You’ve bought the latest high end loudspeaker from one of the most reputable brands in the industry. You’ve acquired the best speaker cables, CD player, an amplifier worth more than your first car, and you have it all set up and ready to go. You turn on your favorite music, sit back and… Something’s wrong; Very wrong. Maybe the low end sounds loose and “muddy”. Possibly the vocals are harsh and unfocused. Or more than likely, it sounds good, but just not quite as good as when you listened to the demo at the store.
Before we answer that, we need to first look at how sound moves from the speaker to your ears. Imagine a pond on a calm day; so calm that the water has no ripples at all. Now, drop a single pebble into the water. Circular waves start radiating from where the stone broke the water’s surface. These circles travel outwards in an ever expanding pattern. Now, imagine you’re out wading in the water in this pond some distance from where you dropped the pebble. The waves will reach you after traveling through the water to get to you and they will be identical to how they left the source.
Expanding on that idea, let’s say that there is a large rock in the water that sticks out of the water, and this rock is between you and the source. The waves will hit the rock before they get to you, and they will reflect off the rock somewhat altered from how they arrived. These bounced waves will then reach you, and they will be different then how they left the source. These different waves will be close to the original waves, but not exactly. It’s these same principals in a room that cause audible issues.
Sound waves leaving a speaker act very similar to waves in a pond. They get reflected (bounced) off your floors, walls, ceiling, and other objects in your room. They get absorbed by the soft materials, rugs, couches in your room too. All these absorption and reflections end up creating the sonic signature of your room. If we measure the in room response of a loudspeaker we will see large peaks and valleys that are caused by these absorptions and reflections.
So now that we know that your room is causing issues, what can we do about it? Well the best thing would be to throw out all your furniture and install large an-echoic panels on all your walls, floors, and ceilings; but that might cause you to lose some points with your significant other. Instead we can make improvements by moving the speakers around in the room, away or closer to certain walls, changing your seating position, etc.; but in practical use, this has limited applications because there are only so many places you can fit speakers and a couch into a room.
We can also install acoustic panels into a room to help break up and stop some of these reflections. These panels can do a great deal to help these issues, and indeed we see their widespread use in recording studios. So if you want your listening room to look like Abby Road Studios, well you’ve found your solution! However if you want to integrate your system into a real world home, you’ll have to find a better way.
Enter digital room correction. Through the use of advanced measurement systems and strict techniques, we can measure the sonic signature of a room and apply correction filters that can greatly help many of these issues. This allows you to maintain the look and feel of your room without needing to apply large panels, and moving furniture. Digital room correction won’t solve all the problems possible in a home environment, but it is a great tool that helps us come much closer to hear the music with all the life, impact, and fullness that you desire.