Riserless chairs – do they work?

Riserless chairs – do they work?

Let’s assume you’ve decided to build a home theater or a media room, and would like to have several rows of seats to accommodate a large number of people. As you may know, in commercial theaters, each row of seats is typically elevated relative to the row in front of it.  This ensures that everyone has a clear, unobstructed view of the screen.

Now, some manufacturers came out with the idea of building a small riser into the chairs elevating them by 8 inches, claiming that this eliminates the necessity of building a riser/platform for the second row of seats.  They market these chairs, saying: “This smartly designed back-row feature allows for an unobstructed view of the screen, so that expensive risers are a thing of the past!” They also sell chairs that sit lower, enabling you to put them in front of regular height seats. However, these may work better for children and not adults, and they do not recline, so we’ll leave those for another discussion.

So, do “riserless” chairs work?  At first glance, they seem like a surefire deal, saving you money and time it would take to build a riser/platform to elevate the second row of seats. In reality, though, such a setup can work in some cases, but the majority of people will find that 8” elevation is not enough. The optimal riser height for your theater is not a constant you can apply in any case.  In fact, the minimum riser height needs to be calculated, and depends on 3 parameters:

  • distance between the screen and front row viewer’s eyes
  • distance between the screen and second row viewer’s eyes
  • distance between the floor and bottom of the screen viewing area

Now, if you have a small TV and the bottom of it is between 3.5 – 4 feet, from the floor, it may work, but in most cases theaters will feature a 100 – 130 inch diagonal screen, with a ceiling height less than 8-9 feet, in which case the 7 inch elevation will not work.  With a limited ceiling height and large screen, the bottom of the screen will be quite close to the floor, requiring a higher elevation for the second row of seats, and in many cases you would need to build a riser/platform that would be 10, 12 or in some cases up to 14, 16 inches high.  You may also need to add a few inches to that calculated height to account for people sitting in the back row reclining more that people in the front row.  Another thing to remember – it is very cumbersome and awkward to climb in and out of chairs that are elevated from the floor by 8 inches. 

So, before you pull the trigger on buying riserless chairs, you may want to make sure that these recliners will work in your specific situation, and that the small 8 inch elevation they provide will be sufficient for your theater.


How to Choose the Right Recliners for your Theater

Choosing comfortable and functional seating in your home theater is just as essential as selecting your audio and video components and room décor.  It is thereby extremely important to find your ideal seats in the early stages of planning your theater.  Don’t leave this step till the very end when you’ve likely exhausted your budget and are restricted to poor or inferior seating options.  Cheap and uncomfortable seats can ruin a home entertainment experience, even with the top of the line A/V equipment. 

So, how can you plan for the perfect home theater seating?

  1. Decide how many seats you would like to have in the theater

Think about your watching habits.  Do you mainly watch movies by yourself, with your spouse, or with the whole family?  How often do you entertain guests, and how many people do you typically have over? How big is your room? Are you planning for several rows of seating?

All these questions help determine which chairs/recliners will work best in your theater. If your room is small, and you want to fit as many seats as possible, you may want to consider narrower recliners, like our Jive-1013s.  If you are planning for several rows of seating, remember that you may need to add a riser in order to elevate the second row, and that you would need at minimum 6-6.5-foot depth on that riser to prevent the rows of chairs from colliding while fully reclined.

  1. Size of the recliners is very important

How big and tall are the people who will be using your recliners?  While there is no perfect chair for everyone, you may want to consider the fact that home theater recliners are designed for a specific application, and the chair back height may greatly affect movie watching experience.  If the back is too high, it could block your surround sound, and if it is too low, you may end up lacking head/neck support.

  1. Chair design

Many tend to focus on chair style, and forget that they will be spending hours in the chairs watching movies, sport events, shows, etc. Do not get fooled by nice looking chairs in pictures!  While sleek looks may be  important to some people, recliners are often marketed to seem more luxurious than they truly are. In fact, many such recliners on the market lack important features like head and lower back support, and are often quite uncomfortable,  negatively impacting on your overall experience.  Remember, when you dim the lights, you cannot see how the chairs look, and if you are not comfortable, looks are irrelevant.  Most home theater seats are intended to be used in the reclined position, and if the chair back is not designed properly, you may end up with no head support, needing a pillow to compensate.  Moreover, poor lower back support often results in pain and a sore back after spending several hours in the chair.

  1. Features and accessories

What kind of features you like your chairs to have? Are you on a tight budget, and need to stick to manual recliners?  If this is the case, you can still enjoy excellent, comfortable chairs like our Encore-1010 recliners. These recliners are also a great choice when you have to place them in the middle of the room, and are unable to run power there. 

Power recline, on the other hand, will give you infinite control over your chair, allowing you to effortlessly recline to your favorite position with the touch of a button.

Are you building a theater in your basement with a low ceiling, but want to have as big a screen as possible?  If the answer is yes, then you will end up having a screen close to the floor, and in reclined position the chairs may not allow for a comfortable viewing angle. Adjustable headrest is the solution!  You can choose either a manually adjustable headrest like on our Tribute-1015 recliners, or a motorized one like on the Escape-1019s.  Both will provide you with the ability to ultimately create a perfect viewing angle to the screen while greatly supporting your head and neck. 

Do you have back problems?  The motorized lumbar support on our Streamline-1017 recliners will definitely help to create good lower back support and adjusting it to your liking.

Other features like arm storage compartments, tray tables, USB ports, tablet holders, LED flexible lights, wine glass holders can improve convenience, allowing you to do just about everything from your comfortable seat.

Last but not least – are you interested in getting the realistic film experience that would take you inside the scenes? Get low frequency transducers installed in your chairs!  That will drastically improve how you watch movies,  adding tactile motion to your chairs and amplifying exhilarating action scenes.  All our chairs come with the BUTTKICKER READY feature, and while we offer pre-installation option, you can install the buttkickers yourself at later point.  All our chairs come equipped with the buttkicker plate and kinetic rubber isolators, which will make installing the buttkickers a very easy process.

  1. Feel and comfort

Choosing the right chair is not easy! Comfort is very subjective and personal, so you should always try the chairs before buying if you can.  Spend at least 15-30 minutes in each recliner you are considering, making sure it feels good not only initially, but also after an extended period.  Note that when chairs are too cushy, and they feel perfect they may not be.  Manufacturers tend to use low density foam in very soft chairs, and these will lose support very quickly.  While you do not want to buy an extremely firm chair, you also don’t want them to be extremely soft.  We use pocketed spring coils in our chairs, providing great support and ensuring longevity of our seating cushions.  Layers of foam and fibers on top of that guarantee cushiness and comfort.  What if you live in an area where there is no place to try the recliners before purchasing them?  Read as many reviews as you can, and buy from a reputable source.