House Hunting and New Listening Room Concerns

We're house hunting, after living happily in an apartment for about eight years.

A listening room is a high priority. But, many of the houses we've visited would need tens of thousands of dollars in remodeling to suit our kitchen and bathroom needs, leaving little left over for a dedicated listening room.

My set up is based around Thiel CS 2.3 speakers and Rogue Audio electronics.

The current listening room is just under 13'6" deep, and not quite 14'6" wide. The speakers are on the slightly longer wall. The back edge sits two feet from the rear, and they are about 8'6" apart on center. The listening spot is about 9' feet away, given that the speakers themselves are around a foot deep.

It's a great-sounding room and we've worked hard to keep the music detailed and inviting.

So far no house we've seen is perfect, but one examined today comes close. It's small, but on a great property and under our price limit. It would need extensive redecorating, but nothing we couldn't handle.

Here's the rub: It has only two potential listening rooms. One is a 27' by 16' "family room" that is actually a three-season room with three walls made up of floor-to-ceiling glass windows or doors. Since it looks out on acres of woodland, that's the point. No way to set up a decent stereo in a nearly glass room.

The other room is 18' by 12', but it has problems. On the left short wall is a large stone fireplace surrounded by wood paneling. On the right is a stairway, and the entrance to the dining room. On the front long wall is a 6' bay window, splitting the 18' distance. The main entrance to the house is at the end of that wall. The rear wall is solid until it opens for the dining room. The walls that don't have knotty pine panels are plaster.

My best guess for a set up would be to put the speakers along the 18' wall, again about 8' apart and 2' out from the bay window. I would sit a foot or so closer, but the speakers would have several feet on each side to breathe. I think that would help with sidewall deflections from the stone fireplace. Or should I set them up far out from the stone fireplace and sit closer to the stair and the other short wall? This would put the loveseat in line of the front door, making for an awkward entrance. Certainly something we could live with, if it proves the best sound.

Any thoughts? We're chewing this over for a day or so before considering an offer. Any help would be deeply appreciated.


John McAlpin
Your house is the important investment you'll probably ever make. May I suggest that you purchase the best house in the best neighborhood you can afford and then tailor a stereo system around the most appropriate room in the house. In other words, don't let the requirements of your existing system play too important a role in which house you select.

Sorry I didn't see this until today. Here are a couple of thoughts:

~ Both rooms are pretty nice sizes.

~ I wouldn't immediately dismiss the room with glass walls. Conventional wisdom is not to use such a room, but 2" wood blinds (e.g., Hunter-Douglas) could make that room surprisingly successful. If the windows are double glazed vacuum/gas sealed panes, they may not be as bad for the sound as you might expect; reflection would be the worst offender and that can be ameliorated with the blinds and with some ceiling panel treatment.

~ The 18x12 room is always going to be unbalanced one way or another. 12' is not too narrow for your Thiels placed on the narrow wall at the fireplace end. Narrow end of the room placement might give you the best balance to your sound because the the opening to staircase and dining room then will be at the rear of the room (rather than on one side) and will act minimize sound wave reflection and give you the effect of a much deeper room for bass extension.

Good luck!
I agree with onhwy61. Get the house you need for everything else and as long as it has a room you can dedicate to listening you can fix it up over time with acoustic treatment etc. Just having the private space is luxury enough imo. Good luck!
Thanks all. I do understand the importance of buying a home and then tailoring a system to it. However, we've worked so hard over the years on the stereo I am hesitant to junk it all and restart. My point was to try and find a house that could at least handle what we have.

Rush, thanks for the tips about the glass walls. The room would need a new ceiling, and the windows and doors are the thick double pane type. Jen and I disussed window treatments like wood blinds to help. We are concerned about insulation and heat, since the owners now use a propane fired heater in the room. And here's a tidbit: It's in Wrightstown Township, Bucks County, Pa. but the village is called Rushland.
Good luck, John. The house sounds like it's on beautiful property. I think you are aware that accomodating the stereo system was a primary criteria for us when we bought our house in Philadelphia. Ann says she bought the house for the living room (always our primary listening room of choice). Other houses our realtor suggested never even got a look if they didn't have at least one large room of reasonably appropriate dimensions. So, we're right with you in making this a priority in selecting a home.