Written by 4:01 am Room Acoustics

Trust Your Ears

Paul Wilson learns to trust his own ears….

Moving into a new house is, aside from a heck of a lot of work, very much a learning experience. For me, it took a couple months and required finding out so many unknowns. For instance, in my previous residence, I basically knew where everything was. Ask me where to find most anything I owned and I could tell you the room, cabinet, drawer or closet where it might be found. 

AR-TrustYour EarsSmallFormat.jpgIn my new home, I spent several months learning where I put things, which light switch turned on which specific light, where things like the best dry cleaner was located and short cuts to help avoid traffic congestion. This learning process is not without frustrations, however. I’m still looking for a DVD player I’m absolutely sure I packed in a box, moved to my new home, unpacked out of the box, and put somewhere. So far, I have yet to find the stupid thing. One day, I have every confidence I’ll happen across where it is hiding. 

Musically, I had to get used to a whole range of different sonic flavors. When I put my system in my new audio room and turned it on for the first time, I was anything but impressed. My first thought was “Paulie ole boy, you’ve got a lot of work ahead of you.” Thus began a process the starting point being multiple speaker placements. To tell the truth, I was hoping to find that “just right” sound without the use of room treatments but realistically, I knew that was not likely. 

AR-AcousticalPanel.jpgIn my previous residence I had the benefit of consistency. I knew how the system would sound before playing any music. I knew the tonality and timber of analog and digital. Even though I knew the sonics in my previous residence were not perfect, I was really unable to do very much about them. My system was in the great room and that wouldn’t change. I had glass patio doors, framed artwork on the walls, chairs and a glass top coffee table between me and the speakers, and a room not adequately treated for sonic wonderment. Yet in spite of those detriments, I learned to accept the sonics my system rendered and that sonic presentation became the accepted norm. 

After much trial and error in my new house, I finally found the right place for my speakers. Next I had to accept that room treatments were an absolute must. So I contacted GIK Acoustics in Atlanta, and, even drove down to their office armed with an array of dimensional and technical information to familiarize them with my audio room. With GIK’s help, a room treatment plan was developed, I placed the order and in two weeks, fifteen cartons of acoustical panels arrived. Along with the panels from GIK, I also have twelve UEF Acoustical panels from Synergistic Research. All totaled, my listening room has forty-two panels that absorb, reflect, and a combination of both. Now I could sit back and enjoy. Still, I had my doubts about the sonics. 

AR-NordostQx4.jpgBecause I had made so many changes in my audio room at my new house I was never really able to develop a real frame of reference of sonic normality. Adding to all the positional and room changes, I upgraded my music server to a newer and better model. I also upgraded the main power cord from the wall outlet to the Nordost Qx4 Power Purifier that is first in line for electricity to my system. With so many changes, I found it really difficult to develop any sort of history with what I was hearing. It was the sonic equivalent of finding out which dry cleaner I liked best. 

As with most things, eventually, I reached a point of equilibrium. I moved the speakers ever so slightly to tighten up the imaging and given the KEF Blades uncanny ability for precise placement of instruments, I finally found the sonic picture that made me think, “OK, this is it, I’m good.” Or so I thought. 

Nagging me in the back of my mind was the continuing notion, “but this is different from the townhouse.” Yes, the sonics were different. Clearly. Were they, however, wrong? Was I not trusting what I knew to be correct just and only because I was comparing my new sonic picture to the accepted norm I developed at my townhouse? Was I making the musical comparison of thinking my old dry cleaner did things differently and therefore more correctly? 

AR-KEFBlade.jpgI called a friend whose ears I trust and asked him three questions. One – in my townhouse was the bass a little thin? Answer, “yes.” Were the mids pretty good? “Yes.” Were the highs a little bright and maybe forward? “Yes.” All of these were things, let’s not say suspected, I knew them to be the case, but I essentially chose to overlook them. When you listen to a system long enough, you learn to accept any flaws and soon enough, you don’t even notice them anymore. Because the audio room in my new home was, as far as I was concerned finished, I questioned the correctness of what I was hearing – because it was different than my townhouse. 

Now the bass is not only deep it is also powerful and articulate. The mids are much the way they were before, only now more a part of the overall presentation, and the highs are what they should have been all along. Cymbals crash with a long decay time and saxophones still have that razor sharp edge. What is missing, happily, is the sibilance or the “screechiness” that I had before and chose to ignore. 

In the end, I had to accept what my ears and brain were telling me. I knew my new sonic picture was painted with all the right colors but still I questioned myself. I let the sins of my past, if that is the proper description, beguile me into questioning what I knew to be correct. In the end, I saw the light. All it took was learning to trust my ears. 

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