Swimming upstream

May 7, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

There are a number of old sayings about the futility of swimming upstream or battling rising tides.

It’s better to work with something than fight against it.

Like one’s room.

Our rooms can be our friends and partners or they can be a constant headache.

Which is one reason I prefer diffusers over absorbers, subwoofers placed in areas of the room different than the main speakers, and moving one’s listening chair to the perfect place.

Whenever you’re in the setup mode don’t forget to work with the room rather than against it.

Partners make life better.

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21 comments on “Swimming upstream”

  1. Aah, yes, the joy of having a whole warehouse that you can section off as you
    desire, to create the perfect room for your loudspeakers…it must be nice 😉
    It looks like my wife is just going to have to put up with me completely rearranging
    our living-room; this could be tricky…is this where I mention ‘TigerFox’ again 😀


  2. Yes yes yes- this is very good advice. Certainly there will be limitations unless one is fortunate to be building a house and a room can be designed for optimum acoustics. I recently spent considerable time adding acoustic treatments and focused on some absorption behind my speakers (mostly in the corners) and deflection on each side in-between the listener and the speakers. A 3.5 meter space. Also a combination of deflection and absorption behind the listener. The results were everything I hoped for. Clarity and dynamics improved. The speakers disappeared more than ever. I have a 4 meter wide wall of sound now.

  3. The trick is understanding what the room is trying to tell you and why. (As was stated.. unless you build a special purpose room of accepted very good dimensions) There are general guidelines that can be followed but all they do is provide a starting point.

    It is often spoken of speakers – small room small speakers… medium room medium sized speakers… and so on. Try and find a reference for those dimensions, not only that, try and find room volume dimensions based on speaker size for any given model of speaker that you’re enamored with.

    For me it’s taken years to somewhat optimize .. diffusion, absorption, too live, too dead… bass nodes and controlling them… Maybe it’s easier to speak in traditional box speaker terms than in hybrid ribbon planar’s. I’m getting closer – true near field listening has been an ear opener. Subs are untraditionally placed and sound seamless, very small tilt and toe in make large differences. A mixture of diffusion and absorption that changes with placement of speakers. In the end just like with equipment you can take things are far as you want (or are permitted) to go.

    The talk is often about equipment synergy. The room plays just as big, if not a bigger, part in the overall system synergy.

    It has frequently been said that what we listen to is the room…. I think I understand now

    1. [The talk is often about equipment synergy. The room plays just as big, if not a bigger, part in the overall system synergy.]

      Agreed! Consider listening with great source material, music reproduction synergy is a 50/50 proposition (components/room)!

  4. I agree that diffusers are typically better than absorbers. I have never had to swim upstream with any of my rooms, large or small, once I had plenty of furniture, wall hangings and area rugs to diffuse the sound. Absorbers can suck the life out of a room and stifle the virtual sound stage. It is more natural for the speakers to integrate into a well-diffused acoustical environment than be isolated by absorbers as in an anechoic chamber.

  5. Life is not a fight as we are led to believe.
    If you swim upstream to get something, then you must continue swimming upstream to maintain it. If you swim with the flow of life, then things will come and go effortlessly.

  6. Most divorced men? Not only audiophiles, but aquarists, philatelists, photographers, cactus growers, veteran collectors, bikers, cyclists, parachutists, modelers, divers, climbers and all others too 🙂

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