Room Treatments, When are they required?

Hey Audiogoners!!!

I threw my first BBq in my new home this weekend. One of my guests who is also into audio gear came and we ended up talking a bit about audio gear.

My livingroom where the audiogear will be has 15ft vaulted ceilings, hardwood floors, and opens up to the dining room and kitchen. All pretty much in one real big l-shaped room.

I was telling him about my future upgrqade plans, which are nothing too extraordary, im thinking of some Parasound Amps and some Vandersteen 2CEs or 3As. It iwll be run 100% seperate from my HT system, but in the same room.

Anyways, he told me that it was a waste of money and there is no point in upgrading what i have unless i have a Dedicated listening room.

Personally, i think the accoustics in my livingroom are fantastic. Yes, some echo busters along the back wall or something might help out, but sound there is rich and full of live. Snap your fingers you get a nice clean SNAP, it doesent echo or linger any longer than it should. I have 3 very plush couches that do wonders for echo absorption.

When did everyone else start getting into room treatments and dedicated listening rooms?

Personally, i disagree with him, vandersteen 2ce's powered by some Parasound Amps will sound better than some radioshack speakers powered by a Denon 3505. No doubt about it in my mind. I dont care if it is installed in a dedicated room or a subway tunnel. it will sound better and i plan to upgrade.

When do YOU feel it is time to work on the room instead of the system?
Is there a certain price tag on the system that you feel is useless to upgrade further without having a dedicate room or room treatments?

Just curious.

Woulda got that out earlier if i had been sober in the past few days.
Hi Slappy,

Hope the hangover isn't too bad. The reality is that an untreated room can sound very good although the sweet spot may be the only really satisfying place to listen. I've been a homeowner since 1976 and indulged my desire for a dedicated listening room. Initially I just wanted a safe and secure place for all my stuff and the freedom to close the door and not allow anyone in if it were a mess, which has often been the case.

I joined a fairly large group of audiophiles in this area that take turns hosting events. One of the members has a dedicated room that is not only top flight for listening but is real eye candy to boot. I recently was over to another members home where he has integrated his system in a very lovely living area without any treatments. This living room system sounded very good and if the home and all his gear was mine I would not add acoustic treatments unless they didn't distract from the room asthetics.

Ideally one would want a dedicated listening room with whatever level of treatments worked well. However, reality consists of compromises with a lot of things. Accumulate your new gear. In five to ten years you may be able to indulge yourself with a new room and enjoy that extra couple of percent of performance.
I think of any system being as good as it's weakest link in many respects. The room is like a component--possibly the most important one. If you have a good system, you need a good room. If you have a bose wave radio, well that will work fine in your bathroom. If you have state-of-art system you will likely need a dedicated room that is engineered and treated at the same level. There comes a point when upgrades are almost useless. They will change the sound, but not appreciably and certainly not at the $ per performance level of appropriate room engineering and treatment can do for you.

In a room like yours, that is not simple. I would try to have it acoustically measured. It might not be so bad. It might be terrible. There may be simple things that could be done to improve it, or it may need such radical modifications that you will need to move to a dedicated room at some point.
I used a TACT analizer a couple of weeks ago and found that my room wasn't as good as I thought it was. Just because you like the sound of your system doesn't mean it is accurate, or flat (if flat is even a priority).

I agree that the room is just another componant. The nice thing is it usually costs a lot less to fix the room than it does to buy new gear. If the room was good with the old gear it should be even better with the new stuff.

My opinion FWIW about HiFi shows is that they are useless for auditioning gear because 11 times out of 10 the rooms suck, or at least don't resemble your room at all. How often have you heard people say "I heard 'company A' (which is obscenely expensive) at CES and their gear sounded like excrement." What company that builds good gear is going to spend lots of money to advertise gear that is not up to snuff? It's not the gear, more often than not (again 11 times out of 10) it is because the room does not lend itself to being used for the purpose expected of it.

