Are we spending money in the right places?? (pro studio vs. HT comparison) - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 38 Old 05-07-2012, 03:08 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm curious to see what the community has to say about the following comparison between a pro-recording studio and a home theater setup.

I have a friend who is a professional audio engineer. He owns a recording studio, and produces music that is indistinguishable from top end commercial productions. I will also state that listening to music in his control room over the last several years has spoiled my ears, I have a hard time finding a home system that measures up to his playback quality. As I contemplate upgrades to my current system... I looked at his setup and noticed some big differences between where he has spent money vs what I would say is "traditional" in a home theater setup.

His speakers (monitors) are Behringher Truth monitors with built in amplifiers. They cost around $350 a piece. So that is a whopping $700 in amplification and speakers for stereo, expend that to $2100 for 5.1. As far as his high end "source" goes, its usually a just a standard CD/DVD-ROM drive on his PC or some sort of uncompressed audio file from his hard-drive (.WAV).

However, he DOES have several thousand dollars ($10k-$20k estimated) tied up in Digital to Analog Conversion (DAC) and pre-amp processing. He also has acoustic treatments on the walls and ceiling of his control room to prevent standing waves (probably a few hundred bucks). It is worth noting his studio is in a converted house, so his control room was not purpose built from the ground up.

This seems in conflict with what most HT experts recommend. Generally speaking, high end systems spend a high percentage of the HT budget on speakers and amplification. Some spend extra on the source as well. However, the consensus here seems to be that "all modern DACs are the same", and if you want better sound, get better speakers.

Am I missing something? Should we be spending less on amplification and speakers and more on processing and room treatments?

Curious to hear what the community has to say.
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post #2 of 38 Old 05-07-2012, 03:15 PM
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He needs expensive DACs because he is mastering. So yes his goals are different, therefore where he puts his money will be different.
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post #3 of 38 Old 05-07-2012, 03:17 PM
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Room treatments play a major role as well as the speakers its the end results your ears can actually hear.
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post #4 of 38 Old 05-07-2012, 03:35 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by mcsoul View Post

He needs expensive DACs because he is mastering. So yes his goals are different, therefore where he puts his money will be different.

I agree that is true... but still, his amplification/speaker budget is pretty modest by HT standards.
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post #5 of 38 Old 05-07-2012, 03:39 PM
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This post may interest you. It deviates from time to time, and there are certainly moments of passionate debate, but worth a read.

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post #6 of 38 Old 05-07-2012, 03:56 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Nethawk View Post

This post may interest you. It deviates from time to time, and there are certainly moments of passionate debate, but worth a read.

Very good post... thanks!
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post #7 of 38 Old 05-07-2012, 04:17 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by oztech View Post

Room treatments play a major role as well as the speakers its the end results your ears can actually hear.

I will say that sitting in his control room has me thinking room treatment. His speakers are pretty modest (price wise). They are near field, and studio monitors are not designed to have good off axis response, but still, those things sound I N C R E D I B L E. Im just trying to figure out WHY it sounds so good... is it the monitors, the treated room, or the big $$$$ processing?
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post #8 of 38 Old 05-07-2012, 04:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ptsawyer View Post

I will say that sitting in his control room has me thinking room treatment. His speakers are pretty modest (price wise). They are near field, and studio monitors are not designed to have good off axis response, but still, those things sound I N C R E D I B L E. Im just trying to figure out WHY it sounds so good... is it the monitors, the treated room, or the big $$$$ processing?

Behringers do not have the best reputation, but you are hearing speakers setup perfectly in the best environment possible. Everything sort of comes together perfectly. There's plenty of ther monitors out there that sound even better, but will cost you more money. Room treatments work very well. So if you can get away with it without the wife nagging, it will save you thousands of dollars.

A lot comes from his post processing through those expensive dacs/clocks he is using. I am definitely moving to an apogee ensemble for my home recording studio sometime next year. Source and speakers are critical for listening euphoria.
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post #9 of 38 Old 05-07-2012, 04:47 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Venomous View Post

Behringers do not have the best reputation, but you are hearing speakers setup perfectly in the best environment possible. Everything sort of comes together perfectly. There's plenty of ther monitors out there that sound even better, but will cost you more money. Room treatments work very well. So if you can get away with it without the wife nagging, it will save you thousands of dollars.

