Questions about room size and speaker choice

I have two unrelated questions regarding speaker choice:

1) I am moving to a new, bigger apartment, which is great as I will have a dedicated listening room, but at the same time somewhat of a problem as the dedicated room is rather small measuring 9 x 11 feet. (It's the master bedroom and the shorter wall behind the listening chair has an opening into the bathroom so it's open in a sense.)

I am in the process of upgrading my speakers from the Totem Acoustic Hawk and the smaller room now has thrown another twist into the selection process. Some of the floorstanders I have been considering, such as the Acoustic Zen Adagio or the Silverline Sonatina, might now just overpower the room, or it might simply be not possible to set them up optimally given the distance of 9 feet between the side walls.

I wanted to ask whether anyone has tackled a similar problem and what the results were. Should I forgo full range floorstanders for a pair of monitors, perhaps? Harbeth comes to mind and I have been wanting to audition a pair of the 7es-3.

2) I have seen some incredible deals here on Audiogon on used speakers, and was curious what the opinions were on the age of the used speakers. Assuming a speaker is in a great condition and there are no flaws beyond cosmetic blemishes and simple age, at which point would you say a speaker has been used for simply too long to bother with it? Since it's a mechanical transducer with moving parts, years of use might exert more wear-and-tear on it than might be visible with a naked eye. The rubber surround might not be as pliable as it was and slowly start to crack; the voice coil might be pretty stressed and more prone to breaking; screws loosening; you get the idea.

I'd appreciate any input and opinions. Thank you.
What electronics? What type mof music do you play. How is the room furnished? (bed, crammed full of furniture or bare).

No doubt about it, 9 x 11 is pretty small - floor standers notwithstanding. Good monitors and subs would certainly be the easy way to go. If you can be flexible about the associated gear a small tube or SET amp and efficient speakers could be wonderful.

Personally, I have no problem with used speakers, especially if you deal with someone here on A'gon. You can find good deals, and if what you buy doesn't ring your bell you can usuaqlly sell it for minimal or no loss. I have bought and sold many pairs of speakers here, from eBay and craigslist and I have never been burned but maybe I have just been lucky. But as with any "used car" transaction remember - caveat emptor (let the buyer beware).
Being in an apartment AND it being a bedroom: my question is: is someone ELSE's apt bedroom above, below, or an ajoining wall?
I ask this because if the ajoining above, below, or side is a bedroom, you may wind up in trouble if someone uses it when you want to be playing music!
Just a heads up on a problem in the making?
Anyway, I would WAIT! you never know what your current speakers will sound like in the space. Once in it. Then you can get a feel for what the room is like, since you know what the speakers were like before.
So that is my suggestion. To wait and use your old speakers for a short time. Then if you cannot use the room for some reason, you did NOt buy speakers just for it that you cannot use, or don't work in it.
Thanks for the replies and suggestions above. I'm sharing the apartment with my fiancee who's understanding enough of my passion for great sound to let me use the master bedroom as my listening room. The compromise is that I have to live with two of her cats and, even though the living room is nice and big, I cannot deal with moving my speakers every time I want to listen to music to avoid any damage to the woofers by leaving the speakers unattended. I did it for two years now and I'm really tired of it. So it's a smaller room for the peace of mind kind of thing. There are of course neighbors above and below to be mindful of, as is always the case in an apartment building.

I listen almost exclusively to jazz, but also some classic rock here and there. The room would be pretty much empty with the exception of record and book shelves, possibly a plant in the corner, a desk along the longer wall and of course a small couch or armchair for listening. It is carpeted and the closets are in the wall so don't take away from the square footage.

I will be using my Hawks for a while as I'm still recovering financially from my analog front upgrade, but the Hawks are about 7 years old now, a little beaten up and I'd like to upgrade to something that offers more of everything. That said, the Hawk is a great speaker, and I have enjoyed it tremendously.
What gear - SS or tube?
The phono preamp is the Camelot Technology Lancelot (solid state, battery powered), and the amplification is Rogue Audio Cronus Magnum tube amp.
Am I correct in assuming that the cats freedom is non-negotiable and your afraid the cats will damage your speakers? If thats the case, perhaps some decorated boxes could cover your speakers while they're unattended.
oh wow, that is kinda small.
I would go for a small standmount with a subwoofer so you can have the flexibility to adjust the bass.
good luck.
Ok, here's an update: after the move-in I measured the room and it's actually 11.4 x 11.11 feet. The bathroom and walk-in closet are on the half of the longer wall (after 5 feet of solid wall, it extends at an angle for the bathroom door and provides about 3 extra feet of depth). The window wall is the opposite wall. My first inclination was to put the speakers against the window wall so that they'd be facing the bathroom/walk-in closet wall since it'd provide a little more open space behind, but I decided to set up along the solid shorter wall with the window and closet wall on the sides. I'm hoping with some acoustic treatment it will be possible to get good results.
You will find it a real challenge to wring the best sound out of a square room. It probably won't matter much if you can limit bass to about 50 Hz and above and not try for anything lower, or if you are playing music at low listening levels only.

