Room Correction At Your Place

You can’t do anything to the sound of the recordings that you purchase. The balance of the instruments, the amount of compression, the equalization and everything of aspect of the fidelity is established at the time of the recording and the subsequent postproduction stages. The potential fidelity of any album release is limited to format that is used during the original sessions…NOT the delivery format…but we already know that. So what can you do to modify the sonics of your music at home, one the road or while jogging at the beach?

Since the earliest days of HiFi playback equipment, equipment manufacturers have included tone controls. We’ve always been able to adjust the bass and treble of our music. Newer preamps and receivers include a midrange equalization control. But these tone controls are superficial timbral modifiers and not really affected the fidelity and accuracy of the original tracks.

Somewhere along the way, I can remember getting my first graphic equalizer. You know the ones. They are stereo units with an individual boast and cut controls at every octave…the fancier ones (that we use at the studio) have 3 controls for every octave and are known as 1/3 octave graphic equalizers. The word graphic comes from the fact that you can easily see the tonal modifications that are being applied by looking at the position of the sliders on the front of the channels.

The use of graphic equalizers is typically used to modify the response characteristics of a physical space and not so much for creative reasons. I have one on each of the outputs of my console before my amplifiers.

So when considering how much tonal modification (analog or digital) to do on music that has already been properly balanced in the studio and during the mastering phase, you should keep in mind that any changes you make are being added (or subtracted) to the intentions of the producer…if and only if your playback system and room have a flat playback response. And the chances for that are slim.

Having a professional come to your place and do a careful alignment is strongly encouraged. The home-automated room correction tools are not quite ready for prime time, in my opinion. There are so many things that affect the sound of your playback system: the speakers, the cables (yes, cables can “change” the sound), the arrangement of the furniture, the amount of glass or brick in the room, whether you have carpets or rugs on the floor and the geometry of the room itself.

This might be the reason why a good set of headphones can usually out perform a very good playback setup…there is no need to address the acoustics of the space you listen in.

If you’re a critical listener, the sound of your playback system will be improved when the speakers are closer to your listening position. This is referred to as “near field monitoring”. Using this method means the interaction of the speakers output with the rest of the room is minimized.

Dr. AIX

Mark Waldrep, aka Dr. AIX, has been producing and engineering music for over 40 years. He learned electronics as a teenager from his HAM radio father while learning to play the guitar. Mark received the first doctorate in music composition from UCLA in 1986 for a "binaural" electronic music composition. Other advanced degrees include an MS in computer science, an MFA/MA in music, BM in music and a BA in art. As an engineer and producer, Mark has worked on projects for the Rolling Stones, 311, Tool, KISS, Blink 182, Blues Traveler, Britney Spears, the San Francisco Symphony, The Dover Quartet, Willie Nelson, Paul Williams, The Allman Brothers, Bad Company and many more. Dr. Waldrep has been an innovator when it comes to multimedia and music. He created the first enhanced CDs in the 90s, the first DVD-Videos released in the U.S., the first web-connected DVD, the first DVD-Audio title, the first music Blu-ray disc and the first 3D Music Album. Additionally, he launched the first High Definition Music Download site in 2007 called iTrax.com. A frequency speaker at audio events, author of numerous articles, Dr. Waldrep is currently writing a book on the production and reproduction of high-end music called, "High-End Audio: A Practical Guide to Production and Playback". The book should be completed in the fall of 2013.

4 thoughts on “Room Correction At Your Place

  • January 16, 2014 at 3:57 pm
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    “If you’re a critical listener, the sound of your playback system will be improved when the speakers are closer to your listening position. This is referred to as “near field monitoring”. Using this method means the interaction of the speakers output with the rest of the room is minimized.”

    I agree with your last statement and definitely not your first statement. When speakers are close to the ears, it sounds artificial — close speakers reduce the accuracy of instrument timbre and make it obvious that you’re listening to a playback machine and not live instruments. I try to sit as far from my speakers as possible. But maybe if I paid $$,$$$ per speaker, I could comfortably press them to my ears and achieve Audio Nirvana.

    Reply
    • January 16, 2014 at 6:08 pm
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      If you visit a first class mixing room, you will see at least two different speaker setups. One will be the main stereo reference system AND the speakers are not more than 5-7 feet from the mixing position. There will also be a set of near field monitors (usually much less expensive speakers) mounted on top of the console so that the mixer can reference the mix through a set of less than perfect speakers.

      The reason that the speakers are close is to minimize the affect of the room…the same reason that being close to the speakers at home will provide a more accurate reproduction of the artist’s intent.

      That’s not to say that moving the speakers away is a bad thing, but it does add more of the room.

      Reply
  • January 23, 2014 at 3:47 pm
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    “Having a professional come to your place and do a careful alignment is strongly encouraged. The home-automated room correction tools are not quite ready for prime time, in my opinion. There are so many things that affect the sound of your playback system: the speakers, the cables (yes, cables can “change” the sound), the arrangement of the furniture, the amount of glass or brick in the room, whether you have carpets or rugs on the floor and the geometry of the room itself.”

    I agree that many things about the playback system and the room affect the sound, but that is why automated room correction tools are so important. A professional can help with adjusting room acoustics and with system alignment, but as soon as the professional leaves, minor changes to the room will start affecting the sound. Having 6 people in the room instead of only 1 or 2 will affect the sound. Different room configurations such as raising or lowering a window shade will affect the sound. An automated room correction tool can make it much more feasible to keep the room correction in sync with changes to the room.

    I use Anthem Room Correction, and while it is far from perfect, it does improve the sound of the system.

    Looking to the future, I would like to see room correction that continuously monitors the room and makes changes to the room correction in real time.

    Reply
    • January 25, 2014 at 3:43 pm
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      Mark…if you’re getting good results, then keep doing what you’re doing. I don’t find that things change that much when I have additional bodies in my room but it is a fairly large studio room.

      Reply

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