Awakening the dead

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On December 28, 1814, Mary Shelley attended a demonstration by Andrew Crosse, a scientist known as “the thunder and lightning man”. Crosse appeared to raise the dead when he applied an electric charge to a corpse which sat bolt upright. Shelly was intrigued by the power of electricity and went on to pen the novel Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus. In a much less exciting manner, we don't want to do the opposite. Kill a room with too much damping. There are two room extremes to be avoided: an empty room with bare hard walls which often sounds too live, like a gymnasium. Or, an over-damped room which sucks the life from reproduced music. I've visited homes whose systems sounded dull and lifeless, the volume level always cranked on high without bringing any joy. The first thing I do is start opening curtains, removing overstuffed chairs. Of course, the optimum room has just the right amount of absorption and reflection. Use your voice to detect room acoustics. If you can hear yourself echo off walls, you need to increase absorption. If you sound as you might if your ears were plugged up, you've got too much. In the case of a room that is too live, I recommend using furnishings to increase absorption: carpet, drapes, furniture. If those are impractical or ineffective, your next best bet is a product like ASC Tube Traps. These are primarily designed as corner loading devices to reduce bass energy, but I find they make excellent absorbers too. Tube Traps have a reflective side and an absorptive side. Positioning them for the most natural sound can be done by ear. We see a lot of Tube Traps at shows. This is because we're often handed an empty room with only carpet and drapes to damp reflections. Just make sure when you work the room to listen to the sound of your own voice first. If speaking in the room sounds dead and lifeless, you've got to awaken it by reducing absorption.
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Paul McGowan

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