Listening to speakers at home - the room is your friend ....
I'm starting this thread to overview the whole issue of listening to loudspeakers at home. I'll transfer this to the Designer's Notebook when its more complete.
The starting point in this investigation must be be the recognition that in evolutionary terms, the creation of music and musical instruments was just yesterday. Electric sound reproduction - and the loudspeaker - have been with us less than one hundred years and stereo sound only fifty or so. So, the whole business of listening to two loudspeakers in a living room is a very new experience in the long evolutionary development of our hearing - over perhaps 20 million years. Here is a scan of the actual part of our inner ear that detects passing sound waves. The little trees are individual hair cells; treat them with respect because in a listener who has been exposed to chronic loudness they are as if cut off at the stump, hence no flexibility and no sensitivity. They will be deaf.
Somehow - we are able not only to create recognisable 3D soundscapes at home with real depth and positional information, but to actually enjoy the experience and seek it out as a form or recreation and relaxation. In short - even though the room corrupts and confuses the sound we have adapted very well to this new experience of reproduced sound at home even in just fifty years.
Technically, if we measure the acoustics of a concert hall or studio, or a loudspeaker in a real room we are in for a bit of a shock. Especially at low and middle frequencies the characteristics of hall or room dominate what we hear. That's why small positional changes to the speaker placement (nearer or further from the wall, higher or lower, angled in or out) and more of less soft absorptive material (cushions, curtains, wall linings, rugs) will all have an effect - usually for the better since the more sound we can absorb in the room's furnishings or structure the less there is to bounce around and 'hang on' after the note has passed.
This raises the key question - should we consider the listening room our friend or enemy? Could it be that the room contributes something to the reproduced sound that, in moderation, enhances the listening experience even if the result is not technically flat? Perhaps a weight in the lower registers? Could that be a good thing - if not taken to excess? Yes, and I'll explain why.
More to follow.
Alan A. Shaw
Harbeth Audio UK