View Full Version : Room Treatment Revelations

07-24-2009, 05:40 PM
I've been a member of the forum here for nearly four years (and I lurked for a few years before that). There are two reasons that I don't find myself posting a lot. The first is that (obviously) much of the content here is very Polk-centric. I own a pair of LSi7s and a pair of LSi9s, but I've never had the pleasure of owning any SDA speakers, though I admire the sound of my brother's (heiney9) 1Cs. The other reason I sometimes hesitate to post is because many of us hobbyists don't tend to agree on the kind of sound we're looking for. The cable debates, the speaker debates, the amp debates are (mostly) interesting to read through, but at the end of the day these threads just show that everyone is looking for something slightly different. Inevitably these degenerate into "this is the truth and there's no room for another opinion" type statements.

Having said that, I hope there are a few things we all agree on. Within reason (keep that phrase in mind when you reply to this thread :D) we all agree that there are levels of quality when it comes to stereo equipment. Most of us would agree that an amp/preamp combination built by Parasound probably sounds better than something you'd pick up for $99 from Wal-mart that was designed to be low-fi. There is certainly a difference in the sound of speakers. Again, I think that's something we can all agree on. Different speakers sound different.

Now I'm going to inject my own opinion on a few topics. I've been into "hi-fi" audio for about 12 years now. I've owned a moderate amount of gear over those years including items by Monarchy, Polk, ADCOM, Revel, Dodd, and a slew of other brands. I've gotten to the point where I can hear subtle differences in various components (certainly in some more than others). For instance, the difference between Mirage omnipolar speakers and Revel front firing speakers is night & day. But, believe it or not, there have only been two instances in the past twelve years that I have been blown away by a change in my system.

The first was back in 2000 when I first introduced an external DAC into my system. At the time is was an ADCOM GDA-600 and the difference was jaw-dropping. It was like re-discovering my music collection all over again. The music just came alive in a way that I never knew was possible. The primary difference in the music was resolution. Things I'd never heard before in recordings suddenly came out of the woodwork. Little breaths that a singer took before singing the next line, the sound of a foot pressing a pedal on a piano, the almost imperceptible sound of a guitar pick sliding up a string before it was plucked -- these things were never apparent before I introduced a DAC into my rig.

The second time I was struck dumb by a change in my system is when I recently installed room treatments. That's what this post is all about.

The Room
I recently moved into a new house. The one requirement I would not budge on was that I wanted a dedicated 2-channel listening room (separate from the home theater). This was met with much eye rolling from my girlfriend, but she understands how much pleasure this hobby gives me, so she was relatively indifferent.

We found a house we really liked, and it looked as if I could use the living room space as a 2-channel room. It was not the perfect space for the application, but it was something I could work with.

The positives: It was big enough for a decent soundstage. It was on the main floor (not in a finished basement with carpet/cement floors). It could be all mine for music! :D

The negatives: Very large space (31' long x 13' feet wide with 10' ceilings). Wood floors (good for bass transmission, but bad for reflections). Five glass windows in the space (again, bad for reflections). It opens to a two-story foyer which is all ceramic tile (broken record here, but terrible for reflections).

The floor plan looks like this (click for larger picture):

http://www.stateofgrace.net/polk/treatments/floor_plan_thumb.jpg (http://www.stateofgrace.net/polk/treatments/floor_plan.jpg)

Add to that the fact that I store my CDs in steel cabinets and you may be able to guess my main issues with the room! When we got all settled in and I first set up my system, I was expecting the room to be a little "live." After all, between the floors, the windows, the ceramic tile foyer, the steel CD cabinets and the length of the room, it was bound to sound a little off.

"A little off" doesn't begin to describe it. The sound was terrible. I've never heard so much sibilance in a system. The sound echoed all over the room causing ambiguity in vocals and a serious lack of bass. But the worst of it was definitely the sibilance. Whenever there was an 's' sound in a song, it felt like my ears were being stabbed with an icepick. And while I expected it to sound less than optimal, I was left very disappointed. I'd just spent some decent money upgrading my system (including the BAT tube monoblocks I purchased from RT1) and it sounded horrible. I actually turned the whole thing off and didn't listen to it for nearly six weeks. That's how bad it sounded!

