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Room


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oom acoustics are a pivotal point of success or failure in any space where audio is broadcast. This point is especially poignant in private recording studios where bad acoustics can mean that mixes do not translate well outside of the room. Similarly, an echoing venue can render millions of pounds of gear useless.


But acoustics are just as important in the live and commercial audio sectors where reflections and untreated surfaces can also dump on a big investment in equipment. As Radial’s president, Peter Janis, says: “Changing the PA system from a JBL to a Meyer to an EV will not help a whole lot unless you actually treat the room. A new PA system is only a band aid. You really want to fix the problem. Today, more and more contractors are looking at acoustics and beginning to understand the ramifications. Ultimately, if a venue spends $50,000 and finds that the sound is only marginally better, this only serves to deepen the cut.” Will Benger of EQ Acoustics provides us here with an introduction the world of acoustics for professional audio...


ACOUSTICS FOR AUDIO


There are countless ways to upgrade an audio system or recording setup. Investments in equipment often result in subtle improvements in audio quality. Despite the common tendency for continuous upgrading, the extent to which the room itself affects the sound is often overlooked. Consider the dramatic change that occurs when you remove soft furnishings from a room to redecorate. If the effect of removing the curtains is so clearly audible, surely room acoustics are a fundamental influence on the audio quality we so actively pursue? With a sound system we are often looking for a faithful reproduction. The listener wants to experience the sound as the producer intended it to be heard. The audio professional wants to hear accurate sound so they can be confident their production will translate well to listeners’ audio systems. With any system we hear the original sound combined with resonances and reflections from boundaries of the room. What are the implications of the room’s influence on our sound?


REFLECTIONS For many, the acoustics of a room are characterised by reverb. It is the most noticeable attribute of a room’s acoustic, particularly when we move between a large and small room. In fact, reverb only accounts for the mid and high frequencies. Bass frequencies also contribute to the acoustic but these are less directional, so we’ll look at bass separately. Reverb consists of countless reflections caused by sound bouncing off hard surfaces. The length of time it takes for these sound reflections to subside is known as the reverb time (RT). The RT of a room is a product of its size and the type of materials present.


A long reverb can be desirable when recording acoustic instruments. An orchestra rarely sounds as imposing without reverb and as such many concert halls have an RT in excess of two seconds. A recording engineer will use reverb as a creative tool and understands how different RTs affect the listener’s perception of the music.


In a listening environment such as a control room, a short reverb is desirable – around 0.5 seconds. We don’t want the room to be completely dead as it would be an uncomfortable space to occupy and it would not be representative of a normal room so translation would be poor.


DISTORTION


In a small room, reflections can arrive at our ears in very quick succession. As such, the early reflections in these spaces are interpreted as being combined with the original sound. This causes certain


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Andrew Low sits in an optimal listening position to bring you the latest acoustic solutions for the studio, live and commercial markets…


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