Sometimes, after installing a good speaker system in a room, the sound is still not impressive: the music sounds muddy and indistinct, quiet speech cannot be made out in films, the bass either buzzes or is not enough, and when there are explosions in blockbusters, neighbors knock on the battery. These are all signs of poor room acoustics. Fortunately, there are many simple and inexpensive solutions to get things right. The laws of physics are the same for everyone, and these solutions will help music lovers with floor acoustics, and movie lovers with a 7.1 system, and home producers with studio monitors.
If, when you clap your hands at the listening point, a ringing echo with a metallic sound is heard, then the enemy has been detected. This effect arises from multiple reflections of sound from bare walls, floors and ceilings. Smooth surfaces are to sound like a mirror is to light.
The main enemy of good sound in a room is reverb.
Multiple reflections of the sound wave from the walls partially drown out and partially amplify the sound wave from the speakers. As a result, the sound becomes muddy and begins to “walk” around the room: at one point there will be no bass at all, and at another point there will be too much. There are 4 main directions of dealing with this problem:
Position. Find a suitable speaker position and listening point in the room.
Insulation. Isolate the speakers from the walls, floor and ceiling so that vibrations from them are not transmitted to surfaces (which themselves begin to emit sound, which leads not only to parasitic noise and bounce, but also to the discontent of neighbors).
Absorption. Add sound-absorbing materials and objects to the room.
Diffusion. Add objects that scatter sound.
The most effective objects for absorbing and dissipating sound are acoustic panels made of mineral wool and various types of diffusers. You can buy them or make them yourself – YouTube is full of instructions . However, if you do not want to spoil the interior with huge panels, and there is no task to achieve the perfect result, you can always use the tricks from the list below.
Take a standard rectangular room as an example. In it, you can arrange speakers both along the long and along the short wall. Each method has both advantages and disadvantages:
When positioned along a long wall, the primary reflections from the side walls will reach the listener later than the sound from the speakers. As a result, the sound will become clearer. However, due to the small distance from the speakers to the listener, long low-frequency waves will not have time to open up, which will lead to some lack of bass.
Conversely, if you put the speakers along a short wall and sit further away from them, the bass will be more, but the sound will be less clear.
Either way, it is recommended to position the speakers exactly in the center of the wall so that reflections from the side walls reach the listener at the same time. This will not skew the stereo field: the positioning of the instruments will be clearer in music, and in films and games it will become easier to determine where the shots are coming from.
If the speakers are equipped with a bass reflex on the back wall, then you should not put them close to the wall. Otherwise, the signal will be partially transmitted to the back wall (and it will tremble), and partially reflected from it (and extinguish the primary signal due to the phase difference). All this will lead to the fact that the low frequencies will be heard not by the listener, but by the neighbors. In order not to impress them with the deep bass of your audio system, it is better to move the speakers at least half a meter away from the wall.
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In studios, monitors are usually positioned so that the distance between them is equal to the distance to the listener. Thus, the speakers and the listener’s head form an isosceles triangle. Music lovers can also take advantage of this advice.
It is very easy to find the optimal position for the subwoofer. It is enough to put it in the place where the listener should sit, and then walk around the room in search of the point at which the bass sounds most dense, clear and readable. This will be the desired position of the sub.
There are calculators that can help you figure out the best speaker placement and standing waves in a room, but they are only valid for a completely empty room. In reality, the room is never empty, so along with the movement of the speakers, you need to move the furniture too.
If there is a sofa or sofa in the room, then it is best to place it directly in front of the speakers. A massive sofa will perfectly absorb sound waves. If you have an easy chair, then it should be placed in the corner of the room – it will be an excellent bass trap. A wardrobe with clothes can play the same role – low frequencies will easily pass through the walls of the wardrobe and get stuck in the fabric. But the bookcase is best leaned against the side wall – it will be an excellent diffuser.
Cabinets and shelves with glass or mirrored doors are best moved to another room. The same applies to metal boxes and stands, refrigerators, washing machines and other large household appliances – glass and metal reflect sound waves without absorption and scattering.
After rearranging the furniture, you can bring the maximum number of decorative pillows, ottomans and other interior items to the room with the acoustic system. They will all be excellent absorbers of excess reverberation.