Around this time, we has scheduled a RAS (Rockford Audio Society) meet at Rich's house (SCompRacer here on Club Polk). Rich is one of those people who has been at this game longer than many of us have been alive. I really, really respect his opinion because he not only has the real world experience of owning an ungodly amount of gear, he also has the technical knowledge to properly implement it.

Rich had often spoken about how much of a difference room treatments can make. I never really gave it much thought until I moved into the new house. A few of us gathered at Rich's house and listened to system (complete with room treatments). It was a revelation! It's hard to compare Rich's system to mine as it's like comparing apples to lawn furniture -- they're just in different realms! But as Rich started moving the treatments around, everyone could very clearly hear the difference in sound. It was like alternately throwing a blanket over the speaker and then taking it off. Everything changed! Soundstage, bass, resolution, imaging... all those words we audio people love to use changed in a snap. I was sold.

I spent some time talking with Rich about how I might attack my room problem. We both agreed that taming the reflections in the room was primary and getting some bass back was a close second. I also chatted with Duell (LessisNevermore on CP) who has experience with recording in a studio. He also gave me some very good input. Both of them helped me decide on buying some good acoustic panels.

At first I thought about building them myself, but I am not quite as handy as some of the other members here. Plus when I actually priced it all out, I could buy them pre-fabricated for about 20% more than I could build them for. It was an easy choice for me.

I decided to order from ATS Acoustics (http://www.atsacoustics.com/). Not only were they the most affordable, they are also headquartered in southern Illinois which is about 3.5 hours from me. I decided on the following panels:

(7) 24" x 48" x 2" panels covered in wine microsuede
(3) 24" x 48" x 4" panels covered in wine microsuede

The ten panels cost me a total of $553. I realize we all have a different view on spending that kind of money on audio, but if it could tame my room and get me interested in listening to my main system again, it was a cheap upgrade! Some of us have a total of that in our whole system, and others spend more on a turntable cartridge. Keep in mind that my room needed some serious taming, and your mileage may vary.

I invited the RAS group over to my house when the panels arrived and we spent most of the day listening to the music and moving the panels around the room to determine where they sounded best. My brother and Doug (dkg999) were both a big help in lending their ears to the cause. Rich and Duell were also there. After lots of walking around the room (and a few Coronas) we decided on the best sounding configuration. The downside? Two panels had to cover the windows that were behind the speakers. This was NOT going to make my girlfriend very happy. More on that later...

The next day my dad came over and we started hanging the panels. It was really quite easy. It took us about two and a half hours to hang eight panels. We had to get a bit creative with the panels that covered the windows. I came up with the idea of attaching a steel rod to the back of the panels, and then hanging them on small hooks that were attached to the walls. This way the panels could be easily taken off and stored in a nearby closet whenever we had guests over. This made the girlfriend very happy!

Here are the pics of the room once everything was mounted (again, click on any picture to see the larger version)...

07-24-2009, 05:40 PM
http://www.stateofgrace.net/polk/treatments/front_whole_room_thumb.jpg (http://www.stateofgrace.net/polk/treatments/front_whole_room.jpg) http://www.stateofgrace.net/polk/treatments/whole_room_side_view_thumb.jpg (http://www.stateofgrace.net/polk/treatments/whole_room_side_view.jpg) http://www.stateofgrace.net/polk/treatments/rear_wall_01_thumb.jpg (http://www.stateofgrace.net/polk/treatments/rear_wall_01.jpg)
http://www.stateofgrace.net/polk/treatments/left_wall_01_thumb.jpg (http://www.stateofgrace.net/polk/treatments/left_wall_01.jpg) http://www.stateofgrace.net/polk/treatments/right_wall_whole_thumb.jpg (http://www.stateofgrace.net/polk/treatments/right_wall_whole.jpg)
http://www.stateofgrace.net/polk/treatments/window_panel_thumb.jpg (http://www.stateofgrace.net/polk/treatments/window_panel.jpg) http://www.stateofgrace.net/polk/treatments/hook_close_thumb.jpg (http://www.stateofgrace.net/polk/treatments/hook_close.jpg)

(Click on any photo to view larger version)

The Configuration
The three 4" thick panels are mounted across the corners of the room. Two are mounted between the front wall and side wall, about 14 inches off the ground. The third is mounted between my steel CD cabinets and the side wall since that was a rather severe corner. It also helped deaden the reflection of the steel cabinets. The rest of the 2" thick panels are mounted around the room. Three in back of the speakers, two on the right wall and two on the left wall.

