Ideal design for a new music room

I'm designing a new house which will include a room dedicated to enjoying stereo music reproduction. In my experience, room acoustics have a huge effect on the sound in any particular room.

I'm interested in ideal dimensions, structural materials and finishes. Any experiences and stories anyone?

The music I mostly enjoy is classical, including organ, choral, chamber, solo instruments and orchestral. 
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That's a mighty big subject, one for which professionals make a good living addressing. Try Art Noxon at Acoustic Science Corp. For a start, Google "Golden Ratio", and take a look at the Cardas website.
20 x 30 with high vaults of 20 ft  will be good.

Of course you need acoustic treatment after ward.

Some people prefer carpet over wooden floor.

But it depends on the personal taste.
As I understand it, the golden ratio applies only to rectangular rooms. It’s also quite problematic to apply. I’m hoping to avoid the problems the ratios try to solve by starting out with an asymmetrical room. 

Here are some considerations, entirely without input (so far) from acoustic professionals:
  • the walls, floor and ceiling should be rigid so they will not vibrate and contribute to the sound. This is important for the low notes.
  • The floor perimeter dimensions should not be a perfect rectangle with parallel opposite walls in order to prevent standing waves - cancellations of some frequencies and boosting of others. Would rounded space like a band shell be best?
  • Would a stable 3D sound stage be more likely in a room that has a physical stage facing a room that widens into the listening area?
  • Then there are the livelyness and brightness issues which will require carpeting of some of the surfaces, the floor to start. How about the ceiling or the back wall?

Thanks for your input,

A room that is not a rectangle or with any parallel surfaces then introduces a whole host of issues in speaker positioning (as each speaker will see a very different set of reflection points). Interesting discussion of this topic in Roy Gregorys experience of his new room
Thanks Michael Green for the very interesting and creative work you do. You are the right person to improve the sound in an existing room that doesn't sound quite right. Maybe all rooms need fine tuning and there is no such thing as a perfectly sounding room. But I'd still like to get as close as we can from the start.

Tom6897: A room as round as the inside of a ball is very interesting but may be going too far for what I have in mind. Has anyone heard music reproduced in such a round room?

Folkfreak: Wouldn't a pair of speakers placed in a room something like I describe below have matching reflection points?

  • 18' wall behind the speakers with a pair of side walls at 100º that are 24' long and a slightly curving wall facing the speakers. Height could be 10' at the speakers and 12' at the opposite end. 

I think any way you build it, is probably going to have some issue that you did not consider. 
Beyond making sure it was properly wired, and the walls suitably deadened; I would build it so that it looks good and can be furnished tastefully.
As you are building from scratch, hiring a professional sound tech would make the most sense. IMHO

Hello Encore,

Our company has spent the past twenty years developing a new technology involving vibration management that has now expanded to sound room design.

The initial prototype titled Energy Room was built in 2012. A few Audiogon members were able to audition this initial application of the technology applied to listening environments. The members are very well written on this forum and can be referred to you for reference.

We are about to roll out the fully developed patentable room located in Madison, WI and are welcoming auditions prior to Industry reviews being published.

The framework is mechanically grounded and functions much the same as our equipment racking and cello endpins. All power panels, cable feeds and outlets are also mechanically grounded to the resonance conductive skeleton. The walls are hard surfaced (⅜” drywall) to maximize leading edge dynamics and harmonic structures associated with live musical presentations.

Surface reflections, wall or corner loading effects, slap echoes are minimalist and managed via the product’s technical application through function. There is no aftermarket acoustic wall or floor devices required or are used in the design.

This innovation works as a critical listening or theater environment; opens new doors to various recording studio applications or serves as a musician’s creative writing and/or rehearsal space.

The end result delivers a sense of being there - the “live” experience.

Please feel free to contact us for more information or discuss your design.


