Welcome New Listening Room, Welcome New System!

I have recently moved my system (see my profile) from a small listening room (3.0m x 3.3m x 2.3m) to our living room (5.0m x 4.8m x 2.8m). Rearranging the usage of rooms allowed this move and the retention of domestic harmony.

Prior to the move I invested some time researching room acoustics, equipment positioning and room treatment. I was therefore able to plan a theoretical layout for the system and speakers allowing for optimal SQ, minimising adverse room effects and maintaining the use of the room as a living space.

I did have some concerns over the almost square shape of the new listening room as, using Amroc, I calculated that I could expect a low frequency standing wave around 32Hz, and consequently standing waves doubling (at 64Hz, 128Hz…). As my speakers are rated down to 30 Hz, I expected some issues here. I wanted to do everything I could to reduce the effect standing waves would have on SQ by optimising speaker and listening positioning to avoid the need for bespoke room treatment. Massive bass traps could not work physically and aesthetically in our living room.

I therefore made some attempt to position the speakers so that the first reflection points had some absorption at these points (thick curtains, and rugs etc.). I also positioned the speakers far enough away from the front and side walls to allow for at least that golden 1.7m difference between the listener/tweeter distance and the listener/first reflection/tweeter distance. This was something I simply couldn’t achieve in the small listening room.

The kit and listening seating were then moved to the theoretical ideal positions, taking the opportunity to clean the system, Fraim and contacts. Balls polished (Fraim balls I hasten to add), I was ready for a first listen.

At this point I left the speakers unspiked to allow for easy repositioning. The aim now was to initially optimise the listening position to reduce the effects of any low frequency standing waves and obtain the right balance between bass, mids and high frequencies. Fortunately my listening chair is on rollers so I could slide backwards and forwards towards the speakers, while listening to some bass-heavy tracks. The 38% ideal (distance of listener to back wall as a % of room depth) was not possible as I was too close to the speakers). A 25% position into the room from the back wall seemed the best compromise in this room.

At the first listen, I was amazed at the huge improvement in SQ this bigger room gave, and I will describe this later. But, although the bass was more extended, I was hearing that standing wave(s) which sounded like a monotone deep bass note that sat over the rest of the bass when the music went that deep. I moved the listening chair to a point where this was least apparent, but it was not removed.

Once the seating position was optimised, I then turned my attention to speaker positioning to obtain the best soundstage without compromising the balance achieved by the seating position optimisation. I found a poison for the speakers that maintained the 8:5 ratio of distance from speaker (tweeter) to side wall (8) : distance from tweeter to front wall (5).

Listening with the chair and the speakers in these positions reduced the effect of the standing wave(s), but hadn’t eliminated them, but the speakers were still unspiked. Spiking and levelling the speakers made a significant difference and almost removed the standing wave effect. The bass firmed up and that annoying deep reverberation was almost entirely removed.

I discovered the ultimate bass test tracks are the title track Voyage of The Cosmic Hippo by Bella Fleck & The Flecktones and the Nenad Vasilic track Just Squeeze Me from the Bass Room album. If your system can handle these tracks keeping the bass defined and deep with no overhang, you have done a great job of setting your system (and room) up. I am stunned by the presentation of these and other bass-heavy tracks. I am getting another octave or two of wonderful music.

So what has the room move given me in terms of SQ? An extended and controlled bass, much more detail and a wonderful soundstage that now extends to the sides and behind the speakers. But these are hifi traits. When I listen to close miked vocals for example, voices seem more natural with greater depth of tone and more detailed intonation and inflexion. Instruments and vocals just sound more natural with a greater capacity to convey meaning and emotion.

The move to a bigger room, despite a lot of work, has been a triumph. I would never have believed what impact room size, set up and a little (non bespoke) room treatment could have on SQ. As I was listening to the inevitable test tracks during set up, I was listening more to the music and less to the sounds, always a good sign. I also never got bored listening to the test tracks time and time again. This is because the music just got better and better as I dialled into the optimum positioning. Simply more insight into the music we love and are yet to discover. And surely this is what we are all looking for.

The best bit of all is that this wonderful upgrade cost me absolutely nothing other than some research time and some elbow grease.

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Nice one… now…no more titting around so you can enjoy your music!

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Super, gut gemacht Nigel ! :+1: :smiley:

I experienced similar changes and conclusions.

My bigger “wow” moment was when I treated my ceiling.
God, what a change!

Proper listening position and speakers placement, together with some correctly applied treatment like you did, provides unexpected and astonishing results.

Enjoy your new room, what you system is really capable of, and of course all your favourite tracks :smiley:

Well done Nigel, glad the effort has paid off. :+1:t2:

A quick point about the ultimate capability of black boxes. It is clear to me from moving rooms that the ultimate performance of Naim black boxes (and all hifi to varying degrees) is significantly constrained by the room in which they operate, and the care with which they are set up.

Durr, yuh think…?