A lot comes from his post processing through those expensive dacs/clocks he is using. I am definitely moving to an apogee ensemble for my home recording studio sometime next year. Source and speakers are critical for listening euphoria.

CORRECTION: His current monitors are actually Mackie HR824. So around $700 each... that changes the equation a bit...
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post #10 of 38 Old 05-07-2012, 04:59 PM
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Originally Posted by ptsawyer View Post

CORRECTION: His current monitors are actually Mackie HR824. So around $700 each... that changes the equation a bit...

Well, yes it does lol.
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post #11 of 38 Old 05-07-2012, 05:06 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Venomous View Post

Well, yes it does lol.


Definately... my bad. Guess I cant keep up with all of his upgrades.

But still, at $700 per speaker, his stereo setup still has $1400 worth of speakers, and 10x that in processing.
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post #12 of 38 Old 05-07-2012, 05:15 PM
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Properly setup and in a treated room goes a long long way. You could get some amazing speakers but if they aren't setup correctly in a crappy room you aren't going to get good sound.
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post #13 of 38 Old 05-08-2012, 06:34 PM - Thread Starter
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Just wanted to bump this thread once... to see if I get any more responses. Let me boil the question down a little further:

In the "pro audio" world, there is a definite tendency to spend big dollars on processing, with media players, amplification, and even transducers (speakers) being viewed as much less important.

More specifically, in the professional mixing/mastering rooms I have seen:

Processing is king, followed by having a properly treated room, then the speakers, then everything else. Thoughts?
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post #14 of 38 Old 05-08-2012, 10:00 PM
 
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Since I do this for a living I'll chime in. The room is 1st, equipment can't change physics. Take the best equipment in the world and put it in a racquetball court and it will still sound terrible. EQ, DACs, AMPs, Processors, etc. can't change how sound is going to bounce around the room. This isn't to say the other stuff isn't important, it is. But, as long as you have decent quality gear the room will be the biggest influence in the sound.

You are incorrect about studio monitors and off axis response. Most of the better studio monitors have excellent off axis response. Genelec 8260s being the best speaker I've measured either pro, audiophile, or HT. Harman, Genelec and others have done some excellent research on speakers and off axis response and how it relates to quality of sound perception. The pro world I feel has led the way in this area. However many of these companies are players in both markets.

Active speakers have a lot of advantages over passive ones and there is nothing wrong with using them in the HT environment. The disadvantage to active speakers is wiring. You have to get a signal wire and power to each speaker.

From research we know that the people prefer speakers that have a flat frequency response both on and off axis. Depending on the off axis response of a speaker will help determine where that speaker and acoustic treatments are best placed within a room.

As far as studio vs. HT there are some room differences typically. Many studios are more 'dead' than typical HT. Studies have shown that people prefer a slightly more lively but not overly reverberant room. Even recording engineers studied have preferred listening to a room with more reverberation when listening for pleasure. However, prefer a more 'dead' room for trying to pick up details of the material while working.

These are big generalizations though. There are over 100,000 recording studios worldwide and they vary greatly in their set ups and room acoustics. This is one reason with music it is often difficult to hear exactly what the artist intended as we don't know the environment it was mixed and there is no standard for recording studios.

By contrast there is a standard for movies and most movies the final mix is done in a dubbing stage. A dubbing stage is a theater with a mixing console in the middle of it, it is NOT in a small space like a recording studio. This is where the final mix of a movie is put together. There are only about 20 dubbing stages worldwide which most of the big movies final mix are created. These are very similar acoustically as they follow standards. If you can create your HT to replicate the acoustics of these dubbing stages, you will hear it how the material as intended.

