By David Acton, CTS
Product Development Manager, Audio Authority
1. EQ and DSP can fix all my room acoustic problems.
As important as proper room equalization is, it cannot fix all of your room acoustic woes. The acoustic properties of a room such as dimensions, wall/ceiling materials and items in the room such as furniture, etc. have as much, if not more, to do with the sound of a room as good equalization. A balance of strategically placed absorptive and diffuse acoustic material in combination with effective digital signal processing can help a room attain its maximum sound potential.
2. Deadening a room with lots of absorptive material will make my room sound better.
Actually, this can make a room sound worse. True, a mixture of some high and mid frequency absorption will improve room acoustics in many situations but overdoing it will make the room sound dull and muddy. Instead, place absorptive material at the first and second acoustic reflection points to the right and left of the main speakers so that you minimize reflections at the primary listening position. You many need to position the speakers to control where those first and second reflections occur. In surround sound applications, you may or may not want to minimize reflections from the rear speakers depending on the desired effect. In addition, diffuse materials behind the listening position and bass traps in the corners of the room will greatly improve a room’s acoustic performance.
3. Only audiophiles need or want room EQ and acoustic treatment.
This belief is common among integrators, but is based on a faulty belief system. It also greatly limits your sales potential on every audio system you install. True, your “average joe or jane” may not be able to describe the difference in good over bad room acoustics, but they will certainly enjoy the listening experience more with an audio system calibrated for each room, which leads to enthusiastic referrals. Poor room acoustics can contribute to harsh midrange, brittle hi-frequencies and muddy bass. All of these factors will effect how much a homeowner will enjoy and ultimately use their audio system. It’s pretty simple – if the experience is unpleasant they will avoid it, or worse, tell their friends about it.
So, to summarize, maximum sound performance in a room is achieved with a mixture of effective room acoustic treatment, professional EQ/DSP calibration and speaker placement. However, in the real world, all these methods may not be possible. Homeowners may not want acoustic treatment on the walls or speaker enclosures in the room that can be positioned to the optimal angle. In-wall or ceiling speakers may be desired for room aesthetics and wall surfaces such as glass or tile will be specified, so you will have to work around these obstacles. Fortunately, there are equipment options that allow you to address these “real world” scenarios. Audio systems that allow you to adjust EQ to compensate for room frequency problems, acoustic materials that look more like art, and in-wall/ceiling speakers that give you the ability to point sound away from reflective surfaces and more towards absorptive materials can all help you get closer to your ultimate goal of the best sound possible for every room in the house.