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,

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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.