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 Is your room playing your speakers, or are your speakers playing the room?

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Michael Green
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PostSubject: Is your room playing your speakers, or are your speakers playing the room?   Fri Jun 14, 2013 12:32 pm

How do you know when your system is working with your acoustical setup?

This is one of the most important questions in listening yet many don't really know if they are getting the most out of their sound.

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Robert Harrison



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PostSubject: Re: Is your room playing your speakers, or are your speakers playing the room?   Sat Jun 15, 2013 9:02 am

Hey, Mr. Green,

Do tell us!
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PostSubject: Re: Is your room playing your speakers, or are your speakers playing the room?   Sat Jun 15, 2013 9:24 am

Hi Robert

There is a point when the speakers, your ears and the room are equals. At this point you have the chance to get the best sound. There are several things to look for that tell you, you are close.

1) sound is not in the speakers

2) your volume levels in the room gain equally without peaks

3) you can hear the recording completely around you

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PostSubject: Re: Is your room playing your speakers, or are your speakers playing the room?   Sun Jun 16, 2013 9:28 am

You know one of the greatest temptations is to keep this hobby in pieces instead of the whole. Everyone knows that the signal has to be able to be played, and amplified and then introduced to a space. This has been turned into the ultimate sellable system. But I see things a lot different than this. I see the most important part as the signal, electrical flow, mechanical vibrations, sound waves and pressure.

My view is a completely different hobby that takes it's eye off of the packaging and puts it's eye on performance. In the end it can still look cool, but be more functional, able to deliver what the old school can only talk about.

When your system starts to be set free and the speaker and the room begin to act as one the first thing you notice is "space". What was in a box is starting to be let loose. Not only is this audible by the sound being bigger but there is also a lot more information to the sound. In all of my writings you'll hear me talk about information. This is because we limit ourselves in the amount of music we hear. I can guarantee that in most involved recordings you are only hearing a fraction of the info produced. The more we stay in this little box the less information we are getting. When you start to hear the room become the speaker and the speaker the room things change in a big way.

Do a test.

Can you take an object into your listening room (big or small) and hear it change the sound? If it makes next to no difference or a slight one, then you know that your speaker/room relationship has a ways to go. The serious listener after the highest high of listening must let go of the living room and embrace the fact that the room and loudspeaker are really one. The more you make the speaker into only part of the sound excepting that the real sound is the rooms waves and pressure, and you start to make the speaker apart of this passing of the signal the easier your going to get to the goals of high end listening.

a sound wave

A sound wave is a type of pressure wave caused by the vibration of an object in a conductive medium such as air. When the object vibrates, it sends out a series of waves which can be interpreted as sound. For example, when someone hits a drum, it causes the membrane of the drum to vibrate, and the vibration is transmitted through the air, where it can reach the ear of a listener. Vibrations travel at different speeds through different media. Any object that vibrates is within it'self is a source. Meaning it too once vibrating becomes a loudspeaker. Sometimes these objects can vibrate almost as loud as your speakers cones or panel, and in the case of your room louder. In other words not only are your loudspeakers your acoustical source but so is your room and everything in it big or small. In a typical living room you can have hundreds of mini speakers playing the audio signal your stereo is producing. Each little object is by nature playing the song and giving it's sound value to the overall sound of the system. There is not way around this and why should there be? Listening to sound pressure is how the hobby works.

difference between a sound wave and sound pressure

Many people in this hobby talk about listening to a sound wave, this is actually incorrect in the settting of our hobby. We are not listening to a sound wave we are listening to sound pressure. Sound waves are time and space combined movements or units of vibrating energy. When a sound wave is introduced to an enclosure air pressure takes over and the sound wave or waves are only an origin factor now. As soon as that mass of waves hit the air they are greeted with preformed pressure patterns that have allready been astablished. A typical room only lets a small amount of "true form" waves to happen. A true form wave is a wave that is able to travel from one surface to the next seemingly un touched or unaltered by the other waveforms. There is no way around this and to be accurate even free space (space not enclosed) treats the sound wave differently depending on it's conditioning. A sound wave as such is actual very changable able to always bend and move (reform) as it travels.

It's odd for a fixed audiophile approach to think that an audio signal is being bent or changing as it is sent from the origin to the air but this is reality none the less. This is why it is important to look at notes and note structures and pressure instead of a falsehood of the audiophile frequecy or sound wave. Audiophiles paint the picture of a sound wave cutting through the air when this is not practical. This goes back to the 2D drawings of what a sound wave looks like traveling, when in fact a sound wave itself is a sphere pattern. Picture 20,000 spherical units coming from your loudspeakers all at different lengths and intensities. Might be easier to picture them as small to large bubbles all trying to form curved paterns, growing outward then stimulating other objects who give off their own version of the same energy. If you could picture this in a snapshot it would be a far more accurate diagram than what we are shown by the industry. Have that picture in your mind? Now click your finger cause that picture has changed to a different arrangement every time you click. And this would be if we were talking snapshots. Free flowing sound pressure is far different than the visions we have been shown by our industry engineers to teach us. I believe if we would have been given proper training and instructions we would have given birth long ago to a different more sensible and managable hobby.

