Media Room Construction

I am working with an architect to design a room over my existing garage and need help with the design for optimal acoustics. I want to minimize the cost for post-construction acoustic treatments and also would like to build in as much as possible. Interior design considerations will need to prioritize the sound quality, listening and viewing positions and issues over any aesthetic concerns (both are important). While a home theatre with a motorized, built-in ceiling screen and video projector will be incorporated into the room design. The screen should be built to come down into a "shadow box" for better contrast in low light situations. It will be a modest system since most of the budget will be spent on Hi-End 2 channel audiophile equipment.

Can anyone recommend an honest and reasonable consultant in the New York Metro Area????

Here are a few of the tips I have accrued thus far:

First I need to define room dimensions that will work acoustically and still allow the installation of "hidden" acoustic treatment which includes the necessity for sound isolation from the rest of the house as well as sound absorptive materials. In general, at least six inches of additional depth must be calculated into the final room dimensions to accommodate the aforementioned treatments. Here are some of my notes so far with my own limited research which will obviously be imbellished by the acoustic consultant:

1.Room dimensions:
A. 17 feet wide by 19 feet long , must be an odd ratio?
B. Room height 9 feet must account for additional height of "floating floor" and the possibility of a "false ceiling"
C. Pitch ceiling height lower over speakers, higher over listener? To do this the speaker and listener position must be defined relative to the room dimensions.
D. Build bass traps into the wall with corner loaded bass traps
E. Bass trap all four vertical corners and the ceiling perimeter corner with a soffit bass trap
C. Wall/stud resonance treatment and constrained layer damping: 1. Sandwich two layers of sheetrock ? Gyproc Soundbloc 1.5 soundproofing plasterboard. 2. Suspend sheetrock off studs by screwing into resilient metal fir strips called "z-metal" or "RC-1" 2. Visco damping material {1/16 " thick double sided adhesive visco-elastic sheet} is applied between the z-metal and the first sheet rock layer and a second visco-elastic sheet between the first and second layers. In place
of double sided adhesive visco-elastic sheet, can 100% glue to both sides a layer of sound board {firtex or celotex}. The ceiling must be treated the same way.
D. Locate entry door behind the listener but on a SIDE WALL {nowhere near the speakers since the door will raddle} NOT ON A BACK WALL AND not flush to the corner and at least 2 feet from the corner. Door cannot rattle? Heavy acoustic door/frame?
E. Windows are very tympanic
and should be minimized. Tall narrow windows are best.
Must not use standard thermal type instead use 2 layers of thick laminated glass [like that used for glass shelving in stores] separated by at least 4 inches of air space. The air space must be vented into the wall cavity. Set the glass into a bed of visco-elastic damping material. The glass sheets should be of different thicknesses.
F. Lighting should be subdued, indirect, and dimmable. Do not use standard wall dimmers since they will often hum or buzz. Use a variable voltage transformer. Consider low voltage lighting. Do not use ceiling light cans, they rattle. The best light has a ceiling bezel and lens of thick rounded glass.
G. Address side wall, rear wall, and ceiling reflections which are determined by speaker placement. Room dimensions must account for acoustic panels.
H. Need to decide how to handle ceiling reflections other than simply pitching the ceiling height. For example should the ceiling have a built-in architectural, antireflective and absorbing pattern wavy, geometric shapes, wood slats, or simply use sound panels and a cloth cover for concealment?
I. With the sound isolation from the outside and the rest of the house, care must be taken with the ventilation since there will essentially be an airlock once the door is closed. The HV/AC system must be carefully planned to avoid vibrations within the ducts (e.g. electric baseboard heating, radiant heat etc). Perhaps a separate heating and internal cooling unit which is quiet and preferentially capable of cooling or heating the room prior to the listening session.
J. While windows that are not treated as described above may be very tympanic, a sealed anechoic chamber will sound too dead and is also not our goal. Windows, properly designed and placed can help release some of the sound pressure, which may be required.

So as you can see, without sounding (no pun intended) too pedantic, there are many details that only an experienced acoustician can properly address and implement into the room design to make a comfortable, aesthetically pleasing and acoustically outstanding space, well worth the financial investment. Many of the above design considerations require a computer software program. Also, there are many companies which manufacture acoustic treatments and this can become an expensive aspect of the design with no end in sight. It would be a mistake not to have an experienced person select the most cost-efficient materials. Even after the room is finished, acoustic measurements and computer analysis will be needed for optimal speaker placement and final touches on the acoustic room treatment, especially once the furniture and equipment is are in place.

I have attached jpeg files of the initial room plan.

