Is the significance of room acoustics overrated?

Don't get me wrong as I realize just how important room acoustics are (I think).

However, let me share some recent experiences:

In our previous home, an audio reviewer/columnist evaulated my system. Very positively I might add. Anyway, upon telling him that my family and I were preparing to relocate to the West coast after his 3 hour evaulation, he responded with "good luck trying to find another room with these acoustics." And I knew exactly what he meant.

Well, we found a home that may have had even better room acoustics but it failed the home inspections. I'm still bummed about that one, but it was on to the next...

We settled on another home and it was either the living room or the family room for my listening room. Because of it's isolation from other rooms (very open floor plan) I selected the family room even though the living room had better acoustics and immediately had an electrician install the dedicated lines there. But this family room has no where near the level of acoustics of my previous room.

Although the same basic sonic characteristics where there in the new room, the bass had peaks and valleys like a rollercoaster. And off-and-on over the next 7 months, I'd move the speakers around trying to locate the best position for overall best performance/best compromise.

Lo and behold about a month ago, I located a position in which the bass peaks and valleys have all but disappearded and overall and in some ways the absolute bass control and response as well as the overall presentation is even better than my previous room.

Of course I can't help but wonder what if I had devoted this kind of attention to speaker placement in my previuos room with better acoustics?

But at the same time, I find it difficult to believe that simply relocating the speakers to an 'optimal' location could cause the interactions with the room's poor acoustics could be minimalized to such a degree.

Therefore, I ask:

Aside from ensuring basic room treatments i.e. thick wall-to-wall carpeting and padding and generally good room demensions/symmetry, etc. is not speaker placement far, far more important?

And lastly, I suppose this thread may offer hope for some that there very well be a better speaker placement to cover a multitude of sins in what should be deemed an otherwise acoustically poor room.
I personally do not believe spk. placement is more important than the acoustical properties of the room. Every room has a certain size of spk./driver which will provide optimal sound quality. Finding the right match-up is critical. Had a open room w/high catheral ceilings. Couldn't find the right spk. Tried big/small and in-between. Finally...I was able to find just the right spk. w/the electronics which matched perfectly together. Spk. placement does have an effect, no doubt, but there is only so much one can do to correct the wrong spk. in a certain room.
In my view it is a combination of all things, room size first, next proper speaker selection for the room size, then speaker and listening placement, and lastly acoustic treatment. You need it all to get a great result but you have to start with good ingredients (room & speakers).
Who told you that "thick wall-to-wall carpeting and padding" is a proper way to get good sound in all rooms under all circumstances?
EVERY room - including every concert hall - has its own characteristics and is never THE best! A carpeted one hardly ever can be! And even in a hall which is famous for its sound like Vienna, Amsterdam or SF you will have seats which are not so good. Don't overrate the single problem like room, speaker setting, toeing in etc. Everything is linked and working together or against eachother in every environment. And when you think you have done the job with orchestral music you listen to a big organ over your system and all the magic might be gone. Or you will have the "right" sound for a jazz club (Van Morrison - live in LA for a (fantastic!) example)and your Shostakovitch 11th breaks apart - over the SAME system. In the SAME room. For the SAME ears! So relax and don't trust those "THE BEST, THE ULTIMATE"-people. It's all relative - which exactly is part of the magic of music!
I'd say room treatment is underrated. OTOH, it's not easy to clutter up a room with bass traps, panels, etc (WAF, etc) or very expensive to do unobtrusively.

In a "correctly" sized room, modes will be lesser, esp. in the bass. A treated room will attenuate these even further & help in avoiding spurious reflections that destroy imaging, etc -- the "magic". In an untreated room, speaker positioning is critical: not only for precise imaging at the listening spot, but also to limit modes & reflections. In a treated room, speaker placement is more a matter of getting imaging & depth correct, the treatment having dealt with the other (difficult) aspects.
Unfortunately the room itself, by virtue of its box-like structure and hard, flat surfaces, influences the sound. Slap echo, standing waves and the tremendous build-up of sound pressure levels in all (8) room corners are three big problems that spring to mind.
I figure that speaker placement and the characteristics of the room are interrelated.
I have my speaker correctly placed to minimize the effects of the room, and my TacT RCS unit still imroves the sound,
which can be quickly determined by using the bypass control. Speaker placement is only one part of dealing with your room. Passive or electronic treatment is needed to deal with the other aspects.
If anything, the significance is UNDERrated.

Like Kana813 I have a TacT RCS 2.0S which I'm only using
for the room correction feature in a complete Mark
Levinson/Magnepan system. The digital room correction
takes a marginally listenable system (because of poor
room acoustics) to a very musical system. The digital
correction is by far the most substantial upgrade I've
made to my system.
Speaker placement will usually make the biggest difference, then room acoustics. But why does it matter they are both necessary as far as I'm conserned.

