Acoustic Treatment Newbee

I have my first (mostly) dedicated listening room, but it is kind of quirky and I'm looking for some advice on determining an ideal set up and figuring out what acoustic treatments might help.

The room:

Roughly 11 x 24. The front of the room has a set of bay windows. The back of the room is all brick with an unused fireplace. One wall is nearly all windows, the other is all shelves. Pretty much a study in opposites. Ceiling is pretty tall--9 feet or so.

The current set up:

I currently have my system set up in the front of my room. My main speakers are Zu Druids, which seem a little big for the room, powered by a Jolida tube amp. The Druids sit about 2 feet in front of the bay window 'shelf' and about 15" in from the side walls. Listening chair is about 9 feet in front of the speakers.

I would say that the sound is inconsistent. Frequently the bass sits well above the speakers, somewhere near standing height, when the music is dense. In less dense music, the bass comes through more consistently but the highs and mids are a little less cohesive.

A few questions:

-Should I think about moving my system to the 'back' wall (basically in front of the brick)?

-Clearly I need to do something about the run of windows (I'm thinking a panel or two). What about the run of book shelves?

-If keeping the system in the front of the room makes the most sense OR if I'm moving the system to the back wall, where do I start with room treatments? Behind the speakers? In the back corners/walls?

-How useful are test cd's and/or lp's?

Before you start moving your speakers to the back wall or buying wall treatments, have you played with moving the speakers further out into the room and or moving your listening position closer to the speakers, say 7 ft? You might try adjusting the toe-in to help minimize side wall reflections, even if you have to have the speaker axis' cross in front of you. You might also consider putting some heavy drapes on the bay windows which you can draw closed when you listen to music. And you already have observed the problems with all of the windows on the side wall. Again some draps which you can use when listening can be all you need to quiet down reflections. BTW, do you have rugs/carpets on the floor between your listening position and the speakers to reduce floor reflections?

Wall/room 'treatments' are specific solutions for specific problems. You've got to figure out the problem before you start buying solutions. Or you'll go broke and be frustrated unless you are very lucky.

Test CD's/LP's can be very useful, especially in the bass if you have a SPL meter. It will help you to identify not only the best place for speaker placement but room placement as well. Upper frequencies would also be measurable but might not be as helpful in identifying proper solutions. IMHO.

BTW, the excessive bass problem might be a product of the speakers proximity to the back wall (too close) and or corners.

Oh, while I'm thinking about it - opposite wall surfaces, i.e. live v dead, can be a good set up, if done properly, because while it doesn't kill first reflections, it will tame 2d reflections and things like echo slap/reverberations.

Hope that helps a bit.
I have played around with the speaker positioning a lot. I have not had the speakers toed in as much as you suggest. I have it toed in now and it helps the bass but also makes the speakers a lot less absent, if that makes sense. I also have the blinds drawn.

I think that the test cd/lp and spl meter route is probably where I need to start. I need to get a sense of why the bass is so high and see if I can bring it down with placement. Do you have a recommendation on an SPL meter?

My sense is that unpainted brick is usually pretty dead. Is that the case?

My sense is also that the speakers are a bit too close to the corner and side wall. Maybe I need to move the speakers a little closer together.... Or at least give that a try.
Unpainted brick is not dead. For the most part it is just a hard surface with some small pits but it is still reflective.

SPL Meter - Radio Shack used to sell inexpensive analogue and digital models. I think they stopped, but someone else now is. Do a Google.

Don't underestimate the importance of listening chair placement! And, unless you physically can't do it, just for the fun of it play with the spread of the speakers and distance to the listening position. I have found that the best ration (for me) are about 11 to 10 speaker distance to speaker spread. This will generally give you not only a more 3 dimensional sound stage, it will give you a lot more clarity as well. I think the last thing I would do is move the speakers closer together.

Have fun and take your time. Proper set up takes a lot of patience and listening.
I feel like I have everything nailed except that bass that is hovering kind of high in the room. Since the Druids are bottom ported I just changed the height of the spikes a few times. I'm getting better overall bass, but those lowest tones are still at 5 ft + in the room. Off to radio shack tomorrow. They still sell the SPL meter.
If I understand this right... you have a recessed bay window in between the speakers?

That pocket is allowing sound to collect within it, and might explain why your tones aren't displayed accordingly.

When I had a really big box TV in between my speakers the sound collected on top of it and to either side until I brought the plane of the spakers out well past the face of the big screen TV. But that cost me too much speaker (real) estate so I had a false wall built to ensure a solid flat surface behind the speakers and in between them.

When the TV rolled off into another room, I had a big hole in it's place... kind of like a fireplace, but bigger and deeper.

Like Chuck said, curtains did the trick there. hiding the hole.... but then the sound would collect in there too... sometimes it was great. Added depth was fine by me. Sometimes though it was not intuitively done and disconcerting.

Now there are bi folds covering the hole, and a really big hunk of thin asphalt I use for a projection screen which flips up to give me access to the new closet area.

Again, now sound still collects into the screen area some, though not nearly as much. Again, curtains fixed things there. The previous curtains went to the back of the room, and that helped too. With Newbee's suggestion of deadening a side wall and leaving one live, I'm thinking "More curtains?"


I'm begining to hate curtains. They're expensive.g... well, if you want something worthwhile hanging around your room.