Originally Posted by citsur86
I've thought to do the blanket thing before too in the past, as I have reflective leather couches. I've even tried it and wound up with results that were improved when running REW sweeps vs not having the blankets. When I removed the blankets and re-did my sweeps, the REW sweeps produced results that were worse than when I just let Audyssey do it's thing with the couches uncovered. So, I arrived at the conclusion that if the blankets weren't always going to be there and I ran Audyssey with them in place, the EQ Audyssey creates in that case will be for an environment that won't really exist. I figured it would be better to let the reflections happen as they normally will, and let Audyssey do it's best to EQ based on that sound.
Is this thinking flawed? I'm not being sarcastic or challenging your recommendation at all. I am asking honestly as I would like to learn.
I think it's a very fair question. I don't believe that your thinking is flawed, but it is sometimes very hard to predict what will happen with respect to speaker and sub placement, room treatments, and with automated room EQ, until we actually try something. Your personal experience, in your room, trumps a theory of what might work best. That's why it is usually advisable to experiment with multiple scenarios, unless the first one we try just happens to nail it. I also think that our ears have to be the final arbiters of what sounds best with respect to both the use of room treatments and the application of room EQ.
I do think that there is a valid reason why putting a blanket over the back of a couch or chair, during calibration only, can work well. But, reasons aside, we still ultimately have to let our ears make the final determination. The Audyssey microphone is omnidirectional. If we get that microphone too close to a hard surface (such as a wall or the back of a leather chair) during the calibration process, the microphone may pick-up many secondary reflections from that hard surface. And, if it does, it may try to correct a non-existent problem in the higher frequencies. When that happened in my room, early in my calibration experiments, the result was a harsher sound in the high frequencies.
So, using a blanket over the back of the chair, during calibration, allows us to place the Audyssey microphone in closer proximity to where our ears will actually be. And, that has some benefit in my experience, and in the experience of a number of other Audyssey users. The alternative to using a blanket to prevent Audyssey from overreacting to the proximity of an omnidirectional mic to a hard surface is to stay further away from that surface. Audyssey recommends keeping the mic at least 12" from a hard surface during calibration, and 18" may be better. But, if we do that, we aren't focusing the timing and SPL exactly at the MLP, and we aren't EQing exactly where our ears are.
(As an aside, I should note that REW notwithstanding, we won't hear what the Audyssey microphone "hears". First, we will actually be sitting with our heads and bodies covering the surfaces that are reflecting high frequencies into the Audyssey mic. Second, the reflections from a couch back would be arriving so close in time to the direct sound that our ears and brains would not be able to distinguish a difference. But the Audyssey microphone would "hear" them all, and to the Audyssey software, it might seem as if too much were happening at those high frequencies, compared to the other frequencies. That could result in an attempt to get too busy at those high frequencies, causing unnecessary correction and concomitant harsh sounds. That's why Audyssey recommends keeping the mic away from hard surfaces during calibration.)
So, I think that there is something intrinsically different between the idea of using a blanket over a chair or couch back during calibration, in order to prevent spurious reflections at close range from tainting the calibration, and making more draconian changes to the listening area. In the case of the OP's question, I suggested trying a couple of different approaches to discover what actually works best, but I did like the idea of reclining the seats to allow better line-of sight for the Audyssey microphone. He was concerned, though, about spurious reflections, in that case. They would be spurious because the seats wouldn't actually be reclined during actual listening. So, the blanket idea might also work there. Or, it might not.
I have confidence in the idea of using a blanket over a leather chair back, during calibration, in order to get the Audyssey microphone closer to our actual listening position. The theory behind why it should work is solid, and Chris K. has endorsed it as a workable and appropriate method. But, even so, that doesn't mean it will work well in every case. And, as we go beyond that methodology to more general applications, such as covering coffee tables or outlying seats with blankets, we have even less solid theory to support the effort. But, with or without solid theory, what works best in actual practice will still be a matter of trial-and-error, and the results will probably vary based on both the room and on user preference.
I hope that this longer explanation of my personal thoughts on the subject are helpful. Ultimately, though, it's still one of those YMMV issues.