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massive 7th January 2003 07:59 PM

What is the influence of your listening room?
Do you remember the Confessions of a former driver designer ( Direct link )?


Here’s my quick-and-dirty list of things you can change in your system to make it sound different, and hopefully better, in relative order of how much those things will actually influence the sound:

1. Your listening room
2. Your crossover design and cabinetry
3. Your drivers
4. How much clean power you have available
5. Inductors (replacing ones that saturate with ones that don’t)
6. Signal sources, amps, preamps, D/As, etc.
7. Speaker stands
8. Capacitors
9. Cables

One of the things that became clear to me as I worked on audio systems was that items on the top of the list are difficult to change, require genuine insight into problems that most people haven’t studied, and are difficult to “sell” in the sense of swiping somebody’s American Express card and providing immediate gratification (with the notable exception of simply buying new speakers off the showroom floor).
I have been thinking about this a lot. It does make a lot of sense to me. I was wondering what people here would say. Does anybody agree fully, or not at all?

I'm very interested. Although i miss the psychological/esthetical aspect, which is considerable in my opinion.

Another interesting article by Steve Deckert at Decware


the Source is the most important part followed by everything that follows it and in that order. The only thing more important than the source is the room you play it in.

Another question about which I really like to hear your opinion is:
What is the ideal listening room?
Is it big, small, does it have carpet, or concrete? Does it have to have a certain ratio? Is it better to leave windows and doors open :geezer: ?

And at last: recently I saw a graph in the german DIY-magazine Klang&Ton about the speed of sound related to the temperature. (They were a bit cynical about time-alignment if I remember correctly) Nonetheless, temperature really is more significant than you might think, especially for cone-materials as aluminium or titanium. I don't know, but I really wouldn't be suprised if temperature made a bigger difference than the difference between ordinary or very, very (etc. )good interconnects, or voodoo-cables.

I consider myself an absolute beginner with no technical background. I am just curious what other people (you ;) ) would consider most important or irrelevant.

massive 7th January 2003 08:10 PM

Maybe too many questions at once. I want to keep it a broad discussion
Wait, I forgot a few other things that can make a lot of difference in my own experience:
- Mood
- Health (for example when I have a cold or the flu, the sound is much worse)

halojoy 7th January 2003 08:54 PM

Listening Room Influence
This is a subject that is very difficult.
And very much overlooked.
It shouldn't be!

You can alter the sound coming into your ears
very much more by moving some things around
in your listening room - than you ever can
by changing OPamps or Cables.

Turn the loudspeakers somewhat in angle, up/down/left/right
or move them some decimeters closer or out from the wall.

This is a subject that along with the loudspeakers
have the biggest potential to effect the sound
we listen to.

But to this subject, most of us are like ignorants.
Little do we know
and little can we say about it.

So I guess this thread will die,
and things go back to "normal".
Caps in the powersupply of Pass Amplifiers.
Should it be 10.000uF or 15.000uF :rolleyes: :rolleyes:

As if it matters.
Compared to the thickness of the carpets on your floor.

/halo - thinks it should be 12153,713uF Green Gate Electrolyt(wet) parallelled with a Blue Axial polypropylen 4453,6nF give or take 1.5nF.
How I know? Yes, that was the value that made the music sound the best when I did a serious listening test :cool: :D

Kanga 9th January 2003 09:39 PM

Before this subject dies a quick death...
Hi Massive

I agree that the listening room is one of the most important contributors to the sound you hear, and where you sit too. But as Halojoy says, its not something that most can get excited about like a new pair of expensive interconnects that you often have trouble hearing the difference from the old pair. My own speakers (AE1 mini monitors) can vary from sounding amazing to very ordinary, depending on the room and their placement.