Star Sound

I would recommend you to check Pinterest for some music room design. You can see great images that you can copy for your studio. 
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fwiw. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Rectangular rooms work and I can’t imagine why you say the Golden Ratios are hard to apply- but- you are wrong. Someone suggested 3/8 inch walls- I can’t think of a kind comment about them. Along with the Cardas site look into the construction features of the Rockport Technologies listening room. The best advice you will get is to decide the size room you want and build it solidly and symmetrically. Allow 5 -6 ft behind your speakers and at least 4.5 feet from speakers to side walls. 8 ft behind your head. Plan a vibration isolated area with a door to the side of your speakers for electronics and vibration isolation for your amplifier. Organ music right?  Assuming you’d like your speakers 6-7 ft apart you need 16-17 ft width, about 19 length. 9 ft is contemporary minimum height for a classy space. Get yourself graph paper and draw to scale-precisely. Use 2-3x5/8 drywall on walls. I’d use a base of 5/8 mdf as the first layer behind the speakers if your speakers can drive organ music down to about 30cps. I did these with my 17x27 rm and got positive comment.  Floor shd not flex. Symmetry helps to kiss. Helps resale value and decorating as well :) Enjoy and best wishes. 
I am no expert but in my there are advantages to having a dedicated listening room in the basement. 


1) No large windows, if any at all.
2) Concrete floor.
3) More design flexibility than if the room was in a more public area of the home. This includes the addition of acoustic treatments that only look attractive to the eyes of the audio enthusiast.
4) Easier to design such that music can be listened at high volume without disturbing other family members, especially in the late evening when the audio “magic” often occurs.
5) The option to have an adjacent equipment room to house a turntable that is well-isolated from the listening area.


1) Part of the enjoyment of the hobby is sharing music. Not many folks like to spend hours in a windowless basement listening to sonic perfection other than audiophiles.
2) If your system will include very large speakers betting them down into the listening room can be a pain.
3) Basements rarely have ceilings more than 8 feet high. This may partially be related to cost but also, the deeper the basement, the more concerns there may be with water inflow. Our neighbors rebuilt their home and deepened their basement. Their sump pump runs continuously. Our basement, less than 20 feet away but not as deep, is bone dry and our sump pump has never kicked in over the 14 years we have been in the house. 

Your idea is amazing. I have long dreamed of owning a stereo room. Wish you soon complete your ideal.
By the way, I am also in need of designing a professional conference and seminar room. I am referring to this supplier:
Thanks for everyone's comments. I've had experience with 7 different listening rooms. I agree with many of the suggestions. Each room came with dimensions that I could not change. Each one sounded different. For sure room characteristics are big contributors to the sound you experience. So I wondered what characteristics an ideal room would have. So far there are excellent ideas but no one has come forward to say they've built a listening room (not a recording room) that is close to perfect in being able to create a satisfying sound stage. Even better, no one has suggested that an inexpensive system, say under $5,000, in a great room will deliver a better audio experience than systems costing multiples more in a poor room. Is it possible that fortunes are being spent on equipment that is fighting rooms with poor acoustics?
Hello encore, I can personally relate to your post and find it refreshing to see someone seriously identifying / questioning the elephant in the room. 
 You have hit the nail on the head and I will repeat your quote with an answer: 
 “ one has suggested that an inexpensive system, say under $5000, in a great room will deliver a better audio experience than systems costing multiples more in a poor room. Is it possible that fortunes are being spent on equipment that is fighting rooms with poor acoustics?”
   And the answer is absolutely YES! 
And that’s exactly what’s going on in probably a major percentage of the rooms we see on our audio sights and hear in our visits to our audio friends and acquaintances. 
   An ‘excellent room’ for listening is almost always at odds with a room designed for anything else... 
    A dedicated listening toom will have the speakers placed EXACTLY in THE 2 spots where they will sound optimum in that specific room. 
    A dedicated listening room will have the listening chair ( or perhaps ‘love seat’ but you’d be pushing your luck a bit to try and use a couch)... in EXACTLY THE correct location for the speakers to sound their optimum....
    A dedicated listening room contains the requisite audio rack(s) necessary to properly serve the components and should be strategically positioned to have minimum influence on the acoustics of the environment.
    A dedicated listening room will be seriously addressed with corresponding acoustic room treatments placed where they ideally benefit the system’s prime directive of replicating the musical performance as realistically as possible. 
   With that said... most homes have a chosen room which can be deemed ‘the one’ where the system tries to do its best while still remaining a somewhat socially integrated venue. 
     In my humble opinion a properly set up $4000 system in a dedicated listening room utilizing $1000 in select room acoustic treatments and the available open space void of unnecessary furnishings will be very very tough to beat. 
    Commit to a room first.. work it all from there. 
    Lots more to talk about but just wanted to get started. 
     Happy Lissn’n.     Lissnr

I actually designed and built my room. Not from scratch, it was added as part of a major remodel. Main thing I learned, its easy to say things like the ideal room when in reality there is no such thing. You are onto something when talking about great sums being wasted chasing what was made near impossible by the room itself. You are also onto something with the comment about the soundstage and the room. Yes the room matters but much more with some aspects than others.