Any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Dr. Earl Geddes has written a superb book that addresses exactly the situation you are in. The issues you bring up are almost all covered in his book (and maybe they all are but my memory fails me). Dr. Geddes has directed his expert understanding of acoustics, psychoacoustics, and construction techniques into a synergistic approach to the home theater system that gets superb results with no wasted effort.

The book is entitled "Premium Home Theater: Design and Construction". You can check it out at:

This book will be the best thirtysomething dollars you ever spent on your system.

I have been in two Geddes-designed media rooms, and the acoustics and visuals are superb. The entire presentation is jaw-dropping, but (and this is quite rare) you can close your eyes and the presentation is still jaw-dropping! The things he does in the room are not what your intuition would lead you to do (for example, do not overdamp the room!) but Dr. Geddes may well be the world's foremost authority on small room acoustics, and his results are outstanding. If by any chance you are in the Detroit area, or may be in the near future, contact Dr. Geddes and tell him Duke sent you.

For those not interested in home theater or multichannel sound reproduction, the chapter on small room acoustics alone is well worth the price of admission.

Dbk, trust me.....i understand your challenges. i have just completed a 'no-holds-bared' 2-channel listening room project. i used Rives Audio for my design work. it might be usefull to read an article i wrote about my experience on Positive Feedback Online here;

room article

or maybe take a look at the Rives Audio website for more info.....they can and have done design work in the NYC area.

Rives Audio
Great article with your RIVES experience. Judging by your level of involvement and components, I feel like you have spent 100K at least on that room without even thinking about gear. What if you wanted to integrate a projector, motorized screen and surround speakers in the walls for occasional HT movie watching?
Can RIVES do this as well? It makes me nervous that they are not on-site working with the contractor since I could not supervise the work myself.

Fianally, what did RIVES charge you for the entire project including travel and airfare, acoustic measurements, final touchups etc.

Ballpark estimate is O.K. since I need to know how realistic all of this is.
I'll answer part of that for Mike--not the cost of the room. He'll have to do that, but with regard to our design fees, our level 3 generally is around $8-10k for a moderate sized room. This includes the time for 2 site visits, but does not include the travel expenses.

As to HT and motorized screens--over 1/2 of our designs incorporate this. For Mike we actually designed multi-channel and a motorized screen and wired for it, so that he (or a future owner) can easily add it someday. Most people doing high end 2 channel select this option, just for resale value purposes--even if they never intend to do it themselves. We've even done rooms with Piano's located in them, and made the room "adjustable" for recording the piano. Bascially, if it's small room acoustics, we can do it--we just have to know what the goals of the client are.
O.K. I need to budget RIVES into the project. I still need to know what the total cost would be for the consulting service to finish a 19 by 17 by 8 foot room with built-in acoustic treatments and cost of the visits with testing including travel expenses to and from WESTCHESTER New York. I can e-mail photo of initial architectural plans and house picture if it would help you give a more specific estimate. I am serious about this project but if the 8K grows to 15k, I may need to get a different group...
I would fill out the consultation form on the Rives website and fill it in. It will give them a good idea of what to expect from the room, and make the discussion of prices much more accurate.

Plus, it doesn't cost you anything.
Dbk, although i can't speak for Rives.....their level 3 service should be under $10k plus traveling expenses. we used our frequent flier miles to fly them out to Seattle twice, picked them up at the airport and had them stay overnight in our home.

we had zero out of pocket expenses for that and enjoyed their visits.

regarding your other questions;

as Rives mentioned; i did design in wireing for future projector and motorized screen. i added conduit for future rear channels but not provisions for wall mounted surround speakers although they could be easily integrated or ceiling mounted.

my project involved quite a bit of structural, concrete pouring, a whole new HVAC system, new electrical service, and basically remodeling a small home. if you already have the space and don't need structural or HVAC.....a budget for a room of similar size to mine with the same level of acoustical treatments would be from $40k to $65k depending on the level of finish quality you want to pay for. since your room is smaller it would be somewhat less.

good luck with your project.

As the Mad Milkman stated, probably the best way to start is to send in the application. Once you do that we will call you and discuss some of the needs more specifically. In some cases, depending on field conditions we have to go the site for an initial visit and take field measurements and fully understand the conditions before we can give you an estimate. Once we do give you an estimate, that is the price of the project unless you or someone else changes the scope of work. We have had that happen, and that can drive our design fees up, but if you stay within the scope of the work then the price quoted is the price you would pay. Filling in the application and sending it in and the initial conversation for us to understand the scope of work costs you nothing. If you decide the price is too high, or what we have in mind is not for you, that's okay--at that point you have not spent anything.