Last January, the Stereophile website conducted a poll asking readers what they thought was their audio system's weakest link . The results indicated that 24% thought that their room was the most problematic component. What this says is that, though often accused of being obsessed with hardware, we audiophiles are aware of what a potent effect the speaker-room setup has.
I have been a proponent of methodical modeling and room analysis as aids in setting up audio systems and rooms. They work hand in hand: Modeling predicts a feasible room arrangement, and analysis, along with careful listening, determines how close the outcome is to that predicted. Of course, there should always be another round of modeling to see if the current setup can be improved with more work. The spiral continues, toward, one hopes, perfection.
Because I'm suspicious of just twiddling knobs to make the sound "nice," I didn't rely solely on my ears when I used the Z-Systems rdp-1 that I review elsewhere in this issue for speaker and room contouring. Instead, I used the ETF speaker/room-analysis software from Acoustisoft to help me manipulate the equalizer properly. This program can measure the first-arrival, on-axis speaker response, as well as the room response with its early and late reflections and its resonances.
In a sidebar to his review of the B&W DM302 speakers in the October 1997 issue (Vol.20 No.10), Wes Phillips mentioned a handy tool he uses for speaker setup—a laser level. The one Wes used was originally intended for construction work, not tweaking one's speaker placement, but now there's one available specifically for that purpose: The 770 SA-S Laser Sound Alignment System by Checkpoint Laser Tools.
Lars recently received a device that looks and works like a $25 digital alarm clock and is said to subtly improve the overall sound of one's system. It's the ElectroTec EP-C, from a company called Coherence Industries.