Acoustics at home


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Just as important as the quality of your stereo is where you listen to music. As my acoustics teacher said, “We live in our loudspeakers.” Indeed, the dimensional ratios, the materials used in construction as well as the content of the room will greatly influence reverberation time and the effect of standing waves.

An ideal listening room should have aspect ratios that are not multiples (e.g. 8 by 13 by 17) so as not to increase the amplitude of the resonance that is specific to each material. Ideally, the walls, floor and ceiling should not be parallel. There should be no windows and only one door. The stiffness and thickness of surfaces will influence their frequency. Unfortunately, typical living rooms fall far short of these parameters.

It is best to plan a listening room as soon as you decide to build a house, because afterwards it becomes difficult and expensive to make changes. Soundproofing of a listening room should be done before acoustic treatment, as sound-absorbing materials are not necessarily suitable for acoustic treatment or vice versa.

Here are some important concepts to consider. Sound reflects like light: the angle of attack is equal to the angle of incidence. Remember that smooth surfaces (walls, windows, etc.) promote reverberation (similar to echo, but shorter in time) and fibrous or porous surfaces partially absorb sound. Another consideration is that standing waves (low-frequency waves that add to or subtract from certain frequencies in the listening room) can be corrected using bass traps or Helmholtz resonators. For windows and large glazed surfaces, a transparent or patterned plastic film can be applied partly or, ideally, to all of the surface.

The goal is to disrupt the symmetry, whether with a bookcase (books come in different sizes and widths) or any other object that is not flat or smooth. As most living rooms are too reverberant, it is preferable to use absorbent materials such as rugs, sofas and fabric curtains. If desired, you can add acoustic panels, depending on the size of the room. If you use too many, on the other hand, you will make the room acoustically dead or dull. To avoid over-absorption and to control reflections, the polycylindrical diffuser is an excellent choice. Some products like Vicoustic (shown) combine diffuser, absorber and bass trap in the same housing.

This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: Francais (French)


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