Walled gardens

September 8, 2016
 by Paul McGowan

Our homes can be thought of as walled gardens; small private places where we spend time in our own world. And within those walled gardens many of us are fortunate enough to have music available through a system we’re rightfully proud of.

Our systems sound the way they do in part because of the walls which contain them. Take your hi fi system outside and it’ll sound different. Or, transplant it to your neighbor’s home and it’ll sound very different.

You already know how important speaker placement is. Where each speaker sits matters most because of its interaction with the walls surrounding it, and the elements within the room. Just think of how different the system sounds when you listen alone vs. having friends over.

Very few of us have dedicated sound temples, like Music Room One here at PS Audio.

For the most part, we rely upon, and deal with, the walls within our personal gardens. Walls that contain our lives and our music.

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19 comments on “Walled gardens”

  1. Paul, thanks for your assistance yesterday cleaning up the redundant posts in the brick thread.
    We have learned through this process that when a subscriber creates a post with more than one attached link the post will be flagged for moderator review and will not appear on the public forum.

    There was another interesting phenomenon observed last year. While navigating the product page to select a model and click ‘add to cart’, then + adding enough quantity to update the cart, a flag would eventually appear stating – unit is currently on backorder – revealing your inventory levels. With the arrival of last months Sprout shipment that glitch has since been resolved.

    Also noticed the PS Audio homepage menu has now changed from community to publications.

    1. I made the change from Community to Publications to see if it helped clarity. What do you think?

      My concern with “Community” stems back from getting questions from people of where they can find Copper Magazine, Paul’s Posts, Newsletters, etc. The label “community” wasn’t descriptive enough.

      I am open to suggestions. We just want easy navigation.

      1. I think the utopian goal is exactly as you have previously stated “we gather together like minded people – people who agree with our approach to musical reproduction”.

  2. Every voice and every instrument sound different at different places! The problems associated with stereo are based on the mandatory requirement of 100% symmetry and zero deviation between both channels. And on the fact that speakers do not automatically to the room acoustics as singers and players of instruments do. The latter aspect would be mandatory for a realization of “They are here”-stereo. For “I am there”-stereo room treatment and better recording techniques are mandatory.

  3. I prefer to think of homes as highly refined caves. Next time you have a power outage, think about it. No matter how large, fancy, or expensive it is, without electricity it’s no more than a cave.

    Yesterday I visited “the dead room” at work for the first time. It used to be the world’s quietest room but now it’s only second. I looked at the new world’s quietest room on line and it is at Orfield Labs near Minneapolis. The photos show it to be built pretty much the same way with a wire mesh floor so that there’s nothing for sound to bounce off of. It’s like walking on a trampoline. The main difference is that the Bell Labs room is many times larger, in fact it is huge.


    The difference between what you’d hear in that room and what you’d hear in any other room were you and the source of sound in the same relative positions are reflections, echoes, reverberation. If you want to duplicate the sound you’d hear from live music from a machine, you’d have to duplicate all of those reflections. I was fascinated by hearing them all of my life and 42 years ago I figured out how to understand them completely. From this knowledge I know there are few other people in the world who can do that. Certainly no one in the high end audio equipment industry. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy your recordings or machines. Just realize they are limited in what they can do.

  4. You need not go as far as the house of your neighbor, even if you install the same components in another room in your own home, it will sound completely different, depending on the geometry of the room, and each of the countless parameters that influencing sound propagation.

    Changes in speaker placement in the same room can produce dramatic changes in the perception of sound, as we all know.

    I hope that the topic of today, open discussion among the enlightened members of this forum about sound treatment, of course if that is possible.

  5. I’m fortunate enough to have a dedicated room for home theater and music. Having said that, I wish I had a dedicated room for both. A 100″ screen in a room that is 20×12 has its challenges for speaker placement.

    I finally have speakers that are happy being more to the side and towed in, an audiophile preamp with base management & home theater bypass and have been able to treat the walls & ceiling for optimal 2.1 channel performance. It involved a lot of toying to get the right setup and optimal amount of dampening on the walls. I wish all preamp manufacturers put home theater bypass in their preamps. That was a key feature to making both work. It took a while for preamp makers to catch on to that need.

