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Monday, May 23, 2011

Don't Blame the Room!

Room acoustics is a very popular topic, especially at audio shows. So I'd like to share my thoughts about this although many might disagree with my opinion. I think poor room acoustics are way to often used as an excuse, if a system doesn't impress the audience. Especially at public demos it is common nowadays that visitors are greeted with an excuse for the bad room.

If a system doesn't play right, it is primarily the systems fault and not the rooms fault! Yes, the room has a major impact on the perceived sound. But still a system should be able to maintain it's basic character. A good system will draw you into the music and transport emotions even if the room is not optimal. The room has an influence on some of the sound aspects, but never on all. A good system will still reveal most of it's strengths in almost any room.

Especially exhibitors who run public demos since many years should have gathered enough experience to set up their system in just about any location and make it sound at least decent. Have you ever attended a public demo where the exhibitor actually stated that the system is sounding the way it is meant to be? This is so far spread into the minds of the regular audio enthusiasts that they blame their room, if the system is not sounding right. Instead they should look for the systems fault.

Imagine a musician does a live performance. Would you also be dissapointed about the 'sound' because the room has poor acoustics? Probably not. If he is good, you will get carried away by the music and enjoy the performance.

Don't let the manufacturer of your equipment get away if you are not happy! Don't blame the room!

Best regards



  1. Hi Thomas,

    I totally agree with you! To me it seems oftentimes that manufacturers of room tuning equipment like resonators ("singing bowls") and stuff like that even believe in their products.

    But does it really make sense to install 5-10 wooden cuboids in your listening room, each with a 1.6 cm diameter bowl of platinum, gold or silver on top - for € 10,000 in total?! To be honest, that´s rip-off...

    This will not increase the quality of performance. Better spend the money for a pick-up, a tone arm - or a better tube amp... and maybe a new couch.

    Best regards,

  2. Hi Thomas,

    Its the main excuse on Hihend exhibition for poor and bad sound.The problem have mainly manufacturer and distributors of transistor equipment :-)
    I spend my money for good single malt whiskey and alimony for my ex wife instead of such bullshit.

    regards Toni

  3. Sry guys,
    couldn't disagree more. More than 90% of a HiFi system's overall performance is nothing but the interaction between speakers and room.
    And it is definitely not about more or less strange room tuning elements, but straight physics only.
    If you have got those 90% set right, you might start to care about components.

    Cheers: Holger

  4. Hi Holger,

    I was also not thinking about funny and expensive tuning elements when I wrote the article.

    But I strongly disagree with your 90% statement. Yes the room and speaker interact a lot and this has a massive influence on the perceived sound. But not on the overall quality of the sound.

    I have heard systems in very poor rooms which drew me into the music, showed a lot of colors in tone and gave an excellent overall presentation. I also heard systems which sounded horrible in an acoustically well prepared room.

    Would you complain about the 'sound' of a singer in a room which has poor acoustics? It will sound different compared to the same singer in another room, but will that have an impact on the quality of the singers performance? I doubt that ;-)

    Best regards


  5. "Would you complain about the 'sound' of a singer in a room which has poor acoustics?"

    Absolutely - I would (and have done many times). The closer you are to the singer, the smaller the influence of a bad room is (nearfield helps). So visit small clubs and you're fine - large arenas suck soundwise.


  6. Hi Holger,

    well when we are discussing music reproduction, we rarely talk about large arenas.

    The high end fair this year was a good example for me that 'the room' often is a convenient excuse. I was talking to exhibitors who complained about the room, while it was clearly the system which was at fault.

    Best regards


  7. Hi Thomas: A while back I mentioned I was building a version of your 6cb5 amplifier, I won't actually be finished it until the early fall, I'm just far too busy this time of year with family life and my kids.However I will certainly be eager to tell you about it when it's done. Regards Jim Orend.