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Two channel music is lackluster in my dedicated room?

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
I'm zero-ing in on the probably that I haven't found the right speakers for my music listening in my theater room:


but perhaps that's not the cause/solution?

As you can see from that thread, and my construction thread, the room is actually treated a lot more like a dedicated two-channel room than like a theater room. First reflection points are treated but I didn't kill the front wall, nor run absorption through the room to ear height, etc etc.

In addition to the specs in the thread referenced above, I should mention that I am not using anything special for speaker cable -- just Belden 12 gauge speaker cable.

But again with all of these factors, the fact that some speakers already sound better than others leads me to believe that is the weak link right now.

Or am I chasing the wrong dragon?
post #2 of 18
You should consider absorption too; you can experiment with several rolls of fiberglass placed in some of the corners. Making it pretty is another matter. Adding more diffusion will also help, particularly at reflection points and the back wall. And get a retractable screen to avoid reflections; I have noticed Rives often uses a curved acoustic reflector behind speakers in some of their installs. You might want to call Rives and discuss a consultation.

Your room is a bit narrow so you need a speaker with good frequency response off axis. Stereophile usually comments on this aspect of a loudspeaker's performance. You may also try placing speakers on the long wall but will probably end up sitting too close to the speakers and/or have them too close to the back wall. I say this because I have a narrow room (11.5 feet) and its a definite problem (fortunately temporary).

You may also want to experiment with pre amps and sources- looks like that may be the weakest link in your system (from the standpoint of analog output stages) outside of the room.

Speakers- I like what I have heard from Usher (although limited) and think that might be a good path. A pair of used revel Studio/Salons might also be a good fit too. There is an older Theil speaker (before the coax driver) that is allegedly very accurate but needs lots of power. I have heard some nice Thiel set-ups using the more recent speakers. And I heard the sophia in a 300k+ demo room and it sounded great. i'm using the Infinity MTS and its well engineered and accurate- but I'll probably upgrade in a few years.

Finally, read this thread- Zissou has really done his homework:

post #3 of 18
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the ideas.

I probably should have made it more clear: I've got 2 inch fiberglass at the sidewall and rear wall reflection points, and bass trapping in the front and back of the room.

I have swapped out the Integra/Onkyo (which is mediocre as an analog pre-amp, but pretty good as a digital pre-amp -- even on the Stereophile Recommended Components list in the most recent incarnation) with the Audio Refinement (the one suggested in Zissou's thread) fed by a Denon 3910 -- and while it IS a great combo (and was what I was using with the Maggies in my old room) it didn't ameliorate my feeling that the cheapest speakers I have auditioned in the new room also had the best soundstage.

I haven't yet experimented with diffusion, and the front screen wall could be a problem....

I'm wondering whether a REALLY THICK/HEAVY curtain, pulled across the screen but with lots of folds, might effectively act as a front wall diffuser.

The other silly idea I've thought of is a piece of corrugated steel (actually I'd buy a plastic one) that I could use to cover the screen when listening to music.

post #4 of 18
What is lacking in the sound that you are seeking to improve?
post #5 of 18
Thread Starter 
Primarily, sound stage depth. I wouldn't mind an increase in soundstage width and height as well. But the depth is really what gets me going -- into the space in which the music was recorded.
post #6 of 18
I would remove the glass from the first reflection points. For 2 channel, you want dispersion, not absorption there. Not sure what frequencies are attenuated by 2" but it's going to be a specific range and likely one "bad" for stereo imaging. Might b killing the ambience and naturalness. For 5 or 7 channel, the rooms can be pretty "dead" and the approach works well. But channel doesn't do well in predominantly dead rooms. This is a conundrum if you want to serve both 2 Ch and 5/7 Ch.
I bias my system towards 2 channel. And I would probably invest in a killer center before sacrificing the RT 60 time required by stereo but killed with a "dead" room w/ uniform/heavy absorption.