Even though you are designing from scratch still you have restrictions of some kind. Physical, aesthetic, whatever. Point is only you know them. So my best advice is find a good architectural book and spend a bit of time studying basic construction.

A little knowledge here goes a long way. Here you will learn for example that 5/8" sheet rock stops sound about twice as good as 1/2", or that the relatively simple construction technique of offset wall studs is good for a good 6 to 10 dB of isolation. A solid core exterior door with weather-stripping is nowhere near recording studio performance, but hugely better than standard interior construction for hardly any more money. Just a very few examples of what you can quickly learn that can get you big results for a very small amount of money. 

You can probably tell I'm much more practical as opposed to theoretical oriented. Maybe that's because after having learned the theory and then done the physical I learned the practical is much more relevant. (Watch how those who argue this point have never actually done what I have actually done!) So learn all you can, but keep it real.

With that in mind, size matters. The bigger the better. The bigger the room the fewer the problems with bass response. Bass is the biggie. I can get you outstanding imaging in a closet. I cannot get you outstanding bass response in even a decent sized room. There's simply no substitute for size.

One last word on bass response. Everything else is easy compared to this. Vast sums can be thrown at this problem. You need to decide how important it is to you. If you want really deep, powerful, articulate bass and are building your own room then either you spend almost as much on just this one thing as everything else thrown together, or you design the room to include bass drivers mounted directly in the floor or wall. Few do this because of the obvious- cutting a great big hole in the floor or wall. I didn't do it because I only learned of it after the fact. But Fosgate did this, and SpeakerLab in Seattle, and the bass it delivers simply must be heard to be believed. For a tiny fraction of the cost of doing it any other way.

That's about all I can tell you in broad strokes. The devil is in the details. The more of yours I know the more I can help. Ultimately though nobody will ever be able to help you more than you yourself. (But I would definitely take Michael Green up on his offer!) You're on the right track. Good luck!

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Find Mike Lavigne system... Mike can tell you how  the room was done... It’s the best....

Yes indeed, Mike Lavigne has the ultimate stereo listening room. A wonderful article by Matej Isak - Publisher, Editor-in-Chief, Founder & Owner of Mono & Stereo, has a detailed description of all the considerations that went into its design and construction here:

Thanks very much for the reference.
OP- purchase Jim Smith's book Get Better Sound. Best $ ever spent for this sometimes crazy ridiculous hobby.

There is a comprehensive article regarding Robert Harley's experience on this topic in the latest Absolute Sound (April 2019, pp 28-40) -- quite a detailed discussion and having had my room built to the same technique (albeit with the full on glue approach) I can endorse it -- and if you have the time and skill you can do it yourself

It's a fascinating quest any way you pursue it. In my own career I've enjoyed the experience of creating many 'great rooms' with an emphasis on acoustics as well as aesthetics. A couple of the things I seem to have learned fly somewhat in the face of accepted practice as well as scientific logic (well, almost). Asymmetry is prime among these, so I was pleased to see your remarks along those lines.

Three things do stand out as universal IME: First, extended ceiling heights. Ten, twelve, fifteen feet high if you can manage it, maintained within proportion to the room's other dimensions of course. Complex, sloping planes can work very well, but need to be managed expertly. Secondly, avoid large, unbroken, continuous surfaces of any kind. Third, wood is an attractive and popular material but it's best if it's open-pore and unvarnished. I've seen a lot of wood finished with gloss polyurethane and it's nearly as reflective as glass.

I definitely agree that the room is the single most important element in the quality of your music listening.

It's like a dream comes true. One thing which matters a lot that its construction does not disturb your music.
Yes, make acoustic.

If anyone (other than bots) is still following this topic, you might be interested in Robert Harley's new article in TAS detailing his experiences in creating a new listening room. 

Interesting article!Having done quite a bit of diy in my home my back and arms almost ached in sympathy as he wrote about doing the ceiling.I think the cost was reasonable also.A custom built room for any type of hobby could easily cost much more in custom built ins,woodwork,and furnishings.
Assuming you are serious. Stop fretting about perfect dimensions and focus on designing a room that will facilitate making the great sound you want. Don’t somply go for the largest room. Realize that bass traps are inevitable as is the need for diffusion. What size area and what ceiling height is practicable for you?
Robert Harley's current TAS article is a wonderful report about his design and construction of a DIY stereo reproduction room. Thanks very much for sharing so much practical detail.