Here are some general guidelines for what makes a good room and layout that I've gathered over time. It’s a very incomplete (but still long) list and I certainly don’t hold myself to be an expert here, so additions and corrections are welcome:

1. ROOM SIZE - this has a number of effects
a). The time that it takes sound to bounce off the walls and back to you (reverberance time). The larger the room the longer it will take for sound to bounce off a wall and back to you. The ear/brain will only distinguish sounds as being individual sounds if they are more than 30ms apart (the Haas effect). So a sound arriving directly to your ear from the speaker that is followed by a reflection off the wall within this critical time period will just appear as one somewhat smeared sound. To eliminate this problem some audiophiles put absorbent materials on the side walls and the ceiling to dampen these early reflections. Getting back to room size, the longer it takes for later reflected time to get back to you the more reverberant the room sounds. A church is an extreme example, where it can take seconds for the reflected sound (echos) to die away.
b). The sound power from the speakers that you need to get the same volume at the listening position. The larger the room the more power you will need.
c). Another effect of room size is on room gain. Room gain is a boost in low frequency sound caused by the room starting to act like a "pressure pot" once the size of the wavelength is large relative to the room. The corner frequency (ie where bass boost starts) is approximately equal to the frequency at which one half of the wavelength is equal to the longest dimension of the room. Smaller rooms will have the bass boost start at a higher frequency. For example, a room with a longest dimension of 10m will have a corner frequency of about 17 Hz. Below this frequency bass will be boosted at 12 dB/Octave, so at 8.5 Hz you will have a 12 dB boost.
d). Frequency at which standing waves occur. A smaller room will have standing waves occurring at higher frequencies, which may be more intrusive to the music. More about standing waves follows.

2. RATIO OF ROOM DIMENSIONS. The ratio of each of a rectangular room's dimensions (height, width and length) is often recommended to be the "golden ratio", or somewhere near. The golden ratio is about 1.618:1, so if your room height were 10m, then the width should be 16.2 and the length should be 26.2m. This is the same rule that is applied for the internal dimensions of rectangular loudspeakers. The reason for this rule is that it spreads out the frequency that standing waves occur in the room, so that you don't get very large peaks or troughs in sound levels at certain frequencies. The worst room is a cube, as standing waves will be generated from floor to ceiling, side wall to side wall, and front wall to back wall all at the same frequencies, which will cause massive peak or trough at these frequencies (depending on where you are sitting).
In practice there’s nothing sacred about this ratio, and you should be able to get good results with ratios around this 1.61 value, provided that you stay away from ratios that are obvious multiples of each other (eg 1:2).
A better room design still has non-parallel walls, as this inhibits formation of standing waves across opposite walls so that there aren’t sharp peaks and troughs in the frequency response. However having said this, it is best for a room to be symmetrical about the listening axis. That is, if you look down (plan view) at the room, yourself and the speakers, the whole thing should be symmetrical about a line between you and midway between the speakers. This will help maintain good imaging.

3. FURNISHINGS. The furnishings in a room will affect how much sound is reflected back to the listener and at what frequencies. This will obviously therefore affect the frequency response perceived by the listener, as well as the imaging, which can be damaged by bad reflections. In addition the construction of the walls and windows themselves will affect this too. A plaster on stud wall will reflect back much less bass than a brick or concrete wall, so the listener will hear less bass in such a room, and the neighbours will hear more.
The amount of furnishings will affect how live the room sounds - ie the time it takes for reflected sound to die away. A heavily furnished room will probably give good imaging, but may sound "dead". A live room (lots of reflections) will sound more exciting and possibly more realistic, due to more of the sound arriving to the listener from the sides and rear, which is what happens in a concert hall.
Its a good idea to put a rug on the floor between you and the speakers to avoid early reflections from the speakers hitting the floor and arriving at your ears just after the direct sound reaches them. Avoid putting a coffee table in this location, or if you have to, put things on it to avoid having a flat hard surface for sound to bounce off.
The listening chair can make a big difference to the sound you hear. Having a high back softly furnished chair can reduce sound quality – its best to have your head in free space. Stops you from falling asleep too.
I can't really give you specific suggestions on what flooring, curtains etc is suitable, but its easy enough to play around with, as a small amount of furnishings can make a big difference.

