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It is always a joy to be listening to our favorite music. You know the music that you have listened to time and time again. You know the ones where you know every beat, breath, and break. We have music that we go to for energizing our spirit. We have other music that we go to for comfort and solace during difficult times. No matter what our music favorites are it is always a great joy when we hear a new sound in an old favorite.

New Sound

This new sound can be a vocal or instrument. With vocals, it is usually in the harmony of the back ups. There is another voice that amazingly comes through and we hear it. We know it is new because we know every breath and pause the singer makes and this is different. It is brief and short but once we hear it for the first time, we will always hear it again every time we listen to that song.


With instruments, it is usually another instrument that has been buried in the mix and we are just hearing it for the first time. We hear immediately the new instrument or different note. For reaffirmation that what we heard was real, we ask a friend if they heard it also. They usually say they did, but when you ask them what they heard, they can not describe it. You know you heard it because you know the song inside and out.

Air Mouthing

How do we take a song that we “air mouthed” in the car every word , phrasing, and breaths and then all of a sudden hear something new. Where did it come from and why did we not hear it before? The answer is that it was always there in the recording. It had to be. A new sound just can not magically transport itself into your source compact disc. I wonder if your source was a stored download, would it be constant all the time or could someone add a new sound?

New Electronics

Since the sound is there and we heard it, then our electronics may have changed. I have had the pleasure of owning and listening to many high end hi-fi amplifiers. Amplifiers of this price point have a lot of tender loving care put into the amplifiers themselves. Most of these amplifiers are hand built. There is simply no comparison in sound quality to a hi-fi amplifier and a professional amplifier. They are completely different sonic animals. With different amplifiers from different designers comes different sounds. A new amplifier can produce or reveal a new sound on our compact disc.

Look To Room

If we did not purchase a new amplifier or borrow one from someone, then we must look elsewhere for the reason for our new sound discovery. We look to our room in which we listen to music in. We know the sound of that room, especially if it is a dedicated room for home theater or two channel playback listening. The new sound we hear, if is a vocal produced sound, comes from the reduction of reflections in our listening rooms.


Reflections are like little pieces of sound that never graduated from the direct sound academy. Reflections never went on for the four year degree or graduate studies, they finished after two. Reflections have their beginnings with direct sound, but stray to far and strike a room wall. Now, after striking the wall, they are now a reflection and enter the dark side of the force. Reflections are distortion that can superimpose themselves on the original signal and change that original single into an image and sound stealing missile.

Comb, Anyone?

If you get enough reflections together and they all reside in the same frequency neighborhood and physical location in the room, you have a comb filter. A comb filter occurs when sound energy strikes a surface that is physically close to a loudspeaker. It is when our monitors strike our board surface and reflect. The small physical distance separating the two produces a series of reflections that add up to a comb filter.

Dark Side

A comb filter is the dark side. Through its series of razor like lines or bars of teeth on our analyzer screen, it covers sound and imprisons it behind those bars. Its favorite tactic is blurring and smearing of our vocals. It can hide parts of harmonies, ruin attack and decay, not to mention sustain. A comb filter can also cause shifting in your stereo image. It can move vocals and instruments around on our sound stage. Reflections must be more than managed, they must be controlled in amount and location.

Reflection Cure

Managing reflections in our small room acoustical environments, is not like low frequency energy issues where you try and get the low frequency resonances treated not cured. Take their status from a death sentence to a chronic disease and manage them carefully. They are always in the small room, one just tries to minimize their sonic impacts. Reflections can be cured and must be.

Acoustic Foams

The cheapest and most time saving methodology is to use absorption. Acoustic foams are cheapest and most easily positioned sound absorbing technology to use. There is more sound in that reflection, once the distortion in the time domain is managed. It is a step by step process that has as its beginning and end as science, but has a middle journey that is pure art.

Start Here

Science and the literature can give us data to tell us how much sound absorption we need for this room xyz size. We can make or purchase this amount which science tells us, install it in our room and listen. We hear what we hear. We listen over time, time again, and again. We know the total room sound from low to high. The room and electronics have merged together to produce a room full of sound that is constant and predictable.

Journey First

If we add more absorption and it usually is more in amount but sometimes it can be less to certain places in our room that we suspect are producing comb filter rain or to just lower the reverberation time of the room, it is absorption that can tame a comb filter. When the spot is chosen and the absorption applied, we listen and listen and listen.

Journey Worth Destination

We try more hear and less there. We try different amounts in different locations. This only works for front and rear walls. One should be treatment type and amount consistent on the side walls. Then one moment we add this new piece there and immediately we are drawn and attached to the difference in sound. We do not have to think about what we are hearing. We are not hearing but listening at this point to a new sound we just discovered as a result of our room treatment journey.

It is a great joy to hear a new sound in an old recording. I am not upset that I have not heard it before. I am elated I have heard it now and will always hear it from this point forward. It is said that when you pass, that you get to see certain moments in your life again. I hope this is true. I also hope this courtesy extends to hearing. I hope I get to see myself listening to music, especially new sounds.


I am a structural engineer as well as a master furniture maker. I design cabinets for low frequency, activated carbon absorbers. Connect with me on Google+

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