Go look at those Rives rooms - they have pictures on their website; you can learn a lot from just looking at them. Give them a call- the prices are pretty resonable and they really know what they are doing. You can't see the absorption/resonance control for modes under 2-3 hundred hertz- the fiberglass rolls are a cheap way to experiment here. But you can see the methods they employ to optimize 2 Ch. Diffusion at the back; reflector behind speakers that are generously offset from the front wall. Cloud or tray diffusors strategically located w/ built-in absorption for specific purposes

Anyway, I ramble. Pull those glass panels off the walls and stick some RPG diffusers there (or book cases). Put some diffusers above your listening position too. Put some book cases in the back of the room and fill them with books. Buy the fiberglass rolls and figure out where they work the best for those monster VTf3's. Then figure out how to make them pretty.

post #7 of 18
Generally the best way to get soundstage depth is to pull the speakers out as far as possible from the wall. You need that delay time to create the sense of depth.
post #8 of 18
Thread Starter 
I like the idea of damping first reflection points with cone speakers since the image specificity gets muddy with side wall reflections, with my ears. But more diffusion, especially above and behind the speakers might work well. I need to figure out how to do that. I like the Rives' setups I have seen.

Luckily I can pull the speakers out from the front wall as much as 30 inches or more. The problem is the side walls: If the speaker height with stand is over 26 inches, it needs to sit within a foot of the side walls, in order to not block the screen.... and it is then also spaced at a 30 degree angle, which I'm finding most speakers have trouble with (they want to be closer together even though 30 degrees is the classic angle).

If I find some speakers that are short enough (ie, monitors on stands) that don't exceed 26 inches in height, I will not only have 3 feet of distance from the front screen wall to play with, but can also move them as far from the side walls as I like, as well.

Note that in this picture you see Mackies on top of Subs. The subs are actually now in the back of the room, and while the Mackies were in use on stands of about the same height, I have swapped them out for B&W805s that sit further into the room, on the shorter stands. They sound good, but don't have the image depth I ultimately want.

post #9 of 18
You need to find the culprit first, then solve it. Bass traps, absorption etc. might be good, but might be bad as well. It is important to try everything you can to assess as cheaply and easily as possible to first improve your understanding of your room and to avoid useless spending.

First, try toeing your speakers out more than shown in the photos and note how that changes the image size.

Or it could be overall room dimensions. You could try one of the room modelling software packages like Cara to assess room dimensions but it sounds like you have good ears.

Try moving your speakers way out and in from the side walls to see what that does for 2-channel listening.

You might also try turning your room. I know you don't want to do that permanently, but get yourself some really long speaker wire and move speakers to the long wall and turn your chair temporarily just to learn how the sound changes.

Try walking around your room clapping, listening carefully for timbral or reflective problems that you hear while listening to music then try to listen to where those come from.

Once you've figured out what the problem is, you can try to address it with the proper room treatment. Around here you'll get advice to put up lots of absorption which is home theatre advice, not 2-channel. Increased absorption will generally decrease image size for 2-channel listening, as you seem to already understand.
post #10 of 18
I agree w/ Harrypt except on the absorption- I mean absorption under 200 Hz and not broadband abssorption, which is generally bad for 2 Channel. I have a friend that implemented this LF absorption in their basement studio and the improvement was striking. He also added a homemade cloud diffusor above the listening position. He's running older, top notch equipment and his system has scary resolution. He has more overall room volume than you do but the dimensions are similar (long rectangle) and he has his speakers on the long wall. I think that's worth a try before doing anything else.

I don't agree w/ damping 1'st reflection points but if it sounds good to you, go for it. RPG makes a panel product that absorbs and diffuses and it might work here.

Those Hsu subs have impressive output- my brother has one. A small room like yours will have significant LF modes that probably need to be tamed. You should download the mode calculator available on Stereophile's (or Ultimate AV's site)

To do LF absorption correctly, you will need a PC, some measurement software, an audio interface and a Mic. And lots of time for trial and error. If you don't have this stuff call in one of the consultants.

post #11 of 18
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the ideas, guys. I've got some good bass trapping, but could probably use more.

