Auditioning Furniture

Recently a thread was started examinig "High End Myths"
One of the funny observations was the auditioning of audio furniture. Too clever. Well over the last 6 months I've been struggling to "center" my stereo image. Just moved into a dedicated room and hijacked some of the living room furniture. Worked for months re-adjusting the speakers, flipping them and connections, moving the chair left, right, forward, back... The image was fine as stood and I backed from nearfield. Once seated it shifted right - rats!! Nothing seemed to work. Finally I swapped the rocker for a straight back bridge chair - obviously not a long term solution - and bingo! dead center. What I discovered was that the "wing backs" were screwing up the sweet spot.
A happy ending - new rocker with flat back and the sound stage widened and centered. A significant upgrade.
It is pretty amazing how much simple stuff like this can affect what we here and how we perceive it. When listening to my HT system, i could not believe how bad it sounded on some days and how much better it was on others. The main difference was that on the bad days, the system sounded dull and flat, lacked spaciousness and harmonic structure, etc... It finally dawned on me that my girlfriend was stacking pillows on the back of the couch for decorative purposes. As far as the good sound vs bad sound, some days the pillows were there, some days they weren't. Once i realized this and pulled them down ( have to break her of that habit ), everything was much better and consistent. This just goes to show how something as simple as a few pillows can alter tonal balance and the ratio of direct to reflected sound that we hear.

My brother went through something similar with a piece of furniture that has a large section of glass in the front of it. This piece was situated a few feet behind his seated listening position and was playing havoc with what he was hearing. On some days, he complained that the treble was very hard & edgy i.e. "glassy" sounding. Come to find out, the days that the system sounded good, he had thrown a jacket over the cabinet and this blocked / absorbed the sound that was being reflected off of the glass from behind him. Once he figured out that this was the problem, that piece of furniture was removed from the room for good. Until he did that though, it actually paid for him to be sloppy and throw his coat on the furniture : )

This just goes to show that there is a fine line between having a room that is over-damped or too live. In my case, the HT room is slightly dead. I did this on purpose as movies tend to be recorded pretty "hot" and this also helps to keep sound in the room and not through-out the entire house. Adding a few well positioned pillows, or in this case, "mis-positioned" pillows, was enough to drastically alter the sonic presentation in terms of being TOO dull and dry.

On the other side of the coin, my Brothers' room is very live but he has built his speakers to deal with this in terms of their dispersion pattern and placement. The fact that the sound was bouncing from behind him off of the rear wall negated the work that he had put forth in making sure that the vertical and horizontal dispersion characteristics were taken into account.

As such, there is no "perfect solution" that works in every room. Each installation is different. If you doubt this, just ask Rives : ) Sean