Processors in the recording environment are huge. However, it is not processing like we think of it in the home. At home we think EQ like Audyssey and maybe some DSP programs like Pro-logic. Processing in the pro world is about altering the recording with reverb, exciters, compressors, limiters, EQ, other effects, etc. Although room EQ may play a role it is not what I think of when someone talks about processing in a studio. Cheaping out on these components will not make the best recordings and there is a lot of keeping up with the latest and greatest in the processing arena.
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post #15 of 38 Old 05-09-2012, 02:49 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BobL View Post

Since I do this for a living I'll chime in. The room is 1st, equipment can't change physics. Take the best equipment in the world and put it in a racquetball court and it will still sound terrible. EQ, DACs, AMPs, Processors, etc. can't change how sound is going to bounce around the room. This isn't to say the other stuff isn't important, it is. But, as long as you have decent quality gear the room will be the biggest influence in the sound.

You are incorrect about studio monitors and off axis response. Most of the better studio monitors have excellent off axis response. Genelec 8260s being the best speaker I've measured either pro, audiophile, or HT. Harman, Genelec and others have done some excellent research on speakers and off axis response and how it relates to quality of sound perception. The pro world I feel has led the way in this area. However many of these companies are players in both markets.

Active speakers have a lot of advantages over passive ones and there is nothing wrong with using them in the HT environment. The disadvantage to active speakers is wiring. You have to get a signal wire and power to each speaker.

From research we know that the people prefer speakers that have a flat frequency response both on and off axis. Depending on the off axis response of a speaker will help determine where that speaker and acoustic treatments are best placed within a room.

As far as studio vs. HT there are some room differences typically. Many studios are more 'dead' than typical HT. Studies have shown that people prefer a slightly more lively but not overly reverberant room. Even recording engineers studied have preferred listening to a room with more reverberation when listening for pleasure. However, prefer a more 'dead' room for trying to pick up details of the material while working.

These are big generalizations though. There are over 100,000 recording studios worldwide and they vary greatly in their set ups and room acoustics. This is one reason with music it is often difficult to hear exactly what the artist intended as we don't know the environment it was mixed and there is no standard for recording studios.

By contrast there is a standard for movies and most movies the final mix is done in a dubbing stage. A dubbing stage is a theater with a mixing console in the middle of it, it is NOT in a small space like a recording studio. This is where the final mix of a movie is put together. There are only about 20 dubbing stages worldwide which most of the big movies final mix are created. These are very similar acoustically as they follow standards. If you can create your HT to replicate the acoustics of these dubbing stages, you will hear it how the material as intended.

Processors in the recording environment are huge. However, it is not processing like we think of it in the home. At home we think EQ like Audyssey and maybe some DSP programs like Pro-logic. Processing in the pro world is about altering the recording with reverb, exciters, compressors, limiters, EQ, other effects, etc. Although room EQ may play a role it is not what I think of when someone talks about processing in a studio. Cheaping out on these components will not make the best recordings and there is a lot of keeping up with the latest and greatest in the processing arena.

GREAT response. I really appreciate you taking the time. Thanks!

I fully understand what you mean about processors in a studio vs processors in home theater.

However in addition to effects processors, compression, etc, it is my understanding that pro-studios spend a good deal of money on DAC and ADC. In home theater, it seems like the general opinion is "all DACs are the same". Any additional thoughts?

Thanks again!!
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post #16 of 38 Old 05-09-2012, 04:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ptsawyer View Post

GREAT response. I really appreciate you taking the time. Thanks!

I fully understand what you mean about processors in a studio vs processors in home theater.

However in addition to effects processors, compression, etc, it is my understanding that pro-studios spend a good deal of money on DAC and ADC. In home theater, it seems like the general opinion is "all DACs are the same". Any additional thoughts?

Thanks again!!

I think it's all a matter of need - in recording/production those components are doing more than just playback. Like Bob said.

A lot of commonalities can be drawn from your experience - a properly treated room with properly matched speakers produces a quality sound. The equipment that "feeds" this is tailored to the specific demands of the user; your friend needs to produce music, but it sounds like you only need to play it back. Your needs are very different.


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post #17 of 38 Old 05-09-2012, 05:05 PM
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I had an exchange with a couple of my friends in the music business, they confirmed what Bob said. Indeed, I was a bit surprised at their comments - one told me that with a properly treated room even bad speakers sounded better. Both had room and speakers as top priority, in that order.

