Which has a greater effect in the sound: the speakers or the room? Why?

Which has a greater effect in the sound: the speakers or the room? Why?
40% (51 votes)
32% (41 votes)
24% (31 votes)
4% (5 votes)
Total votes: 128

Some say the first step in getting good sound is picking the right room for the system. Others find ways for a system to work in almost any environment. Which has a greater effect in the sound: the speakers or the room? Why?

Iqbal Mustafa's picture

It is nearly impossible to pick the "right room," you have to build it from scratch. I enjoy mid-fi in good rooms but hi-fi in bad rooms is quite baaad.

Aden's picture

The room—just try to set up any pair of speakers in your bathroom and tell me if the speaker has a greater effect.

HH's picture

Bookshelf speakers are not sutable for a loft and huge Wilson speakers are not sutable for a small den. So the answer is quite simple, the speakers must fit the room.

Jared Gerlach's picture

I chose "equal" as my answer, but that's not entirely accurate. Very good speakers are always required to get the music to the listener. Lousy speakers in the most acoustically ideal room won't do the trick. On the other hand, I have heard highly regarded speakers sound like garbage in troublesome (especially strongly modal) rooms. So, I think the old audiophile rules of thumb still hold true with respect to speakers. Maybe a listening room should have similar rules; should the ideal room have defined modal characteristics? (Not very practical in terms of taste and architecture, but, in my opinion, neither are things like bass traps!) In other words, if the ideal room were defined and used as the standard to which loudspeakers were designed to properly integrate, it may largely eliminate the need for room treatments and advanced equalization (eg Audyssey).

Travis Klersy's picture

I think they must be considered together. Very few people are going to listen to speakers outside, and very few can afford a purpose-built audio room designed by an acoustic engineer. Most of us therefore have to find a speaker that works in the room we have and matches our listening tastes.

Paul Stiles, Mtn View, CA's picture

Your attitude, dude or dudette!

ASantos's picture

Bad acoustics totally mask the quality of the speakers.

Anoni Mouse's picture

Great speakers in a poor room may not realize their full potential, but they will still sound good. Poor speakers will not be transformed by the perfect room.

Douglas Bowker's picture

The speakers make the sound—the room reacts. It certainly has an effect, but it is always secondary and often negligible.

raymond catapang's picture

I guess it works both ways. You might have the best treated roo,m yet if you have sleazy speakers, what's the use and vice-versa? I would like also to emaphasize not to go beyond the basics of room tweaking. Just avoid sound reflections and glass surfaces, etc, carpet, curtains are good enough. i don't feel like breaking the homy interior or turn my listening area to a recording studio!

Nodaker's picture

You can have the world's best speakers but if the room sucks they will not sound like it. You have to fix the room unless it starts out as a good room. Most rooms don't.

H.  Williams, Hollywood Hills's picture

One could put a pair of $100k speakers into an echo chamber of a room and find that a pair of $100 Radio Shack specials could have done just as well, if not better.

audio-sleuth@comcast.net's picture

I can arrange good speakers in a bad room to sound OK. There is nothing you can do to make bad speakers sound good. You can't polish a turd.

Lytle's picture

Everything starts with the speakers.

Mike Agee's picture

Another approach would be to ask if I'd prefer mediocre speakers in an optimal room or great speakers in a mediocre room. As long as the room isn't abysmal and the speakers were selected with it in mind, I'd opt for the better speakers and go the extra mile to treat the room. The room is vital, but it can't deliver what the speakers aren't producing.

craig's picture

A great room with a good speaker will only get you good sound. A great speaker in a good room will come closer to great sound. And finding a great speaker is easier and a lot cheaper than finding or building that great listening room. If you have the money to do both you are among the lucky few.

Thomasthetankengine's picture

Given a pair of sensibly designed speakers, the room is clearly more important of the two. The forgotten factor in your poll is the placement of the speakers and the listening position. This is the key to fidelity, and for most 'philes where the biggest sins are committed. Quit obsessing over cables. Start worrying about acoustics.

Al Marcy's picture

Each recording played on any system on Earth is a unique experience, every time. We only claim to have mastered anything. I like it, no matter how much worse I may have made it, this time.

wkhanna, Pgh PA's picture

A well-treated room can make $4K system sound as good as a $10K system in an acoustically poor untreated room.

David L.  Wyatt jr.'s picture

I'd say speakers, but then there are really, really bad rooms. Granted they can be improved, but if you rent there are limitations, and if you have an SO there may be other limitations. My guess is any extreme might tend to dominate, but if the room is okay, the speakers dominate.

Robert's picture

I'd rather listen to good speakers in a bad room, than bad speakers in a good room!

Peter Jacobsen, Shanghai's picture

The room by far!. It's like asking whether the road or the shock absorbers ensure a smooth ride. A rough and bumpy (off-)road will make even the best shock absorbers give up. Better audio dealers will treat their listening rooms with lots of diffusion and absorbtion which is why equipment often (but not always) sound better in the shop than at home. Treat your room wisely and live in bliss!

Joe S.'s picture

It's always the cables, mun!

Johannes Turunen, Sweden's picture

Put your favorite speaker in a church or in a swiminghall or maybee big Wilsons in a closet.

dBRUCE's picture

Because after visiting many Montreal Audio shows (manufacturers have identical hotel rooms) there are huge differences in sound from the various speaker manufacturers. Room treatment does improve the whole process though.

Jack's picture

THE ROOM, absolutely! No matter how good the system, if played in a bad room it will sound bad. By opposition a fair system in a good environment can give quite a good presentation.

macksman's picture

I'm very lucky to have a fine, large listening room at home in which three different speakers have resided: Thiel 3.6s, Ruark Epilogues and Wilson-Benesch Act Ones. I have heard the first two in other, less favorable rooms. They retained their basic character wherever played but the progression through those three systems has transformed the experience of listening that occurs in the room common to them. The room is important, but nowhere near as important as the speakers or, probably, the amps. I might think differently if my listening room was not architecturally configured so favorably for listening, requiring only placement and not treatment to yield good results.

yates's picture

Great speakers can sound decent even in a room with poor acoustics. Poor speakers cannot sound great even in the best room.

David Infanger's picture

The effects of the room or the listening environment need to be addressed more in future issues!

Len White's picture

While speakers are extremely important, they're fourth in my hierachy preceeded by the quality of the recording, the listening room accoustics, and the source player. The best equipment in the world would sound pretty terrible in an accoustically poor listening room.