Audio Video

‍Look, it’s a Home Theater, No, it’s a Media Room! Differences and Similarities Beyond the Names to Know What You Want

Dennis Clemente
January 10, 2023

Part 1 of a series

Search for photos of media rooms on Google and you’re bound to see mostly home theaters. Media rooms have come to mean many things – and it includes home theaters, but there’s a difference between the two beyond nomenclature, as the Home Technology Association (HTA), an American industry organization for dealerships, also points out. 

Let’s not forget, there’s the old standby name, audio-visual (or AV) system. So, what’s the difference? For a quick rundown, the HTA defines a home theater (and media room) as follows: 

  • A home theater is a space that is optimized for a theatrical experience, as it is also strategically placed in a dedicated controlled environment with acoustic treatment and sound isolation design
  • A media room is typically a sports-themed AV system using a multipurpose room or an open floor with a giant TV and speakers. 

The loose definition makes media rooms a hybrid of sorts. One can tell from how a TV or set of TVs are placed. If they’re relegated to the background, it means the social and fun interactions rule. If the media room has a pool table, video arcade and the ubiquitous foosball table, then it’s mostly a media room. No matter how you define either one, Premium Digital Control can do both. We don’t pick favorites. Or define it strictly. Even an office has its version of a media room.

Man Cave or how the media room came to be

What are the glaring differences, though? A media room is certainly not optimized for the ultimate audio-video experience; it’s a social gathering room, although it is also a home theater to a certain extent. In short, a media room doesn’t play by the rules. It can be anything you really want it to be if you have a giant TV and speakers. 

Starting in the new millennium, the popularity and the growing capabilities of flat-screen TVs made people think of creative ways of repurposing their rooms. For the cineaste, a media room was a variation on the home theater. It was a dedicated viewing room but without the enclosure – unless it was located in a basement where it came to be known as the Man Cave.

Few people use the term media room, as Man Cave has owned the category name since 1992 when a woman named Joanne Lovering of the Toronto Star first published the phrase for a Canadian publication, Toronto Star: “With his cave of solitude secured against wife intrusion by cold floors, musty smells and a few strategic cobwebs, he will stay down there for hours nestled in a very manly magazines and open boxes of tools. Let's call the basement, man cave.”

The Man Cave is not limited to a basement, though, as every unused room could be turned into one. It was about men finding a multipurpose space, outfitting it with a large flat-screen television, surround sound and cozy cushion seating.

Historically, the wife or women have always held substantial authority in the design and decor of the entire house. Back in the day, women managed the household on their own, so it was all about making a place homey, just as it should. But now there’s a woman cave, too, except that it has nothing to do with smart technology and more about wellness in organic form.

How to prepare for your media room

Men and women with their kids – or families – custom-build media rooms in different ways over the years. So, how do you customize or prepare your room to become a media room or entertainment space? Other than the obvious – TV and speakers, ask yourself the following:

  1. How much space do you have? When choosing a room for your media room, it is important to consider the shape and natural light of the space. A rectangular room is often the best choice because it minimizes sound projection issues and provides a clear area for the display screen and primary speakers. Consider the impact of windows and natural light on the viewing experience, as these can be distractions. Blackout shades would be essential if one has floor-to-ceiling windows in South Florida.

  1. How do you like the wires hidden? In one rack, our Premium installation team can store and organize all your source components, Wi-Fi system, streaming device, DVD and BluRay player, cable box as well as other smart technology subsystems that connect to your climate control system, smart lighting, motorized window treatments, enhanced Wi-Fi and many more. It can be made to house all well-ventilated wiring to prevent overheating. Cables can be arranged in an orderly fashion to avoid tangles and to make it easier to access and manage your media room.

  1. How do you repurpose a room? It really depends on your taste and personality. Are you a sports fanatic? You could have your sports memorabilia collection in your media room. A media room can mimic a commercial sports bar complete with a foosball table, billiard table and a video arcade. If you’re a fan of Stranger Things, you can have that same look like the one pop-up store that opened recently at Aventura Mall in Miami.

  1. What would a media room in an office look like? In some tech companies’ offices, media rooms form part of their laid-back culture. At Google in Mountain View, California, you’ll find ping pong tables and pool tables. They’re hybrid work-fun spaces – conference rooms by day, tech meetup event space and fun and games after hours.

How to tell if you’re a media room person or a home theater person

Are you one or the other? How do you know what you want? Here’s a checklist for you.

How to know if you’re a media room person

  • You like to entertain and have friends and family members come over
  • You interact with friends or business people and play games with them
  • Games are even more fun in such an environment
  • You like to socialize in general

How to know if you’re a home theater person

  • You don’t want to hear slammed doors and hear vibrations other than the sound coming from your speakers
  • You like to understand and hear every word in a movie clearly and that the HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning) is not overpowering the dialogue and scenes on the screen
  • Sound must be even from one seat to another, whether you’re seating in the middle or corners
  • You need to get the ultimate moviegoing experience (with the most impressive screen and quality audio). Other than having the usual recliners, you’ll want smart lighting and even motorized window treatments if you want the feel of a real theater
  • You’re a cineaste or movie lover

When you have decided which direction you want to go, please contact us. Don’t count out the fact that you can have both –  a media room and home theater. Or that you like it to be not just in your personal property but place of business. 

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