Speaker/Room help needed


I�m in need of help setting up a new dedicated listening room that has proven very difficult to setup, and I�m really starting to get frustrated by not being able to figure this room out! It is a 2nd floor, 14W x 20L x10H room with suspended hardwood floors (a first for me), speakers on the short wall; listening position has to be against the back wall. There is a fireplace directly between and behind the speakers; behind each speaker I have placed a tall bookcase full of books, CD, records and my saxophone. On the left wall are three very large, 3x7 windows covered by light drapes, the right wall has a large sliding wood doors. I have placed small cloth sofas at the first reflection points on the side walls but, with low backs, they may be too short to do real good. I tossed down a sleeping bag on the floor for kicks to absorb some reflections, but will get a proper rug shortly (any suggestions for type?). There is also a 2x4 coffee table in front of my 7ft long cloth listening couch. I prefer as wide of a soundstage as possible, and my speakers, by design, must be at very minimum 8ft apart, which doesn�t make this any easier.

My system consists of:
Full range Von Schweikert VR3�s with Vibrapods underneath (VR4SE�s or VR4JR�s to come)
PS Audio HCA-2 amp
Musical Fidelity A3cr preamp
Marantz SA-14 SACD/CD player (set to �Custom�)
DIY Silver cables and IC�s w/WBT connectors
PS Audio and Belden PCs
Marsh/Monster HTS-2500 power conditioner

I think component isolation may be playing havoc with me as well as I still need to make small amp stands for each component, as all pieces will be placed below & behind the speakers, on the floor, and would welcome suggestions here as well for materials, especially for the Marantz, which is proving stupidly sensitive to isolation. Currently all gear sits on MDF slabs resting directly on the floor.

I currently have the speakers 5ft off the back wall, 2.5ft off the side walls, angled right at my ears. As for my problems specifically: The soundstage is wide and deep with round images, but I have what I can only describe as a midrange suck-out and flattening, which makes vocals appear to be hollow, as is sang though a large tube and then through a sponge, and vocals also reside too far recessed on the soundstage. My new Beck SACD sounds like Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam stole the mic and that�s not
good! There is no fatigue or brightness to speak of; the bass is most impressive in extension and slam, while articulation of finer detail could be better from maybe 800hz down, as could the openness and air (the SACD player is slightly lacking on the last 2 counts but not to the extent I�m currently hearing). It�s a 100+yr old building but the electrical is maybe ~15yrs old (guess), and I haven�t ruled out power issues yet either but my instincts tell me the room needs help first. I will run dedicated lines shortly.

If there is anything I missed please don�t hesitate to ask. Thanks so much for any suggestions, and the simpler and cheaper the suggestions the better!

Ah yes!...for anyone who still holds to the belief that the secret to good, great, even excellent to world class sound reproduction from an audio system lies in the gear ONLY, please take note!...it doesn't. The room/set-up/acoustics/calibration/tweeking account for at least half to maybe 60% or more of the sonic equation!! The room is the most important component in the system, and should not be underestimated or ignored to your own peril.
You might go to www.rivesaudio for more insite on this stuff.
Hope this helps
I also feel that the room accounts more then half of the sound. If I had a purpose built room I really believe I could cut the MSRP of my system in 1/2 or less while still generating a superior sound. I've heard $150K systems sound awful, the faults where not in the gear at all but in the room, which is why I'm really looking for advise here from the experts!

Right now I'm maybe at 75% of what I had when I was in a VERY, VERY good listening room just a month ago, and am missing that room sorely! I'm sure to figure this room out eventually and have a friend coming over to help tonight with the "WASP" method, but any tips would be most welcome! Hardwood floors and a medium-sized room are entirely new to me!
Look up the Cardas set up. In my opinion your requirement that the listening chair be agains the back wall is a major obstacle to good sound. Your room demensions are fine. The location of your speakers is probably just fine (give or take a few inches.If you could bring out your listening chair about as far from the wall as your speakers are I bet you'd be pleasantly surprised.
Foreverhifi has already said it: "the room is at least half of the equation." Of course, being in the business of designing rooms, we have believed this from the very beginning and feel that too many audiophiles are being robbed by their room. They could easily invest a small portion in the room and achieve likely the greatest upgrade they could ever imagine--and all future equipment upgrades would be far more significant. Your case is not alone, but at least you recognize the significance of the room.