The Result
Almost unbelievable! In fact, I would not have believed it had I not heard it with my own ears. I think that was the general reaction within the rest of the RAS group as well.

Not only did I accomplish my goal of taming the harshness of the room and getting my bass back, I actually gained something I never even considered: imaging. Remember I talked about the DAC giving me a new level of resolution? Well that's all well and good, but I've never experienced my speakers completely "disappearing" when music was being played. In fact, Rich's system was the first rig I heard that gave me that supernatural feeling of a voice hovering in the center of the room. A voice with no source if you will. That's finally what I was able to coax out of my system. When I am sitting in the sweet spot, staring directly ahead of me at the front wall between the speakers, I swear I can't tell there are even speakers involved in the music reproduction process. It's as if vocals are materializing from thin air.

In Conclusion
I'll end this review the same way I started it... by admitting that we are all searching for something slightly different in our audio listening experience. We can argue all day about differences in interconnects and speaker wire. We can even disagree on solid state versus tube and class A versus class D. But I'm telling you, there is no arguing the fact that room treatments make a HUGE difference. And unlike the cable debate, there is solid evidence, both scientific and anecdotal, to support this fact.

I was one of those people who was willing to drop thousands of dollars on new equipment in hopes that it would make my system sound better. But I have to be honest, the $553 I spent on acoustic treatments did more for my listening experience than any other money I've ever spent on audio. That's not to say that I've wasted money on purchasing nice equipment, but rather that if I had a $2,000 budget for stereo equipment, the first thing I'd purchase would be acoustic treatments. Obviously every room is different and you may want to consult with a company like ATS or GIK to get their opinion on how you might get the most of of room treatments, but do yourself a favor and do it sooner than later.

Here are some links I found helpful as I researched acoustic treatments:

ATS Acoustics (http://www.atsacoustics.com)
How To Setup A Room (http://www.realtraps.com/art_room-setup.htm)
GIK Acoustics (http://www.gikacoustics.com/)
YouTube Video on Acoustic Treatments (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kPtua6VT2YA)

Happy listening! ;)

07-24-2009, 06:20 PM
WOW what a great and enlightening write up. Thanks Blake.

07-24-2009, 06:21 PM
That looks amazing. What's the theory on ceilings? I've never read much on room treatments (though it looks like I should).

07-24-2009, 06:26 PM
The general goal of using acoustic treatments is to attempt to reduce what are referred to as "first reflection points." The link I included above (How To Setup A Room) gives you the calculations to figure out exactly where those are in your room. Typically these occur exactly half way between your speakers and your ears. That means the floor, the ceiling, and side walls all have specific reflection points. Placing panels where these reflection points occurs stop the sound wave from bouncing and arriving at your ears slightly after the primary soundwave (which radiates directly from your speaker) which causes muddiness and decreases clarity.

In reference to your question about ceilings, yes, that is definitely a first reflection point that should be treated. I may do that eventually, but it was just too difficult to hang properly this first time around.

george daniel
07-24-2009, 06:26 PM
Wow,, nice home, listening area, and writeup,, reading your post pushed me over the edge regarding room treatments. GIK is headquartered in my hometown IIRC,, excellent post sir. Congrats on the home as well.

07-24-2009, 06:29 PM
I was glad to help. I was totally amazed at how quickly things came into focus with those treatments. The ones mounted on the windows were the real eye openers. This will be my next upgrade for sure.

You have an awesome sounding system Blake and I know how unhappy you were when we set everything up when you first moved in. The room, the room, the room, treat the room!!!!!

All I can say to anyone is do your research and get room treatments even if they turn out to be minor. I was floored at the difference those 10 panels made in very traditional positions. It's not hard to figure out at all.


07-24-2009, 07:48 PM
It's amazing how much of a difference a well treated room can make. I had terrible echo, peaks, and nulls. 8 traps later, the room is much better!

Btw, beautiful room Blake!

07-24-2009, 08:53 PM
Truly, an excellent write-up Blake.

It was a pleasure to hear your gear, and hang out.
I'm glad I could offer some input that was useful. I had a blast, and I'm sorry I had to skip out early.