What I don't particularly understand is the need for ultra high-end room treatment in nearfield applications given that the listener is sitting 3 ft. or so from the speakers. Wouldn't the sound be reaching your ears before any room reflections come into the equation sufficiently enough to degrade sound quality? I know that in my office there is a big difference between sitting and walking around (neither bad, but definitely a significant change).

Nice conversation, I've learned a bit more.

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post #18 of 38 Old 05-09-2012, 05:14 PM
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"From research we know that the people prefer speakers that have a flat frequency response both on and off axis. Depending on the off axis response of a speaker will help determine where that speaker and acoustic treatments are best placed within a room. "

Most good speakers have smoothly falling off-axis response. Flat off axis will sound overly bright.
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post #19 of 38 Old 05-09-2012, 05:17 PM
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It does hit your ears before it reflects off the wall then it reflects off the wall and hits your ears again. If I had the witheral there'd definitely by a dedicated listening room / hme theater in my house but I don't so we have a family room with hard surfaces and aesthetic things that aren't accoustic things. I am positive that accoustic treatments would never look good to my wife so I live with decent but not utterly fantastic audio that is still better than that emminating from the speakers in the TV.

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post #20 of 38 Old 05-09-2012, 05:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nethawk View Post

What I don't particularly understand is the need for ultra high-end room treatment in nearfield applications given that the listener is sitting 3 ft. or so from the speakers. Wouldn't the sound be reaching your ears before any room reflections come into the equation sufficiently enough to degrade sound quality? I know that in my office there is a big difference between sitting and walking around (neither bad, but definitely a significant change).

Nice conversation, I've learned a bit more.

Yeah, but it's still going everywhere else. To use a really flawed analogy:

Ever played with a fire hose?

Sure, the water hits whatever you're aiming at "first" but ultimately everything in a very LARGE pattern in front of (and behind, and beneath, and around, and near any fittings, and so on) will get drenched too.


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post #21 of 38 Old 05-09-2012, 05:25 PM
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I'm also sure a studio where they mix the latest sci-fi movies in DTS-HD will look a little different from your friends' music home studio.
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post #22 of 38 Old 05-09-2012, 05:27 PM - Thread Starter
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This thread is making me look at room treatments before any other upgrades....

The best thing about room treatments is they are compatible with all of your future equipment (other than a new room)
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post #23 of 38 Old 05-09-2012, 05:41 PM
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They aren't compatible at my house but that's okay. Like I said if I had the means there'd be a whole room dedicated to it. Being in Cali there's no basement to convert unless I were to dig out the subfloor and that's not going to happen.

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post #24 of 38 Old 05-09-2012, 05:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ptsawyer View Post

I will say that sitting in his control room has me thinking room treatment. His speakers are pretty modest (price wise). They are near field, and studio monitors are not designed to have good off axis response, but still, those things sound I N C R E D I B L E. Im just trying to figure out WHY it sounds so good... is it the monitors, the treated room, or the big $$$$ processing?

Right there is one of your answers. His speakers are used near field. Also he probably is not hitting the peaks that we see in HT.

Added
As others have said treating the room has a huge benefit. For music, I think people prefer the room to have a little liveliness to it. For HT I think the room should be a little bit on the dead side so that the room is not shaping the sound as much.

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post #25 of 38 Old 05-09-2012, 06:18 PM
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This thread is making me look at room treatments before any other upgrades....

I was amazed how far a little treatment can go. I did the clap test way back when and my room sounded worse than this library. After I installed the four panels (rather dated image) it sounded very close to their after...


LL

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post #26 of 38 Old 05-10-2012, 11:14 AM
 
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Thoughts on DACs and ADCs and quality of them. In the recording studio you want higher capability DAC/ADCs for mastering. The recodring industry has been ahead of the consumer industry for sometime. They have been using at least 20-24 bit depth with 192/384 sampling while we were still stuck with CDs and DVDs. Whenever you are converting between a master and another format it is typically better to start with higher bits and sampling.

The quality of the DAC/ADCs themselves have greatly imoproved over the years and the cost has come way down. There are still some dirt cheap ones that don't have great performance. But the difference between a decent one and a high end is not great today. The law of dimishing return definitely applies.

