Written by 6:56 am Room Acoustics

Pool Ball Visualizations

What do Billiards and Audio have in common?


When I was in my teens I “wasted” a lot of time playing
pool. Fortunately for me and my future, pool balls, light waves, and sound waves have a lot in
common. They all reflect off of surfaces in particular and predictable ways. In
Billiards understanding these angles of reflectance leads to more balls in
pockets. In photography understanding how light bounces around leads to
superior photographs. And in audio knowing how sound moves around a room makes
for better-sounding systems that work with rather than against a room’s

Many years ago I did several photographic assignments for
Bose Speakers. One of the jobs was photographing the old Boston Garden during a
rock concert. Bose didn’t want pictures of the performers on stage, no; they
wanted photos showing the entire venue while the performers were on stage. I
did a lot of walking around Boston Garden that night, from one nosebleed
section to another, with about 30 lb. of camera gear. After the job was done,
the art director showed me how the pictures were going to be used – overlaid
with a phalanx of arrows showing how the sound was bouncing around inside the
hall just like, you guessed it, billiard balls.


I regularly use what I refer to as “pool-ball visualization”
to locate early reflections in a room that will have a negative effect on
imaging and soundstaging. You can do the same thing with a laser pointer, but
for me visualization is as effective and much faster. But, if you’ve spent
enough time around a pool table or a light table you may find that that laser
pointer is already built into your internal systems. All you need is to use it…

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