I'm in the process of hanging my panels. As the guys in the RAS already know, I went the diy route, opting to build super chunk style bass traps (4), and several non-standard size panels. 2x2, 1x4, etc. I have less than $500 into them, but have the equivalent of 12 panels and the 4 bass traps. The traps used up 1 1/2 2" 2'x4' rockwool bats each.

3 cases of the rockwool for under $150, install kit- $12, fabric found on sale, $100, and wood for $195. Took about 3 day's casual work.

For those who are good with their hands, don't be afraid to take these on. Skill level is a 2 on a 5 scale.

I'll post pics when I finish the wood tops for the bass traps.

07-24-2009, 09:11 PM
excellent and informative...
very nice Room setup

07-24-2009, 09:19 PM
Beutiful room. Don't invite me over. You would never get me out of that sofa.

Ern Dog
07-24-2009, 09:20 PM
Sweet looking listening room. Room treatments is also my next big upgrade!

07-24-2009, 10:43 PM
Glad the acoustic treatment provided the expected and unexpected results. Over the past years, I have designed and constructed treatment for all three dimensions of my room. It made an astonishing difference.

The room is equal to or more important than the sum of the components. The greatest benefits to be realized in this hobby are found in the more mundane aspects of room acoustics.

07-24-2009, 10:59 PM
Without double blind A/B tests there is no proof that your room treatments work......hehe

Not to criticize, but have you considered drapes over the windows?

07-24-2009, 11:05 PM
Without double blind A/B tests there is no proof that your room treatments work......hehe

Not to criticize, but have you considered drapes over the windows?

Jesse, I mentioned that to him as an alternative. but.........

1) His windows are the Pella;s with built in blinds

2) just too bulky to have them all bunched up.

I think the panels are much better anyways and he and my Dad came up with a great way to add/remove them easily.

No double blind tests needed......a deaf person could hear the instant change ;)


07-24-2009, 11:12 PM
Speaking of ceiling treatments,don't ask him what he did in his bedroom.....:D

07-24-2009, 11:29 PM
Speaking of ceiling treatments,don't ask him what he did in his bedroom.....:D

I didn't get that part of the tour.......:eek::D
That explains the conversation about duct tape and plumber's strap.....:p

07-25-2009, 12:22 AM
The panels ended up being much, much more absorbent than any drape material could be. I wish I could have put the stereo on another wall (one without windows on it), but the room could only be set up one way.

07-25-2009, 12:23 AM
That explains the conversation about duct tape and plumber's strap.....

That was just supposed to be between you and me! ;):eek:

07-25-2009, 12:40 AM
Great review & superb looking room to boot!!! I too have discovered that the room is the single most important componet. Without a properly treated room, one is missing out on an tremendous amount of audio listening pleasure. You can swap out gear, cables, etc. till the cows come home, but until you tackle the room you just don't have any idea of how well your gear can sound.

07-25-2009, 01:11 AM
Speaking of ceiling treatments,don't ask him what he did in his bedroom.....:D

Is it visible under UV light?:D:D

Sorry, I couldn't edit the first one. lol

07-25-2009, 01:27 AM
Very nice looking room. I think the panels look aesthetically good as well.

07-25-2009, 01:31 AM
Duell apparently has some sort of obsession with my bedroom. I kept telling him to put his clothes on, turn off the UV light and get the hell out of my bed, but he seemed to be on a mission! ;)

Thanks for all the kind words. I first thought that the panels would be an eyesore that I'd have to be willing to live with in order to improve the sound of my rig. They actually look pretty good and I don't feel like I have to "tolerate" them at all.

And while the GF made me make the panels over the windows removable, they haven't been off yet and I'm guessing they probably never will be!

07-25-2009, 02:53 AM
You have a beautiful house and a great listening room set up. Do you have any more pics of those cd cabinets? Those things are massive! How many cd's do they hold? I saw the cat in one of your pics, do you have an electric barrier set up to keep it away from your gear? :D Which brings me to my next question, what are you running in that listening room anyway? Everything looks really nice.

07-25-2009, 03:35 AM
Duell apparently has some sort of obsession with my bedroom. I kept telling him to put his clothes on, turn off the UV light and get the hell out of my bed, but he seemed to be on a mission!

