Nowadays with the advent of home theatre and digital audio, considerable ink has been expended in audiophile press as to the ideal in equipment to better enjoy music. I have discovered that audiophile aficionados are obsessive in hair splitting technical jargon that makes Snoop’s shizzle dizzle comprehensible in comparison. Discussions, ardent and fervent, rage at audiophile sites on persnickety audio gear comparisons. The fact is when analog turned digital, most modern gear now deliver outstanding performance at a reasonable price and when all is said and done as Oscar Peterson put it ‘It’s the music that matters.’
Which brings us to the fundamental crux of this article what exactly is audio equipment supposed to accomplish The glib answer is that the expensive high fidelity equipment will recreate with utmost precision a concert experience or recreate movie theatre audio right in your living room. Now with most surround sound setups, you get a mess of wires running around and under furniture all over the room and if you mostly listen to music, when was the last time you attended a concert with the musicians playing the instruments behind you Do I need to hear in high fidelity the subtle concert sounds of spectators screaming in the back row Don’t get me wrong. A five or six speaker system complete with sub woofer can sound sublime. But after a digital signal from a dvdcd has made its way through thousands of dollars of audio equipment out through an equally expensive set 5-6 speakers, what then
Well your living room for starters. Living rooms are a dynamic seldom considered or discussed in audiophile press. Studio listening rooms and concert halls are designed with the help of acousticians for optimum re verb and sound absorption. On the other hand, your average living room is a small half open enclosure filled with paraphernalia, which may or may not contribute to an optimum listening experience. Ceilings and walls reflect sound waves and improperly placed speakers further degrade the sound. Unless you are prepared to redesign a listening room, your best bet (and simplest) is to check your speaker box placement and listening position.
As a rule of thumb, hard bare walls may create ‘slap’ echoes so consider hanging some art on your walls preferably of soft materials (furry paintings anyone Or check my relief sculpture Figure 1) andor filled bookshelves. Also sub woofers (the large low frequency speaker) should at unequal distances to the room boundaries for ‘smooth bass response. A visit to your local audio store showroom will provide some guidelines.
Keep in mind that there are many subtleties to this and remember to trust your own ears as to what is best. Sm.