What Comes First Sound Quality or Room Aesthetics?

When buying hifi if the best sounding system you could afford meant having multiple boxes and physical media on show in your living room would you compromise on SQ to keep your room more aesthetically pleasing?

If you are lucky enough to have a dedicated listening room or all of your boxes and records or cd's tucked away somewhere this doesn't really apply I'm talking about those of us that live in smaller houses and flats (apartments).

I'm very lucky in that my other half is a music lover too and she tolerates the rack the black boxes and all of the records because she knows it sounds than a swanky lifestyle box.

Original Post

Hi Bob,

For me, both sound quality and aesthetics of the room are equally important. Personally I don't think black boxes on an equipment rack and physical media destroy the aesthetics of the room. It's the opposite for me as I think they make the room look nicer and classier (particularly Naim equipment).

To me, It's the room treatment products such as acoustic panels and bass traps that ruin the aesthetics of the room. I have used artificial potted plants, thick curtains, rugs and other forms of furniture as as substitute instead.  Although they may not be as effective as aftermarket room treatment products they still manage to improve the sound of the system in the room, almost every time I've tried.

ryder. posted:

To me, It's the room treatment products such as acoustic panels and bass traps that ruin the aesthetics of the room.

Absolutely. Most of these products look horrible. First, people follow a minimalistic approach and remove everything from their room so that it looks like a large prison cell with a GBP 8000 designer chair, after that they add these panels. I'm sure it sounds better, but for me:

Room Aestetics first (America second).

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If you look at the system pics thread, most who have posted there are happy with their room. But some have taken adherence to SQ to an extreme that for others (including myself), the room is so distracting that it would be very hard to spend time in there, let alone concentrate on music.

I think that given enough forward planning, especially when building a new home or renovating a property, a room can be designed to facilitate the desired key points of a listening room without appearing to do so.

Bob the Builder posted:
🔸would you compromise on SQ to keep your room more aesthetically pleasing?
 

🔹 Bob the Builder,...Short answer,..NEVER.!!

I use the term "room-tunning",it involves a combination of installing,optimizing the music system along with adjustments of furniture, carpets,paintings,curtains,large flowers etc,etc in relation to the loudspeakers and the music system.

◾Example: After making a "tunning" of the speakers,you make a "tunning" of different parts of the furniture.
Then after that,you go back to making a "tunning" of the speakers,....then back to the furniture etc...

Yes,you understand what I mean,..This takes time,perhaps one year before everything is optimally 👍🏻😉.
But I,..AND we who have done this,have never had to use "acoustic aids".

Yes,..I have tried such aids,even listened in completely Acoustics adapted rooms,rebuilt by professionals in the field of acoustics.
It may sound good,but something is always missing,...for example..The nerve,the liveliness, the natural dynamics.
◾Factors that I think are very important in the musical presentation.

/Peder 🙂

To me, sound quality very much comes first, not visual aesthetics. Of course some things simply don’t fit physically, whether absolute size-wise, or requirements for placement, while I have to take into account the fact that I am not the only user of the room, so some things that my wife, in particular, may regard as absolutely hideous, or far too intrusive, may be excluded - and here the consideration is primarily speakers, being physically the largest components by far, and being the ones with critical positioning and therefore inability to place in a less prominent position. With the exception of anything needing to be controlled by an IR remote, other kit could be secreted away if necessary, so appearance is not a deciding factor.

Aesthetics of course are very much a mattr of personal taste - what looks beautiful to one person can look hideous to another. That is as true in home furnishing as it is in visual art ...and hifi appearance. E.g. one speaker that interests me is the Ferguson-Hill FH001 (No idea what it sounds like, and needs a sub, but the concept appeals to me.) Quite large horn speakers ...but transparent so, if photos are to be believed, no-where near as obtrusive as their size might suggest. But my better half took one look at the same picture and declared that they look ugly and overbearing -  so if I was to discover that they sound good, I’d have a hard struggle trying to persuade!

TOBYJUG posted:
Having family members staying a while and then moving the speakers so they could hear it clearer from the dining area is particularly troublesome to come back home to !

🔹 Tobyjug,....😵😵😵 You Must Be Jokeing.!!

