4 Things You Need to Know about Surround Sound

sound2Home audio is enjoying a renaissance, according to the Consumer Electronics Association’s latest Digital America report. Total factory home audio sales rose 4.5 percent to $3.61 billion in 2015, driven by surround-sound technology such as one-piece amplified soundbars and wireless multi-room audio systems. New 3D surround-sound formats for Blu-ray such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X are propelling home audio technology to new heights. More options than ever are available for customizing your home audio system. But before you explore advanced hacks, there are a few basics you should cover to lay a foundation for a high-quality home sound experience.

How Many Rooms Do You Want to Cover?

With the increasing availability of multi-room audio options, one of the fundamental decisions you need to make when installing a sound system is how many rooms to cover. For instance, do you want to be able to hear music from your entertainment room’s sound system in your kitchen, bathroom or back porch? Do you want the same sounds to be heard in every part of your home, or do you want to designate multiple sound zones that can be independently controlled?

sound1Wired or Wireless?

Today’s multi-room home audio technology includes wired, wireless and hybrid options. A wired system can be a good option when building or upgrading a home. First, you can run wires directly from your receiver to speakers in different rooms. This can work well with home theater receivers that support multiple zones, though the number of speakers supportable without additional equipment may be limited.

Another wired option is an impedance matching speaker selector. This distributes a signal from a two-channel stereo receiver to multiple speaker pairs. This method spreads your sound quality and volume thin, so it is best for background music.

A third wired option is installing a multi-channel amplifier. This works similar to a speaker selector, but adding the amplifier retains sound quality and volume. Cost depends on how many independent speaker sources and volume controls you include. The feasibility of wiring solutions depends partly on whether you have attic or crawlspace room for running wires next to speaker-adjacent walls. If not, wireless options work better.

Wireless systems connect your sound and Internet systems. For this, you need an access point to connect to your sound and Internet, a wireless sound source, wireless speakers and amplifiers, and a remote control such as a mobile device. You can combine wired and wireless systems by running wires off your wireless system to other parts of your home. This can be useful for areas such as dining rooms where ceiling speakers are preferable.

sound3How Many Speakers Do You Need?

Another fundamental issue is how many speakers it includes. A basic 5.1 channel surround-sound system uses a central speaker, left and right front channel speakers, left and right surround channel speakers positioned to the sides of the listener, and a subwoofer for low-frequency bass. 7.1 systems add a pair of speakers behind the listener. The latest surround sound systems designed for use with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X add one or two ceiling speakers to enhance the vertical dimension of sound for a greater 3D effect.

Where Will You Put the Speakers?

Optimization of your sound system depends on correct placement of your speakers. THX recommends aiming your central speaker at your central listening position, placing left and right front speakers at 45-degree angles to the listener at ear height, and putting left and right surround speakers at 90- to 110-degree angles 2 feet above the listener. If you have back left and right speakers, these should be placed together on your back wall, or for Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio setups, placed at a 60-degree rear angle. If you have one subwoofer, it should go in the middle of the front wall; two should go in opposing walls; for four, put one in each wall. To add subwoofers, you can buy more units, or if you’re in a do-it-yourself mood, you can build a high-end subwoofer out of inexpensive parts.

5 Patterns That Will Make Your Home Pop

stripe5No matter where you turn, pattern inspiration is all around you, from modern architecture and traditional flooring to animal furs, floral arrangements and fashion runways. As homeowners and designers look to personalize spaces and create impactful interiors, patterns are being replicated with paint on walls, floors, furniture and more.

“Pattern always catches my eye and is my go-to element for adding something special to a space,” says Design*Sponge Founder Grace Bonney, author of the best-selling book “Design*Sponge at Home.”

Here, Bonney and the experts at ScotchBlue and Patternbank share five up-and-coming trends in pattern for the home.

stripe11. Striking Lines
The once simple stripe has found new life with a bold, modern twist. Sharp angles and a fractured, abstract look bring dimension to the standard stripe, and add strong visual impact to even the most awkward spaces around the home. Consider using neutral paint colors for more traditional and elegant looks or brighter colors to infuse energy into the space.

stripe22. Mod Optic
Bold geometric designs are making their way into home decor with subtle shifts in scale and color. These strong three-dimensional patterns create a clean, modern style that communicates sophistication and audacity. Infuse contrast and depth to create a clean, modern backdrop for existing decor. The pattern allows you to play with a combination of light and dark colors as a way to add different levels of drama based on the space.

stripe33. Geo Elemental
From north and south to east and west, global influences can be seen in architecture, interior design and on the fashion runways. Merging traditional shapes such as zigzags and diamonds with various color treatments adds a modern feel to deep-rooted tradition, creating a meeting point for contemporary and universal. The lively repetition of eye-catching, sharp lines is ideal for spaces that draw attention in one direction and evoke a strong sense of place. Using earth tones and natural colors add to the global feel of the pattern, while cool neutral colors provide a calming aura.

stripe44. ’70s Revival
With retro trends making a comeback in both fashion and design, modernizing retro-themed patterns energizes the home and carries a whimsical accent throughout the space. Give a nod to the stylish looks of the ’70s by building on lavish shapes with modern styling and fresh forms. The combination of high-contrast colors and the big impact of the pattern help make the space feel dynamic and lively.

stripe75. Found Fragments
Layering pattern on pattern gives you the creative license to have fun experimenting and showcasing your personal style. With clean lines or shapes juxtaposed against existing prints and designs, this pattern keeps your space down-to-earth while still being on trend. Diversify existing decor elements by layering multiple patterns and mediums to adapt any space to match your changing styles.