What sounds like room overload is most likely reflection off the wall behind you and that is the wall you need to treat with broadband room treatment. Although your room is very small you should try to stay with the "live end dead end" method of room treatment and there is no reason to leave space between the panels.
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Rrog may be right about the speakers being too big for the room. I have a 12'x13 room and fought similar problems until I got smaller full range single driver speakers.
Having said that I recommend GIK Acoustics. They took a sketch of my room and suggested products to treat the room. I ended up with 2 corner traps behind rhe speakers and 2 panels behind me. For me it was the combo of treating the room and smaller speakers that did it. Just treating may work for you and the Vandys.
A couple of thoughts:
1- 12x12 is going to be problematic no matter how much you treat. Try shortening the effective dimensions of the room by adding a bookshelf of LP racks to the back wall (behind you). If you arrange it properly, it will act as a diffuser. While it may seem counter-productive to make the room smaller, the dimensions are working against you more than the size.
2- Wall or corner placed speakers are small room friendly, as are horns. Choosing a speaker that can be placed directly against the wall will also allow you to buy back some real estate that you lose in the first suggestion.
3- What Rrog said.
Regarding your plan to absorb the entire front wall and 4feet extending along the front section of the side walls, I would suggest avoiding this approach as it mimics the live-end dead-end (LEDE) room layout. The LEDE concept is something that came out of the 1970's from Don/Chip Davis/Syn Aud Con for recording control rooms. It's based on mostly ill-conceived ideas that stem from a misunderstanding of the Haas effect which describes the level at which a delayed reflection sounds equally loud to the direct sound. LEDE rooms sound very strange, they do not achieve what they claim, and to work well you need to add tons of absorption.
Have you measured the rooms frequency response yet? You can use simple test tones (RealTraps has a free and a great file from 10-300Hz) and a Radio Shack SPL meter to see where the problem frequencies lay. Doctors Toole and Olives research and philosophy with acoustical treatment is to diffuse or absorb reflections that do harm at the listening area and leave alone the ones that do potential good. Everything else can be ignored since they never arrive at the listeners' ears or if they do, they are well below the threshold of harm either in SPL or time delay or both.
The lateral reflections are beneficial - particularly in stereo - since they can produce greater apparent source width and spaciousness, while the front/rear wall reflections can decrease these attributes since they come from the same direction as the direct sound. Try putting bass traps in all 4 corners floor to ceiling and in the middle of the back wall with diffusers on either side of this centre back wall absorber. Also consider placing diffusion in the middle of the front wall (the wall behind the speakers). Side walls should be reflective or diffused at 1st reflection points unless youre into more focused imaging in which case try absorbing the first side-wall reflections. Ceiling can be either diffused or absorbed
Your 2 thick absorbers are too thin. You will need to double or triple them up to get to 4 or 6 thickness so that they behave as a broadband absorber rather than a low-pass filter that throws your speakers tonal balance off. A generous air space (e.g. 6")is also best to take their effectiveness down to lower frequencies. You need to attenuate the entire spectrum of the reflection which a 2 thick absorber wont achieve the thicker the better. Come to think of it, youre you considered using a diaphragmatic bass trap rather than the more popular fiberglass filled ones? The diaphragmatic ones hang on the wall and are about 4 thick so are not intrusive on limited floor space of your small sized rooms. They are however more costly. For diffusers for your small room you will need to use ones that you can sit closer to which means types of diffusers that dont offer temporal effects or diffuse in two directions so that only about 50% of the reflections are coming back to you. Examples of these better suited diffusers for small rooms are polyfusers (hemi-cylindrical is a better descriptor), Skyline or 2dimensional QRDs. For what its worth my room pictures show the hemis and Skylines and both are very effective.
You will also likely need parametric EQ to tame the bass peaks that are heard at the listening position and/or multiple subwoofers.
Lastly, a little education on small room physics goes a long way. Pick up Dr Floyd Tooles book and study it.
1- 12x12 is going to be problematic no matter how much you treat. Try shortening the effective dimensions of the room by adding a bookshelf of LP racks to the back wall (behind you). If you arrange it properly, it will act as a diffuser. While it may seem counter-productive to make the room smaller, the dimensions are working against you more than the size."
Everything I read and was told when researching treating my 12' x 13' room was to never make the room smaller. A square is bad, a smaller rectangle is worse.
I've had good luck with a method (I forget - Audiophysics??) that suggests putting the speakers 1/3 into the room (4' in our case) and the listener against the back wall (treated). EQ Triangle or thereabouts. I suggest giving that a shot, it worked well for me.
I'm a small room expert. Sebrof has it right, pull the speakers out into the room to kill the booming bass, just like any room. A foot or two forward will kill the bass. Small rooms usually have problems with bass cancellation, too much bass is easier to deal with. If you are listening against the back wall you can move your chair out into the room a little more.
Let's face it - if you are into full range music (and who isn't?), small rooms are tough. And frankly, square rooms just suck unless they are very large. Based testing and experimentation in my own lilliputian space, I will take (for example) a 12x9.5 room with good dimensions over a 12x12 room any day. I was never able treat a square room well enough so that I enjoyed listening in it. But that's just me.
