Room Layout and Acoustic Improvements on a Limited Budget

I'm interested in the opinion of those with more experience in these matters ... 

My home office, where I do all my listening, is a 10' x 14' room with a cathedral ceil that is 8' high on one 10' wall and 12' high on the other 10' wall. I currently listen at my desk on at 8' high ceiling end of the room, with the speakers on my desk, so a near-field scenario. 

There is very little acoustic damping in the room, and I can hear a mid-range reverberance to voices and abrupt noises. Since I have 3 kids in college, my means are extremely limited, so I am looking at the best bang-for-the-buck suggestions to improve the acoustics. Collective feedback and new suggestions are appreciated ...

My thoughts are:

1) Move my desk to a "long" wall so the ceiling isn't acting like a megaphone

2) Floor is hardwood, so add an area rug. Would padding underneath the rug make any difference?

3) I have large whiteboards on the walls - would it make any acoustic difference to add padding behind these?

4) The 12' tall wall is completely bare. Exposed acoustic panels are not going to fly with the wife, but I am thinking of hiding some treatment behind a hanging tapestry. A heavy tapestry would cost more than my whole audio system ($1000, all pre-owned items), so I am thinking a light façade over some 1/4" foam underlayment that I have left from taking up old laminate floor. Thoughts on that?

The rest is information on my system and myself

5) My system is a laptop computer and NAD C546BEE CD player, feeding a Chord Mojo DAC, and on to a NAD C 352 integrated amp. Speakers are an up-coming birthday present and will be either Tannoy Revolution XT mini's or Totem Dreamcatchers Cables are SKG from DAC to amp and GearIt 10AWG for speakers. I briefly considered a MiniDSP 2x4 HD to address the resonant room response, but decided its analogue to DAC process would be far below the Mojo's performance.

6) I'm an engineer, with familiarity with data processing and dynamic systems so would prefer to "engineer" my way out of the problems, rather than throw money at it :-)

7) I listen to blues, alt rock, acoustic rock and some classical. I value realism in vocals, pianos and guitars and dislike harsh, sibilant and fatiguing character. A relaxed sound is preferable over frenetic.

Thanks for reading a long question, and thanks for any responses.


You have two roadblocks, your budget and your wife. I recommend one device, Black Ice Audio Soundstage Expander:


You can make good performing acoustic panels for $25-30 for each 2’x4’ panel.

Make them look however you want.

You need to control reflective surfaces. I wouldn’t start writing checks for treatment until you have dealt with the fundamentals of your room, what position the speakers should be in given the equipment and room, where you are creating problems that you can solve by removing things or using common furnishings like rugs, sofas, chairs, window treatment and other things before you get down to acoustic treatments. Jim Smith, known for his personal visits to set up systems for a fee, has a book. I’d read it. Cost you far less than the acoustic panels. And give you big picture. I use bass traps, diffusers and some higher frequency absorption, but none of that is a panacea until you address the problems of the room and set up.

There’s a ton of information about measuring rooms electronically. That can give you information if you know how to read it-- but it is not the entire answer either in my view. (A system that is absolutely linear in a room may still not sound like live music).

This stuff isn’t easy and does not depend on one view. Perhaps you need some help. Jim’s book is a starting point that will get you thinking.

Good luck,


While listening in your home office are you always seated at the desk or is there other seating in the room for just relaxing?

It’s probable that you’re hearing the reflections from the wall surface behind you (as well as others depending on speaker placement) because your seated at the desk. Not sure moving to the long wall is the answer.

A dense area rug is always a plus- the padding won’t make a noticeable change in sound but will when it comes to the finish of your floors. Use wool padding, not the expanded rubber type.

There are companies that make absorption/diffusion panels in colors of your choice and many will do prints if you prefer. 

@whart, "Get Better Sound" by Jim Smith, I presume is the book? Thanks for the tip. I'll go and get myself a copy - or does someone on the forum want to sell theirs?

@designfx, Up until now I have always being listening at my desk, but now that you mention it, I could bring a sofa from the basement up into the room to help. I could do heavy drapes on the short wall. And will look at prints on acoustic panels, if I get to that stage in the future. 

The reverberance, as I call it, seems to be caused by the cathedral ceiling. My bedroom has the same ceiling but is carpeted and has a king bed and the same ringing is noticeable in that room too.

I remember having a quick play with an online room acoustics tool, but it was limited to level ceilings, and it gave a constant fundamental frequency because the room dimensions are fixed, so it seemed of limited value. Any recommendations on software out there?


A few years back we built an elevator shaft (3 floors) in an office building renovation.

I noticed the offices where about that size (10’ x 14’ but with 11’ ceilings) and the GC was installing one 2’ x 4’ x4” thick panel in each office ceiling (centered). About 2’ down so at approximately 9’ high.

I was quite astounded at the difference it made when I walked from office to office to compare with and without these panels. Just a single hand clap was all it took to hear the stark difference.


Per your post above-

If you go to the members systems page you can look up my listening space under my user name. That room is 10’ W x 16’ L x 8’ H. In the photo you’ll see two panels on the side walls that are 4’ x 4’ square, there is a ceiling panel directly above the sofa that is 3’ x 5’ and a 8’ x 12’ Persian rug covering the tiled floor. Just an example of my panel placement in a small room. I believe the total cost of those (including mounting) was just under $1K (ten years ago or so).

@designsfx I’m struggling to find the members’ systems page. Can you add a link? NM - I found it. But it gives me a 500 error.

@johnnycamp5 That sounds pretty do-able

Owens Corning 703 can be quite effective this way.

Its mainly because these types of panel absorbers are generally much more effective the farther away from a wall or ceiling they are placed.

 This scenario is not usually practical in relation to walls, but can be extremely useful being placed 2 or 3  feet down off a high ceiling 

These are the most interesting I found..(to me)

Next 3 day weekend, going to build a few.



Just priced out enough materials, lowes and hobby lobby, for 4 panels plus some leftover, total. $212 with my preferred fabric cover.

so since 2016, Inflation I guess..

$53/panel (plus time)

but since there are enough panels of rockwool in a pack to make 12, incremental costs to make more than 4 will be less.



That was a very useful video - I didn't realize the panels could be made to look that good. I thought they'd look better with the fabric wrapped onto the back surface, rather than cut as they do in the video.

I could look for fabric prints as well, to to keep wifey happy :-)

@whart  You need to control reflective surfaces...the fundamentals of your room, what position the speakers should be in given the equipment and room, where you are creating problems that you can solve by removing things or using common furnishings like rugs, sofas, chairs, window treatment and other things before you get down to acoustic treatments.

I agree wholeheartedly with the comments from whart and designsf.x. Getting your space set how you want it while maximizing sound potential is the first step.

No room is perfect so experimenting with the speakers on long/short walls or  closer/further from front/side walls is so important. I typically try to place speakers where they provide the best bass first and then fiddle with small movements and toe in for image and soundstage. I never had a room where the speakers ended up equidistant from the front or side walls. 

Rugs and cloth hangings work. My listening space has a tv and placing a throw over the screen impacts the sound.

Once you have the above accomplished, then consider absorption panels.

I have built my own panels as others have advised and they work. The most notable improvement for me was when placed at the tri-corner of the ceiling and front/side walls to improve the bass.

Sometimes you can manage treble reflections with toe in versus panels. Tapestries could be a good idea but don't expect them to have the best effect where your better half might prefer they be hung!😊!

Have fun!