After completing the move to my new home, both my audio system and everything else, I told a friend I would never be moving again. When I became too old and feeble to walk up those eighteen stairs, I would install a lift to take me up and down. If things got worse, I’d move to an assisted living home and let others wait on me. My days of packing, carrying, unpacking, and all the rest are at an end.
Oddly enough, the last thing to be completed, moving wise that is, was my audio system. Because as most audiophiles are painfully aware, there is far more to the process than simply placing the speakers “right about here.” I have the luxury of no room impediments of any kind. My room has three things – a stereo, a listening chair, and room treatments. Nothing else. Nor will there be anything else. Not as long as I’m paying the bills.
System set up can take on many guises. There are a wide variety of ways to actually go about this but do an Internet search for speaker set up. For fun, one day, I did a search for “speaker placement in an audio room.” Obviously there are endless variations of the search parameter – mine yielded 716,000 results. I managed to read about ten of them. Some made sense, some were way out there and some actually made me laugh. Of course the comments that always follow along can make for some very interesting reading. None of that, however, was getting my beloved audio room set up.
There is an abundance of ways to approach setting up a system in an empty room. Mine has dimensions of roughly twenty-six feet long, sixteen feet wide (probably closer to 15.5 feet) and nine foot ceilings. I have three windows and the unfortunate part is two are in cut outs, one on each long wall that comprise the dormers. Ultimately, I have to deal with those for the sake of outward aesthetics. That burden, however, must be tolerated because I have as close to the ideal room as I was able to find.. And like I noted in an earlier article, this is still my home where I must live.
Slap Echo. First Reflections. Reverberation. Standing Waves. Sound familiar? All audio rooms have them and other imposing issues to some point. It’s certainly wise to plan for these conditions regardless of how otherwise perfect the room might be. Then there is the decision of how far into the room to place the speakers.
How much has been written about the Rule of Thirds? Quite a bit I’d imagine. I decided, as a matter of sheer curiosity, to start with that and placed my speakers 8.6 feet into the room. And the result? Depth. Lots of depth. But the center image sounded like it was so far back it was in a different county. Out with the Rule of Thirds.
There is also a 25% Rule that mandates putting the speakers 25% into the room from the back wall. George Cardas has a really comprehensive placement method that I found very logical because it was based on math. It has formulas for square and rectangular rooms and even takes things to as complex a place as a Fibonacci Sequence. Just how many set up methods are there? Too many to count, I’m sure.
Eventually, after lots of trial and error, lots of time jumping up and down from my listening chair, lots of going from kneeling while moving the speakers to standing to go back to the chair, the speaker position was completed. That, however, is not the final step. Because in a room as large as mine, and with nothing else there, room treatments are an absolute must. And this is where things can get really crazy.
In a recent series of articles our own Roger Skoff wrote about budget minded room treatments. Anyone who is considering doing room treatments should read these articles. You could also have a company do a proposal based on your room, it’s dimensions, and where the system resides. I used one such company for this as was astonished to discover that, according to their suggestion, I needed $32,000.00 worth of room treatments. So it is patently obvious that room treatments, like most everything else in this hobby, can be both budget friendly, and just all out fiscally scary. Ultimately, I took some of a variety of suggestions and treated my room and am completely happy with the results. I now have a listening room that is just that, a room in which to listen to music. No television, no games, no nothing.
When I first decided to create what is essentially a minimalist listening room in my home I was a little apprehensive. In my townhouse I had a TV on the wall behind the system (and yes, I know that is a no-no). I could mute the TV, watch a ball game or golf tournament and listen to music. I really thought not having any distractions at all in my new home might make my listening sessions a little too boring and compromise the enjoyment of my system. Because I have gone to such lengths all in the name of as close to audio perfection I can achieve, that was a major concern. I have since come realize my fears and apprehensions were totally unfounded. After getting the room exactly where I wanted in terms of sonics, my first listening session one Saturday lasted four and a half hours. I missed lunch, a basketball game and six phone calls. Best of all, I didn’t even care. More importantly, the moving saga was (and is) finally at an end.