This discussion thread has been very helpful for anyone with the luxury of being in a position to design for the construction of a new room. Thanks to all.

One subject I still wonder about: ventilation. What is the best way to keep the air fresh and comfortable through four seasons and not compromise the acoustics?
For ventilation I had ASC spec out a mini split which is a solution that will work just about anywhere, however I can still hear the unit when it’s on even two rooms away and through my sound isolated room. It’s probably unavoidable that low fan rumble will carry through any ducting into your room and the only fool proof solution is to turn the system off when you are listening - which will also remove any impact it has on the electricals as well

The ducting is all built into the acoustic soffit in my room, that way you get HVAC support without compromising the acoustic integrity of the room

Can you give more details about the design of:
  • a "mini split"; and
  • an "acoustic soffit"


Here is a straightforward and perhaps unorthodox way of how I built my room. I built a combination home theatre stereo listening room. I built my room based off years of practical listening experiences, research on the Internet, and having experience of program oversight of building secure compartment facilities for the government. None of this compares to listening to music in various and different rooms and settings. Those listening experiences alone led me to have my own impressions of what I wanted. Number one, I can’t stand carpet in a dedicated stereo listening room, or home theater for that matter. I would rather spot treat reflection zones and use diffusion after I have made measurements. I have added carpet in front of speakers to be fair, but they serve a purpose. I prefer a natural decay of the reverberation time (RT), a measure of the amount of time it takes a specific or series of sound to reach a predetermined distance, otherwise known as RT60. It is the decay of the sound that is measured....with too much damping, carpet on the floor, padding along the entire walls, the natural sound of the music can become light and dry. You also don’t want too much, then you have echoes. So, I built a room using the knowledge that I have and what I know from experiences. This is a dedicated room,  not a studio, although some say it’s a studio because of what I did. Some rooms are full of carpet and sound good, but it’s a different good...for me, my benchmark is natural tone, and I lean towards that for my musical listening efforts. For others, perhaps not so much.

Basement room, concrete floor, 3 walls concrete
1. Room size: 33 feet long  x 19 wide x 8 high. Okay, not golden ratio, but a longer room will offset some low bass anomaly’s.

2. 7inches high density of spray foam under joists.

3. Roxul 16” Safe and sound under spray foam, and all walls (note: concrete walls had air barrier membrane that we left in place and put the Roxul on top of)

4. Resilient channel on ceiling and walls

5. Quiet rock 530 on ceiling and all walls. Another quiet rock layer 510 on ceilings.

6. Double back wall with 4 layers of quiet rock 510, 2inch gap between wall assemblies.

7. Bamboo floor over concrete.

8. Natural stone wall behind speakers (adds natural diffusion to the soundstage)

9. 2 sets of Stone wall pillars along the left and right walls ala home theater style, but again, purpose built for diffusion, and not looks,  but, it does look good.

10. Ceiling painted a low emmittance black, low light reflectivity value (3)

11. Walls same low value orange red brown,

12. 5 20 amp dedicated circuits (1 for amps, 2 for subs, 1 for sources, 1 AV rack)

13. Led color changing lights (with app)  in ceiling around custom built crown molding.

14. 13 foot wide acoustic transparent screen with speakers behind. In wall speakers built into quiet rock wall assemblies 7.1 channel.  

15. Various mix of diffusion and bass absorbers from Vicoustic and GIK.

Sound, wow, as you described what you wanted, a massive and immersive soundstage, that is what you get. Images float in space, and the reverberations of music are relaxing and a pleasure to listen to. A combined two channel and home theater room is really the best of both worlds. It’s the culmination of all of your years investment in music and stereo gear that really get a chance to shine here.

I was fortunate to move into a new build house and had the ability to build out the basement the way I wanted. So, I told the builder to leave the basement as is, with only the bar, game room, bathroom, and a bedroom being built. This gave me the chance to apply all of my knowledge gained over the years to build a room the way I wanted. Could have spent more or lesss, but I determined that for me, what I spent was just right, also, since it was a new build, I was able to do the wiring infrastructure at the same time. The listening room contractor was really good...when he ran power to a home theater riser cut through the concrete, I knew he was good. Now he is building a home theater for some very well known east coast football player.