I think I'll have to experiment with first reflection point treatment -- remove some of the absorption, figure out some diffusion to try, etc. I don't really want to buy any of the specialized bits, yet, so I'll need to get creative at Home Depot, for this experimental phase. If that turns out to be a solution, then I'll step up to something that looks nice, is scientifically more exact, and costs 5x the DIY price.

Regarding bass problems: Luckily, my room modes are pretty tame according to the calculators.


But you can see there is still room for improvement via broadband bass absorption.
post #12 of 18
Instead of getting all of this "advice" from people who may be or may not be in the know, talk to the people who do this every day - Ethan Winer at Real Traps, Glenn Kuras or Bryan (forgot last name) with GIK Acoustics, or the people at Rives.

All you are getting here is preferences and subjective opinions and not the real solution for your problems.
post #13 of 18
Thread Starter 
That's good advice.

Actually, I got a detailed consultation from the guys at GIK over the course of a few weeks including emails and phone consultations based on photos and drawings, and some from Ethan at Realtraps. I've had each of their products in the room -- and do now -- mostly according to their recommendations. (GIK recommended two more bass traps than I have right now and I'll add those eventually.)

I was thinking the Rives folks were too expensive for me, but may go that route, as well.

I've also had a local recording engineer consult on site. He's got golden ears, and has worked in or on many setups around the Bay Area.

Even so, I find the advice here useful, and compatible with what these other experts have suggested -- though with the obvious differences based on difference schools of thought about what is right (side reflection point absorption versus diffusion being one of the big debates in the industry right now -- and something I have gone back and forth with in various listening rooms of my own).
post #14 of 18

I would first make sure you have 30" open behind the speaker if you can, and at least 20" from the side wall. I would then point the speakers almost straight ahead. I would toe them in only as much as needed to get a voice int he middle of the stage, focused.

I would put the listening position at about the same distance from the front speakers, as the speakers are from each other.

This combo usually will provide a wide, deep soundstage. Deadening the front wall will help too with B&W 800 series speakers.

I have had several of the 700 and 800 speakers and this layout has worked well for me, especialy regarding the toe-in.

post #15 of 18
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the ideas. Any recommendation on height? I find the official B&W stands to place the tweeters about 6 inches above my ears. I have some other stands that are shorter and place them about 6 inches below my ears. I'm finding the soundstage is a little higher with the higher stands, but not significantly different on well recorded music.
post #16 of 18
I am not sure it is possible to turn a room like that into a really good stereo room - too narrow, and with extremely limited speaker placement options. Sorry, just MO.
post #17 of 18
Thread Starter 
It is a challenge, that's for sure. I think the dimensions are okay but when I add in the specifics wanting a particular size screen I may have painted myself into a corner.

Right now my plan is to pretend I have a 16:9 screen for a few days and see how I feel about that. That buys me an extra foot on each side of the screen to play with.
post #18 of 18
Thread Starter 
Although it is backwards (one should choose a chair, then speakers, then build the rest of the room around those options -- if possible) I may have backed in to a reasonable 2 channel setup via speaker selection.

Picked up some used Theil PCS over the weekend and they can handle the wide placement that my screen requires, and toe-in alleviates the side wall proximity issue (about 12 inches of space).

Obviously, a few weeks of listening will be needed to say I'm happy. But these are more promising that anything else so far. I also picked up a third, for a center, but need a lower stand to make that one work.

Of course, finding good matching surrounds may be tough. Two more PCS might work, but they are optimized for an 8 feet listening distance for time alignment -- and I have only 6 feet of distance to my side/surrounds. And if I ever go to a 6.1 or 7.1 setup, it would be similar for those (even worse for people in the second row).
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