/Peder🙂 

ryder. posted:

To me, It's the room treatment products such as acoustic panels and bass traps that ruin the aesthetics of the room. I have used artificial potted plants, thick curtains, rugs and other forms of furniture as as substitute instead.  Although they may not be as effective as aftermarket room treatment products they still manage to improve the sound of the system in the room, almost every time I've tried.

These days you can get panels printed with artwork of your choice, so although you can’t get away from the fact that the hanging picture is, 2, 4 or 6 inches thisk, or whatever, it need not be ugly. Bass traps are more difficult, particularly when needed in multiple corners including wall-ceiling - but with choice of materials they could be blended to look like part of the room itself. Of course, making them visually attractive or invisible may add significantly to cost - but then, if you have a system costing maybe several 10s of £1000s, and consider cables costing £1000s, spending a few £1000 on getting the room to not have a detrimental effect on sound quality doesn't seem inappropriate - and in some cases it can completely transform the sound.

For my living room things have to be aesthetically pleasing and harmonious to the surroundings. One Fraim stack neatly placed and a pair of Oak Shahinian Compass speakers that look and sound great. For my office system i'm slightly less bothered, but a pair of wall placed Linn Kabers and a UQ2 is hardly poor on the visual front. I've had plenty of ugly speakers pass through my room, but even if they improved on the sonics of the Shahinian, they'd never get to stay. Part of the whole relaxation, musical experience for me depends on a calm environment with which to enjoy it.

Yes of course there is a balance because of the people we live with and luckily like others have said above we do not find that a three shelf Hutter Rack and an LP12 on a wall shelf offensive nor the thousand or so records stored in plain site amongst the cubed storage shelves but I have to say if it all offended me then I would just put up with it as SQ is paramount.

I'm not putting the money and love into my music replay system that I do to then change it because fashion dictates it does not look good, all of us 20 years ago had multiple boxes and physical media on show and where happy to do so.

                                                                          

For us, aesthetics come first.  This has left me with a rather boomy listening room unfortunately.  Zero interest in fabric curtains (wooden blinds), and our art is mostly ceramics.  And our furniture tastes run to mid-century Danish modern.

A rug on the hard wooden floors would help, but our dog protests.  He will "use" a rug in that room (he gets mad when we leave him alone) and so that just hasn't worked out for us.

Curious isn’t it, people’s different tastes in homes! For a living room I can’t stand the echoey nature of a room that is all hard surfaces, much preferring the gentle hush from thickly carpeted floor, soft upholstery etc. I prefer curtains for the same reason but  in my listening room I have blinds instead of curtains, one doubling as a projector screen in front of a large window, the others blackout plastic-based fabric blinds, which aren’t absorbing as curtains but are more so than the windows behind. 

Room aesthetics not relevant in my book provided you can physically accommodate your chosen boxes, I’ve a stack of 5 in the corner and a NAPSC on the lower shelf of a small table in the centre of the speaker stands, works great but would struggle with any more boxes. Wooden floors. The thought of having to consider pets in all this seems crazy 

Calum Ferguson posted:

Room aesthetics not relevant in my book provided you can physically accommodate your chosen boxes, I’ve a stack of 5 in the corner and a NAPSC on the lower shelf of a small table in the centre of the speaker stands, works great but would struggle with any more boxes. Wooden floors. The thought of having to consider pets in all this seems crazy 

Goldfish?

I would think that an ideally acoustic room would provide a HUGE improvement over the compromised room that most of us have to live/work with. Never mind whether a room is live/dead sounding. I have no idea whether the den I use is acoustically ideal or not (it isn't) but it is the best room I have, and my (admittedly hodge-podge) treatments do the best that I can reasonably expect amid all the compromises that are involved. At the end of the day,I can listen and enjoy.

Innocent Bystander posted:
Calum Ferguson posted:

Room aesthetics not relevant in my book provided you can physically accommodate your chosen boxes, I’ve a stack of 5 in the corner and a NAPSC on the lower shelf of a small table in the centre of the speaker stands, works great but would struggle with any more boxes. Wooden floors. The thought of having to consider pets in all this seems crazy 

Goldfish?