I've said this in a few forum columns before, but I'll say it again. You have 2 options: DIY or hire a professional. Obviously, we would love for you to hire our group, but we would encourage DIY as well. The worst thing to do is ignore the rooom, which unfortunately is often the course of action.

As to your room, you do have some basic problems. First two of the dimensions are mulitples of each other and 14w having a 2nd mode close to the 3rd mode of 10h is another problem. You likely have some significant bass problems. Now, they may be masked to some degree by other issues, such as not enough high frequency absorption, so things seem somewhat balanced--except that mid range suck out. It's quite possible your midrange is the closest to being correct and it was both the high and low frequencies that were overly accentuated.

This is what makes acoustics somewhat complex and sometimes not that well understood. It's very easy for the ear to be deceived by 2 wrongs that are not making a right. For example, a room with lots of windows and losing bass energy will often be overcompensated by overdamping the high frequencies. Then the highs and lows are in relative balance, but it's still not optimized. I think your case may be the inverse of this.

Our website offers quite a lot of free advice. Please visit the listening room . There are some issues discussed in this tutorial that may be useful to you. One thing I would strongly encourage is taking some basic measurements in the room, even if it's just a plot of frequency response and sound pressure locations, this can help you find some of the largest problems quickly. This doesn't replace taking more sophisticated measurements such as reverberation times, but it does help with many of the basic problems, and is always a good place to start.
The first thing I would do is swap out the silver cables and try copper, as silver cables are more of a challege in matching with componets, may be borrow a friends pair of cables as this cost you no money. next thing I would do is remove the monster, again no money spent! Next move your speakers closer together by around 18 inches which will give you more distance from side walls and move them a few inches at a time. Now it's time to spend money, Tube traps or echo busters work great. Also get rid of the beldon stuff and pick up a few more PS power cords along with a power plant
and sell the monster to help pay for the upgrades!
Happy Listening!
I agree that getting your couch out some might help.

Also, some basic measurements would be very informative. If you have access to a RS sound pressure meter and a test CD, plotting the sound pressure response of the room at the listening position can tell you, for example, whether your bass is elevated or your mids suppressed. Either might contribute to what you are hearing. If so, moving the speakers or listening position can change that response dramatically.

I have also found that having some one stand at each speaker and clap sharply while you listen at the listening position can tell you a lot about the liveness of the room and whether you need some accoustic treatment. A delayed echo requires some absorption to be added, and no echo may explain some of your mid range suck out.

The depth of vocals in your sound stage may have something to do with having the speakers aimed directly at you. Have you tried less toe in? My image is most forward with almost no toe in.

Since you are used to your previous room, the differences may be exagerated in this one. Give it a little time before you do anything radical. Keep experimenting, it took me months before I hit the best speaker position and boy was it worth the effort!
Rives, your site is simply awsome, thanks so much for the link and advise! I agree with your assessment that the midrange is actually closer to neutral, the HF and LF are actually too forward, as I heard when listening to solo vocal performances and operas, which sounded great until the chorus and orchestra came in and eclipsed the midrange! Good call! I also put the gear on a old rack, removed the Vibrapods and brought out the ProGold, all of which helped. The speakers are now pointed to what would be 6ft behind my head, with the couch still against the back wall, and the soundstage is far more open, spacious and balanced, but still the midrange sounds sucked-out and slightly foggy. Bass is stupidly boomy with the speakers on the floor and the lower midrange is very colored by the floor. EchoBusters, tubetraps and a few plants I think are in order for this room.

Jsawhitlock: great advise, I actually planned to swap out every piece you mentioned shortly, but need to get the room right first!

Zargon, good idea to use the RS meter, I'll try it this weekend. I also agree that there is a lot of psychological bias here as well, as I am definately judging every sonic aspect relative to what I heard from my old room, and some of what I'm hearing now may not be "wrong" at all!

Thanks again for the help, I really appreciate it!
Try some Echo Busters as they worked great for my room, The Bass Busters work very well for the boomy bass and gives a bit of reflection at the same time, good for that 3-d sound and image! How do you like the PS power cords? as I own around 13 Labs II and 5 Mini Labs with 5 Ultimate Outlets and Power Plant P-600 The PS products have been the best upgrades I've done in my system. I also have found using all the same brand power cords was better than mixing different brands, at least in my system. Happy Tuning!