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"This Harbeth User Group (HUG) is the Manufacturer's own managed forum dedicated to natural sound from microphone to ear, achievable by recognising and controlling the numerous confounding variables that exist along the audio chain. The Harbeth designer's objective is to make loudspeakers that contribute little of themselves to the music passing through them.

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Feb. 2018
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Room Taming - a fluttering twang

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  • Room Taming - a fluttering twang

    Originally posted by A.S. View Post
    The first rule of demonstrating quality audio (or even listening at home) is that room should contribute as little as possible to the overall sound you hear, regardless of the make or model of the speakers. What I do is to clap my hands together shaped so that it generated as sharp a 'crack' as possible to excite the room resonances. If you can hear a lingering echo, or worse, a sort of fluttering twang in the reverberation, then that environment needs to be tamed.
    This is a quote from Alan from another thread. I have just ordered a second-hard pair of Harbeth 7ES-3's. My current lounge does suffer from the "fluttering twang in the reverberation" as Alan described when clapping my cupped hands loudly in the place I'd want to listen. Now, I'm moving in 3 months so this is not so critical, but I wouldn't want my first experience of Harbeths to be compromised in any way. So how can I "tame" a room that exhibits this behavior? It's a carpeted lounge, around 5m x 3.5m with the speakers on the longer wall. There's a large TV between the speakers.

  • #2
    Furnish the room!

    Originally posted by broadsword View Post
    So how can I "tame" a room that exhibits this behavior? It's a carpeted lounge, around 5m x 3.5m with the speakers on the longer wall. There's a large TV between the speakers.
    Basically, just furnish the room, that usually is enough. Curtains, sofas/chairs, wall shelves with lots of books, the usual clutter in most lived in homes. In an unfurnished room, even normal conversations sounds boomy and bright, doing things to make the space otherwise liveable fixes this. If that doesn't work, you will need dedicated sound traps, selected based on good local advice.

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    • #3
      Absorption requires surface area

      In fact you need a surprisingly big amount of absorbing surfaces as well as really huge (huge!) absorbing materials in certain areas (like corners). So there usually is nothing you can do just with some small corrections.

      People all over the audio world do NOT want to accept that and act as if their room would be fine. In by far the most cases this will not be true and instead they try to compensate such problems with cables or absorbing feet or spikes and such.

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      • #4
        Not ideal?

        But it IS a furnished room - sofa, chairs, carpet, bookshelves with lots of books, etc. I think apart from the 2-seater sofa opposite the speakers, most of the soft furnishings are towards the right and left ends of the room though, I think the sound is reverberating between the two closest walls & ceiling - it's far from ideal.

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        • #5
          Electronic room treatment for normal rooms

          Personally I've always shied away from non-furnishing type room treatments, like bass traps and wall panels. They can take up a lot of space and, frankly, most are ugly, which becomes an issue if you have to share the room with a 'normal' person, ie a partner who doesn't live and die by hi fi.

          I've therefore plumped for room processing, in my case a Lyngdorf RP-1, and I also have a KRK Ergo which is fantastic value at about a third of the price, although you need a laptop with Firewire to calibrate it. I mention these because they're what I have experience of, but there are lots more- a friend has just bought a DEQX, for example.

          I know a lot of people criticise room processing as being artificial, but to me it's simply a case of whether it adds more than it takes away. If room processing tames the room and makes it listenable, then to me that more than compensates for any perceived 'dryness' in the sound.

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          • #6
            We adapt to the room

            Originally posted by broadsword View Post
            But it IS a furnished room - sofa, chairs, carpet, bookshelves with lots of books, etc. I think apart from the 2-seater sofa opposite the speakers, most of the soft furnishings are towards the right and left ends of the room though, I think the sound is reverberating between the two closest walls & ceiling - it's far from ideal.
            In that case, don't over analyse it - in a surprisingly short time your hearing centres in the brain will accommodate themselves to the sound and it will sound fine then. Play around with speaker to wall/corner distances and toe in to fine tune, and all should be fine in a little while.

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            • #7
              Damping - improved sonics

              You simply need some normal furnishings but most importantly, you need a carpet or at least a large rug and interlined curtains.

              Stand in the room and clap your hands. If you hear an echo and/or flutter, then you need some more absorbent. I usually apply some absorbent in the way of curtains or absorbent panels behind the speakers and some behind the listener. This usually does the trick. A duvet or two or blankets draped in these areas will demonstrate the effect. Also, chuck a duvet over that central TV - it will make a big improvement to the imagery.

