Listening Through Walls at Show: Vodoo or Valid?

My girlfriend and I visited the NY show on Sunday.

Although I enjoyed it nonetheless, I found it a bit crowded and the rooms a bit cramped to really settle into any particular demo for a relaxed listening session.

This led to a very weird observation: although I am normally opposed to A/B comparisons and snap judgements, thinking that only longer term listening sessions really reveal the subtleties of our hobby, I found myself making judgements about the systems from OUTSIDE the rooms, sometimes standing in the hallways through only a crack in the door or even walking past closed doors.

Pacing down the corridors we felt compelled to enter some and avoid others. My girlfriend is not an audiophile but she is really interested in music and would often say "too bright" before we would even completely enter a room. (This was not about the music, especially as 9 out of 10 demos seemed to be Patricia Barber anyway.)She particularly ran out of the Phillips? home theatre room and also shied away from the pipedreams system.

Two rooms that we liked were the Dynaudio room and the Wilson set up (Innovative Audio?) which both sounded great to our ears from outside AND inside the room -- with different music and with the Dynaudio room actually having us wonder "is it live?" -- here again from down the hall!

Obviously this might not be the most intelligent way to make pricey decisions on purchasing new components but it was quite a surprise to think about and reflect on.

For the record, I didn't have 6 bloody marys at breakfast or anything.

I would be curious to hear what others have had similar experiences or think of this test methodology?!?!?! Maybe there is something to it!
This would be a very bad way to make even cheap decisions about components. The three most important determinants of sound are speakers, room software. Note the one in the middle. Now, think about the "listening room" you're doing this highly scientific comparing in. Anything like your room at home? Ixnay. For one thing, the ratio of direct to reflected sound is, well, zero.

The rooms these systems were blasting out of could be having an effect (and a different one in each case). Some systems may have been playing too loud for your friend's taste. So I wouldn't put too much stock in it.

On the other hand, if I were showing off my equipment, I'd make damn sure it sounded good as people were approaching.
IMO if it sounds bad from outside the door it's only gonna get worse the close that you get. That much of your approach is likely quite valid anyway.
This is not even voodoo. It only lends credence to what I wrote on this site many months ago: audio shows are the worst places to form any kind of opinion on a sound system. The dreaded subject of blind testing gets short shrift because it, according to its detractors, puts undue pressure on the listener as it forces one to decide under some form of duress brought about by not being able to settle in and listen normally. The second worst place to listen to compomnents or systems is at a dealer. This does not leave much choice: get a sample of what you want into your own room and go through a standardized listening evaluation. Are you serious about judging sound through a crack in the door? As high-end audio come to this? Tell me it ain't so Joe!
At one point I was walking down the corridor on the second floor and thought I was certainly hearing live music. Turned out it was the Wilson room. The sound was indeed good in that room and if it fooled me from down the hall, they must be doing something right. But I wonder if the main factor in explaining the illusion was SPLs. That system was cranked (although it handled the volume nicely).

I found a majority of rooms were playing louder than I normally listen at home and, well, just too loud, sometimes way too loud. Are exhibitors using volume to mask poor sound?
Actually, there is a lot of credence to listening OUTSIDE of the room. The sound outside is now "equalized". As in, when inside the room you are prone to bass peaks and dips, high fequency ricochets, and an unpredictable mix of direct vs indirect sound arriving at your ears. But OUTSIDE the room, the entire sound (spkrs + room + flat bass) comes out of the door in a homogenous manner. Once you step inside the room, you have to get your ears to the right spot where everything might equalize to some extent (assuming good speaker-room interaction). But outside, it has already been blended to smooth, coherent sound.

This is best demonstrated by having your significant other point out changes in your system's sound, while standing in the KITCHEN!
Again, I wouldn't recommend making a major purchase decision this way, but I do agree there is something to it. It's as if the quick listen from outside gave a gut level, emotional reaction, and a stepped back perspective of the entire forest and not just the trees.

And if a system sounds bright distorted or fatiguing through the muffling of walls ?!?!? than it just isn't any good in my book and no further listening is required. Sorry guys, but you can't blame that on the Hilton.

