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Room Acoustics

Is this a nightmare room?

With more than 60% glass – more off to the right – and hardwood flooring this room would normally echo badly, making conversation (let alone music) quite difficult, and impossible with a number of people talking. To make matters worse it is open-plan through a wide opening to a large kitchen, yet another potential echo chamber.

What makes it a really comfortable living room with an easy ambience is … can you spot it? The highly-specialised veneered acoustic lighting panel on the ceiling and the back of the bookshelves on the far wall.  That's all – in a room of 48sq m.

No need for heavy curtains and fitted carpets, all of which actually over-damp the room to make it lifeless.  Especially for music, the correct ratio between absorption and dispersion is essential to preserve frequency balance.

Room acoustics are critically important for relaxed enjoyment of music – create sound in a room and the room responds with its own character.  Unless treated, hard surfaces will reflect high frequencies to create an over-bright, edgy sound. Corners – wall-to-wall, wall-to-ceiling and wall-to-floor – can over-emphasise bass.

Feed in more acoustic energy, as music volume increases, and the reaction is 'that's too loud' and bass becomes bloated, masking the performance.

The result can be a volume-related "letter-box": lower the volume and the sound lacks energy and involvement while higher becomes unpleasant. If you ever think that's too loud there's almost certainly RFI and intermodulation distortion at work as well. If the room (and the system – see under
Vertex AQ
) is well-behaved there should be no limitation, either way, on music volume.

If you would like to understand more about how we locate sound sources and how that relates to timing and our enjoyment of music read this: Sound localisation. It is a fairly technical description but that only serves to show how sophisticated our hearing is and how we need to take account of the room and our hearing's response when setting up a music system.

One of the most critical factors in making a system perform well in a room is positioning – the speakers, the listening spot and, to a lesser extent, the equipment rack. With our advice and this guide: Cardas advice customers have completely transformed the sound and their enjoyment.

This is another example of where we are our own worst enemy – doing ourselves out of upgrade business! Of course we are always pleased if you decide to buy something from us but we like to know that the fundamentals are right first, so that you are not spending money on the wrong things and engendering disappointment.

Through our strong business connections with Vertex AQ we are teaming up with an acoustics engineer, Rainer Weber, who is retained by the top German car companies to design out intrusive noise from their luxury cars, and a small German company with superb manufacturing facilities to bring this expertise to the UK market. Vertex have created a new brand LeadingEdge that is producing equipment racks and room treatment panels that incorporate the acoustics technology you see above and in the conference room below.

It is a unique combination of Rainer's acoustics skills, his deep understanding of psychoacoustics and Vertex AQ's technology inside the loudspeaker crossover that makes our new Vivace loudspeakers so extraordinary – Vivace .

The company, Kaiser Akustik based in Bavaria, has installed acoustic treatments in conference halls, boardrooms and public buildings but also in private homes, mainly in Germany and Austria. Here is a link to their site Kaiser Akustic that shows examples of jobs and the inside of the factory. Some examples of installations are:

The acoustic panels are so effective at absorbing energy that only quite small areas are usually needed. They can be blended into a décor scheme, either painted or veneered in a choice of wood finishes. A significant part of our service will include advice on the most unobtrusive yet effective way of integrating them into the room.
This acoustic technology is very much more sophisticated than the usual absorbent foam approach, or inserting yet more soft furnishings as mentioned above.