Plan Your Home Theater Easily With This Free Digital Tool
Now that we’ve all been in the house for months, and it’s entirely possible that we will continue to do so when the weather gets colder, many of us are considering seriously upgrading our TV rooms.
Regardless of how many helpful articles you read about the benefits of surround sound, Dolby Atmos, and make sure you buy a TV that is the right size for your viewing distance, it can be difficult to visualize your new home theater like it is should look like.
That reality is not lost for Scott Newnam, CEO of Audio Advice, a North Carolina-based retailer and home theater installer. Over the past few years, Newnam and his team have developed the Audio Advice Home Theater Designer, an online tool that A / V professionals can use to plan a home theater by simply entering some room dimensions and the number of seats they want.
The calculations that need to be done behind the scenes for such a simple tool to work as effortlessly as Audio Advice Home Theater Designer are considerable – especially when you consider that it optimizes your space for audio standards like Dolby Atmos, DTS: X and THX. Newnam’s intention was to recoup that investment by charging people a fee to use the tool.
But then the pandemic happened and Newnam decided to make the tool free for everyone. “In a year of shortage of gifts,” Newnam said in a press release, “this is our gift to anyone looking to discover a better home entertainment experience.”
Newnam demonstrated the home theater designer for us via a zoom call – just like a professional installer could do with a client if the client doesn’t want to use the tool itself.
In a matter of seconds, you’ll see a 3D plan for your room, including TV, speakers, and seating, all of which are detailed in terms of size and distance. However, the real fun comes when you edit all of the parameters to see the changes that they make.
You can do this using the series of drop-down menus and sliders on the right side of the display, or drag your seats across the room to see what effect this has on speaker placement.
Not sure what it will sound like or what it will look like? There are two visualization modes that can help. The Sound Dispersion view superimposes a series of spotlight patterns emanating from each of your speakers so you can see if your seating area is in the sweet spot or not. With the screen height view, you are in your primary sitting position so you can see how big the screen size you choose would feel in relation to your peripheral vision.
At any point in time, the tool gives you a printable summary of your space’s specs that you can use to measure all the elements in real life – if you tend to go the do-it-yourself route – or you can use it as a starting point for use a conversation with a professional installer.
As a first version there are some elements that Newnam says were not covered, such as For example, switching from ceiling speakers to Dolby Atmos-enabled speakers that bring the sound from the ceiling back into the listening position. There is also no way to hide wall speakers behind a projection screen. Version 2.0 will have these and other features, Newnam said.
He was also quick to point out that Audio Advice would be happy to help if people had questions about using the tool and were looking for more guidance.
We immediately saw the value of the home theater designer – especially with hard-to-visualize concepts like Dolby Atmos – but we were excited to see what a professional installer would think of it.
Jeff Gosselin, owner of Cloud9AV, a Toronto-based home theater and home automation installation company, was introduced to the tool. He was impressed with the tool’s ability to reflect changes in real time. He noted that the results were similar to the 3D tools used by interior designers, but that you would normally only get this type of presentation if you started a project on a budget of $ 50,000.
It’s a great tool to help customers and home improvement enthusiasts understand how 5.1 and other types of surround sound work, Gosselin said.
At this point, that’s our takeaway too. Whether you have the budget for a full-fledged home theater or just want to understand how to provide much better audio and video in your existing space, it is worth playing around with the Audio Advice Home Theater Designer for a few minutes.