Listening Nirvana in Tiny Hideaway Room

In typically neurotic audiophile fashion, I continue to obsess over upgrades, speaker placement etc with my main system in my main room inside the house.

I have recently abandoned the completion of a new office in a detached garage, as I have found myself traveling into my other office in NYC much more frequently than expected.

As I looked at this garage space, I realized that the walls and ceiling are asymmetrical, with a high point of 9 feet or so, although the room itself is quite small -- say 10 by 12 ish.

So I wondered if I might be fun to escape to this space to listen to music and/or watch movies -- away from the distractions and noises of the house, family, TV telephone etc.

Has anyone succeeded in assembling a jaw dropping system in such a small space? Or have you had success with a particular speaker that could sound and image well in a small space?

Does this sound like fun? .....or should I just plow more funds into the big rig?
Small rooms require a lot of engineering to get them to work. You also have to use appropriate speakers. Typically 2 way monitors. We did a small room which was less than 13 x 16 with Karma 3.2 speakers. It was absolutely incredible. I can put you in touch with that person if you want to discuss engineering a small room. The answer is yes--it can be done incredibly well, but it's not easy.
I had great success in a room about the same size as yours. I did not even spend that much on it. I was using it strictly as my first dedicated listening room after an absence from High End audio for many years. I was just tired of it but this little system got me right back into it.

I was using a pair of Sonus Faber Concertinos on their matching stands and an Electrocompaniet ECI-3 Integrated with a used Sony XA7ES. For cabling all Audience Au24. The results were stunning. I would have my audio buddies come over and their jaws would drop. It sounded anything but small and the little Sonus would just disappear. I could also not believe the bass I was getting.

Maybe I just had system/room synergy but you really should have heard it. The room I was using was a smaller bedroom on the first floor of our first home. So it had a closet and two windows and was carpeted. I did hang a rug on the system wall and used some Sonex Panels on the rear wall and that was it.

I still miss that little system. Anyway, sorry if I rambled but I say go for it! A place to escape to is sometimes priceless...

Hi Cwlondon,

Listening distance and early room reflections are the obvious but manageable issues. If you have no problems with listening about six feet from a loudspeaker and have the patience required to massage the best balance between reflection and diffraction with the acoustical treatments, you are on your way to enjoying some of the most fascinating detail and musical expressiveness from your music. It's tricky but well worth the escape!

Sonic holography is obtainable but a side benefit is the abundance of micro dynamics and intimacy with the recording/artist. You may draw new insights listening to old favorites since this type of setup brings on a different perspective. As far as loudspeaker choices, start off with “simplest is best” – a set of single-driver speakers with small tube amps. If that doesn’t trip your trigger, move into small two-ways (such as Totem/Meadowlark/AE/etc.) that don’t require an inappropriate listening distance to sound coherent. The only real problem I seem to always run across is the imbalance I hear in the treble with most small loudsepakers when placed in a tiny room. Whether by design or not, most sound overly bright and may require a slight padding down of the treble driver to get a natural balance.

Good Luck!

Steve Rothermel
Ridge Street Audio Designs
I've been using Galante Rhapsody and Audio Note ANK/L in a similar sized room with low powered tubes amps for some time and it works out very well. The speakers were ceiling hung and still sounded very good. It did take some time to get them positioned just so and a friend to help that that exercise makes it much easier.

Using some deadening material on the ceilings and walls is quite useful, too.
I had great success and fun with a small room in my house. I left my main rig alone and put money into a room that is 11' x 13' with a vaulted sloping ceiling. One corner is rounded. I used Von Schweikert VR-1s with a solid state integrated Creek. It is almost more enjoyable because it is intimate and accurate. As the above folks have stated, you will need speakers that are forgiving and near-field as well as ones that have a wider soundstage. But, for me, it is fun and private and I heartily recommend it. It will give some music a new definition, especially solo artists, acoustic music and recorded performances in intimate settings. Good luck!

I have a small listening area and it can be very enjoyable, but different, from a larger listening area. For me, a nearfield setup has an uncanny ability to provide that "you are there" experience, especially when listening to a small ensemble or vocalist.

One great feature of a small listening area is that it generally doesn't require much power to get up to a decent volume. I have a pair of 92db eff. monitors (Reference 3A MM DeCapos) and I can use anything from a 1.5 watt/channel Moth Audio 45 (the best amp I've ever heard!) to a pair of BottleHead Paramours or a pair of Channel Islands VMB-1 solid state chip amps. I would think that the RedWine Audio Clari-T would also be great in this setup.