My second point regarding wall proximal speaker placement - to each his (or her) own. In a 12x12 room, how far apart do you intend to seperate the speakers? Let's assume a modest 7'. So unless you are going to listen in the nearfield position (always an option) you are going to be approx. 1' off the back wall; probably a little more. If your room is multi-use and you are mostly watching TV that's OK. For critical listening, maybe not.
Try a variety of suggestions and see what works best for you.
The only successful technique that I've found in small square rooms is a 45 degree set-up.
This tricks the room into performing as if it has different dimensions.
All else, no matter how much you spend on room treatment, or move things around, cannot fix the problems with bass peaks and dips due to the room dimensions.
Rrog is most likely right about the speakers. Seems he's pretty familiar with them. On the other hand, Hornguys advice should be tried as a last ditch effort. Here is some information on why that set-up may work:
Read the entire article. I've used it before in a very small room with speakers that could be considered too big for the room. It worked quite well. At some of the audio show where rooms are somewhat small people like Roger Sanders and Kara Chaffe use this type of set up. Worth a try IMO.
G19276, your room dimensions are similar to mine. You will not get a room this size to allow a speaker to plumb the depths of 30hz or below reproduction. However, you can enjoy great imaging and intimacy of reproduction with a few tips that helped me greatly. Firstly, I do agree with the posters who say you should try and get the speakers about 1/3rd into the room. The other trick is to apply bass trapping on the wall behind the speakers and as much diffusion as possible on the wall behind your seating position. The Vandy 3's are probably not a good speaker for a room this size, although I suspect you can get them to basically work, but with little bottom end extension. A better suggestion is a small monitor like the SF's I use or maybe Merlin TTM or ?
I also get great results with having the speakers with zero toe-in. Toe-in can be difficult to get right in this size of room, so if zero will work, then that should be tried first.
Is your room a dedicated listening room?
I read Frogs well intended suggestion in G19276 other thread
Why would anyone want to settle on a less natural sounding 2 way mini box when all you need to do is kill any excessive room overload with a simple Vandersteen assessment x over box and later insert the proper x 2 for uniform in room response.
We Have installed 2 and 3 Series in 12x14s and square rooms for years with fine results.
Try the Vandersteen X 2 Box and it will work like a charm
Start at 20 K and work up till speakers disappear.
Try the 45 degree or angle speaker placement.
Go to the DecWare site, and look at the section on room tuning.
You can tame a bad room with this technique,and use a minimal amount or no dampening at all.
Your speakers are not too big for the room.
I know most people aren't familiar with this type of speaker placement and it appears odd as most like the conventional type speaker placement .
But what are you after, style or sound?
This is audio, not home decor.
I should add, my room isn't much bigger,11.6 x 22 x8,and I use Ref 3a Grand Veena full range speakers.
A friend of mine using Spendor 1/2 speakers has also made an improvemnt in his sound when he set his room up like this, and he has an even larger room.
I doesn't cost anything to re-arrange your speakers.
i guess my other thread intersects a little too closely with this one but they are different. anyway, i've got them fairly better now. they aren't tilted back as much and instead of pulling them out from the wall, i moved myself more into an equilateral triangle listening position now. so i'm closer, the spks are about 7'8" apart. things seem to be focused pretty well. bass is now the major problem and one little annoyance (put that in the other thread). so, the bass isn't bad it's just anemic now although there's two other songs i want to listen to yet. i might have a source on some bass traps but overall i'm a lot more satisfied now than i was a couple weeks ago even without changing much but placement and seating position. i'll check out the corner setup and the links. thanks -steve
PS - i'm more likely to get a new place to live than to change speakers. there's no other room i have that i can use right now so i'm stuck. another thing, by overload, i've had experience in the past where you're just trying to move too much air in a small room and it just doesn't work. but i think that a large driver(s) not moving as far will move less air so at lower volumes you can get away with a small room to a certain vol level. which is pretty much where i am.
The grand veenas are still here and sounding the best yet.
I've made some changes, I use a 2 watt Decware zen select amp, a Manley Steelhead for the phono and line option for the Audio Aero cd player and I've wired up with Nordost Heimdal speaker wire and interconnects and the Norse jumpers.
All of this made for better sound(to my ears) than what I was using before,but things really snapped into focus when I got a Grand Prix Lemans se equipment rack and then moved my speakers and listening to the diagonal.
This was the coup de gras in my small room,11.6 x 22 x 8.
It took the " I think this is better" to "I know this is much better".
When I think of all the money and good gear that has passed in and out of this and the big room,I have to sigh.
I never really got the full measure of how good some of that stuff was, because what always remained a constant was "the room" and setting my system up in the conventional way.
As I said it also worked for a friend of mine, and he is very happy that he tried this arrangement.
In his case he says it's brought the magic back to his listening that he said vanished a few years ago when he changed houses, and a lot of gear.
It's so simple to do, and costs nothing but perhaps the curious looks of some of your audio friends.
But it's worth it.