And "thick wall to wall carpet" ?? Are you talking about a poor mans recording studio?
Robm321, based on my experience, I'd have to agree at this point in time that speaker placement takes priority over a room's acoustics.

Unless of course the room's acoustics are just plain horrible.

I would also agree that it is a combination of all ingredients, including speaker and room synergy, etc..

As to the thick wall-to-wall carpeting statement. I thought that was a pretty obvious and popular notion.

If you have a better idea I'm all ears. But as far as I know, the first and potentially biggest reflections come from the floor. And the carpeting helps to prevent any high frequency floor bounce. Not to mention having the two hard parallel surfaces (ceiling and floor). The thicker the better along with a heavy/thick carpet pad.

If you're not into the carpeting thing, then what are you using?

While my primary reaction is against the dim, mediocre ponderance of relative importance of anything audio, especially variables that don't compete against each other, I also automatically thought about the slew of confounds that were dismissed in Stehno's bold conclusion based on a single experience. Then I think about how one can compare the degree of room goodness with the degree of speaker placement goodness and how one can compare rooms when "optimal" placement was not achieved in one, which got me to my own experience. A half-dozen rooms and god knows how many spots for the Revelations, I have to conclude the differences between rooms were not fully made up for by placement and vice versa. With the best place I could find in each room, which is easy because my speakers are very predictable in placement, the better room sounded better.

Without being concerned about the problems in Stehno's comparison, his conclusion could be reversed, or could be called a tie between room and placement by using a different logic, a logic that includes the amount of effort he put in to placement.
Loudspeaker/listener placement primarily effects bass room response and stereo/imaging information. The room directly effects these factors plus reverb decay which is critical for clarity and detail. Obviously both speaker placement and the overall room design are important to achieving quality music reproduction. Perhaps a better way to look at the issue is to consider whether you would prefer listening to a $50,000 loudspeaker ideally positioned in a poor acoustic environment or a $5,000 loudspeaker in a professionally design and built room? To me it's a no-brainer, the $5k speaker will produce far better results.

Has anyone ever listened to a high quality speaker outdoors?
Has anyone ever listened to a high quality speaker outdoors?

Yep. Interesting /surprising sound. Lack of reflections by far made up for the lack of room reinforcement! Ambient noise was low, fortunately.
Ohlala, stop trying to pretend you are educated beyond your intelligence. Based on your verbiage above and elsewhere, it's quite evident that you already are.

For the last two years you've been like a little butt rash that flares up every three months or so, even though I've no idea who you are.

And now that that's out in the open, I'll address your post above.

Where do you get this "bold conclusion" from? It was a simple obervation. I had one interesting experience that I wanted to share that indicates to me a possible kink in the logic of those that espouse room acoustics over everything else and therefore I posed my question.

But since you bring it up, I perhaps came to some conclusion that room acoustics may not be quite the end-all 80% of a system's performance as some to many may have thought and preached. Or perhaps speaker placement can sometimes substitute for a portion of that 80%. But obviously the final answer is most likely based on the individual's room, system, treatments, speaker placement, and one's listening preferences.

As for my one experience to your vast experiences with room acoustics? College dorm rooms really don't count.

Room acoustics are huge. But I don't think they are overrated. I can tell that many people have no idea how important an good acoustical environment is. At least there are many who have little or no room treatment yet spend hundreds or more on cables or upgrading gear. I suspect the odds of having a great acoustic environment with out some room treatment is at least extremely unlikely.
Warnerwh, I agree but, if you have the correct room, the correct speakers, and proper placement, the need for acoustic treatments is reducted to ordinary furnishings. Treatments beyond that is a band aid for lacking in any of the 1st three. But, you need a dedicated room! Not too many folks are lucky enuf to have one, ergo the need for acoustic treatments. Most have wives that want the stuff in some small extra bed room. :-)

Stehno, FWIW by attacking Ohlala you are defining yourself more than you are him. He is what he is and he will be seen by others for what he is, as will you. We do not need your assistance in assessing his worth. This forum is supposed to be about audio!
Newbee, very good points all around. Thanks. Warrenh, I do not necessarily agree with everything you say above or at least not to quite the same degree as you, but I understand where you are coming from.

