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Home Theater vs. Media Room - What's the Difference?

"Home Theater vs. Media Room - What's the Difference?" HTA Certified; Accessed July 27th 2021

Home Theater vs. Media Room - What's the Difference?

Nomenclature is a challenge when it comes to home technology. We struggle with terms that resonate with homeowners. From the “AV guy" to system integrators to custom installers to technology designers to low-voltage contractors, the home technology industry seems to have an identity crisis, even though all those terms mean essentially the same thing to an insider. The same goes for the terms that we use to define rooms in the home, which brings us to the topic du jour: What is the difference between a media room and a home theater?

Most homeowners do not know or even care about the difference.

You will hear them referring to their dedicated home theater space as a media room and vice versa. For architects, interior designers, builders, lighting designers, and other contractors, however, these distinctions can be important in defining your vision and communicating with each other. In other words, it’s good to know the difference between the two.


Thoughts Behind a Home Theater

The Home Technology Association (HTA) defines a home theater as a space that is optimized for a theatrical experience. This means a controlled environment that foments the best entertainment experience possible. Other terms for a "home theater" are "home cinema" and "private home theater". What is so unique about a dedicated home theater space? You need the ability to control (or completely eliminate) ambient light, for one. Many home theaters are designed without windows or have blackout shades to eradicate outside light sources. The absence of unwanted light creates a better onscreen image.

Because you have the ability to completely control your environment in a dedicated theater space, you have more options when it comes to image size. Larger screens and video projectors are available to you because they perform well in light-controlled environments, and because homeowners are more apt to allow a large portion of their wall space to be taken up by a projection screen if it isn’t a multi-use space.

Makings of a Media Room

What the home technology professional traditionally calls a media room is not necessarily optimized for the ultimate audio video experience, though it can be to an extent. Here, ambient light is less of a concern. Windows are welcomed and therefore you will not find as many separate video projector / projection screen systems in a media room. However, most technology designers have automated shades in their repertoires and projector/screen technology has advanced to the point where a two-piece projection system can accommodate ambient light much better than they have in the past. In these cases, it is recommended (and most clients demand) a motorized projection screen that stays out of the way when not in use. More traditionally, flat-panel TVs are the stuff media rooms are made of. A good technology designer will be able to hide the TV when not in use through motorized art, mirrors, lifts, cabinetry, seating and other creative solutions, such as using the video display as a digital art display when not being used to watch video (see article on Digital Art by clicking here)


To keep reading this article by HTA Certified click here to see all the differences between home theater and media room setups.

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