From my own experience, treating a square room will only get you so far. What are you willing to accept in terms of a compromise?

A couple of ideas: if the room design permits you might try locating the speakers in the diagonal position; that is, with a corner in between the speakers aimed at the opposite corner. Makes the room effectively larger and supposedly reduces some of the nasty nodes. Personally I have not had success with this method but others have reporthed that it has worked well. A near field listening position might also be helpful.

Also, you might try placing your speakers in the corners. There are speakers specifically designed for this - Audio Note Ks might work well but they are a little pricy. I suggest that you find a pair of good condition used Snell Ks or K IIs (NOT IIIs) and try them first. They are the speaker that the AN Ks are based on, and they will get you to about 80% of what the AN speakers will do for under $200 or so. There are other speakers that might work well in this scenario but I have not perspnally tried them: Linn Kans or Dynaudio 42W or 52W. I would advise that you stay away from horns in a room of your size. I'm sure that others can recommend more.
How long will you 2 be living there?
When's the wedding?
I was just thinking that if you are only going to be there for a few months, some accommodations can be made.

You should get it straight right now, where the stereo goes AFTER the wedding, when it will simply be TOO LATE to negotiate.

When I got married, we lived in about 600ft/sq apt with lunatics on all sides. I pretty much had to back-burner my Magnepans until we found a house.

Stay on good terms with the cats. They'll take out there revenge on the speakers. MY cats, on the other hand, never looked TWICE at my panels.
You will no doubt get a bigger abode in a few years. Why spend money with limited results. Get a really good headphone and headphone amp if you need it, and get cutting edge sound for the here and now. When you get your bigger place you can go the route that makes music.
Thanks for all of your responses.
The system is already there so holding off on buying new equipment, or getting a set of headphones is really not an option, with the exception of speakers, but a pair of Harbeths or De Vore Gibbon Super 8s, for example, could still work and be a great long term upgrade I believe. I will be in the apt for at least 2 years (unless we hit the lottery), which is a chunk of time so I'd like to get the best out of the room.

The room is not really square since it has extensions on sides and in one of the corners. The listening space is however, pretty much (the speaker placement in terms of effective space, if that makes sense). I placed a queen size mattress topper foam on the wall behind the speakers and behind the listening chair to minimize reflections and deaden the room a little. I'm also hoping this will help with vibrations reaching the neighbors to some extent.

The speakers are currently 7 feet apart and I placed the listening chair about the same distance form the speakers. That leaves about 2 feet to the wall behind the chair. Any other suggestions?
I have worked with small and large rooms because I have moved a few times.

The good:

All in all a small room is not total death to a system and it can still sound good. What most people seem to not fully understand is room boundaries are the issue not volume of the room. The shortest distance will make the biggest issues. These are of course side and front wall. But here is the kicker... people forget the ceiling!

Many large rooms (say 15X25+) are in the basement and have still have bass issues because of the low ceiling. If you have a 8 foot or less ceiling you will almost always have some bass boom some where below 100hz.

So my point is don't take negative comment to heart to much and use your own ears (and a db meter).

The bad:
The sad truth is your system will never sound as good as it could in a larger room, no if ands or buts.

Use a good bit of toe in and buy speakers where the drivers are close together and mesh well. Near-field can be great but you need the right speakers to pull it off. One of the best near-field speakers I have heard are Magnepan 1.7s. I would try putting your seat so your head is 10" off the rear wall and move your speakers off the front wall more. The difference from your head being 10" and two feet off the back wall will be very small. But the advantages of having you speakers off the front wall will really help bass boom and sound stage. This will put your speakers (measured from the front baffle) two feet of the front wall and your ears 8ft from the speakers.

