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Helping a Canadian Audiophile Analyze and Improve his Room Acoustics

Client Profile

Mr. Neron is a talented nature photographer and audiophile from Montreal, Quebec.

Project Overview

The client’s listening room did double duty as the main living room for the family. It is a relatively small space of 11’x14.5′ with the system on the long wall.

The system comprised Spendor A9 floorstanding loudspeakers, Unison Research S8 tube integrated amplifier, a Cambridge Audio CD player and a Mitchell turntable.

Listening / living room at the start of the project
Listening / living room at the start of the project

Acoustic Frontiers Solutions

After conducting the room acoustic analysis and discussing the findings with the client we settled on the following solutions:

  • Replace large audio cabinet with coffee table, providing two benefits: eliminated diffraction of sound off large cabinet and reduced severity of floor bounce reflection
  • Add 5’x8′ rug with 3/8″ felt rug pad to help deal with the floor reflection and balance the high frequency decay time in the room
  • Add RPG Bad panels  on the front wall under the window to help reduce the frequency response suckout caused by speaker boundary interference cancellation from the front wall
  • Add an array of six RPG BAD Arc panels on the ceiling covering the reflection points for the left and right speaker. These were specified to not only deal with the ceiling reflection but also help balance the decay time in the room
  • Add heavy drapes over the windows, covering all the way down to the floor to help balance the reverberation time in the room

 

The Results

This photo shows the acoustical elements added to the room - drapes, 4" RPG BAD panels on 2" airgap under the window and RPG BAD ARC array on ceiling.
This photo shows the acoustical elements added to the room – drapes, 4″ RPG BAD panels on 2″ airgap under the window and RPG BAD ARC array on ceiling.

The listening / living room at the conclusion of our work
The listening / living room at the conclusion of our work

frequency response, before and after acoustic consulting
Frequency response before and after the consulting work. Measurements offset for clarity. You can see the after response is significantly flatter.

T30, before and after consulting work
T30 (a measure of how quickly sound decays) before and after acoustic consulting work. The highly variable decay times before treatment are now more consistent.

In the Client’s Words

“I would like to provide you with feedback on my experience with working with Nyal on performing an analysis and treatment of my listening room. I was at a point where I had nailed down my Speakers and Amplifier where I knew they would be a part of my system for the long run, and wanted to see what could be done to bring the system further into the music listening Nirvana.

Initially, I did not know exactly where this was going to lead in terms of treatment or results, but I was willing to give it a try and avoid an endless trial and error process and potentially making things worse rather than helping.

I initially approached Acoustic Frontiers with an aim to have an efficient an effective way to bring my listening room to the next level, while eliminating the guesswork and black magic you typically see where there are lots of recommendations around but hardly a methodical and logical way to approaching the “problem” of room treatment.

Going through the Acoustic Analysis with Nyal was a great learning experience for me, which identified specific areas to focus on to get most return on investment in improving sound quality.  The first thing that came out of this for me was not only allowing me to focus on solving the right issues, but also dispelling “common wisdom” tips you find on the web that did not apply to my room or needs.

Since my listening room is also our living room, I was concerned that treating my room was going to require a lot of aesthetic and practicality trade-offs. Discussing the key issues and potential solutions with Nyal , along with what I was willing to do to improve the sound quality enabled me to lay this concern to rest. In the end, we were able to come up with a treatment solution that would not only address the key sound issues, but also be practical and actually improved the aesthetic of the room. That’s a win-win I did not expect.

Sound wise, the key issues that needed work were inconsistent reverberation times, early reflections and speaker boundary interferences. After the treatment, the first two problems were resolved and the last one significantly improved using passive treatment.

This resulted in a much higher definition throughout the frequency range, more present and articulated bass, tonal balance that actually match those of live instruments, a much deeper and wider soundstage, as well as a 3 dimensional almost holographic presentation of musicians across the sound stage.

While I was very happy with my room and sound system to begin width, the net improvements in sound quality from the treatment brought the listening experience to a level I could not have even imagined. The level of realism and emotional engagement it brought is simply breath taking. It truly must be listened to in order to “see” the difference.

You then realize that investing into a sound system can only go so far without proper positioning and room treatment, and that while people are usually happy to throw in lots of money in upgrading system components, the room is an absolute major contributor to the end result and is often left alone.

I believe the value of properly designed room treatment is largely underestimated, even by owners of hi-end audio stores and very expensive systems. People rely a lot on “conventional wisdom” and rules of thumb, which may not apply to a particular in a given situation.

 Bottom line, there is no denying that having a professionally performed room acoustical analysis and treatment design is a sizeable investment.  One that many would, like myself, certainly question the value prior to spending hard earned monies without knowing how it will truly benefit the end game.  

My opinion in retrospect is that anyone who is serious about getting a high end musical listening experience and planning to spend 10-15k$ or more on an audio system should seriously consider proper room treatment as part of a system’s upgrade path.

Looking back, I would say that it forms a major system upgrade, to the same level as upgrading speakers or amplifiers would, and is certainly more influential than source or cable upgrades. Once one is happy with their speakers, amplifier(s) and the room in which the system is located,  in my book it should fall next in line of the “major upgrades” a system should see.

I would like to thank Nyal for his very professional work and guidance. His experience and methodical approach allowed to bring my listening experience to a level I could not have imagined, while getting rid of the guesswork and black magic often surrounding room treatment and being a great learning experience at the same time. It was an Ear Opener.” 

Stephane Neron, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

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