If you are planning a sound system installation in your house or apartment, you're no doubt looking forward to listening to your stereo or TV and hearing crisp, clear sound throughout your home. However, your neighbors may not share your enthusiasm. In addition to some modern construction being very cheap and having poor sound insulation, acoustics themselves, as well as your hearing, can make your neighbors unwilling audience members when you turn on the sound system. Here are three quirks you have to keep in mind when using the system.
Sound Waves Bounce
Sound doesn't just come out of the speaker and head to your ears. The sound waves hit furniture and walls, and if the waves are strong enough, they can transfer through the walls to the outside. They can also bounce off the walls or furniture and send sound in directions you weren't even thinking about, such as toward an apartment unit located behind the speakers (so when you think the sound is headed away from the wall connecting that apartment, it can reflect back toward that apartment instead). To reduce the chances of this happening, make the surfaces in the room with the speakers soft enough to tear up the sound waves and prevent them from reflecting to other locations. Add curtains in front of windows that had only blinds, add carpets to the room, and place furniture like bookshelves or wall tapestries against each wall.
Anything That Touches Can Spread Sound
In addition to sound waves reflecting off items into the air, sound can create vibrations that travel through adjacent items. For example, if you place a speaker right against the wall so that it's touching the wall, the vibrations from the speaker can transfer right into the wall material and into the room behind that wall. That can be distressing for the occupant in the other room because the sounds that are more likely to transfer are booming bass sounds, which can also cause the furniture in that room to shake. Ensure speakers are placed away from walls and that TV consoles aren't touching walls. If you're actually wall-mounting these things, add insulating material between the equipment and the mounts to dampen sound.
Your Hearing Might Be Terrible
What you consider clear sound might be horribly loud to others not because of poor placement, but because your hearing is terrible and you've turned the sound up too loud. If you haven't had your hearing checked for a while, maybe get it checked before the system is installed. That way, if you find you do have a hearing problem, you can add assistive listening devices to the system to ensure you hear the sound but your neighbors don't.
If you want more advice on reaching that balance between good sound and good-neighbor behavior, talk to the sound company from which you're buying the system. Also talk to an audiologist about a hearing test.