All in all it is your room and people on the internet can not tell you how it sounds. I have shoe-horned large speakers into small rooms and put monitors in BIG rooms... it was all a leaning experiance some better some worse but always fun. I have found the most important factor for any room is understanding how your speakers disperse their sound and adjusting the speaker and seating location accordingly.
Thanks James for your wise advice! Just so I understand correctly: the speakers are currently 3.2 feet from the front wall (measured from the front baffle) and a little less than 2 feet from the side wall (measured from the center of the speaker). Are you suggesting that I put them more into the room and move my chair back?
No, 3 feet off the front wall is plenty and the magic number where improvements happen. I thought you had them a good bit closer. I have found that distance from the speakers is important for driver integration which translates to better imaging and soundstage.

The totems may work well at only 7 feet but it seems pretty close. Try moving your chair back a little and see (leaving the speakers). The driver integration maybe better. There maybe a bass node at the back of the room you will here if you get to close (may not be there either).

It is best not to sit close to the back wall but I would trade a little more rear wall reflections for better driver integration... you may not though. Give it a shot and see, it should be a pretty easy test.
Last question I wanted to ask: there are many acoustic treatment products available for reasonable and ridiculous prices on the Internet. However, I find it all rather confusing; absorption vs. diffusion vs. bass traps vs. soundproofing and combination of any of the above. Does anyone have any experience with acoustic treatment and could give me some advice as to what would work best in my listening room? Thank you.
Actusreus, what is ridiculous prices? Where do you draw a line for what is ok and not?
You can use many large speakers in fairly small rooms, IF, i say if, you keep the bass peaks under control. Next factor is probably how well the speakers work in nearfield.

Do you have any pictures of your room?

I am no expert, but i can help you and tell you what i have tried in my room. The acoustics will determine more than you think, i swear on that. It is far too much to print here. You can change the whole aspect of how it sounds with acoustics. I would say, start off with this if you can. No room is perfect. They do not need to be, but by addressing acoustics your system will sound so much better. Later on, you can decide if it is good enough, or if you wish to work more on the acoustics.
Inpieces, for instance most Acoustic Fields products retail for about $2000. That's ridiculous to me.

The good news is that there are really no aesthetic considerations for the room so I'm pretty flexible. We can take this conversation private so I can email you the pictures, if you're willing to do that. Let me know. Thanks.
Do you have a web link to the "Acoustic Fields" products by chance?

I would highly recommend you educate yourself first before wasting money or your time, so pick-up a copy of Dr Floyd Toole's latest book and read it. If you're not familiar with him, he's dedicated his life to acoustical research as a scientist and isn't associated with any acoustic treatment manufacturer, thereby preserving his independance and unbiased nature, so he represents an expert and voice of authority.

You may wish to search the vast threads here on A'gon for acoustical treatment, including this recent post:

Lastly, if costs are a concern and you have the freedom and inclination to try some DIY projects, then go for it. Bass traps and diffusers aren't that difficult to do and there's lots of info on the web. I can even send you info on how I've build several Skylines and hemi-cylindrical diffusers that double as bass traps.

One more thing - you may wish to visit AVScience Forum for their Acoustical Treatment Master thread found here:

You'll also need some basic tools, such as:
* test tones and a SPL meter for starters (e.g. 20-300Hz)
* Frequency wavelength handy-dandy chart (
* Bass mode calculator ( Mode Calculator.xls)
* Skyline diffuser calculator (
* QRD diffuser calculator (

Good luck.
Thank you for your advice and all the information Kevin.

Here's a link to the Acoustic Fields website:
Kevinzoe, you be THE man. Thanks for listing this info. It lead me to discover Dr. Toole's great 90 minute ipod-mp3 cast at:

I really enjoyed his thoughts on listening to live music versus recorded music and large room acoustics vs. those for small rooms.

Good stuff!
Foam speaker suspensions wear out the most quickly, 5-10 years (don't expect 10 years without climate controlled environment). But often easily replaced, replacement kits can be ordered online for some popular speakers (JBL). Butyl rubber gets hard 20-30 years. Doped paper and cloth can last a lifetime unless dried out or contaminated. Electrolytic capacitors in crossovers (and everything) need to be replaced about every 20 years.

For given room dimensions, I recommend what I have, Acoustat 1+1 (thin, tall) or Revel Performa M20 on factory stands. Another factor is what space will be allowed around the speaker. Electrostats should be 3' from wall, ordinary monitors 2'.