Building a Room

Written by on 06/03/2020 in Awesome Rooms, Studios - No comments

For the foreseeable future we will all be spending a lot more time at home. Many of us have spaces in our homes that can be converted into inspiring environments where multimedia, sound and vision, gaming and so much more can be incorporated and integrated into a seamless system for unlimited enjoyment and pleasure. I’ve recently been inspired by a friend and colleague to do just that in my own home.

Why just put down a system if the whole environment it is in cannot ad to and compliment the feel and atmosphere of the room? It’s not difficult at all and on this page I am sharing the process I’ve embarked upon in building my version of a room that inspires me and hopefully those who come along to experience great sound.

The approach to the taken process combined scientific principles with artistic elements to create a visual impact while observing the importance of room acoustics in order to extract maximum performance from the electronics and loudspeakers. Often we see good sounding rooms that have been treated with the best acoustic optimization products, but visually it is stale and uninspiring.

In the above picture the subtle but visible application of sound absorption can be seen on the surfaces of the cupboards behind, while the slatted blind covering the window in the center can be adjusted to deflect in different ways thereby diffusing the sounds subtly yet in a minor way can be manipulated to taste. The Led Zeppelin portrait is printed on canvas with optimized sound absorption applied within the rear of the frame thereby damping the hard reflective surface of the wall behind the right speaker.

The room in its original state just after we acquired this house was terribly uninspiring and apart from the pool table and insignificant attempt of a bar, served us of no purpose at all. In fact we initially used it as a store room because it was the worst looking space in the house. It really took some considerable motivation for me to envision its potential as a music / sound / studio room. Yet when I began playing with the idea, the one aspect that stood out was the really odd shape. There are no parallel opposing walls meaning standing waves, despite the somewhat small size, would never be an issue. Of course this resonated well within my book of audio likes and dislikes and so began a complete renovation of the space that I embarked upon with only two helpers.

We just about ripped out everything including all previous electrical conduits, wiring and lighting. The suspended floor above initially troubled me because of various reasons of which installing new wiring for cables and lighting was one. Resonance was the other, but after some thinking I came up with the idea to use the spaces in-between the exposed support beams as rigid Helmholtz resonators. This allowed for cavities to wire up the room to heart’s content, but most importantly I was now in a position to tweak the acoustic balance of the room somewhat by leaning out ever so slightly the region of frequencies in the lower midrange which traditionally is an area responsible for congested sound – an absolute pet hate of mine.

Above are the beginnings of creating attachments for a false ceiling. The spacing or depth of the created cavity is but one element of importance in the formula for calculating the desired range of frequencies to be attenuated. The end results are subtle but those with knowledge of what it is we listen for in reproduced sound will notice a sense of neutrality not dissimilar to hearing music produced where there are no room boundaries. This room simply has no ‘boom’ yet the bass is beautifully extended.

Initially I did a simplified renovation to the room to make it functional for whatever purpose, but when the idea of a dedicated music/man-cave room started manifesting I spent quite a few hours in there sitting in various positions, envisioning different scenarios for orientation.

My boys worked hard. A job like this is extremely labor intensive because it cannot just be slapped together. It takes careful planning from beginning to end and a lot of hard labor in between.

I chose various types of materials with different densities to fill the created cavities in order to meet the calculated specifications. Below is but one example. Depth of the cavity above the attached resonator boards were also all different.

From my car audio days I liked the idea of what in that trade is generally referred to as ‘acoustic carpet’ to cover the suspended boards in-between the beams. The contrasting white and black is quite striking and unusual, but subtly added to the studio feel of the room. Of course the usual problem of a hard reflective ceiling was also eliminated in the process of this creation which in turn allowed me to keep the old-school blocked wooden floor which we’ve sanded down and sealed with a completely transparent high-end product imported from Belgium.

Below is a nice picture of the ambitious ceiling project finished off in striking contrast.

I’m not a fan of dedicated Hi-Fi equipment stands in the context of a room designed with a specific aesthetic appeal or form of purpose. Despite its undoubted advantages I decided to stick with my existing ‘plasma stand’ type cabinet custom made for me a few years back by Botha & Barnard Furniture Manufacturers in Wilderness.

For the new room we decided to embarked upon another labor intensive task of sanding our equipment stand down in order to bring out the natural color of the Hard Pear wood. Similar to the wooden floor in the room, I applied a high-end furniture finishing product imported from Belgium for a rustic grey-weathered-patina look. The application process is quite sophisticated and requires a steady and skilled hand at spray painting with compressed air and a spray gun.

My chosen primary color scheme is that of shades of grey, white and black. For this reason I wanted the wooden elements to lean towards natural and grayish tints.

LED technology has come a long way and is affordable and easy to install. From time to time I enjoy listening to electronic music which becomes more immersive against the back drop of a blue hue. All lighting is now remote controlled. Should future servicing be required, a hidden removable ceiling panel provides access to the receivers and electronic actuators.

Originally the room had no door to the rest of the house. The existing opening was of odd size so we made our own door and door frame with specific attention paid to sound proofing similar to the practices employed in the studio industry.

The hard reflective surface of the rear wall is surprisingly well silenced by the record cover display. It struck the ideal balance I wanted to achieve in observing live-end/dead-end acoustic principles while at the same time enhancing the cardinal theme of music.

Sound reproduction is about music and I wanted to have my record collection accessible in a way resembling the record store displays of days gone by. Flipping through the various albums in a listening session brings back memories of my early childhood going into Musica stores in search of new albums to buy.

CD collections seem so out of fashion these days and I keep marveling at the way people are doing away with them in favor of streaming. For me each of my favorite albums in the collection represent a specific time and place I’ve been when I’ve acquired it. These often minute moments in time hark back over several decades many of which are recalled with fond excitement and for this reason I think I will never be able to alienate or hide away my collection.

The B&W 802’s in the picture above reminded me again of how crucial it is to only have one pair of loudspeakers in a music room. The old hands in the industry will all recall the infamous ‘single speaker demonstration’ decals that separated the astute Hi-Fi dealers from the box moving concerns. They all displayed these decals on the doors to their sound rooms and display windows back in the eighties and nineties.

It was for good reason since although additional pairs of speakers are not connected to anything, their woofers are all resonating along with the sound of the active pair energizing the room thereby adding coloration and muddling effect to the lower registers of the sound. For the time these two large B&W’s were present in my room I had to make use of equalization throughout the frequency range extending from as low as 60Hz all the way up to 400Hz to restore some neutrality to the sound. It was otherwise unbearable to enjoy the music!

Appropriate lighting can make such a difference. In my room I’ve done separately controlled front and back lighting with dimming capability. With the front lights on and the rear lights dimmed, a minor stage effect is created which can add to a sense of intimacy when listing at night. The blue LED’s are great when playing electronic music, but importantly these elements can all be created to personal taste with absolute ease.

Skogrand cables are jewel like in appearance and for this reason I’m deliberately exposing them. When I have mono blocks running in my system, one cable circles in front and the other behind each amplifier. With only the LED lighting on, the silver silk brocade of the Skogrand cables is florescent in appearance.

Many a long nights have been spent in this wonderful room. In summer the coolness of the white cement stairs and soothing vibes is not too bad a place for a nap!

About the Author

Audio Engineer, Critic & Retailer twenty-seven years in the making.

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