Look at practically any website that concerns itself with home theater and you’ll likely see example after example of dedicated home theaters. These are often beautiful spaces, luxuriously appointed, with fabric-covered walls, intricate woodwork and moldings, and rows of fabulous seats arrayed in tiers facing a giant screen—frankly, the kinds of things that made Theo Kalomirakis the legend he is and earned him the moniker, “The father of home theater.”
And as a custom installer, I can tell you these are almost always wonderful projects to work on. This is generally “our room” to maximize performance for one goal: Creating the ultimate movie-watching experience. Speaker locations are optimized, acoustics can be perfected, sound treatments can isolate external distractions, and lighting can be controlled for an ideal presentation.
But, despite all that, dedicated high-end rooms seem to be waning in popularity, giving way to something that could clumsily be called a multi-use space, but which we’ll call a media room.
Unlike a dedicated room—which is usually a separate, totally closed-off space, typically with a single door and no windows—a media room can be located in virtually any room of the house. In fact, media rooms are often in large communal areas like living rooms or family rooms, which actually gives them two advantages. First, every home can have one. Second, in my experience, media rooms get used far more often than dedicated rooms, which require viewers to actively get up and relocate themselves to a different location.
And, unlike dedicated home theaters, media rooms aren’t mainly for watching movies. They can be the best way to watch TV, listen to music, play videogames, view digital images, and stream content in a relaxed and comfortable environment. And couches, love seats, and comfy chairs—furniture already located in the room—all provide perfect seating options for your family or a group of friends.
At its most basic, a media room consists of a relatively large-screen TV—let’s say at least 55 inches—along with some kind of improved audio experience, like a soundbar and subwoofer.
But for the true movie or music lover—or anyone who takes their entertainment seriously—this minimal approach won’t suffice, and their media rooms share many components similar to those found in a dedicated space. These include:
—a much larger 4K Ultra HD display
—a minimum of 5.1-channel surround audio system, but more likely with the channel count
expanded to allow for immersive audio formats like Dolby Atmos or DTS:X
—a device that can stream 4K content from Netflix, Amazon, or Vudu
—and ideally a Kaleidescape Strato player for viewing the highest-quality UHD HDR movie
And don’t think that having a media room in the middle of the house has to mean having stacks of gear out in the open, or having to live with monolithic speakers, or even having to have your room dominated by a giant screen on the wall. There are a ton of technology options available that can deliver phenomenal experiences with minimal impact on your décor.
How do I know? Because I’ve had my own media room for nearly 10 years, and installed dozens for clients.
In my next post, I’ll tell you about my no-compromise media room, and the installation decisions I made to make the most out of my space and entertainment system.
Probably the most experienced writer on custom installation in the industry, John Sciacca is
co-owner of Custom Theater & Audio in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, & is known for his writing
for such publications as Residential Systems and Sound & Vision. Follow him on Twitter at
@SciaccaTweets and at johnsciacca.com.