Building the Hi-Fi House Page 6

The wall-to-wall carpet in my listening room is currently a medium-weight Berber style with a raised pattern of squares small enough to be of some assistance in moving things a few inches here or there. The windows' vertical blinds are of fairly heavy cloth. Several acoustic panels from Acoustic Sciences Corporation (the Tube Trap folks) are placed high on the side walls to cut down on flutter echoes, and three additional panels of a different design (one of them homemade) are hung a few feet out from the short, windowed wall. Several Tube Traps and similar devices from Acoustic Solutions are strategically placed around the room, along with a pair of ASC Shadow Casters---selectively absorbing and diffusing panels designed to control side-wall reflections but which can also be put to a number of other good acoustical uses---which can be moved about depending on the loudspeaker setup.

Two three-paneled room-divider-style absorptive panels manufactured by MSB can also be easily moved into or out of the room, as needed. Several large artificial plants provide some diffusion, though an array of RPG Diffusors and Abffusors do the bulk of this job on one otherwise rather live short wall. The ceiling is done Santa Fe style: shaved log beams, called vigas, with wood planking above for the bulk of the room (the area over the tiled, open hallway is Sheetrocked). This is more dispersive than a smooth ceiling.

I've used a number of loudspeaker setups in this room, and the one I currently favor is with the loudspeakers placed out from the walls flanking one corner, firing almost across a diagonal. This is remarkably effective in minimizing modal problems (remember, even well-designed rooms have some modes).

The "feel" of the room now seems almost ideal---neither too alive nor too dead. The space sounds remarkably open; the music seems able to "breathe" there---the very opposite of a claustrophobic, cramped sound. I'll continue experimenting with the acoustics---who ever heard of a satisfied audiophile?---but this is a solid baseline from which to work.

Should you consider such a project? If you can afford it, by all means, yes---the rewards are definitely worth it. You don't necessarily have to build a whole house to get the listening room of your dreams---add a room or modify an existing space. But go into it with your eyes open.

Other References
In addition to this article, I recommend that you read two other articles about the listening room recently published in Stereophile: J. Gordon Holt's "In Search of the Hi-Fi House" (April 1990, Vol.13 No.4), and my own "Room Enough" (October 1991, Vol.14 No.10). Robert Harley's recently released book, The Complete Guide to High-End Audio---published by Acapella Press, (800) 848-5099---also contains a good chapter on acoustics, which goes into considerably more detail on room problems and their treatment than is possible here.

If you want to delve more deeply into the subject, F. Alton Everest's interesting and relatively easy to understand The Master Handbook of Acoustics is an indispensable reference. Published by Tab Books, The Master Handbook may be a bit difficult to find locally, but it's available through mail order from Old Colony Sound Laboratory or the Audio Advisor.---Thomas J. Norton