I agree with several posters here--if anything the influence of a room's acoustics is UNDERrated. When my wife and I moved into our first house a year ago, I conducted a rather unscientific (but still instructive) experiment. I decided to turn the house's unfinished basement into a listening/media room. Using my second system, I played a few tracks in the unfinished basement and took notes. The sound was generally harsh, unfocused, and echo-y. A month later, when the drywall (backed with foam insulation) was up, I played the system again. I noticed a mild improvement--the biggest difference was a reduction in the amount of echo. A few weeks later, when the carpet (a thick one) was in, I hauled out the system again and played it. That was when I noticed the biggest difference--with the carpet installed. What echo remained was largely gone, and the sound was much smoother and the imaging more focused. Then I started installing room treatments, and the sound improved with each treatment. What all this means--at least to me--is that the room was having a PROFOUND effect on the sound quality I was getting. I think I've gotten things to the point where I've transformed a bad-sounding room into a good one. Of course, I'm limited by the room ratio (24' x 20' x 7'), but all things considered it's turned out pretty well. As I said, my "experiment" was unscientific at best, but it confirmed for me the importance of a good-sounding room. The encouraging news is that most rooms, I think, can be made to sound good without having to spend boatloads for a ground-up design of a dedicated room.
I think that every part of the system, including the room, is important. For an audiophile, we strive to get each part to do the best it can. Rooms included. We have to work with what we have, and what we can afford. Many times rooms are not as good as we'd like, and the same goes for our systems. Maximizing the entire system in the context of the room, with speaker placement, room treatments, and a good quality system will get us all pretty close to the best we can have in each of our particular listening environments.

Attempting to place unusual emphasis, or importance, on one part or another can get out of hand. Balance and synergy play a big part here.
Twl, perhaps yours is the more intriguing response. When you said "attempting to place unusal emphasis, or importance, on one part or another can get out of hand."

Maybe that's what was in the back of my mind. Because up 'til now, the most common response for ingredients necessary to aquire good sound has been room acoustics. And with that response I've heard and read too many times that room acoustics account for typically a whopping 80%. And with my previous room's excellent acoustics I agreed.

But now my current room has nowhere near the same level of acoustics, yet speaker placement has more than made up for that deficieincy.

So getting back to your statement, perhaps that room acoustics accounting for 80% of the sonics is the unusual emphasis, importance, or the one part that may have gotten just a bit out of hand?

I mean, couldn't room acoustics account for a still whopping 40 or 50% while speaker placement accounts for the other 40 or 30% ?

"Ohlala, stop trying to pretend you are educated beyond your intelligence. Based on your verbiage above and elsewhere, it's quite evident that you already are."

My post was economic, not an attempt to be eloquent. Out of laziness, instead of writing a longer post, I used the diction I did in order to shorten it. I am also fine with the pointed adornments. If you want to judge my intelligence, try deferring to my post's content.

"For the last two years you've been like a little butt rash that flares up every three months or so, even though I've no idea who you are."

Not as a slight, you know more about me than I would be interested in knowing about you. I don't get personal, you do.

"Where do you get this "bold conclusion" from?"

You had to make a conclusion about your experience to question the logic of others. As I posted, I found your conclusions to be too week to even begin questioning the experiences of others. Even though "bold" could be dropped from my post w/out changing any of my points, that's where I was coming from when I wrote "bold conclusion".

"Or perhaps speaker placement can sometimes substitute for a portion of that 80%."

The proportion game is mediocre audio, and I don't think 80% is the mainstream thought (but whatever), but I can only take what you state as you finding your poorer room to be more difficult for speakers placement. Maybe there is something else, but I'm sleepy. At this point of this post I just have to circle back to my first. Even if I bought in to ##%, your conclusion is beyond your experience.

"As for my one experience to your vast experiences with room acoustics? College dorm rooms really don't count."

The Revelations have never been in a dorm room, but comparing bad rooms and good rooms, I don't see the point in dismissing a dorm. I don't consider my room acoustic experience to be "vast". My experience pertaining to the topic of this thread is greater than yourÂ’s, so I felt obligated to state my findings within a post that debunks your's.

I am using Auralex 1" foam pads. I do have a comforter on one wall to kill the flutter echo, but I think, well I know because I've tried covering all the walls, will kill the dynamics and roll of the highs.

There is nothing wrong with carpeting at all, but having "wall to wall carpeting" will give you a dead sound. The ratio usually thrown around is 50% absorbtive (if that's a word, I'm too lazy to spell check) 50% reflective - preferably difused sound. I'd have to agree with this. A dead sounding system is as bad as a bright untreated sounding system to my ears.

But ultimately the question can't be aswered in general. It has to be taken on a case by case basis. The loudpeaker placement will always come first, then treat the walls. They are both necessary to get your what you payed all the money for in your system.
Robm321, when I said 'wall-to-wall' carpeting I meant only covering the entire flooring. I thought wall-to-wall was kind of a popular term to describe this. Sorry.
By whom?
Good question. I suppose I picked up the term from seeing real estate / homes for sale ads.