The Search for Perfect Home Theater Seating
As longtime listeners of our HDTV & Home Theater podcast know, Braden and I have had media/projector rooms in our homes for a few years now. We’ve talked about our electronics, our content, and even some of the decorations that go into those rooms. But we haven’t really discussed home theater seating. That’s because for many of us the seating is simply a traditional couch or recliner.
Just a few years ago, if you wanted home theater seating you had two options. Either spend a lot of money on high-end custom seats, or buy actual theater seats. There was little on the market which catered to those looking for a compromise: theater-like seating for a multi-use room.
Then we saw a company at CES 2009 that was showing off something new. Called D-BOX, these seats had electro-mechanical actuators that moved the viewer in unison with the action on screen. These high-tech home theater seats were a technical marvel, but priced out of reach for most home theater fans.
As initially priced, D-BOX seating for a typical family of four could easily total more than $30,000. Plus, the system relied on special motion encoding for each movie. At best, you’d only get the complete D-BOX experience on a few of your favorite films.
Fast Forward to 2016 and my household needs a new couch in the media room. Before heading to the standard furniture store for a replacement, and curious about the current state of home theater seating, we decided to take a look at what was available in terms of more appropriate movie-watching seating. To our pleasant surprise, there are now more home theater seating options than ever. While not cheap, things have come a long way from the high prices it used to cost to comfortably seat a family of four in some good looking and pretty high-tech seats.
Home Theater Seating Manufacturers
There are plenty of manufacturers out there specializing in home theater seating solutions. They range from the traditional dedicated theater-style seats to more family style options that bridge the gap between traditional sectionals and theater seats. Here is a partial list:
Started in 1978 in California as a manufacturer of automotive seating, Seatcraft began selling home theater seating 2001. They have many styles at prices ranging from $399 to over $1000 per seat. From single recliners to rows of 2, 3, and 4, options include neck pillows, tablet holders, and even a wine caddy. Higher end models also include built-in USB ports for charging your “second screen” smartphones and tablets. You’ll never want to watch a movie in a theater again!
Lane has been around for years and the company knows a trend when they see one. Their home theater seating offerings are limited to a two arm recliner as well as row seating. Pricing ranges between $500 and $650 per seat. Available options include power recline, in-arm storage, and LED lighting. Higher end models also offer USB charging ports.
Founded in 1941, Barcalounger is one of the highest regarded furniture companies in the United States. Translation: you will pay more for the quality, but that’s not a bad thing in our opinion. Barcalounger sells row seating that ranges in price from $600 to $1,000. Power recline, USB charging, lighted cupholders, and built-in accent lighting are the main options available.
There are many other home theater seating manufacturers including Southern Motion, Coaster, Jaymar, and Berkline. All offer options that include curved seating, seatbacks that flip down into consoles, and storage for your remote controls. There is a style, color, and option somewhere out there that will make even the toughest aesthetics committee chairman happy.
Oh, and don’t forget the seat shakers. Whether you’re going for a full D-BOX motion experience or just looking to feel the bass, every one of the above seating manufactures offer products which can be fitted with sound shaker amp kits. There are even wireless versions that make setup simple. Now you have a reason to buy a 7.2 receiver even in a small room!
So let’s say that you are married to someone who just doesn’t like home theater seating. I’m not going to mention names but I may know someone like that. In fact, I may know an entire family who is completely turned off to the idea of dedicated home theater seating. They say you can’t snuggle up during a movie. I say that’s what the downstairs TV is for… but I digress.
To address this market need, there is a line of seating called “Multimedia Sofas.” These are home theater seats without the armrests in between seats. These seats come in multiple configurations including wedge and console options. Sofas, loveseats, straight, curved, and L-shape designs. Essentially like the couch you have today! But these have many of the same options as actual theater seats like USB charging, fold down consoles, LED lighting, power recline, and lighted cupholders on the edges or in the wedges. And yes you can add sound shaker amps! The downside is that you’ll pay a bit more when compared directly to dedicated home theater seats. Prices vary, but expect to pay in the range of $1,000 to $2,200, depending on options.
Whatever Happened to D-BOX?
They may not make the news they once did a few years ago, but D-BOX and its motion-controlled seat technology are still around. The company’s motion seats are popular in high end theaters around the world, and they still have a presence in the home theater market. That’s not to say they’re any more affordable. Today, you’ll find D-BOX featured in the high-end home theaters on display in the pages of Electronic House or over at the AVS Forums.
As for my family’s search for new home theater seating, I’ll be working with a budget of less than $2,500, so high end D-BOX seats are out of the picture. But as you can see above, there should be plenty of very nice options in this price range, and the only question is whether I can find something of which my wife and daughters approve!