If you search my handle in the analog section, you will find my report of a MC cartridge, but, I describe how the sound explodes and emits from nowhere and in a uncanny way makes you feel as one with the music. I would like to think that my room has allowed me to appreciate music even more. The room should be considered a part of the stereo system...and tuned to your liking. Good luck. I hope this short write up helps you a little.

What a great case report, Audioquest4life. The best part is reading how much fun you seem to have had designing the room and then the satisfaction of enjoying the result. Inspirational!

What is a source for your transparent screen? Is it similar to the screens used in IMAX theaters? 

Are the speakers you've built into your rock wall within conventional enclosures?

I plan to use 1 foot thick rammed earth walls with concrete ceiling and floor. The dimensions will be symmetrical but with angles more than 90°. This will provide a rigid acoustic space of about 10,000 cu. ft. that will no doubt require sound treatment to achieve a balance between unwanted and wanted effects. This discussion has persuaded me I will need professional help to fine tune the room. I like what Audioquest4life set as objectives and the result. 
The screen is from screen innovations. It is a series 5 fixed, 2.35 aspect ratio. Have to dig into if it’s a .8 or 1.2 gain. But with a dark room, contrast or brightness is not an issue. Here is some information
Also, you may be tempted to go for a curved screen, but, I saw that the overhang of the curved left and right sections protrude into (about 3-6 inches from back wall) the off axis sound of the two channel speakers (Left and right) which could cause sound contamination, and more chance of the sound to bounce around, disturbing the soundstage. Also, the sound would probably get congested in the center of the curved screen, going against the idea of having a large soundstage with elements of the music floating in space, and essentially throwing all the work done to the room away. The space behind the screen is about 4 feet deep, a small enough pocket for power, a light bulb, and the speakers. Behind screen speakers are a pair of B&W 804 diamonds, HTM1 center, and velodyne sub. The only pain is if I ever have to get behind screen, I would have to move the black velvet underneath the screen and crawl in, or with the help of someone, lift the screen and move aside and do the work. The sidewall speakers are also B&W inwall series, CWM7.3’s, 4 each. Also added prewiring for Dolby atmos in the ceiling. The AV rack sits outside the listening room adjacent in the technology and AC room with conduit ran to each of the speaker locations, and extra conduit to the 2 channel source area so that I have playing options if I wanted to use a 2 channel source from the AV rack to the stereo directly, or send a signal from 2 channel to AV rack, just having options is nice. I ran CAT 6, HDMI, XLR, and digital coax from AV room to the 2 channel stereo wall. The AV rack is a Middle Atlantic and McIntosh prosessor and 7 channel amp. The 2 channel system is all you see in the listening room, except for the fixed screen, in wall speakers, and projector. 2 giant McIntosh MC2301 tube amps with PS Audio P10 power regeneration drive B&W Nautilus 800 speakers, also have Aesthetix IO Signature tube phono stage, Transrotor Apollon turntable with two SME V arms, Soundsmith MK Sussaro II, Benz LPS, and Benz Ruby Z round out the cartridges. Octave Jubilee reference tube preamp, Clearaudio Montblanc turntable stand (massive 200 plus pounds of stainless steel poured inside with concrete), and McIntosh MVP SACD/blue ray for two channel digital. All sources have a PS audio P5 power regenerator device at each location, AV rack, 2 channel rack. Als forgot to add, that during the build, I also applied Greenglue abundantly throughout, and added wall outlet damping as well, can’t forget the holes. I will update my gallery with new pics soon. I thought adding the component list would help you visualize someone, a DIY guy like me, who virtually designed, contracted a home theater builder, and specified the materials for the build. I also pulled my own general building permit, which includes electrical, for the design, saving me some money from the contractor getting the permits. Just had to submit the design plan, really a sketch, identify plumbing, none in my case, egress windows, none in my case also, as it is a media room, and 125 dollars later, you have a permit. Make sure your contractor who does the build is also a licensed electrician...makes it a lot easier. Good luck

One subject I still wonder about: ventilation. What is the best way to keep the air fresh and comfortable through four seasons and not compromise the acoustics?

One solution we’ve used is linear diffusers. They permit visual integration with complex ceiling planes and are fairly unobtrusive. They are readily integrated into the architectural design and since the air handling is remote, the ventilation is essentially silent.

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