The past year has been a trying one for many of us. While things may be getting back to normal across many aspects of life, we want to make sure that ONE thing does not come back: complacence about the importance of room acoustics.
As you enjoy the long weekend and celebrate your freedoms, both new and long-standing, do not forget the shackles that bind your sound system to sub-optimal playback performance. Free your speakers!
Head-End Ringing Control
First and foremost is what we consider the foundation of a good-sounding room: reduce the running reverberant noise floor caused by the vertical and lateral buildup of bass energy in the front of the room. We’ve talked about it many times before, so will not go into great detail here. Suffice to say that controlling this single element of room acoustics allows the musicality and detail of your playback system to shine through in ways you never before thought imaginable.
Most of us quite enjoy a listening experience that convincingly sounds like the musicians are in our living room, or that we have been transported to our favorite symphony hall or rock arena. To pull this off, we need to generate a suspension of disbelief in our actual surroundings, and ignore what our eyes may tell us about the sources of the music. The seemingly magical method of achieving this is the development of an immersive ambience in which time delay, sound level reduction, and spatial cues take advantage of psychoacoustic principles to convince your brain that you are somewhere else. Pretty cool.
Careful control of the strength and timing of early wall reflections can convey additional width or depth to your perceived sound stage, while careless neglect can scramble left/right side information and leave the band in a hazy fog. If you love pinpoint imaging, and an experience with the accuracy of headphones but the palpability and scale of a massive PA system, then be sure to address the wall reflections early and often.
Let’s take a quick peek at a room whose owner, S.B. of the midwestern US, has taken a major step toward “freeing the speakers.”
We start in a dedicated room with a pair of Quad ESLs, an excellent example of dipole technology executed well. The speaker capabilities are not in question; now the negative effects of the room need to be neutralized as much as possible.
After some room dimensional analysis and MATT testing, the TubeTrap dose is determined. Listening auditions result in a spreading of the speakers and the TubeTrap positions shown. This largely eliminated the low frequency phase interference of the backwave while maintaining a bright and lively sound. The center trap provides a strong center image and helps further reduce the head end ringing.
Plus, the appearance of the TubeTraps adds to the room symmetry and gives it a Greek-column sort of feel. The real visual magic occurs after dark, however, when we see the cooling effect of an upward blue wall wash. Nice touch!
This is not a complete room solution, but it helps control the all-important head-end ringing and helps with theambient spaciousnessby providing a time-delayed diffuse return from the front wall.
With Freedom Comes with Great Responsibility
Just because you may have a nice, dedicated room for your listening pleasure, and top-notch speakers and electronics to match, does not mean that you can go willy-nilly abusing the sonic attributes so carefully designed and executed by the designers of said audio equipment. You owe it to them, and more importantly, to yourself, to faithfully reproduce the immersive sound stage and impeccable instrumental balance provided by the skilled and talented musicians and engineers involved in the making of the records you hold dear.
Have a safe (no wildfires, please!) and fun weekend, and FREE YOUR SPEAKERS!