    I agree with Paul regarding being fortunate to dedicate a room. I feel for those who have to make it work in rooms that are functionally used for other things.

  6. I spent the time over the Labor Day weekend rearranging all my speakers and components to make room for a new (to me) 65″ plasma I found on Craigslist for 300 bucks! I must have everything set up nicely, at least as far as my wife is concerned, as I came home last night and she had Dave Matthews on the screen with the sound turned on and up.

    She said “I’m not sure what you changed but this sounds pretty good”. Not being a huge Dave Matthews fan I actually had to agree with her however! The next program was an Eric Clapton Crossroads festival replay I enjoyed that one a little more LOL

    Speaking of the web page issues that have been noted, I am finding as of today the Paul’s Post pages are acting very strange on my iPhone and iPad. I used to have a menu at the top that let me jump around to the various PS Audio pages but now it only gives me the option of signing out or registering products. There is a whole menu in the upper right-hand corner that has disappeared. There must be some tweaking going on hopefully that functionality gets fixed as I enjoyed going back to that Paul’s Post homepage and looking at prior articles. Now the only way to get to it is to go back to the homepage and start over.

    1. Hi Larry. The webpage looks the same to me. Can you possibly take a screenshot (hold the two buttons on the iPad down at the same time) and email it to me. paul @ psaudio.com

      I’ll try and figure out what you’re seeing and why. To my knowledge the menu hasn’t changed.

      1. LOL yes, I think I have to consider my wife part of the set up. She normally waits on me to turn everything on I was a little surprised she had done it on her own!

        Of larger concern for me today is the new puppy that has been introduced to the household. My last one I am reminded took my grills off and chewed a hole in my previous speaker’s woofers. That was 20 years ago and they were Bose 301s at the time so no great great loss per the audiophile community! I hope to not have a repeat of that scenario however with my current Focals!!

        1. Yes, be careful with the pup.
          I once had 2 big dogs (120 pounds each) and 2 Maggies.
          But nothing bad happened, they lived in peace for 10 years.
          I think a young kitten is more dangerous in the proximity of speakers.
          As for the Bose 301s, your dog actually did you a favour.
          He probably couldn’t stand the sound, must have been a very musical dog

          1. Knowing what I know now, I would agree with you that the dog did me a favor on those 301’s. As a college student I bought those the day they were introduced to the market but I was young and naïve then and more concerned with brand name than performance LOL. Haven’t we discussed in these pages the confusion between distortion and loudness and I certainly was in that camp at that time.

            I remember taking them to an independent shop in town where they sold me replacement woofers made by a third party, not Bose. I have no idea whether that improved the sound or not I just remember using them for another year or so until I blew them and upgraded to Infinite Slopes.

            Oh the stories we have to tell over the years.

      2. Our wifes invest their time and money in a general makeup. Thus audiophiles should be respected when investing time and money in makeup for their stereo systems! 🙂 So what is the problem with WAF?

        1. “what is the problem with WAF?”

          as long as your wife allows you to do everything in the listening room that improves soundquality.
          If you have such a wife, you are damn lucky.
          Don’t you ever ditch her !

  7. Thank you REED for being so empathic.
    But since I’m not married anymore I’m not bothered by the WAF.
    So my living room is also my somewhat dedicated listening room. And I’m very happy with that.

  8. Audiophiles are the most fortunate of all music listeners. They know enough to treat their listening environment so as to get the best out of their systems. Room one at PS Audio is an excellent example. But audiophiles are only a small percentage of the population. Barring a small percentage of those who do not care for music the rest place their systems according to convenience and think they are getting the best sound and some are indeed getting it because they by chance placed it right without knowing it and go on to believe that this is how things are done. Wife acceptance factor ( domestic tranquility factor in PC language ) is a major factor in placement. The difference between an audiophiles system and a system placed according to convenience is like the difference between two gardens one with flowers and the other with shrubs but no flowers. Regards.

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