They don’t have moods, don’t protest where you put them and most importantly no risk of making a god awful mess near your gear so goldfish: Approved

TOBYJUG posted:

Considering the amount of £s many have spent on the hifi, a few trips to a nice Art gallery and putting up some canvas paintings without frame and glass up on the walls would help.   This making the room both visually and acoustically better.

What ?! Unless you have Statement you are going to upgrade the hifi further not fritter the cash on bloody paintings

Calum Ferguson posted:
TOBYJUG posted:

Considering the amount of £s many have spent on the hifi, a few trips to a nice Art gallery and putting up some canvas paintings without frame and glass up on the walls would help.   This making the room both visually and acoustically better.

What ?! Unless you have Statement you are going to upgrade the hifi further not fritter the cash on bloody paintings

We all have different views on how to decorate our houses, but for me, if hanging a painting on the wall works for the room decor, I’ll do it. Even in a room that is more or less a dedicated listening room, the last thing I want is to make it feel like a dealer demo room. 

SWMBO agreed to me purchasing my hi-fi provided it would fit in an alcove that is 1.05m wide.

The only way this would work was for two custom size Hi-fi Racks Podium Reference racks, one just wide enough for full size equipment and one just wide enough for a Hi-Cap.

A single rack would have been too tall as it sits on a suspended wooden floor.

So, although my system is compromised to some extent by not using a better rack, it still sound excellent to my ears.

Also, "acoustic treatments" in the room are just a sheepskin rug, a large dog bed, vertical blackout blinds, two upholstered sofas and a large original painting. There's no room for anything like bass traps.

 I have yet to see acoustic room treatments that aren't ugly, IMO. My room gets treated with ... well, the room. I have a big wool rug, furniture, window coverings, wall art, etc. My 3000+ collection of vinyl recordings covers the wall behind the speakers, and they function really well as a diffuser. 

 

 

Bob the Builder posted:

This is the best way imo as if your living room is not very minimalist and you have the normal carpets, curtains, rugs, cushions, shelves with books or records on them this will all act as room treatments.

🔹 Bob the Builder,.....I agree,that was what I wrote about in my previous post here.

It's what I call "Room-Tunning", I put it in again here below.
I know a Professor of acoustics,he has previously done acoustic measurements both in my listening room and his own.

With these measurements as a starting point, we have tried to adapt and dampen the listening room,..It's not been good,see below...

◾ It may sound good, but something is always missing,... for example.. The nerve, the liveliness, the natural dynamics.◾ 

What,..however has become good,is when I used "Room-Tunning".

Both in my place,and when I helped said Professor of acoustics to install and optimize his music system.
He was very satisfied.

"I use the term "room-tunning",it involves a combination of installing,optimizing the music system along with adjustments of furniture, carpets,paintings,curtains,large flowers etc,etc in relation to the loudspeakers and the music system.

◾Example: After making a "tunning" of the speakers,you make a "tunning" of different parts of the furniture.
Then after that,you go back to making a "tunning" of the speakers,....then back to the furniture etc...

Yes,you understand what I mean,..This takes time,perhaps one year before everything is optimally 👍🏻😉.

But I,..AND we who have done this,have never had to use "acoustic aids".
Yes,..I have tried such aids,even listened in completely Acoustics adapted rooms,rebuilt by professionals in the field of acoustics.

It may sound good,but something is always missing,...for example..The nerve,the liveliness, the natural dynamics.

◾Factors that I think are very important in the musical presentation."

/Peder 🙂

Bob the Builder posted:

This is the best way imo as if your living room is not very minimalist and you have the normal carpets, curtains, rugs, cushions, shelves with books or records on them this will all act as room treatments.

Yes, though in most cases can be improved, and as I indicated itbreally is part of the sound system,, and one that is hugely overlooked by most people, even when spending vast sums on the rest. At some point it is likely to be prudent to consider whether some expenditure on the room might bring improvement, possibly out of all proportion to cost.

Bass issues are perhaps the most recognised - and difficult to deal with because of the size of absorbers that can sometimes be needed to be effective, and instead people often compromise by using speakers that simply don’t have low bass. But often significant, especially in smaller rooms, is early reflections - from side walls, also ceiling and floor. These cause muddying of the sound and reduce clarity - and even if it sounds great, it may still be not as good as it can be with the rest of the system. So attention to whether there is something absorbing or scattering specifically at the early reflection points is worthwhile, and if not adding - which could simply mean rearranging things like bookshelves, specialised panels, which as I’ve indicated they can have artwork of one’s choice, so can appear to be just a picture or graphic, or wall-coloured.