4. SPEAKER AND LISTENER PLACEMENT. This is a subject that could fill a book, but the first basic rule is that you and your speakers should all be at corners of an equilateral triangle. You can vary the size and location of this triangle within the room, however you should ideally be symmetrical within the room (see above). The distance from the back wall to the speakers is important. The best distance varies with the speakers and the room but generally you get better imaging if the speakers are further from the back wall. The other effect is on bass. As the speaker gets close to a surface lower frequencies get boosted, as the speaker radiates into a smaller volume. For example if a speaker is suspended in free space it radiates into the entire volume (called 4 pi) If it is then is brought close to an infinite plane (eg a floor), then at low frequencies it is acoustically close to the surface and radiates only into the reduced 1/2 space (called 2 pi). This produces a theoretical 6dB boost to frequencies at these low frequencies. In practice the boost will probably be smaller than this. The frequency at which the boost starts depends on the distance to the surface; the closer the distance the higher the frequency. My vague recollection is that boosting starts when the driver is within ¼ or 1/3 of the wavelength from the surface. Anybody want to fill in the exact details here? So if your woofer is 0.8m from the floor, then the boost from this surface will start at around 106 Hz to 141Hz.
The floor, rear wall and nearest side wall will all produce this boost effect (as well as other surfaces, but generally they are too far away to worry about). It is best to have the distances to each of these closest surfaces not being equal, so that the boost doesn't occur at one frequency, giving boomy bass. Alternatively if your speaker response falls off at say 12 dB/Oct, then you could try to partly counteract this by positioning the speakers the right distance from two nearby surfaces.
The other important effect is how the location of the speakers will affect generation of standing waves, and what kind of peaks or troughs you will get at the listening position. This mainly affects frequencies less than around 500 Hz. By careful positioning of the speakers and listener you can dramatically smooth the frequency response below 500 Hz.

There are computer programs around that can help find the best location for listener and speakers in your room, but you need to be fairly keen to do this. The ones I've heard of (but not used) are:
Visual Ears USD $89. Basic, and doesn't seemed to have been updated for a long time. Handles rectangular rooms only. There’s a demo version you can download.
CARA. Very sophisticated program that can handle irregular shaped rooms. Amazingly cheap at EUR45, or EUR69 with test CD and training software.
See reviews at and
Soundeasy is a loudspeaker design and measurement suite, but also does finite element room analysis, which allows for non-rectangular rooms to be analysed.

If you don’t want to go this far, then the Cardas method is quite good, is easy and doesn’t cost anything. See Room Setup at I used this in a previous house and got very good results, although the speakers ended up a long way from the back wall.

As for whether to have windows or doors open or not – that will affect the presence of standing waves and reverberation times. I don’t know what the effect will be but its an easy one to play with though – open and close and listen

Some good sites to look at with more information:


halojoy 9th January 2003 10:31 PM

Thanks Kanga - Hope many read this .....
Thanks Kanga
This could be a start of a very interesting discussion
where we could learn some new things
that Influence the sound in Magnitudes that are REALLY significant

Wonder why so much "good audio thinking" comes from Australia ... ;)
That you are playing cello and double bass (classical and jazz) doesn't make things worse.

:cool: Cello-players are in very close contact with the music :cool:
You know what I mean ...

We also have some very good Cello-musicians in both Sweden & Norway.
A fantastic instrument to listen to.

/halojoy - likes the vibrations of the cello ;)

Contemporary European Cello Music
Mats Rondin, cello (from Sweden)

A whole record with but a single cello?! Yes, but what a cellist! And what music!
Mats Rondin is one of those great musicians who has found his own voice in the
midst of the everyday buzz - and that he has something worth telling is obvious
from this record, brimful with some of the most significant works for solo cello to
have been produced by 20th century European composers such as the Frenchmen
Dutilleux and Jolivet, representing mysticism; Penderecki, curiosity; the Swedes
Carlstedt, Lidholm and Bäck, tradition coupled with progress.