Naw man, you got it all wrong....I didn't know it was a bedroom.
I mean, who hangs plastic sheets on their walls, anyway?!:eek: And another thing, anyone who installs a sign saying "Clothing Optional" on their front door is just asking for trouble, if you ask me. I'm the victim here.....

I do apologize for doing that to your fuzzy slipper. My bad.:D

07-25-2009, 11:58 AM
A few shots of the RAS group drinking/listening/engineering...


07-25-2009, 12:35 PM

thanks for the great review. Just ordered me 4 panels for now hopefully it'll make a difference if not you owe me $200.:D

07-25-2009, 02:09 PM

thanks for the great review. Just ordered me 4 panels for now hopefully it'll make a difference if not you owe me $200.:D

That's only a start...but you'll notice a positive difference.

Mike Reeter
07-25-2009, 10:09 PM
Blakeh...Great write up and an awesome set-up you have there...You are fortunate to have such an talented crew lending a hand and ear.

07-26-2009, 12:51 AM
You've motivated me to start on the room treatments. I'll start on the secondary room and move on up to the living room. Thanks!

07-26-2009, 11:57 AM
I totally agree. It was very well done. It's the first time I've seen room treatments that weren't out of place & fugly as hell.

Congrats & enjoy!

Very nice looking room. I think the panels look aesthetically good as well.

07-26-2009, 04:51 PM
Very nice write-up about your experience(s). Many people believe in room treatments but shy away from them because of the aesthetics. Your photographs are proof that acoustic treatments can look good and be functional also.

Those photo's are terrific, but some of the people in the photos I would never have in my house. You are lucky to be alive!:D Especially that guy behind the camera with an eagle on his shirt. Was there a jailbreak near to your home?:eek::D

07-26-2009, 07:07 PM
Nice review. It's amazing how much of a difference acoustic panels can make. I just wish mine looked as good as yours. I must say, you have a very nice setup also. Are the speakers the Revel 52? Just curious because I can see by the pics the piano black on the back of the speakers. I also have Revel's. Very nice speakers.

07-26-2009, 08:20 PM
Those photo's are terrific, but some of the people in the photos I would never have in my house. You are lucky to be alive!:D Especially that guy behind the camera with an eagle on his shirt. Was there a jailbreak near to your home?:eek::D

Aw, come on Carl the guy with the Eagle on his shirt knows how to do a mean U-Turn in a foreign city in rush hour!! :D

07-26-2009, 08:34 PM

Nice Revel Studios! I heard a pair of those on a friend's system and really loved them. They were a bit out of my price range so I decided on the F52 which have been, so far, an excellent speaker.

07-27-2009, 04:44 AM
Carl, I was out on good behavior. :D

And Brock, I had forgotten about that night. IIRC, an unexpected trip to pick up a polkie wilting at the airport, a wrong turn and hunger fueled that driving style. :D

Blake, highest marks on the write up and your system. And thanks for the kind words. The room is beautiful! I like how you mounted the window panels. Well done!

I don’t think I mentioned to you why I am unable to mount the GIK 244 panels on the wall behind my speakers. Jasper (our cat) will leap off the amp stand, bound off that rear of speaker panel and end up on the stacked GIK Tri Traps in the corners (8’ high). There is plenty of room for him up there with the 14’ ceiling. Trick is getting him down, so I take the behind speaker panels down when not listening. My behind the speaker panels are usually vertical, except with large gatherings.

07-27-2009, 07:38 AM
What material are those panels made of?

They look like suede.

07-27-2009, 08:40 AM
Hi Blake good to see your coming along.

I figure it took both Brock and Dave to handle one of those bad ass panels with the two of them kabitzing at each other over which way to walk......my condolences.


07-27-2009, 10:46 AM
Great review and job well done! Thanks for sharing with us :)

07-27-2009, 11:48 AM
The panels are covered in microsuede which seemed like the best choice for a living area. As far as ATS panels are concerned, there are cheaper choices for coverings that may not look quite as polished, but would certainly cut the mustard for a room that wasn't in the center of the house.

01-05-2010, 05:16 AM
Just felt like bumping this; I love the way you've designed the panels to integrate withe the modern design of the room's furniture.

01-05-2010, 05:25 AM
Thanks JL88. I can't believe I missed this one!
Nice job Blake!!!

09-09-2013, 03:15 PM
Great thread, missed it in the past.