I was always aware of these constraints on SQ, but I was not aware of the degree to which a room and set up can impact SQ. Furthermore I would expect additional gains in SQ, were I prepared to invest in the installation of bespoke room treatment, e.g. bass traps and the like.

You might quite fairly say that such a great impact on SQ is only achievable when using high end kit which is more sensitive and generates more extended bass (e.g. 500 series gear). However I still use the rather modest NAP250DR and rather unfashionable speakers with my ND555 and NAC552.

I am still amazed in that my 250DR and modest speakers are still capable of giving more.

So maybe I am moving from ‘source first’ to ‘source/room/set up first’.

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Glad you’re enjoying your “no gear” upgrade.

Your description is the very reason the thread “The listening room reality” was originally called “Don’t by new speakers, …”.

The room has such a tremendous impact on sound quality that having expensive gear in a poor sounding room, to a certain point, hardly makes sense.

The need of upgrading amp/speakers vanishes… for the moment :wink:
The problem with “better sound” is that we get used to it rather quickly :sweat_smile:

I would put room first :grin:
And I’m pretty sure you will too, especially after sorting out your first reflection points.

The one thing you’ll notice, once having treated your room to your liking, is that you’ll start being sensible to untreated rooms or, more precisely, you’ll quickly identify excessive comb filtering.

Your ears (or brain) get used not to compensate when listening to music. So when listening to music in a reflective room you immediately notice the problems.

Acoustics and psycho acoustics are rather interesting subjects.

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Yep, our ears/brain are greedy. I’ve said it before, an upgrade (or better room) lead to a great uplift in SQ today which soon becomes the new norm!

Hopefully this uplift will have some legs and keep my ears happy for a while!

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Great news Nigel and even better it was free. I ran a 552 into a 250 for a while and thought it was a lovely pairing so I can understand how you feel about that combo, it is a cracker !

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What research did you do Nigel? Care to share when you have a moment? I’m going to be doing some cable dressing and speaker adjustment soon but the more info I have about the latter the better in terms of both direction and location relative to walls and seating position.

I read a few articles relating to room acoustics, equipment and listening positioning and room treatment on t’internet by respected authors and watched a few videos on YouTube, again by those who have been recommended. I also looked at the GIK Acoustics website and YouTube presentations, although I would caution room treatment manufacturers’ sites as some are more informative but others are just marketing psychobabble.

The Dynudio team (A Masterclass in Speaker Placememt) and Yesco from Acousticsinsider.com spring to mind but you will see many if you do Google or YouTube searches. Some are more helpful than others.

@Thomas has posted some helpful videos on the other Room Treatment thread.

Thank you kindly. I’ll start with cable dressing. Literally threw the Innuos and Chord in.

I already know there’s a couple of speaker issues to address. Noticed my dealer set up one speaker at a different angle to the other some time ago and after that a friend reduced the height to kill what he perceived as some bass chuffing. I think it actually killed some of the bass.

Beyond that though we’ve had new low slung sofas and I’d like to get to grips with any room and speaker positioning issues before I address the impedance mismatch between amp and speakers.

Glad it’s working out for you. I’ve a day off on Friday and as well as sourcing some storage for all the CDs I’ve now finished ripping I may as well start to do some reading up on this too.

In my recent experience, luckily less so with a great system. Improvements that at first seemed big did vanish in the past over just a few days with a lesser system and lesser upgrades. Now with the new one, it has already lasted for full three months that I thought “wow” every single time I turned on the music.

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Very interesting read @NigelB thanks, sounds like a very rewarding process :slightly_smiling_face:
Would be interesting to see a plan/photo of how it ended up.
Cheers
Mark

Pics would be great!

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I’ll take a couple of pics when it is light tomorrow.

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Welcome to the converted!

Hi Nigel, nice write up, it reads like you’re in a good place.

Yes indeed pic would be nice

I found room size made a big difference when I finally got my rooms rearranged. I was in a square room & that was a pain. I’m now in 7x4 & that works well with standing waves. I first had the speakers firing down the room, then “we were asked” to try across the short length, in full sceptic mode at first, I was amazed, & it’s not been changed since.

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Yes, I have the speakers firing across the slightly shorter length, but I really have no choice.

You will see when I post a pic, I am fortunate to have wonky walls, floor and ceiling, and there are several beams poking through the walls and ceiling (the building is 500 years old). All the walls are solid too. There are soft furnishings, the floor is carpeted and the only widow is panelled, covered by lined curtains.

All this helps with sound absorption and diffusion in the room.

Indeed. I’ve done the same, though from larger room to a dedicated listening room. I recently established that leaving some doors open also releases the low end standing waves.

I’ll check out the test tracks you mentioned.

Indeed, and when I read about opening doors I tried it in my new listening room but couldn’t hear any difference. But I already have one permanent opening on one side of the room and a door to a small room on the other side, so maybe I am already well ‘ventilated’.