Many years ago, when Stereo Review used to argue -- backing up their assertions with data and graphs - that all power amps sounded the same, a reviewer from the Absolute Sound argued that he could hear the difference between power amps with cotton in his ears. I still believe him.
L.I.A.R. stands for "Listening in another room", and is a very valuable tool in serious loudspeaker evaluation.

One of the things I do when auditioning speakers (or demoing them for customers) is crank the volume up a bit louder than normal and go into the next room, leaving the door open. From the next room, all you can possibly hear is the reverberant field, and a good reverberant field response is necessary for long-term listening enjoyment. Also, listening from the next room puts a premium on the dynamic contrast - without good dyamic contrast, the music will be lifeless from the hallway.

Note that, from the next room, a live piano sounds totally convincing. A speaker that can pull that off is something special, and is obviously doing something right.

When there is a significant tonal discrepancy between the on-axis and reverberant response, the ear/brain system has to work harder to integrate the events because they are not as closely related as natural sounds are. The eventual result is listening fatigue.

Of course a speaker has to sound good from the normal listening position, but the L.I.A.R test will quickly give you reliable information on whether a speaker that sounds initially impressive will remain enjoyable hour after hour, or will soon wear out its welcome.
You gotta be kidding. Are people like you promoting the "LIAR" test called "LIARS"? 'Agon is getting wackier and wackier by the day. Tell me it ain't so Joe. Speakers should be auditioned in the same manner they will be listened to. Reducing the variables like using only known material and, if at all possible, doing it in your own listening room is the only valid test. To pretend that tricks such as listening from another room to better equalize the response is doing a disservice to audiophiles, most especially new ones. If you sold vacuum cleaners you probably would be doing the ball bearing test to show how powerful the machine is. Everybody in this hobby affected by now chronic scientific deconstructionism is a would be Newton. I recommend blindfold testing so that one's eyesight does not overcompensate for one's hearing. Yes systems sound different from the next room. No, you will not, in all probability, be listening from the next room; so to say that long term listening can be simulated or evaluated by this so-called test is strange. It goes the other way 'round: if you think it sounds good through walls, you should walk into the room to listen to the system, certainly not if it sounds bad to get out to listen through the walls. And what if it sounds bad to your ears from the hall, like the original poster postualtes; in the search for audio truth, you should bravely walk in and face the music. Only then will you truly know, my child...
Listening to a loudspeaker in your listening room with your equipment is the primary way to evaluate the product. However, that being said, judging how the loudspeaker sounds like from another adjacent room (with the door open) is an accurate and valuable way to get a down and dirty certain performance aspects. Audiokinesis clearly lays out the hows and whys. Pbb, I value and welcome your role as a contrarian in these forums, but on this specific issue you need to open your mind.
I would add that Duke (Audiokinesis) is, to my mind, as credible and rational a voice as there is on Audiogon.
There are a lot of things you can learn from listening in another room. A system that sounds clear as a bell, with realistic tonality, dynamics and bass reproduction heard from an adjacent room should sound even better in the sweet spot. Sort of a lifestyle issue with me. I often listen to my family room system while I'm working in the kitchen. Sounds good to me.
Well, I guess I was kinda askin' for it!

Of course the ideal way to evaluate a system is in your own room, but that's not always possible. I'm not suggesting listening in another room to "equalize the response", but rather to quickly isolate and evaluate a factor that has a significant bearing on long-term listening enjoyment - namely, the reverberant field response. You see, often it simply isn't possible to audition every speaker you might be interested in in your own room, or even to audition in another setting for a long time, and a technique that can quickly reveal a problem that would normally only surface after a long-term audition is worth having in your bag of tricks.

There are quite a few other tricks I suggest for quickly evaluating a speaker in a strange environment, but some of them are even farther out on the tail-end of the wierdness bell curve.

By the way, what is the ball-bearing vaccuum cleaner trick? Just in case I can use that one too...



PS - Onhwy61 and Drubin, thanks for the vote of confidence!