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High-End Audio: Creating an Optimal Listening Environment for a Reference Class System

Customer Profile

Mr. Lowe is an audiophile from Dallas, TX who has a dedicated listening room with some very high end equipment. He is always looking out for ways to improve his sound and is very open to experimentation as well as the value of properly applied acoustic treatment and DSP.

Project Overview

Mr. Lowe came to us after building an addition onto his home so he could have a dedicated listening room.  He knew he needed some acoustic treatment but wasn’t sure where to start. Initially he had considered working with another company but was unimpressed by their approach, in particular the fact that they did not do any acoustic measurements to determine what the acoustic treatment plan should be.

In the client’s words:

“I built an addition onto my house. Nyal did not design my listening room. I did the best I could under the circumstances. My room is 14’6″x24’x9’3″, 5/8″ soundboard over standard wall studs and a double wood floor with green glue in between (nothing special for sure). I knew I would need room treatments. I didn’t know where to begin”

Acoustic Frontiers Solutions

The first task in most dedicated rooms is to “rough in” speaker and listener position. It is typical for dedicated rooms to have a lot of flexibility in terms of placement, something that mixed use rooms generally do not have.

We supplied Mr. Lowe with the easy to use XTZ Room Analyzer II Pro package so that he could take acoustic measurements of his room and we could assist with placement optimization. This can all be done remotely – the measurement software is installed on the clients computer and we “remote in” over the internet using a screen sharing application. Over a phone call with us seeing the same screen as the client it is possible to very quickly optimize placement and even do things like system equalization and subwoofer integration.

XTZ Room Analyzer II Pro, a good tool for room acoustic analysis
XTZ Room Analyzer II Pro includes all the hardware and software you need to take room acoustic measurements

In the client’s words:

“The first measurements taken with XTZ showed that the most dominate room mode was centered at 47Hz @12.5db. Nyal advised me that room treatments wouldn’t touch it and if I didn’t want another set of subs in the rear of the room to cancel this mode, I would need to find the null for this room mode. Nyal showed me how to do this simply using the mic and the RTA function in XTZ. I found the null almost exactly where Nyal predicted it would be; 5’2″ from the front wall.”

After speaker placement we performed our Room Acoustic Analysis process, analyzing the frequency response and time decay of the room. The standard 20 page PDF report was sent to the client and discussed over the phone. We agreed the high level path forward and then proceeded with a detailed Acoustic Treatment Design that specified the number, type and location of acoustic treatments.

For this particular project we specified a number of Primacoustic products including the RazorBlade QRD diffuser, FullTrap bass trap, FlexiFuser slat absober / diffuser and Stratus cloud absorber panels.

Acoustically treated high end listening room
View towards the front of Mr. Lowe’s acoustically treated dedicated listening room

Finally we proceeded to post install verification and System Setup. Per Mr. Lowe:

“After the treatments were setup and I dialed in the toe-in (3/8”), I was ready for parametric EQ. This is the part where most audiophiles will go running for the door. Although Nyal is a proponent of EQ, he does not think EQ can solve all problems. At this point my decay time was about .4 seconds evenly across the frequency spectrum. I was told that my room would sound dead and “uninvolving” with all of these treatments. I don’t hear it. The decay time is perfect for me. I am not a live music re-creator. I simply want the musical performance as it was originally recorded.

How to EQ? As you can see, I only use a music server for my source. I have a custom windows music server. I run Jriver is media server mode. Jriver is the best software I have tried and I have tried them all on mac and windows, almost. Nyal recommended a VST plugin called FabFilter Pro Q. It’s very easy to use. Nyal and I ran one more XTZ measurement and then Nyal recommended a total of 6 bands of parametric EQ (all low frequency). XTZ has a simulation mode so I was able to test his recommendations out which gave a result within +/-5dB over the range 16Hz-125Hz.

Fabfilter is totally transparent. I can turn it on and off and I lose nothing in the higher frequencies. The only difference that can be heard is the corrected frequencies.”

Acoustic panels in dedicated listening room
View towards the rear of the clients room

The Results

Frequency response, before and after acoustic treatment
Before (green) and after (blue) bass response, 1/3rd octave resolution

We think Mr. Lowe was very happy with the results of the room acoustic analysis and acoustic treatment design. We subsequently worked with him on a number of other projects including modifications to the acoustic treatment design and integration of dual subwoofers using a DEQX HDP-4.

In the Client’s Words

“All of the work Nyal did was remote. Nyal takes a teaching approach to his work. I learned a lot during this process and I feel much more comfortable with things like room treatments and EQ than I used to feel. Thank you Nyal! My system is no longer there. I can close my eyes and the music just flows from another dimension.”

More information can be found on the thread at What’s Best Forum.

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