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A long film about room acoustics

  • What is the most critical component in any loudspeaker system? It isn’t the loudspeakers. And it isn’t the electronics that feed them. It’s the room in which it all sits.

    Largely determined by a room’s dimensions, specific frequencies are boosted in some listening positions and sucked out in others. A room mode calculator will tell you your room’s problem frequencies. Alas, the science says these room modes are (almost) non-negotiable.

    At other, often higher frequencies, our brain will attempt to separate direct sound from its reflected cousins — from the walls, from the ceiling and from the floor. The harder the brain has to work, the less relaxing the listening experience and the more detail is obscured.

    In other words, between our loudspeakers and our ears sits the room. And the room is always messing up speaker sound. By how much? Berlin-based studio acoustician Jesco Lohan estimates loudspeaker listeners are hearing anything between 50% and 70% room. Listen to your own voice in a kitchen or bathroom for swift exemplification and then ponder the acoustic filter applied by your own listening room; and then how your room listening room filter might differ to the those applied by hotel rooms at audio shows demos.

    In the market for a new pair of loudspeakers? “Hold on”, says Lohan. “You probably haven’t heard your speakers reach their full potential”.

    Lohan’s extensive experience as an optimiser of studio sound across Europe and his ability to neatly articulate his findings makes him an ideal interview candidate to take us deeper into room acoustics and beyond the well-known fixes of thick rugs and curtains, shelves full of books/vinyl records and heavy-set furniture.

    What follows is a long video (37mins!) in which Lohan explains how the room can spoil the sound of a loudspeaker and what can be done to lessen its negative impact. I recommend watching the video twice, paying close attention to Lohan’s “3 Big Wins” as possible solutions to a problematic room. Because all listening rooms are problematic to some significant degree or other:

    Camera: John Darko | Editor: John Darko

    UPDATE Aug 28th: You can read ’10 ways to remove the room with EQ’ here.

    Further information: Acoustics Insider

    Written by John

    John currently lives in Berlin where he creates videos and podcasts for Darko.Audio. He has previously contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

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