The more room treatments (even if they are thick curtains) the more you hear your speakers and less of the room.
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Most often the performance of a system in a given space isn't optimised due to room conditions. The performance of a system will be elevated to a much higher level in a good room coupled with proper setup, placement and acoustic treatments. Since most systems are often located in the living or lounge area and not in a dedicated room, one has to live with compromises(WAF) and accept any effects that the existing space may bring to the system.
As you have found out, even a minimal change in the addition of thick curtains is able to alter the sound to a significant degree. You can thus imagine how the system would sound like if more thought is given to improving room acoustics.
I was given some quilts that my Grandmother made during her life. I had them professionally cleaned and hung on the walls throughout the house....and WOW! One of my rooms that sounded terrible before, now is my favorite rooms to listen to music. Thank you Grandma for the room treatment, and the memories.
I am now taking time to listen everyday now. I believe I finally have good speaker placement as well. I actually think my system sounds better now than it did before with a subwoofer. I read somewhere (maybe TAS or Stereophile) that the weakest link in 99% of home audio systems is the listening environment.
It also depends on your speaker design. Some designs doesn't require heavy room treatments but more detrimental to the speaker performance when used, while others require extensive room treatments and environment placement. It just depends on the design and type of equipment used. curtains or heavy drapes can absorb too much sound waves on some systems which makes the system dull, while others helps tame brightness or over reflection. Some sound engineers used to warn against placing loudspeaker near draped locations in past findings. If your loudspeaker requires hard floors and solid walls to perform it's optimum, treating the room with drapes or curtains may not be ideal. Some bipolar or dipolar designs are heavily affected by such set up.