sub, which is downward firing...Even if I lower the overall volume, I fear the sub will be too much.
    I don't really know my neighbor, but he seems like a nice guy and I plan on talking to him about this, telling him to let me know if the HT is too loud. Problem is people will be polite and then grit their teeth when the sub starts making the floor vibrate, and I don't want to wince every time there is an explosion or a shotgun blast in a movie soundtrack, thinking that it must be driving my neighbor crazy....
    Soundproofing the living room is out (for the same reason I can't put panels on the walls). What about reducing the impact of the sub WITHOUT losing overall sound quality? Is that possible?
    Anyone else been in this situation? Anyone have any advice for me? (besides telling me to move?) All responses will be greatly appreciated!
     
  2. EricSm

    EricSm Stunt Coordinator

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    I definetly feel your pain. I'm the type of guy who simply doesn't want to be annoying his neighbors. I'd hate to think they are over there wishing I'd pick a new hobby. I have the people to the side to contend with as well as neighbors above in a 4-plex. I opted to move my home theater to the back room where the only shared wall is with the neighbors above. I've done extensive testing and the people above can't hear much unless I'm just blasting it. The other good news is that they are gone so often it's not too much of an issue.

    Now, I don't want my home theater in the back room at all, but I finally moved it out of the living room after I received a knock on the side wall one day. This was after a year and a half of zero issues. And I will admit when the knock came I was blasting it. In fact, I even told my wife "this is the part of the movie with the bass that knocks things off the wall." After that moment, I was too paranoid that I was annoying the neighbors to even enjoy movies on low volumes so I packed it up and switched rooms with it. I went from a great rectangular room, to a 10 x 12 room that is servicable, but not ideal. Yet, for me, peace of mind is everything. Those neighbors to the side have recently moved out so I intend to do some side-side testing and see just how much they can hear. I doubt it's too bad because they had five kids living there, instruments, pianos, etc, and I've rarely heard a thing.

    The important thing, as your realize, is their privacy and right to quiet living. Ideally, talk to your neighbor and see if you can do a demo to find out how much gets through. Maybe(not likely) you'll be pleasantly surprised. Also, there's the off chance that the adjoining room isn't in use. For my situation, the room above where I have the home theater is more or less their storage room. Also, maybe you'll get lucky and he's gone a lot and then you can sort of set your movie watching schedule around when he's gone(which is always tricky, because it's hard to hear when they come back if you have your sound up loud). I feel like a voyeur because I'm always scanning the parking lot of cars.

    I think peace of mind is most important. If having your theater in the living room compromises the ability to enjoy movies because of the neighbor factor then perhaps it's best to just accept the situation and make the most of your square room, knowing someday you'll get the perfect room you've always wanted.
     
  3. Chris Quinn

    Chris Quinn Screenwriter

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    Invite the neighbors over during movie time.

    Really talking to the guy and being respectful of his space(ears) is the best thing. You may find out he's got an HT too, or that he is out most evenings, or drinks the same thing you do and can sit in his living room to hear for yourself how your HT sounds on his side. For all you know he dying to turn up the volume too.
     
  4. BenK

    BenK Stunt Coordinator

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  5. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    get your gf to pick out fabric for the panels and consider not necessarily making them rectangular.
     
  6. James Zos

    James Zos Supporting Actor

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    Thanks to all of you for responding!

    For now I've decided to keep my HT in the back room, but tonight I tried a slightly different setup, which seems to have improved things somewhat...
    I had always thought that putting your TV diagonally in a corner was a bad idea when it came to HT, but then I read a white paper by Floyd E. Toole, (he's the Vice President of Acoustical Engineering for Harman International Industries).
    He writes: "A diagonal arrangement, with the TV in a corner, is superb..."
    So what the hell, I tried that. And bass, particularly LFE, is now much improved. Without turning my sub up, I can feel the bass in my chest, and it doesn't seem to radiate as much outside of the room. It's strange, because I didn't really move my sub. It was already in the corner, it's just that the TV and cabinet are now in front of it.

    Eric, kudos for your consideration of your neighbors. The world would be a much better place if more people were civil to one another. You mentioned that one of your neighbors had five kids, well my neighbor has part-time custody of his two children. They were with him today and I couldn't really hear them at all. So either they are really quiet kids - which seems unlikely - or the wall might be reasonably soundproof as you had suggested...

    Chris, the idea of inviting my neighbor over to watch a movie is a good one. I actually mentioned something like that to him and he said he pretty much only watches kids movies, because of his children. I've got a couple DVDSs (Toy Story, Willie Wonka, etc) that might just foot the bill, so once I have the system tweaked I think I will invite him and his kids over.

    Chu, thanks for the suggestion but my gf is a little picky in this area. She doesn't care what kind of fabric the panels use, or what shape they are, she just doesn't want them up, period, so no go.
    She did, however, suggest that panels might be okay if they were hidden behind some of our movie posters...
    Which brings me to my next question: Would that work? I mean, would the sound be able to pass through the posters and into the absorption material? (probably fiber glass and polyester batting...)
    It seems like paper is pretty porous, so I'm hoping it will work...

    Thanks again for all your thoughtful suggestions!
     

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