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              • #8
                Reinvention of physics - not possible (again)

                Perhaps we should cross-compare the listening room at home with the recording studio, or a well designed hall.

                What we see is that, unless the designer was fantastically lucky (Kingsway Hall) lots and lots of surface treatment is required to tame the reflections. That's all we should and we need to do: damp down the echoes. Now, common sense says that if only 2% of the total wall/ceiling/floor are covered in some sort of damping material, 98% of the available surface will be free to do exactly what it does best: reflect sound.

                If this were not true, and a lump of absorber shoved into an inconspicuous corner could act as a sonic sponge, not only would magic have been discovered, but the cost of building and treating acoustic space reduced from millions to hundreds of dollars. It isn't going to happen is it. You need to cover much of the total surface area or .... accept a proportion of echo trailing behind all the musical notes.

                Positioning absorptive furniture (is leather reflective or absorptive? Depends upon frequency ....) in the room will obviously help a little.
                Alan A. Shaw
                Designer, owner
                Harbeth Audio UK

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                • #9
                  Room taming ... with a little help from my wife

                  Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                  Positioning absorptive furniture (is leather reflective or absorptive? Depends upon frequency ....) in the room will obviously help a little.
                  Today I carried out Alan's test using the quick clap of hands. There was noticeable a difference between our living room, on the one hand, and what will be my listening room for the new system, on the other. Both are carpeted and have curtains. There was a distinct 'twang' in the listening room that will need to be resolved.

                  The living room is larger, with a bay window, and fabric sofas. The future listening room has leather sofas, smaller window area, but a much larger area of glass on framed pictures than the living room.

                  I explained all this to my wife, suggesting we might need more soft cushions and a rug or two e.g. as wall hangings, and remove a couple of the larger pictures to make room. Her eyes lit up at this suggestion, and she said that once I'd got the new system she would be only too happy to go to Morocco or Turkey to buy all the rugs we needed for acoustic treatment.

                  I am still digesting the full implications of this offer of assistance.

                  Mark

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                  • #10
                    A little science goes a long way ....

                    We can discuss the cosmetic issues about how room damping treatment should look, but whatever we chose is underpinned by science. And this science is remarkably simple and easy to understand, even without any technical knowledge whatever.

                    All we really need to know to put us on the path to a solution is this ....

                    1. Hard surfaces are very good at reflecting sound because ....
                    2. Sound waves, although invisible, contain significant energy and that sound energy ...
                    3. According to the Laws of Physics cannot be extinguished without converting it to something else ...
                    4. And that 'something else' is most often heat

                    5. We have three basic strategies for dealing with potential sonic reflections ...

                    A. Demolish the walls and listen outside, so the energy radiates from the speakers and continues to do so ...
                    B. Coat the surfaces of our listening space with something soft and absorptive so that sound energy working its way through that material will heat it up
                    C. Scatter the sound hitting surfaces over many angles so that each little packet of reflected sound at our ears is of itself less powerful

                    And that's it folks.

                    From my archives, some documents which discuss this in more detail. It's all here!

                    >
                    Attached Files
                    Alan A. Shaw
                    Designer, owner
                    Harbeth Audio UK

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                    • #11
                      Wait until you move?

                      If you're moving in 3 months anyway, I wouldn't invest in anything that can't be moved. The new room will likely sound entirely different. In cases of echoey rooms, the closer you sit to the speakers and the farther they are from room boundaries, the more your brain will ignore the sound of the room.

                      The Cardas or Sumiko set up procedures give some good starting points for speaker placement.

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                      • #12
                        Room shortcomings?

                        Well I got my second hand Harbeth C7s in place in this far-from-perfect room, on some cheap but sturdy small tables. At first I was a little disappointed that it was not a night-and-day transformation of the music from my floor-standing Mordaunt-Short speakers which I had in the room before.

                        But after a while and after some tone-control tweaking I started warming to the sound, finding myself listening to whole albums again rather than skipping tracks - this is a good sign. Orchestral music is smooth, and the percussion has a bite I really like. One thing I feel is lacking at the moment is the wide soundstage I keep reading about : the impression that the speakers disappear and the soundstage seems wider and deeper than the actual speaker positions - but this is perhaps due to the shortcomings of the room acoustics. I can't wait to move! Not all recordings sound better with the Harbeths, some seem to have a muddy mid-range, but this may merely be more accurately reflecting poor recordings.

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