When thinking about sound this way you can start to see in your minds eye what is really going on in the listening room or environment. Your speaker is sending out a wave formation quickly to take on the personality of the space it is introduced to. Silly to think that putting foam or other absorbers or diffusors change this science, they only become a part of this energy flow adding their own flavor to the mix. There is no acoustical removal. The only way to have acoustical removal is a vacuum, and wood slats and dampening materials to not cause a vacuum. They are merely another sound creator or if not able to preserve the signal, a sound distorter.


My view of the hobby is to remove distortions by allowing nature to take it's course and providing a harmonic balance to all the signal and wave systems that are at play all the way along the audio pathway. This doesn't mean by doing this through the attempt of removing or canceling waves but through making the speaker and room one. This is my outlook through the whole signal pathway.

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PostSubject: Re: Is your room playing your speakers, or are your speakers playing the room?   Sun Jun 16, 2013 10:11 am

So, this is sort of like what I was taught about how our eyes work, that what we "see" is not what we are looking at but the light reflecting off of it?
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PostSubject: Re: Is your room playing your speakers, or are your speakers playing the room?   Sun Jun 16, 2013 11:54 am

Hi Robert

I think that when people are taught things that they can not picture like air they start to simplify what this seemingly empty space is doing which doesn't look like much, but in reality air is the most active host we have of energy. Like you are saying, what happens between that material (object, solid) and our senses is a vast ocean of energy forms and movement. These forms are all interlinked and work off of each other to create order. The light/material/eye combo is a good model and so should we in listening make an accurate model of what sound is in our environments. We've been living in the audio dark ages when it comes to the audio signal and sound waves. It's taken me 30 years to barely budge the listener when it comes to the fact that we are not listening to waves but pressure. Such an easy concept but so hard to get the mind around because of the limited views and drawings that first came out and was taught for many years.

I believe that outside of the audiophile world there is a clear scientific understanding, but inside, the drawing of the speaker to ear or speaker to wall to ear drawings have slowed down the progression of our hobby. A much better conceptual model would have been pressure balloons inflating and deflating and floating. Something that would have been a lot more 3D in mind than lines. Sound waves don't even remotely resemble lines. To be honest waves is even stretching it. As we go from the higher waves lower we can see how energy waves go from specific to broad band, but they all move toward natures most natural form "the sphere". The sound wave represents some of the biggest wave forms we experience yet we can perceive them at any point in their formation. This gives us a clue into the formation of waves period. I believe that all waves are by nature all present if they are in a willing host. Basically your room before ever turning on the stereo host the entire musical range of frequencies. In a moment the room is ready to spring into action, but this doesn't mean that because the room is a host that it is fully charged.

When materials, or at a more defined form particles, are set into motion the entire space moves in one cordinated or un cordinated effort seeking efficiency. That's the magic of energy "it seeks efficiency". The sphere is the only shape that can cause motion and as such is the end result of any movement. Spining is a wonderful thing. But not only spining but growth. Why is this important? Because when you get to the size of sound waves "sound spheres" you are actually talking about motion that moves in a growing pattern and not so much a straight line pattern, especially in context of a contained space.

This gets back to my teaching of laminar flow and pressure zones as opposed to squiggly lines. I should be given an award or something for this LOL. Your speakers are only energizing your room (setting it in motion), the room from that point on is in control of the energies movements and patterns. Rooms are really only as tough as we make them. If a room is empty it has actually a fairly uniform pattern dictated by the size, material of surfaces (and structure) and the condition of the hosting air. Sounds simple till we put something inside of the room. When this is done the chemistry of the room changes completely. It's like dropping food coloring into a glass of water. The natural in place energy of the room take that objects energy code and quickly spreads it's flavor throughout the room. The room becomes itself+the object. Every object of any kind that enters this space becomes a part of the formula. Again there is no such thing as an acoustical disappearing act, and for me it's almost embarassing that acousticians try to give this impression. Shows how uneducated audiophile myth makers really are. When we embrace the room as being the flavor maker we now can start moving forward in our method (relationship) of making sound.

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PostSubject: Re: Is your room playing your speakers, or are your speakers playing the room?   Wed Jun 26, 2013 2:37 am

Well what do people think the sound has to go through something to get to your ears right?

Some times I don't understand how people can miss something so obvious. You've got the be hearing the room that is what makes the sound. How about every time you walk into a diferent room your voice changes right? Well same thing with a speaker.

People should think more before they talk. Half the guys in audio don't know how sound works how can they be telling others to do things they don't even know about?

Thanks Michael for the listen. Now I got to go buy some classical.
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PostSubject: Re: Is your room playing your speakers, or are your speakers playing the room?   Thu Apr 24, 2014 1:24 am

Hi SoundBites

Sorry for the late return. Speaking of classical. Tonight I changed music to some. I usually for testing sake will run a piece of music for several days to do the studying I need to, but as tonight was the night to do that, I got in the mood to do a few recordings one right after another. The thing that I paid attention to tonight was that with each recording (even though not broken in) there was a hall or space asociated with the recording. Each space was different from the one before but no space got stuck inbetween the speakers. There was clearly space that went all around me. I'm now on my 8th piece and the same thing is happening on every one so far.

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