Room treatments are invaluable. I think it is impossible to get good sound out of a room that is not treated! Ask Albert or Slipknot what they thought of the before and after listening. Alberts room is beautiful and done so well that the treatments are nearly invisible. The stuff does not have to be intrusive to work.

Alright, I'm going to take a breathe after this long-winded rant!
Slappy, much depends on your lifestyle. For me, I want to hear my system in several parts of the house, particularly the kitchen, informal eating area and small office (where I am now). So, a dedicated room made no sense for me -- I want to live with the music, not live for the music.

I designed my non-dedicated listening room to be acoustically good. But I've lived in other homes where average listening rooms sounded very, very good. Plush furniture and curtains combined with solid floors and walls can provide great acoustics. You can always add a few defractors and absorbers or Rives' fine technology.

Someone once asked me whether Sara McLaughlin would sound awful in a hotel room? (OK, keep the wise cracks down) Would the acoustics be so bad that you'd walk out holding your ears? I don't think so. A good system shows up well in any decent environment -- the brain can and does adjust. That's not to say that environments make no difference -- they do. That's not to say someone can't design a room that makes anything sound bad -- those rooms are out there. But many living areas are OK. Not optimal, but pretty good to very good.

What's your lifestyle? You indicate that the room sounds good now so would it make sense to remove the music to a dedicated room where you can make it sound even better? That's up to you.

Welp, im kinda stuck with the livingroom. None of the rooms in the house are really a good size for it except for the livingroom.

Also, i agree with you 100%, I too like to be able to hear it wherever i go. I like the idea of a dedicated listening room to reach that level of sound production, but at the same time, im a pretty active person, and i like to listen to music while cooking, cleaning, working on projects, hanging out on the deck, doing home improvements, etc.

More than anything, i was just kinda suprised by his statement.

I certainly agree a good system will sound like a good system no matter where it is, it might not be optimal, but it will still sound good.
First of all, you probably need some new friends. This guy was a bit rude and quite the absolutist. He may have a bit of a point about a dedicated room but he has no idea of who you are with his rigid autocratic comments. It doesn't sound like you want to spend all your listening time doing "dedicated critical listening". You just want to hear good tunes while you are living your life in your house.
The other question is "how much to tweak"? In this hobby, tweaking can be as much or as little as you like. You need to find your comfort zone with how much is enough. And that isn't easy. I find that it changes over time. Sometimes I go on a tweaking frenzy. Other times I say I am a happy camper and leave well enough alone.
I find that I use the criteria of "engagement". If the system allows me to be "engaged" in the music, then I figure it's good and good enough. So I try to notice how I feel rather than focus on what I hear.
That said, I think it fortunate that you got a comment from "Rives". Rives is a premier room treatment company and if you were of a mind to work on the "room", I think they would be a good company to consult. I think they have different levels (and cost) of services. So if, and only if, you were of a mind to obsess in this particular direction, that might be a good place to start.
I love to obsess and I think obsessing is great self torment and fun. The question is what you want to obsess over. Choose wisely or better still, obsess over what to obsess over. Enjoy your system. And your new house.
I don't think a good system will sound like a good system anywhere. A good system will not overcome a bad room anymore than good speakers will overcome lamp cord for speaker wire, or MP3 as a source.

I have heard good electronics in a room for which they were not suited, and they did not sound good. I would not have traded my own gear for this (supposedly) better gear.

No system will sound better than its weakest link, too often that is the room.

Just because a room is designed to be heard in a specific place within hte room (sweet spot) doesn't mean it will not sound good throughout the house. My listening room is in the basement, but I often have music playing to be enjoyed in other rooms, or for background while guests are visiting. The two are not mutually exclusive.
Well, room treatment is necessary to get your equipment to sound the way they are designed to. You spent all of that money, you may as well get what you paid for. A dedicated listening room is up to you. I decided to go with it and am glad I did. I did away with home theater all together. I found that I didn't need to hear every detail of Hollywood soundtracks. But music that's another story.

Again your choice.