However, while these devices have improved the analog components often have not. Many discuss which DAC/ADC is best but rarely talk about the quality of the analog components that accompany these. The analog components have not gotten cheaper. Good op-amps, caps, etc, often have a greater impact on sound quality then the difference between a good DAC/ADC and a high end one. A good DAC/ADC with great analog compoinents and design will easily out perform a top of the line DAC/ADC with a run of the mill analog section.

With DAC/ADCs we need to look at the overall product and not just focus on which DAC/ADC is better.
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post #27 of 38 Old 05-10-2012, 11:29 AM
 
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A note about acoustic treatments and aesthetics. Acoustic treamtments don't have to be panels on the wall. With treating a room you have to decide what type of treatment will work such as diffusion, absorption or nothing at all. Not all reflections are bad and need to be treated. Everyday rooms can have great sound. Here are some things we have used in rooms.

Absorption.

Acoustic panels. I know DUH. But these can come in many shapes and sizes and don't have to be foam or fabric covered fiberglass. You can get prints made on these fabrics and frame the panel. Now you have something that looks like a painting or something personal like pictures of your family. These usually meet the spouse acdeptance factor and help your room.

Tapestries on the wall.
Drapes.
Bear rug. We have used a polar bear hide on the wall.
Quilting.
Etc.

Diffusion:

Book cases with odd sized books in them.
Knick kack shelves.
Many decorative things like things that are half cylindrical in shape mounted on the wall.
Sconces.
Etc.

If you have a lot of hard surfaces it does help to get some absorption in the room to at least help with some of the reverberation. Be creative, good acoustics and aesthetics can go together.
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post #28 of 38 Old 05-10-2012, 11:33 AM
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Diffusion:

Book cases with odd sized books in them.

That was a thread a while ago where a guy had a book-case designed that doubled as a QRD. No idea what it cost, but it looked very dapper once installed.

I agree that treatment doesn't have to mean "padded cell" with the pink stuff on every surface and respirators handed out at the door.


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post #29 of 38 Old 05-10-2012, 02:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles R View Post

I was amazed how far a little treatment can go. I did the clap test way back when and my room sounded worse than this library. After I installed the four panels (rather dated image) it sounded very close to their after...

Wow, that's a great looking theater you have there! Do you have a thread in one of the other forums where I can see more pics?



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post #30 of 38 Old 05-10-2012, 02:43 PM
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Originally Posted by BobL View Post

A note about acoustic treatments and aesthetics. Acoustic treamtments don't have to be panels on the wall. With treating a room you have to decide what type of treatment will work such as diffusion, absorption or nothing at all. Not all reflections are bad and need to be treated. Everyday rooms can have great sound. Here are some things we have used in rooms.

Absorption.

Acoustic panels. I know DUH. But these can come in many shapes and sizes and don't have to be foam or fabric covered fiberglass. You can get prints made on these fabrics and frame the panel. Now you have something that looks like a painting or something personal like pictures of your family. These usually meet the spouse acdeptance factor and help your room.

Tapestries on the wall.
Drapes.
Bear rug. We have used a polar bear hide on the wall.
Quilting.
Etc.

Diffusion:

Book cases with odd sized books in them.
Knick kack shelves.
Many decorative things like things that are half cylindrical in shape mounted on the wall.
Sconces.
Etc.

If you have a lot of hard surfaces it does help to get some absorption in the room to at least help with some of the reverberation. Be creative, good acoustics and aesthetics can go together.

Nice post.

The artwork is all hard ~glass and wood or metal frames. Maybe these could be swapped with some of the prints on canvas without frames that she has in another location.

There's a half cylindrical over-sized plate/bowl mounted on the wall directly over the TV but maybe it is the wrong way as it is concave towards the room.

The bookshelves are to the right/left of the right/left channels and built into the wall with different things on them.

There's several blankets normally kept in a basket next to the coffee table (which is a shipping trunk actually) and many pillows of varying sizes.

The floor is wall to wall carpet but the walls and ceiling are plaster and paneling. The windows have wood blinds and no curtains or other treatment. Hanging a bear rug will not work but I could coax her into tapastries. Next time we're in an antique shop we'll have to look.

All is not lost!

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