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Do’s And Dont’s Of Audio Room Design

Dennis Foley January 22, 2014 8 Comments

Audio room design is something all music lovers have to give serious thought to. No doubt you have your speakers, amplifier, and source all ready to go and maybe a set up floating around in your head.

So maybe you’re thinking where should I place my speakers? Should they be 4′ from the side walls or 5? What distance from the front wall should both speakers be placed? How far back should I sit? Can one side wall be glass and the other side wall be a closet? Can I have different materials on the front wall and different materials on the rear wall? What if my room is so large that the rear wall is 30′ away from my listening position? Do I need one chair or can I use a couch or love seat for two or more people? In short, what are the actual real life dos and don’ts of acoustic room design you need to figure out right here, right now?

In the following video, I’ll go over some common dos and don’ts of room design and set up in personal listening rooms. I actually show you a personal listening room with four common errors, something we see on a consistent basis in most listening rooms. I also show you how unequal left and right channel side walls and the treatment or lack of treatment can destroy your stereo image and sound stage you are trying so hard to create.

You will also see how nooks and spaces can create resonances of their own competing with the wanted direct energy from your loudspeakers. Finally you will see how glass on one side channel and no glass on the other side and how it affects your audio enjoyment. See if you have any of these dos and don’ts of audiophile set up in your room and if you do, well, read on!

Designing A Two Channel Set Up

Setting up a two channel listening room involves a list of acoustic design dos and don’ts that must be followed and these are the same dos and don’ts the professionals go by when they set up there monitoring or control rooms.

First, you must have equal distance from your right channel side wall and your left channel side wall. Sound is electro-mechanical energy that moves at a constant speed. Your listening or monitoring position is a combination of the direct or straight line sound from your speakers and then the room sound which is the reflected energy from the side wall surfaces among other surfaces. Both of these distances must be equal.

No Open Areas

You can have no open areas or nooks in the listening room. Enclosures such as these produce audible resonances that can be heard at the listening position. Fill all fireplaces with concrete. Keep the equipment rack as low as possible if you have it located against the front wall between the two speakers. If it is higher than 12″, it interferes with reflections from the front wall surfaces causing comb filtering in the middle range frequencies where our vocals lie.

Room Treatment

Room treatment must be of the same type on both side walls. If you have chosen absorption for the right channel side wall then you must use absorption on the left side wall. If you have chosen diffusion for the right side wall, then you must use diffusion on the left side wall.

It is critical that the distance between each speaker be the same as the distance from the right channel speaker to the listening position and the same distance as the left channel speaker to the left channel speaker. An equilateral triangle with all sides the same distance must be the set up goal. Positioning of this “sound triangle” in the correct spot in your room is a blend of both science and art.

There can be no glass for sound energy to reflect off of and enter the listening position. No glass at all because glass sound is the worst sound you can have in a critical listening environment. To verify this, sit in your car and play the stereo system when parked, no engine running – yikes!

So I hope this brief discussion has helped you. If you have any questions at any time I am always on hand to help answer them. Leave them in the comments section or email me at info@acousticfields.com. If you would like to learn more about room acoustics, and in particular audio room design, please sign up for my free video training and ebook by joining the mailing list here. I send room tuning tips and things for you to test in your room every Wednesday. They are easy to follow and really help you enjoy more of their music.

Thanks and speak soon

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Dennis Foley

I am an acoustic engineer with over 30 years’ experience in the business. My technology has been used in Electric Lady Land Studios, Sony Music of New York, Cello Music and Films founded by Mark Levinson, and Saltmines Studios in Mesa, Arizona, along with hundreds of others.Connect with me on Google+

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8 thoughts on “Do’s And Dont’s Of Audio Room Design

  1. Hi Dennis,
    your videos are always so instructive ! thanks a lot for all those advises and for reminding things that we know sometimes but that we don’t take enough care. We have exchanged some mails last month after you made for me a room analysis, I bought you the plans to make a BDA. I need time now to measure the room modes and to construct the BDA ( 2 pieces I think). I will manage time to get a consultation with you by skype as soon as possible. Since your analysis of my room I’ve changed the position of my desk and monitors , the diffusion was in the lengh direction and now it is in the width direction ( see the map I sent you for the room analysis if you already kept it ), it seems to sound better and more precise.
    A last thing, I change my email address, wich becomes : loulceotom@gmail.com instead of yann.perrin2@wanadoo.fr , do I have to create a new account ?
    Thanks a lot.

    • Hi Yann,

      You are correct. It is best to set up a time slot so we can speak about your room. Go to the Book In link in my email and set up a time that works for both of us.

      Talk to you soon.


  2. My wife and myself will be retiring in the next few years. We’re relocating into a cabin in the hills. We’ll be adding space to this cabin, lower level a three bay garage with a short basement. Above a great room, with a master suite. Above the third bay, my wife has agreed to let me build an audio room.
    Could you give me some ideas of space and shape, so when we go to the architects, we can have this designed into the plans.
    Thank you very much,

  3. Let’s say I’m designing a recording studio. I’m going to have a large live room, maybe 34′ x 75′. At one end of this room I’ll have a control room, 21′ x 34′ (with 13′ ceiling). On each side of this control room will be an isolation booth, 21′ x 13′, with 8′ ceiling. At the back of the control room will be four smaller isolation booths, 8′ x 5′ with 13′ ceilings. I need sight lines into all these rooms from the control room, as well as into other rooms if possible. How do I do this without loads of glass? Would the glass taint the sound so badly that the sight-lines would simply not be worth it? Is there any rule of thumb for resolving this issue, such us a limit to how much of a wall should be used for these communication windows?


  4. I am university teacher of acoustics and sound rooms as well as electronics.Your article is one of the best I have ever read with only one slip.Sound waves are mechanical waves carrying mechanical energy and not electro-mechanical as stated ..Thank you.

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