Some famous reviewers have atrocious listening rooms!

It’s almost sad, really.  Some reviewers I’ve been reading for decades, when showing their rigs on YouTube, have absolutely horrible rooms.  Weird shaped; too small w/o acoustic treatment; crap all over the place within the room or around the speakers; and on and on.  

Had I known about the listening rooms they use to review gear in the past, I would not have placed such a value on what they were writing.  I think reviewers should not just list the equipment they used in a given review, but be required to show their listening rooms, as well.

Turns out my listening room isn’t so bad, after all.  




I havent read all of these posts so this has likely been said, however...

I agree with the commenters that you cannot tell how a room will sound by looking at it. Even acousticians have a hard time designing a good sounding space, where there are millions in the budget. See, e.g., the David Geffen hall and its issues. So if the assumption is that throwing money at the acoustics of the space will necessarily solve the problem, not sure that is the case.


Even if the reviewers' rooms are compromised, many reviews / reviewers (John Atkinson for one), DO discuss how a product sounded in their room versus the co-reviewers room. He even measures the response, with speakers, and publishes the graphs showing differences. He will offer comments. If i recall, Michael Fremer's room has some bass boost below 100 hz. Atkinson comments on this often. 

And even if the rooms are compromised, their rooms are (presumably) consistent / not variable. Therefore if Fremer says that component A has such and such a  sound, whereas product B has this and that sound, He is comparing within the same room and system. So the differences will or will not be there, irrespective of the room.

My biggest peeve is that reviewers hearing should be tested and published. The opinions of ~75 year old man have to be taken with a grain of salt, considering most that age probably cant hear above 9 or 10k hZ. So if they are telling you there is no roll-off or there is airiness in the sound, that may be the case, but its not at frequencies above those...

and +1 to the commenter who points out he would rather learn of a reviewer's opinions of sound in a room that looks like his own, than what it is in an anechoic chamber. Unless you have an anechoic chamber in your own home. 

IMHO audio gear reviews are mostly for the purposes of entertainment except where objective facts are provided as part of researching gear. That is not to denigrate as much as properly categorize the purpose.  There are so few lukewarm, much less negative reviews...they are there for the pleasure of reading.

In terms of room, most reviewers know their room and their gear very well and if there is a difference by swapping out gear, they will hear it. I don't really audition gear until I get it to my room.  After hearing it in their listening room, the reviewer will say "this isn't quite to the quality of my reference piece, but it punches above its weight and anyone would be happy to have it." There are like 5 reviews in the history of audio that don't say basically that.

Finally, I believe in trained or dedicated listening, but short of an actual disability in hearing (i.e. partial deafness) I don't think you need to have the ears of a puppy to gauge gear quality. As long as you have a good baseline from listening to your own gear intently, you will hear if there is any delta.  Or you will think you do, if you spent enough on the upgrade :)

Thanks for the topic, audiodwebe.

Home in the wilds of Maine for the last 40+ years, with an enduring passion to better good sound, the journals provided much sought after information.  Music lovers are a generous lot.  JGH, HP, Art, REG, JA, Herb and others provided nourishment of music choices and audio wisdom to so many.  Oddly, the IMPORTANCE of the room - system integration is a more recent phenomenon, in my memory.  The early years focused on how a speaker measured and sounded, then reverse engineering the sound of the components through said speakers.  

There was an early focus on DIY and kits, with Phile and TAS introducing the subjective approach, others following.  Understandable, clear writing was extremely helpful in helping us build good systems.  JGH & HP broke much ground in describing sound and pioneering the language of hi-fi.  

For so many of us, Art Dudley became our go-to.  Art told stories.  Each had a beginning, middle and a conclusion.  Art brought musicianship (guitar); mechanical prowess (turntables and loudspeakers); broad music appreciation and knowledge (several genres with depth.)  The legibility of Art's writing left us thirsting and eagerly awaiting the next issue.  Both Art's sound rooms in two houses were sparsely furnished, everyday living spaces without room tuning.  Art wanted it that way.  Over time, you felt you had a trusted friend reporting his findings, with full integrity. 

Before Greg Roberts, owner of Volti Audio, moved his loudspeaker company from Maine to outside Nashville, a friend and I visited Greg to hear his horn Vittora speakers in a "Paul Klipsh ratio" living room.  Greg is a former house builder.  Turned out, Greg was bringing a Vittora set (18" active sub included) to Dudley's house the following week, for review.  In emails with Greg later, he reported that he found Art's sound, "amazing."

We live in times of distrust and suspicion.  We rarely give something, someone the time required for trust and friendship.  Wife Mary long ago that a friend is someone with whom you've worked through disagreements.  I have little doubt that many reviewers have less than optimal rooms.  I felt that way towards Art too, wondering what he would make of my obsession with room tuning, electricity, mods, fuses, dsp and the rest.  But, damn, I loved Art and others who build my confidence and trust.  

More Peace       (bold print for old eyes)         Pin


I see that many are coming to the defense of the reviewers and their rooms, which is fine.  And I agree that you can't really tell how a room sounds simply by the looks of it, but I would argue you can make an educated guess. And I would argue an "educated guess" is what some reviewers are providing their readership.

I've grown to realize that the room itself has the biggest impact on how my stereo sounds, period.  And over the years, being a service member who moved around frequently, I've had my system in many, many different rooms of all sizes and shapes.  All sizes and shapes within the budget of an enlisted service member's salary, that is.

And through it all, a properly set up room has been key to my musical enjoyment, the key to the music sounding its best regardless of the equipment I had at the time.  And more recently, I finally "splurged" on a bunch of GIK treatment which really opened my ears to what a properly treated room can do for any given stereo.  Before that purchase, I always had make-shift treatment using what I had available.  If I was going to spend a grand or two on something, I wanted it to be something that "mattered", like equipment, or so my ignorant-self thought.  I wish I would have discovered proper acoustic treatment 40 years ago!  Live and learn, obviously.

And 30-40 years ago, we didn't have access to all the information available to us nowadays.  Reviews in magazines were pretty much all we had.  Stereophile (when sized like a reader's digest), Listener, TAS...awaited for anxiously each and every month and read cover to cover and dreamt about the gear that was in them.

And those reviews, at least to me, carried some weight simply because I didn't have access to anything other than those reviews. No stereo shop near me ever carried much other than mid-fi and lo-fi stuff.  And that is precisely why I am a bit disappointed when I see the rooms from some of these "rock star" reviewers. 
Like many, today, if I read a review, it's more for entertainment purposes or to see if said gear is something I want to research further.  Everything I read is taken with a grain of salt.  But back in the day, if a rock star said it, I believed it.  Young and naive, like many of us in the beginning of the audio journey.

Man, that was long post.