As far as room treatment don't waste too much money on it. Furniture or DIY absorbing/diffusing panels will do good enough if placed at first reflection points. Since you seem to have your echo problems under control then that's one less thing to worry about. If bass is tight. Don't worry about traps in the corners.

to sum up:

Do treat first reflection points (critical)
Treat Echo (critical) unless room eliminates naturally
Bass traps (critical) unless room eliminates naturally

other treatment is just tweaking

Don't overdampen a room either. It will sound as bad as an untreated room or worse.
hey Slappy!
How's the new house treating you? I'll add my 2 cents to the discussion here as my setup is in my living room as well.

I did have Rives Audio do the treatment planning and measurements for my living room with the idea in mind of making it sound good but also keeping in mind that it IS my living room. Richard Bird did a tremendous job, and is great to work with. I followed his recommendations and the room sounds great, looks great and, although I did not intend it to, has evolved into a dedicated 2 channel listening space that works as a sitting room too. Most of the time the family is in the family room for TV, movies, etc anyway.

Rives Audio level one service was the best value upgrade I did for my listening pleasure. Regular AudiogoN member Rushton has been over to hear the results and posted some comments under my system here at the 'goN.

Whatever you decide to do, do what's right for you and don't let anyone tell you what to do or badmouth what you decide. Congrats on the new digs and keep up the great posts!
Nrchy, define a "Good System"
If you take an audiophile system and put it in a normal room without tweaks, would you say it sounds BAD?

I fully believe a good system will sound like a good system anywhere.

an Excellent system may only sound like an excellent system under optimal conditions, but even an excellent system will sound good in less than optimal.
Slappy, a good system is the one you spent your hard-earned money on and decided after weighing the options that you wanted to buy. How's that for a deflection.

I will contend that a good system will not sound good in a bad room. It is possible for a system to sound good in an untreated room just like it is possible for you to get the best parking space at Goodwill the next time you a re shopping for new gear : ). It is just a coincidence that a system sometimes works in a room without any treatment, but the majority of systems, mine included need help with the room.

Why handicap a system capable of excellent sound? Put it in the best environment you can justify!
That was a hell of a deflection.

I think my ears must be more forgiving.
For me, having a dedicated listening room just wont cut it. Ill never use it.
Some day when i get a good rig going again, i will probaably have Rives help me out and do what i can to treat the room tastfully and effectivly.
As far as the natural room accoustics go, they arent bad at all, and im pretty thankful for that!
Optimal? Not a chance.
Better than alot? Yeah i think so.

Man, i shouldnt have eaten that burrito
I was wondering what that smell was!

I was also wondering what you think is a dedicated listening room? This is not a room that is only the stereo room. It can be multifunctional (how do you like that word), the thing is it is designed to sound better than a non-dedicated.

You can still have the bar (I mean the burrito bar) along with comfortable furniture and all your Picasso originals.

A listening room has the gear convieniently located, with the speakers properly placed, and a few (hopefully) inconspicuously placed room treatments. How can you rebel against that? It's like your mother said when all the food you liked was gone from the plate and only the steaming pile of asparagus remained, "It's for your own good!" Just do it and quit your whining! And go to your room!

I always had the idea a dedicated room was a room where everything was designed 100% around the gear... never really thought of a living room as a dedicated listening room... guess there is no reason it couldnt be.

Well, i herby declare that i no longer have a living room, but an "All Encompasing Large Dedicated Listening Room With Plush Couches, A Dining Room Table, A China Hutch, And A Kitchen Which Not Only Opens Outside To The Front But Also To The Back Through French Doors"

I will call it "AELDLRWPCADRTACHAAKWNOOOTTFBATTBTFD" for short. And maybe call it the "Wnoot Batt" to save time.

Hello Slappy,
When I asked Mike Kotchman owner of Echo Busters, he said that the most important piece of acoustical treatment is the corner tunes. For the side walls, if you do not like the idea of absorbtion pannels, try decorative tapistries. They look great and do a goog job in absorbing sound.