Bob the Builder posted:

Yes Peder I read your as always very interesting post unfortunately for me though is that I live in a small Edwardian terraced house a 'two up two down' and in the living room there is no real room for manoeuvre but on the whole I'm happy with the sound anyway.

🔹 Bob the Builder,....Small adjustments can also affect a lot,it's just to try it out.

For example,if you have the speakers on a short wall,and for example,a bookshelf on one of the long walls.
Try shooting the Bookshelf front or back 5-10cm after the long wall,it can make a difference.

Start with larger movements,and halve the movement each time until you've found the best location,....just like with speaker-tunning.

I think you understand what I mean,..work so with everything in the room.

You probably know what we call,...the first floor,wall or ceiling-reflex.
You put an "Supposed" mirror there,so that you see the speaker in the intended mirror.
There you should have some kind of "Dampening materials".

We actually added a small "Acoustic panel" in the ceiling of a very large room,where the first "ceiling-reflex" hits the ceiling.
The acoustics of the room was incredibly much better,the disc was no larger than 20 * 100cm.

It is the only "professional" acoustic material we used,you often forget the ceiling...but it can affect incredibly much.

I shall see if I can arrange a picture of this ceiling-disc we used.

But as I said before,this takes time...you do a little now and then,and..Important,do not stress.

/Peder 🙂

Innocent Bystander posted:
Bob the Builder posted:

This is the best way imo as if your living room is not very minimalist and you have the normal carpets, curtains, rugs, cushions, shelves with books or records on them this will all act as room treatments.

Yes, though in most cases can be improved, and as I indicated itbreally is part of the sound system,, and one that is hugely overlooked by most people, even when spending vast sums on the rest. At some point it is likely to be prudent to consider whether some expenditure on the room might bring improvement, possibly out of all proportion to cost.

Bass issues are perhaps the most recognised - and difficult to deal with because of the size of absorbers that can sometimes be needed to be effective, and instead people often compromise by using speakers that simply don’t have low bass. But often significant, especially in smaller rooms, is early reflections - from side walls, also ceiling and floor. These cause muddying of the sound and reduce clarity - and even if it sounds great, it may still be not as good as it can be with the rest of the system. So attention to whether there is something absorbing or scattering specifically at the early reflection points is worthwhile, and if not adding - which could simply mean rearranging things like bookshelves, specialised panels, which as I’ve indicated they can have artwork of one’s choice, so can appear to be just a picture or graphic, or wall-coloured.

I have a bass trap. It's my 85 lb dog laying on the rug. Sadly, she doesn't always cooperate. LOL

I'm sure I could make things more and more perfect with measurements, analysis and treatments, etc. However, I'm happy to be 85-90% there, so I can get about the business of enjoying my home without it looking like a recording studio, and listening to music. Trying to achieve audio nirvana tends to drive one nuts and distracts from the true purpose for enjoying the system. That's why when people call me an "audiophile" I correct them to say I absolutely am not an audiophile, I'm a music lover. I just got my Naim gear back from a recap and DR upgrade service. Prior to that I did nothing to tune or tweak my system or room in the last 4 years.

RaceTripper posted:

I'm sure I could make things more and more perfect with measurements, analysis and treatments, etc. However, I'm happy to be 85-90% there, so I can get about the business of enjoying my home without it looking like a recording studio, and listening to music. Trying to achieve audio nirvana tends to drive one nuts and distracts from the true purpose for enjoying the system. That's why when people call me an "audiophile" I correct them to say I absolutely am not an audiophile, I'm a music lover. I just got my Naim gear back from a recap and DR upgrade service. Prior to that I did nothing to tune or tweak my system or room in the last 4 years.

Fair enough. But maybe it is worth considering how much time and effort you spend choosing the other system components - for some people it is a lot...

🔹 Bob the Builder,....Here are two pictures of the small panels that we used in the ceiling,..I wrote about them in my previous post.