Also, because "big bass" is just going to overload the room anyway, you can get by with less bass. For me, this means a Quad 99 CDP CD player connected directly to a pair of Channel Islands VMB-1s powering the DeCapos. For a digital only setup, it is all I could possibly ever need and it was very affordable (at used AudiogoN prices)!.

I say, shop wisely and try it. If it doesn't work out, sell it off and be happy that you gave it a shot.

BTW, I am building a new house and I am building a new cave (cave in the sky!) above the garage. It's for me only and I plan to use it a lot!


Hi there,
I read this with interest as I have just had to move my main system from the lounge to the dining room - spouse pressure & all that
I do not want to downsize my system as I hope to be able to build up or out at some stage so it's given that the rig is a bit ott for the small room.
It was used in a 22 X 15ft lounge and is now in a 15 x 12ft room, made worse by having 3 ft deep built in cupboards.
This effectively makes it 12 x 12. Apart from an imbalance due to to one speaker being next to the doorway and hence twice as far from a side boundary as the other, listening to my Virgos nearfield has been a whole new experience. I can't get them as far apart as I'd like but I'm very peased that it is still enjoyable and hoping by the use of some room treatments ( a new learning curve for me, not helped by no one in the UK showing much interest), I'm hoping Nirvana will still be possible.
Rives & Ridgestreets posts are encouraging, it would be no fun if it were easy!
Over the last two months I too relocated to a smallish room, 12X15, with surprising results. I am using 2-way Focal Utopia Be's with an Ayre V1xe, BAT 51SE and Ayre's redbook CDP. My only thought is that as one of the posters above pointed out, I feel the treble is sl too much. Room panels would be the next thought, but not sure which direction/manufacture to seek out. Back to the original post, yes success is very obtainable with smallish size rooms.
I have been using a 10' by 12' wood-panelled library for the past 6 years. My wife lets me use this room only for my system with all the equipment. There is room only for a three person sofa 6' away from the speakers. Over the years I puttered in this 'garden' and currently I use a horn hybrid speaker which sound best in the corners (so do Audio Note speakers.) I use Eighth Nerve for some light room treatment and actively bi-amp with four 45 tube monoblocks. The monoblocks are on the floor between the speakers and the rest of the equipment is located to the side (long interconnects, short speaker cables). IME/IMS, the biggest improvements/uprades have been (in very rough order): Actively bi-amping with a custom tube crossover, the speakers (SAP J2001 twins), adding vinyl, upgrading to EMM Lab digital, adding three dedicated lines, adding the Equitech balanced line conditioning via a remote wall sub-panel. I am thrilled with the nearfield experience/sound I am getting and I cherish this room, albeit its' size . In fact, I am currently building a house with a dedicated music room which is larger (23' by 15' by 10', and I am fearful screwing it up.

Hope this helps,

As with other posters, I also moved audio system into a small room (12X10). It quickly became obvious that moving into smaller room required a system downsize. I found happiness with small two way floorstanders. They have adequate bass with solid imaging. It is very satisfying to have a small secluded space to retire to for relaxation. Go for it.
My room is fairly small at 14.5' x 17' with 10' ceiling. I have a very large two piece per side speaker system in it. Results are wonderful thanks to a TacT RCS. Really the only issues are proper clearance of the speakers from the walls and controlling the bass nodes. Absorptive room treatments help too. There is nothing inherently bad about smaller rooms, and in fact it is easier to achieve great bottom octave bass in them because of room gain starting at higher frequencies (about 33hz in my room) -- of course this is only true if you have speakers that have usable output in the bottom octave, which most speakers do not. I do have plans to expand my room out to 17' x 23' which will give me more flexibility in position of speakers and listening seat.
I've put together a small space for a truly musical escape. Check out 'my system' for details. I say - GO FOR IT!!!
I've had a lot of fun with my "bedroom" system. I've gone for different sound than with the main system, with less emphasis on bass. The system is pretty modest, with a Creek integrated and Totem arro speakers. As other posters have noted, you can get a great, intimate sound with a lot less volume (and money).
I had fun with my 10x12 or so listening room, but it turned into an anal nightmare. All I did was obsess over room treatment and placement. If you are serious I would do it (it's worth having a dedicated listening room), but get in touch with Rives to save yourself the never ending tweaking (fun at first - but never ending). I missed a lot of musical enjoyment, because I was always listening to the equipment.