The weakest link in any well designed music or home cinema system has always been the acoustics of the listening room. Well over half of what you hear is created by the reflected sound from the walls and surfaces in the room, which is why simply using the best equipment will not deliver the best sound quality.
Until recently the best solution to acoustic issues has been to design and build the listening room for optimal sound quality. At Gecko’s headquarters we have built the UK’s most perfect listening room for product assessment and system demonstration. Unfortunately the errors created by the room / speaker interaction can still be heard.
The ConstructionWhile a great deal of attention is paid to acoustic treatments that can be sold to “tweak” system performance, the rooms’ proportions and its basic construction will have far more impact on the quality of the system. Our listening rooms were built on a brown field site in a peaceful location so that the ideal height, width and length of the space could be chosen as well as the perfect construction techniques.
The End ResultThe room looks terrific and some elements of the acoustic design can be recommended, however as any listener who visits will quickly hear, considerably better results can be achieved without the need for any room treatment by using a complete Steinway Lyngdorf audio system.
The side diffusion array is one element of the room design that has been a success. This helps create a more enveloping surround system as the critical side reflections are broken up with the saw tooth wall design, while all the energy of the side reflections are maintained.
A similar detail can be seen on the ceiling; however given the short listening distance and the high ceiling this detail was an unnecessary expense. The biggest problem with the rooms design however is with the bass trapping. Bass traps were created floor to ceiling in both rear corners of the room and with floating panels above the whole ceiling section. The net result of these additions is that 4 very powerful subwoofers had to be used in the room to provide sufficient low frequency information.
Almost all of the bass traps have now been removed and using 2 subwoofers that have been electronically corrected to match the room; good bass has now been achieved.
ConclusionFew people in the home cinema industry have any real experience with room design. Small room acoustics is a black art for most system designers but as the recognition of the importance of room acoustics has increased, this service is being recommended more and more frequently.
The lack of expertise in the area of acoustics makes installers and consumers vulnerable to being sold unnecessary and ineffective designs and treatments. As installers and designers make considerable profit from this practice, I would be highly sceptical of spending large sums on room design.
As ever the only reliable test of the benefits of room design is an A – B comparison between a treated and untreated room. Those interested are welcome to our HQ for a demonstration at our facilities where the benefits of our state of the art listening room can be heard. In the adjoining rooms, a considerably better sound can be heard in completely untreated acoustic spaces with the use of Steinway Lyngdorf audio systems.