I also described where they should sit (mirror example),but use some sort of tape so you can attach them to the ceiling..Play and listen,and possibly move them until you find the right place..Before you attach them.

Only two such panels are used,..And this in the ceiling,everything else is ordinary "Room-Tunning" as I described earlier.
And as I said,..the result was a brilliant musical music-rendition.

So add a little,...or very much time on this,..it's the best investment you can make.

Below a little product information... 🔽🔽🔽

◾How It Works,..Incredible Finish Quality.

The Sound Panel provides absorption from 200Hz up through the entire treble range.

Like other ASC products,a built-in reflector strip is used to maintain diffusive ambience.
Additionally, when placed on 2-3 foot intervals, the panel's edge diffraction induces mid-range lateral diffusion for enhanced spaciousness.

ASC’s own fabrication technicians will hand build and meticulously assemble each Panel to a quality standard only available from ASC.
SoundPlanks are available covered with 5 in-stock Guilford of Maine 701 fabrics,or choose from many special order colors to match your specific needs.◾ 

🔸Below the two image-links..🔽🔽 

1. Soundpanel
https://i.imgur.com/rPdnZBw.jpg

2. A view from a room
https://i.imgur.com/RxCOBkX.jpg

 /Peder🙂

 

 

Innocent Bystander posted:
RaceTripper posted:

I'm sure I could make things more and more perfect with measurements, analysis and treatments, etc. However, I'm happy to be 85-90% there, so I can get about the business of enjoying my home without it looking like a recording studio, and listening to music. Trying to achieve audio nirvana tends to drive one nuts and distracts from the true purpose for enjoying the system. That's why when people call me an "audiophile" I correct them to say I absolutely am not an audiophile, I'm a music lover. I just got my Naim gear back from a recap and DR upgrade service. Prior to that I did nothing to tune or tweak my system or room in the last 4 years.

Fair enough. But maybe it is worth considering how much time and effort you spend choosing the other system components - for some people it is a lot...

True. For me I have to stop at some point and say I'm done. Every once in a while I make a change. Sometimes it's after 15-20 years. Sometimes after 4 years (like my recent recap and DR service). Those infrequent changes are done carefully. But I really don't enjoy that much the time spent selecting, auditioning, setup, etc. I'm really after getting to the point where I can collapse on the sofa and enjoy playing records.

Given all that, I really want my room to look and feel like a normal room and am willing to pass on acoustic treatments, even if it doesn't get me all the way there to the best my system can sound. I feel like I have my money and time's worth as it is. I realize many have other attitudes and priorities about it.

Peder posted:

.

ASC’s own fabrication technicians will hand build and meticulously assemble each Panel to a quality standard only available from ASC.
SoundPlanks are available covered with 5 in-stock Guilford of Maine 701 fabrics,or choose from many special order colors to match your specific needs.◾ 

🔸Below the two image-links..🔽🔽 

1. Soundpanel
https://i.imgur.com/rPdnZBw.jpg

2. A view from a room
https://i.imgur.com/RxCOBkX.jpg

 /Peder🙂

 

 

And others, like GIK already mentioned, also manufacture quality panels of a variety of typles and finishes.

I also found that there is variety of other products are availabe  E.g.  There are these - so you really should be able to find something to suit all tastes. 

http://www.soundsorba.com/wp-c...oads/Bubblesorba.pdf

Innocent Bystander posted:
 

 

And others, like GIK already mentioned, also manufacture quality panels of a variety of typles and finishes.

I also found that there is variety of other products are availabe  E.g.  There are these - so you really should be able to find something to suit all tastes. 

http://www.soundsorba.com/wp-c...oads/Bubblesorba.pdf

My listening room would look like a child daycare with those examples. I guess we could move in all my wife's childhood stuffed animals to provide some extra diffusion. LOL

Still yet to see any acoustic treatment that isn't obviously that and looks pretty awful. But each to their own taste, I suppose.

Both clearly important. For me especially speakers as the system is hidden away in our living room. However when bought current speakers I went from 10 candidates to 2 mainly based on looks and ability to work close to the wall. Many great speakers would never make with myself or the family. Luckily I found a pair that both sounds great, works and looks well in the room. Thats my experience on this. Br Lars

Add Reply

Likes (0)
×
×
×
×