Written by 4:13 am Room Acoustics

Buying a House for an Audio Room

Paul Wilson looks at the problems related to moving and how an audio system fits into the mix…

Most audiophiles would hardly disagree with the assertion that the room in which an audio system resides plays a major role in the system’s overall sound. We audiophiles will frequently, and painstakingly, research room treatments, and spend varying sums of money all in the eternal effort of converting a space not especially intended for a stereo to sound alarmingly magnificent. There are certain well known guidelines we typically follow – a less square, more rectangular room, the fewer windows the better, no dramatically vaulted ceilings, and of course, the debatable difference between carpet and hard floors like tile or wood. 

AR-Moving-Small-Format.jpgRoom treatments abound. Diffusers, reflectors, bass traps – some made from plastic, some from wood, some claiming to be Helmholtz Resonators. There are a growing number of companies that allow the listener to take photographs of their audio room, or wherever the system is located, then take specific, accurate measurements of the room and its contents, send them to the manufacturer and they will design and suggest the best room treatments to maximize sonic integrity. 

Unfortunately, life sometimes stumbles in the way and throws up road blocks like coffee tables, chairs, glass patio doors, framed art work with glass surfaces, and the myriad of other room problems plaguing sonic purity. I had all of these and more in my listening / great room in my townhouse. I also had a common wall with my neighbor and despite adherence of the local building code which calls for 2 – 2×4, sheetrock walls with an air gap in between, my common wall scenario essentially provided a veritable interstate highway for the transmission of low frequency sounds to disturb my neighbor. For these reasons and more I decided it was time to move. A home, however, is more than one room, it is a home. I could have barely envisioned the difficulty in finding the home that satisfies everything. 

It’s important to understand that home builders, unless constructing something specifically designed, do not build homes with a high performance audio system in mind. So the goal of the ideal audio room with everything else on the home buyers wish list is, to a certain degree, doomed from the start. Depending on how large a room one may desire could also mean a home that is substantially larger than really necessary. Oh, and let’s not forget that other little nagging detail – cost. 

AR-Buying-The-House.jpgI started several months ago using a couple of the popular home buying web sites. With these I found some interesting houses – but only a picture on a computer screen. Very quickly I realized I needed professional help. Well, the real estate agent kind of professional help. 

Conventional wisdom mandates that the average real estate agent is not really an audiophile. I had visions of some nice, polite lady looking at me as if I had lost my mind when I started spilling out terms like first reflections, bass suck out, standing waves, bright or laid back presentation, and so on.  Fortunately, at the suggestion of a friend, I was given the name of an agent who also happened to be an audiophile. I was all set to go. 

I realized my list of the specific things I wanted would be difficult. A room somewhere in the twenty-five to thirty feet long neighborhood and eighteen or so feet wide. I also wanted as few windows as possible, located on the ground floor, and with a mostly easily accessible path to the electrical panel for that dedicated, shielded, twenty-amp circuit(s) to power the system. Ceiling height needed to be between eight and ten feet. My goal was to have a room with only two things – my audio system and a listening chair. Maybe I’d put some fold out chairs in a closet for those occasions when someone came to hear my system. I would replace artwork with acoustical panels. Maybe, I told myself, I would allow the addition of a small table beside my listening chair to place a drink or the remote controls. My overall goal was an essentially minimalist room dedicated to audio purity. 

AR-For-Sale.jpgAfter many searches and a lot of looking I finally found a home that as closely as I could reasonably expect satisfied all my sonic goals. A twenty-six-foot-long room, sixteen feet wide, only three widows, nine-foot ceiling, carpeted, and while on the second floor, it is positioned above the garage where the electrical panels resides on the outside wall. So my intention of a dedicated AC line seems doable. Of course having a room this size makes the rest of the house much larger than I realistically need. My basic position on that is so what. I’ve been bumping into myself in a townhouse for longer than I wanted so having home in which I can move around will be quite welcomed. 

Having found my audio room in a house I wanted, located only fifteen minutes from my current home, at a price that didn’t make me go all bug-eyed meant that the next logical step in the process is actually buying the house, going through all the considerable hassle of the multitude of details involved with actually moving in, and of course, packing up that system. Oh, and who moves the silly thing? A few guys in a truck? No, I don’t think so. 

AR-Home-Building.jpgA friend asked me why I didn’t just build a home like I wanted or buy a home that was realistic for my needs and simply build my own audio room. Fair question. And the answer? I really didn’t want to micro manage a construction project. Especially at my age. I have other things, like work for instance, that requires a lot of my attention. Buying is enough of a challenge, building was, at least for me, out of the question. Not to mention the lack of available land in the areas in which I would want to live. 

So here I was, excited beyond measure to have found my new house, and I suddenly realized I had a very daunting task ahead of me. Moving. 

More on that next time. 

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