To follow up on my previous post about the basics of room setup I would like to talk about room treatment.
Room treatment is the process in controlling audio reflections. It is not necessarily removing them all together but simply making them work for you. We are not after an anechoic chamber after all. There are a lot of different levels to this process and how far you take it will depend on budget, audio goals as well as appearance. If the room is dedicated to music listening then going all out may not be a problem, however if you use your living room as a listening space fully treating it may not be an option.
I personally recommend at least treating for the first order reflection. I used DIY sound panels. You can easily make your own. I built my own and they work wonderfully. There are tons of how to’s on this all over so i won’t get too much into that.
Once you have your panels either built or purchased you need to position them. This part can be done a couple of different ways. One way is to use a mirror, another is to calculate the location using formulas you can find online or room simulators.
I used the mirror method as it is simple and does work. This will require a second person as well as your mirror. First make sure your speakers are positioned per the previous post, then you will sit in your normal listening position. You should be as central to the speakers as you can be. Next your assistant will hold the mirror against one of the side walls and move it closer to the speaker, when you can see the face of the speaker this is where your first order reflections are. This is where you will want to center your panel. Complete the process on the opposite side as well.
If you have the ability to progress your treatment the next step will be the corners of the room. You will want to install bass traps in all of the corners of the room. The corners effect low frequencies much more than high frequencies. The best way to do this is usually to purchase premade corner traps as making your own may not save much as the materials alone can be costly. Optimally you will run the bass traps along the corners in the ceiling, as well as down the walls. That reason alone is why many people skip the process in a multi use room as they are usually not the prettiest thing to look at. In a dedicated room however this can be the difference between good sound and incredible sounds. How far you take this step in treatment can also be influenced by the speakers you use as well. If you listen to a pair of bookshelf speakers such as my Martin Logans you may not see a justifiable return as compared to listening to a set of much larger speakers that produce far more bass.
The next step in treating a room is the rear wall, or the wall behind your ears. Most setups I have seen use a dispersion method rather than a trap. This can be an expensive method as it usually will require building a dispersion wall in front of the existing drywall or plaster. There are a million designs out there that you can try out, however a simple method that is less intrusive is to use a type of 3d wall covering such as the foam pyramid shaped panels that stick to the wall. The effectiveness will again depend on how much sound your speakers produce, the larger and higher DB they are the more you will likely have to invest in treating your room.
Finally and this seems to be the last on many peoples list is the floor and more so the ceiling. Every surface is a source of coloring the sound and reflections. For your floor if you have a hard surface such as wood or tile a large area rug will be your best approach. This is just as good a recommendation even if you have carpet as a heavy rug will help deaden the floor. For the ceiling most people will use the same type sound panels as used on the walls placing them using the same method as the walls.
If this all seems daunting I understand when I first started researching this I was blown away by the amount of information out there. Not only is there a ton of information out there, but it seems a lot of it is somewhat subjective to each listener, which in turn means plenty of arguments over every aspect of it on the web. If you are not quite ready to take the plunge into adding room treatments, consider removing some.
Removing items from a room that hurt your sound quality is free and takes no time at all to test out. Something like a large glass coffee table or a huge framed photo over the couch is extremely reflective (glass is the enemy of listing rooms generally).Try removing these items and listening to the room, you may notice drastic changes without spending a dime.
Once you are satisfied with the over all sound you can now sit back and listen to beautiful music of your choice. It is however worth mentioning, that with certain equipment changes, mainly speakers, you may have to make adjustments to your treatments.
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