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Room Acoustics & System Synergy

Many people underestimate the effect of room acoustics on choice of equipment. However this is a fundamental influence and accounts in large measure for the differences of opinion among reviewers and manufacturers on various products. From years of visiting dealers, reviewers and Hi Fi shows, Origin Live have observed the effect of variables and a brief distillation of this experience is set out below.

The key variables are:

Size and shape of room - Larger rooms need more treble and upper mid-band output. Wide rooms are similar and tend to favour bright sounding equipment. Long rooms tend to develop better low frequency bass. Higher ceilings tend to favour slightly higher treble levels.

Listening position - If you sit close to the speakers you will prefer less treble volume.

Type of furnishings - ( live verses dead rooms) The more soft furnishings, the more treble in the balance will be preferred. There will be a loss of reverberation and sense of life in dead rooms.

Temperature of the room - some speakers sound very slow below 20°C. Also at lower temperatures electronics can sound hard and edgy. Speakers need around 4 hours to warm up to normal room temperature from a starting point of 10°C - this is because of the large metal mass contained in the magnet assemblies. This in turn affects the cone and suspension mechanisms.

Length of time the equipment has been switched on - most equipment sounds better after a "warm up" period which varies greatly, depending on the equipment concerned.

Length of time the equipment has been "run in" - Cartridges, motors, turntable bearings, cables, amplifiers and speakers all need in excess of 40 hours to sound at their best. Run in improves some products massively while others are not so affected.

A-B comparisons - Dealers sometimes offer to demonstrate product A against product B with all other aspects equal i.e nothing else changes - same room and same system etc. This would appear to yield a fair degree of certainty of a fair comparison. This method certainly can tell you a lot about some aspects of the performance but still does not answer the problems of environmental variables and unknown system synergy effects.

It is not our purpose here to promote uncertainly or endless indecision. The outline "Assessing equipment" will go a long way to evaluating the key aspects of most equipment when it enters your own system. This article helps in virtually all circumstances and particularly if you can find a dealer who can produce a good sound in a room similar to your own listening room and carry our A - B comparison.


Origin Live Ltd. Unit 5, 362B Spring Road Sholing, Southampton SO19 2PB, UK