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chrispenycate 29th September 2006 10:03 AM

Improving room acoustics
I read all these people improving amplifiers, louspeakers cabinets, and yes, it's all positive, and every improvement is a step in the right direction, but no-one seems to have gone the route that if the room sounds bad, the sytem does too (well, that's true for any element in the chain, but you seem to be attacking most of the others) And room acoustics lends itself to diy, without the need for enormous expense. Sure, it's nice to have a pink noise generator, a calibrated microphone and an audio analizer, but that's for steady state measurements anyway, and a lot of the worst problems are transient related. Suplementary to the (relatively) straghtforward physical problems, we get some socilogical ones, and the first of these is WAF, wife acceptance factor. Essentially, this is a major influence in the slowness in the invasion of home surround sound systems; she who must be obeyed cannot tolerate two more big, ugly boxes in the living room (Yes, I know they're beautiful; but I've never been married) Relatively few households can have a room dedicated to listening to music (and maybe projecting films), so the audio system is forced to coexist with other, less critical functions like dining, or raising children.
Usual problems (roughly in order of annoyance): rattles and buzzes, flutter echoes, "hot spots" at particular frequencies and standing waves.
To solve rattles, buzzes and resonant decay is relatively easy once you've localised the guilty
objects; just remember that supergluing the ornaments onto the mantlepiece which starts to vibrate at 80 Hz is generally not acceptble. For finding the offending loose bits our first project (if you're in any way electronically inclined) is a sweep frequency sine wave generator; Wien bridge, function generator, even a VCO chip for an analog synthesiser, we're not trying for utra-low distortion, just a nice big knob, and limited, overlapping ranges so as to be able to zero in on critical frequencies. The rest you already have; a loudspeaker system, amplification. No need to get rid of problems your present system can't generate (although occasionally the problems of panel resonance and grill cloth flap in the speakers themselves shown up by this technique can eclipse the room work)
I've been accused of having a gaffa tape mentality, and admit that many of the solutions to these problems fall into this region; silicone bathroom sealant and small bits of rubber, felt or cardboard jammed into cracks feature heavily in the process.
Listening to music (unless you're a fan of pipe organs) most of these problems would have been masked, but listening to music afterwards the lack of all that extraneous information opens up and clarifies the sound; after all, those suplementary frequencies are essentially distortion, and not in the fractional percentages, either.
That's already far too big for a post; it's a ruddy lecture. If there's the slightest interest I'll get on to absorbtion and diffusion later.

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