by Steven Haas
As audio technology becomes more sophisticated and more prevalent throughout homes, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the need for excellent sound quality and sound privacy. Manufacturers of audio equipment from compact disc players to loudspeakers constantly strive to provide their end-users with the highest sonic fidelity with minimal distortion of the original recorded program. Yet how many owners of this sophisticated audio equipment realize that the last device in the audio chain is not the loudspeaker, but the room in which they are listening to the material?
The listening room will severely affect the final quality of sound that is heard from an audio system by either absorbing, reflecting, diffusing (scattering) or transmitting sound waves that impact its boundaries. Just as you may choose a color of paint on a wall to achieve an aesthetic look or select a light fixture to provide the appropriate amount and coverage of light, one should also ensure that the surface materials on the walls, ceilings and floors of an audio listening room are carefully chosen to achieve a balanced sound level in the room throughout the entire frequency range of human hearing.
Because the knowledge base of acoustics is so limited in the architectural, interior design and audio/video design industry, audio-listening rooms and home theaters are often built with no real attention given to the natural sound of the room. Many times, the audio/video designer will even suggest to the architect or homeowner that they don't need to spend any money or effort on acoustical treatments, since they can simply compensate for the bad room acoustics with equalization. This approach is only marginally effective since it is essentially creating a deficient sound to compensate for a deficient room.
Yet where does a homeowner or a designer go to achieve a room design that will enhance the state-of-the-art audio system in every way possible without adding distortion to the sound that reaches the listeners' ears?
Acoustical consultants have been assisting architects, interior designers and building owners for decades in the design of performing arts theaters, concert halls, recording studios and many other types of commercial, industrial and, more recently, residential spaces. With the advent of multi-media theaters and critical audio listening rooms in residences, it has never been more appropriate to engage the services of a qualified acoustical consultant to, not only work with designers to achieve great natural-sounding spaces, but to also contain the tremendous levels of sound and vibration produced by modern full-surround audio systems. This is often very important with families where children want to invite their friends over to watch the latest action movie in the home theater, while the parents want to relax upstairs or do work in a home office.
The best acoustical consultants are not in the business of selling products, but instead have objectively evaluated all products and construction methods and are able to specify the right combination that is appropriate for each project.
Steven Haas is a member of CEDIA and president of SH! Acoustics, an independent acoustical consulting firm specializing in custom and "high-end" residential acoustics. His experience stems from nearly a decade of designing over one hundred concert halls, theaters, recording facilities, museums, educational arts facilities and corporate offices throughout the world.
His experience stems from 17 years of designing hundreds of concert halls, theaters, recording facilities, museums, educational arts facilities and luxury homes throughout the world.
Steve Haas, President
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