Thoughts on My Dedicated Listening Room

Hi Folks:

I am in the design phase of building a house that will feature a dedicated room for audio. My plan is to build a comfortable listening space that I can enjoy that is separate from the main part of the house so that I can listen with friends, late at night, and set up a small two-channel audio business and consulting service. The space is a bonus room over the garage which measures 21 long by 15 wide. It will have a ceiling that peaks at 9 feet and slopes down to the long wall reaching 5 feet where it meets the vertical wall. There will be a large dormer on one of the long walls, roughly in the middle of the room and approximately 8 feet wide. The speakers will be on the short wall firing down the length of the room. The equipment will be between the speakers. I expect to be able to move the speakers well out into the space so the equipment minimally impacts the center image.

I would like the room to look and feel like it could be in anyone's house. To me it feels a little dishonest to invest tons of money in construction materials and room treatments and then have customers take products home to their untreated spaces only to discover that the sound isn't even close to what they heard in the "showroom". That said, this will mostly be a room for me to enjoy my system so I'm prepared to invest in some limited measures that will make the room acoustically sound or at least prevent significant problems. Since the room will be over the garage and away from the main living area, I am not concerned with preventing the sound from migrating from the listening space.

I'd like to hear from likeminded folks who took some basic, practical, budget-minded steps to improve the sonics of their dedicated rooms. Here are a few areas to consider that I have picked up here reading through various threads:

  • Wall stud size and placement/arrangement;
  • Insulation type and application;
  • Sheetrock type and application;
  • Minimizing initial wall and ceiling reflections without the use of expensive/ugly room treatments;
  • Floor supports and floor coverings;



Having a symmetric room definitely helps with soundstage and channel balance, but I don't think the dormer is going to be that big of a problem. With careful application of acoustic treatments, you can balance the reflections off the side walls and get a great presentation. 

Since you are not too concerned about leaking sound out of the room, I don't think it's necessary to go crazy with special construction techniques. Basic drywall (perhaps a bit thicker than normal) on 16" spaced studs works quite well.

You're probably going to want to beef up the floor joists (if that's not too difficult). A good solid floor makes a big difference in bass performance. I'd recommend hardwood floor with a high quality wool area rug instead of carpet, since this gives you more flexibility (size and thickness of the rug will alter the acoustics quite a bit), but this is a fair amount more expensive than going with carpet. 

The most important thing is to minimize noise from outside. If you don't live on a busy street, the most common cause of this is from HVAC equipment. If your furnace, water heater, etc. are in an adjacent space, you'll want to provide extra sound proofing on that wall (or between floors). With walls, it's relatively easy by using separate studs for the interior and exterior wall such that their is an air gap between the exterior wall and the studs supporting the interior wall, and add insulation in the internal space. I built my last dedicated home theater this way and it was very effective at minimizing sound transfer.

The other thing you need to look at is the venting into the room. Vents are an excellent conduit for noise, and can also generate noise on their own if the airflow is high relative to the ducting/vent size. Using significantly oversize ducting with a large plenum to allow the air to expand before entering the room with oversize ducts helps a lot. Adding some sound absorption material in the plenum will also help. 

You'll also want to make sure you incorporate the dedicated mains wiring you'll need. You may decide to move your equipment around or add additional, so install more lines and outlets than you think you'll need. It's MUCH easier to add these when the walls are open.

I'd also recommend consulting with an acoustics specialist to help with selection and placement of acoustic treatments. As I'm sure you're aware, proper treatments make a huge difference in the quality of sound you'll achieve. 

In addition to GIK Acoustics (which seems to take forever these days to delivery product), I'd recommend checking out ATS Acoustics. Their prices and quality are similar to GIK, but they are much faster and also willing to do custom sizes for a small upcharge. I've had excellent service from them.


@dodgealum Don't be put off by the nay sayers.  I built my listening room in a similar "bonus room" that extends over the garage.  14' x 23' with a ceiling that raises in the center to 11'.  I used some acoustic panels and used the 20% rule in placement of my system.  The front of the speakers are 20% of the room length off the back wall and 20% of the room width from side wall to speaker center.  The result is a great sounding system.  Is it perfect?  No.  Could I hear the differnce in a better room?  That's always the question.  Don't get bogged down chasing some ideal we can nver achieve.  Build your room, enjoy the music.  

I have read that article in the past.  While I found it interesting, who among us can affort the cost of a room like this?