Dealing With Excess Bass Leaking Into Other Rooms

Posted on: 22 September 2018

Home theaters have given the occupants of a house or apartment the ability to watch movies in surroundings that mimic those of a professional theater, but that has also created a noise problem for neighbors. It's very common for people in home theaters to get complaints from other residents of the home or even from outside the house that the sound is too loud. A big culprit here is the bass, especially for others inside the same structure. For better home viewing with fewer complaints, you need to address the bass issue directly.

Decouple as Much as Possible 

Sound waves can be transmitted from a solid object to connecting solid object; this is how the bass escapes into other rooms in the first place. The transmission is all the stronger when the speakers are placed against something like a wall or placed on the floor with lots of contact points. Decouple the speakers from as much as possible. Place the speakers on thin legs, place the legs on thick (but stable) foam, and keep the speakers away from the walls by at least a few inches -- don't push the speakers back against the wall. If your home theater layout has the speakers built into the wall or ceiling, create fake walls or a fake ceiling to hold the speakers while still keeping them away from the studs framing the room.

Get Your Hearing Checked (Really)

It is entirely possible that the people who tell you your sound system is too loud are correct. If you have a hearing loss and don't know it, you might turn up the volume to levels that drive others batty, even though you think the sound is OK. Contact an audiologist (or contact your doctor, who can refer you) and get a standard hearing test done to ensure that you're not using the volume knob to compensate for an undiagnosed hearing problem.

Pad Everything

Padding the home theater, not just with soft furnishings and rugs but also with acoustic panels on the walls and ceilings, works in two ways. One, all that padding eats up some sound waves. The padding -- even the acoustic panels -- won't absorb all the bass sound waves that are hitting the walls. But the padding will break up more of the sound waves than if there were little padding in the room.

The other way in which this helps is that the padding reduces echoes and that "tinny" sound you get when listening to something near a hard surface. Sound waves hit the soft stuff and don't bounce around to other parts of the room so much. That makes it easier to hear the dialogue and music, and you won't have to turn the sound up so much.

Check Settings

Finally, double-check the settings on your equipment. If your speakers have an included subwoofer with independent controls, turn those off and use the regular speakers. If your system uses a computer program for control (e.g., you've hooked up your computer to play a downloaded movie), look at the equalizer window and reduce the bass.

Let your home theater contractor know that you need to reduce bass transmission. The two of you will be able to work out a plan to minimize sound transfer as much as possible.