The Listening Room

Our TV is in another room, so I'm fortunate that our main sitting room can be a listening room with fewer compromises than many. I have to make some allowances for domestic acceptability as the room is used for visitors and family occasions, but nevertheless, I count myself lucky to have a supportive wife (she would say, long-suffering), who has lived with my hi-fi for almost 40 years.



In most houses, the listening room environment will make as much if not more of a difference than the combination of equipment, I am always irritated by the advice given in the hi-fi mags on how to improve  sound when all they seem to say is to buy yet more expensive equipment (or worse, change cables!) when a little attention to the room acoustics would improve matters greatly, at little cost.  

The house is a 1970s conventional brick-built edifice, with concrete floors and plasterboard ceilings. The concrete floor has an oak plank covering, glued directly to the screed, and is uncarpeted. The room is an odd L shape, with a brick fire-place in the knee of the L . In the 20 years we have lived in this house, I've tried speakers in just about every possible position, and had come to the conclusion that the room just wasn't any good for stereo. It's not helped by our minimalist decor, large uncurtained picture windows and bare wooden floor.  As we have decided for all sorts of reasons that the house actually suits us quite well and moving wasn't on the horizon, I decided finally to tackle the acoustics, whilst still maintaining a modicum of domestic acceptability.   Firstly, we bought a long-haired sheepskin rug 3m diameter, which tamed the floor reflections effectively. Then, as we never use the fireplace, I covered the whole bare wall in rockwool, and put a thin curtain over it for appearance.

The wall behind the rockwool is bare unplastered brick, which was fashionable in the '70s in a rustic sort of way, but which I had tired of pretty quickly. The curtains certainly look better than the bare brick, and the rockwool is incredibly effective at soaking up mid range and top reflections. Slap-echo is now hardly noticeable whereas before, clapping your hands in the room produced pronounced rings.   

I have lived with the room as above for a few years, with just one Stressless recliner chair for me, but recently I needed to move in some more furniture to provide more seating, which necessitated a change to the loudspeakers' positions.
They are now either side of the chimney breast which is behind the curtains and Rockwool. I had previously posted frequency response curves measured with my earlier Meridian 'speakers when they were in front of the large windows. Now that I have different loudspeakers, in a different position, I'll measure the room again before too long and post the results. Certainly, the 801Fs excite the room in a different way, much less bass boom, but probably less extension as well. More to come on this later.

This is what the listening room measurements were with the Meridian DSP5000 and D1500 subs. It was measured at the listening position, with both 'speakers energised, so there could be some comb-filtering at HF.

This is what I measured today (Feb 2012) with the 801Fs. There was a considerable difference with relatively small (50cm) movements of the microphone, especially if  the movement was towards or away from a reflective surface like a wall.

The double-hump at 200Hz is still there, which indicates a room effect, but the bass end is much tidier. It matches my subjective view that the bass is rather different. At the time I wrote the subjective view, I had only just started listening. With more extrended use, I'm happy that the bass is actually better rather than just different, and these graphs seem to illustrate that. Note that the scales of the above graphs are slightly different as they were done at different times.