Members of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra/Mats Rondin

Mats is a conductor, too


16. Got To Get You Into My Life
17. Eleanor Rigby
18. Penny Lane
Members of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra/Mats Rondin
DG 459 692-2

Kanga 10th January 2003 02:40 AM

Thanks for you encouragement HaloJoy

Can't say I've heard Mats Rondin, but I'll look out for him. If you like solo cello music, then I recommend Pieter Wispelwey playing the Britten solo cello suites. He's Dutch, but that's not too far from you. The music is not all thay approachable, but the way Wispelwey plays is incredible. Double stops that sound so in tune!

Normally I'm not that much into arrangements of Beatles music but Goran Sollscher does it really well.

Getting back to audio acoustics, I ran out of characters on my last post due to the 10,000 character limit. DIYaudio knows how to stop ramblers dead... Having had a good look at CARA it really looks terrific for the price and I'd like to buy it. Anyone actually used it?


halojoy 10th January 2003 03:37 AM

Another interesting article by Steve Deckert at Decware
the Source is the most important part followed by everything that follows it and in that order. The only thing more important than the source is the room you play it in.
Another question about which I really like to hear your opinion is:
What is the ideal listening room?
Is it big, small, does it have carpet, or concrete? Does it have to have a certain ratio? Is it better to leave windows and doors open ?

Sure is some good questions you put here.

Steve Deckert site was very good! ;)
My room (I have only one room & kitchen) is like 4x5 m.
It has a resonance frequence around 40 Hz.
I have tested with the sinusgenerator to the input of Power Amplifier.

As I only have 1 room, where all my stuff has to be,
I can not do much. Like removing things.
But of course it matters where I put the speakers.
And how high they are above floor.
And where I am listening from.

I am lazy, so I want to be able to lie on my bed
and listen. So I have chosen speaker position to fit that.

If you like solo cello music, then I recommend Pieter Wispelwey playing the Britten solo cello suites.

I will check out for something by Wispelwey.
He must be good if even australians knows about him. :cool:

What is CARA?


MRehorst 10th January 2003 03:49 AM

1. Your listening room
2. Your crossover design and cabinetry
3. Your drivers
4. How much clean power you have available
5. Inductors (replacing ones that saturate with ones that don’t)
6. Signal sources, amps, preamps, D/As, etc.
7. Speaker stands
8. Capacitors
9. Cables

You neglected the effect of alcohol and other substances. I'd put them up around #2 or #3.


Redeye 10th January 2003 07:38 AM

Just to throw a few techy points into the room acoustics bit.....

One pretty important thing for a listening room is to get close to a "diffuse field" - ie. one in which the sound intensity is equal in all directions at all points in the room (excuse me if that's not the exact definition - it's a while since i studied this stuff). That means fairly even absorption throughout the room, so no brick walls at one end and big curtains at the other. This validates the RT calculation (depending which method you use).

The BBC did lots of work in the 60's about studio design mostly, but also had bits about listening rooms and recommendations for RT and that sort of thing - it provides a really good basis for listening room design.

Another factor in general room acoustics which has quite a big effect on the listening experience is early reflections. This is one of the things I think contributes a lot to the Royal Festival Hall sounding so good. If you look at the stage, there are two big angled walls at the edge of the stage. These reflect the sound from the orchestra into the audience. These reflections will arrive very soon after the direct sound and hence tend to be percieved in a way which contributes to the spatial effect of the sound (the Haas effect if my memory serves correct) because the sound comes slightly from the side rather than directly from the source. This can be equally important in a home listening environment.

Anyway, I'd love to prattle on all day about this stuff 'cos it's something I've been interested in for a while, but I really should go and do some work :bawling: . I'll see if I can dig up some of that BBC stuff and post later today about things that help make an ideal listening room.

planet10 10th January 2003 08:59 AM


A very good post... something to cut & paste into the Wiki.

On the shape of the listening room... what you are looking for is non-integer ratios of dimensions. There are quite a few sets of irrational numbers that spread out the resonance modes well.

As to non-parallel walls, i heard an AES lecture where the fellow said that you can get most of the way there if you slope the roof in two directions. To get symmetry you could have a peaked roof with one end of the room shorter that the other end.


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