Place speakers on stands or stands
Most often, floor standing speakers and subwoofers are placed directly on the floor, and the shelf speaker is placed on the table. As a result, vibrations from the audio system are transmitted to the entire room, and this not only adds rattling and parasitic overtones, but also disturbs the neighbors.
Owners of large floor-standing speakers and subwoofers can be advised of special anti-vibration mounts . They can be bought in stores for musicians and music lovers, or you can make them yourself from the most dense foam rubber.
For shelf acoustics, in addition to vibration-isolating stands, you will need stands that allow them to be positioned approximately at the same level with the listener’s ear. The difference between speakers on a table and speakers on stands is so great that many do not recognize the sound of their own audio system.
Seal the holes for the sockets and add the nut
The sound in the room behaves like water in an aquarium: if there is a hole somewhere, it will flow. If this leak is patched, then the sound insulation in the apartment will improve many times over, and without expensive repairs. In an apartment building, sound tends to leak out to neighbors through through-hole sockets. You can insert a mineral wool cylinder there or fill it with a non-combustible sealant; on the Internet you can search for special acoustic sealants for such purposes.
Do not forget about your own household, to whom the sound seeps through the loosely closing door and the gap under it. An ordinary rubber seal and a nut will help to cope with the problem.
Cover windows with curtains
Huge windows on the entire wall are pleasing to the eye, but not to the ear if the task is to achieve good sound in the room. Of course, you do not need to brick them or close them with wooden shutters, ordinary thick curtains are enough. The denser and more massive the fabric, the better it will absorb unnecessary echo. Sound engineers in home studios sometimes cover the windows with blankets or even sleeping bags.
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Radical music lovers and home sound engineers sometimes install a sheet of plexiglass on the window, securing it to a sealant. This allows you to get rid of glass vibrations at high sound volumes, and also improves sound insulation in the room. However, for most, such a measure would be too drastic.
A compromise option can be special dampers for drums, reminiscent of a slime toy from childhood. In the studio, these are sculpted on drums and cymbals to muffle an overly loud element of the setup. If you stick a few of these around the edges of the window, they will help dampen vibrations. Soft toys with suction cups can work in a similar way.
Put the rug
If there is linoleum or, even worse, tiles on the floor, then reflections from the floor will be a serious obstacle to good sound. In this case, you can put a carpet on the floor. Solid carpets with coarse pile are best. It is worth mentioning stretch fabric ceilings, which will help to cope with reflections from above, although this is already a rather complicated and costly solution.
As for the Soviet classics in the form of a carpet on the wall, then this solution should be resorted to only when the sound in the room is too bright, with a predominance of high frequencies, since it is their carpet that absorbs the best. If the room, on the contrary, is deaf and booming, with problems in low frequencies, then it can only get worse. In this regard, the carpet is not much different from acoustic foam rubber in pyramids, which, due to its low mass, absorbs only the upper frequencies. It should only be used in a bright room.
Sound waves can not only be absorbed but also scattered. The main rule here is that the fewer even flat surfaces, the better. For example, bookcases without doors are excellent at diffusing sound.
Books, arranged a little chaotically, form a raised surface and turn into a wonderful diffuser, this method is used even in large recording studios. Racks with discs, vinyl, collectible toys and other items, as well as blinds on windows, work in a similar way, if it was not possible to get thick curtains.
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Any shelves, panels, paintings and other interior items that can make bare walls a little more embossed will also help. Lovers of tinkering with their hands can collect dead wood and make decorative panel-diffusers – beautiful and functional.
It is no coincidence that residential buildings are protected from highways with trees. Plants are excellent at absorbing and dissipating sound. Any large spreading flowers are suitable: croton, aspidistra, monstera, various palms and ficuses, citrus fruits such as lemon and tangerine. Even large succulents like milkweed placed in the corner of the room will be a good bass trap. A good option would be a panel made of stabilized moss, or even whole walls with vertical gardening (the main thing is not to overdo it with humidity in the room, so as not to disable the equipment). And, of course, plants create coziness and an eye-pleasing interior.
Of course, full-fledged acoustic panels and diffusers will perform the task more efficiently, but for many, the methods presented above will suffice. Plus, most of them cost little or nothing. These techniques will not only help improve the sound in the room, but also provide a more comfortable space for creativity and relaxation.