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I noticed judging by the virtual systems that quite a few people spend a lot money on accoustic panels in serious high end systems yet they have one solidarity arm chair??
I say fill ones room with decent sofa or extra chairs & book shelves or shelves with cds & lps . Make it socialable & comfy.
Listening to music should be fun not an experiment in sonic retrieval .
As I've posted elsewhere, you can experiment with blankets and pillows. Throw them on the floor or up on the walls , especially between and behind your speakers. This is a cheap experiment which will reveal the value.
I think panels and bass traps are for all levels of systems. Going without but spending money on power cords is ridiculous to me in terms of scale.
Not too long ago I would automatically suggest acoustic treatments then digital correction later. But, after hearing the effects that Dirac Live has on the sound quality of my system I'm not so sure. Dirac Live can do things for time and phase alignment that physical acoustic treatments can never do. Unless the listening room is really live the Dirac might be the right choice. If you add acoustic treatments later you will need to create new filters.
Hmmm, I would work on the room acoustics first. That doesn't necessarily mean buying all the acoustic treatments (panels). Lets face it most of the sites what to sell you panels. I would get some corner bass traps and treat the first reflection points on the walls. I think you can overdo it with acoustic panels and the room gets too dead. I like diffusion rather than an overabundance of panels. After the room is as good as you can get it, Dirac may be applied. Just my two cents.
I've had really good luck with Dirac. Incredible improvements in focus, imaging and tightening up the bass. All this for $500 with mic.
My next project is buying a few aborber traps, panels for first reflection and some diffusers. My guess is that Dirac goes to another level when the most extreme room modes are quelled. Think limited taps (fourier coefficients) on the Dirac FIR filter generator. A smoother correction transfer function target much easier to closely match with non-infinite tap filters.
I think one needs to distinguish between frequencies above the Schroeder frequency and those below, since the methods will have to be different. For frequencies above, damping material is essential, but such damping can hopefully be achieved by less visually invase means. For those below the Schroeder frequency I have found that equalization works very well in larger rooms. I for one do not want huge bass traps in my interior. I have had great success with an Antimode 8033 equalizing my sub, and will add a second sub for even smoother results.