Friend and foe

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It’s a beautiful sunny day outside, a good day for those of us sequestered at home for an experiment. Take a small pair of bookshelf speakers and plop them down on the backyard lawn—not literally, of course, because you’re going to want to elevate them to a seated ear height. A bench, a chair, a pile of bricks will do nicely. Cables aren’t going to matter much, just run a length of zip cord or drag out that old receiver you loaned your kid or relegated to the closet.

The whole point of this exercise is two fold: get you out into the sun and show you just how important your room is. Outside, without benefit of the walls we so often curse, your little system is going to not only sound threadbare, but uninteresting to a fault. Our old nemesis, the room, is missing and gosh don’t we want it back.

Rooms are part of the stereo equation as much as the components that make them work. Without the walls, ceilings and floors to bounce sound and muddle up what we hear, we’d have no chance at forming a three-dimensional stereophonic image. Sure, we’d have a center channel but beyond the obvious, we’d lose depth, space, width, and the sense of being in the room with the musicians.

And that is because to feel like you are in the room with musicians you have to be in a room.

Rooms are both friend and foe, true double-edged swords we find it difficult to live with and impossible to live without.

The next time you curse a standing wave or lambast a frequency suckout, just remember our rooms are both friend and foe—a partner in our reproduction of music.