How to Build a Hi-end Listening Room, Part 1

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Martin Logan SpeakersI sat in a dark room.  I listened to a song I’d heard a hundred times before but heard things I’d never heard. That’s the definition of an Audiophile-quality Listening Room. While our world of listening has transformed dramatically over the last several years, all that matters is what you, the listener, wants to hear. The math and science are real, as are the hi-end audio components. The rest is personal.

The Speakers

Simply put, loudspeakers convert electrical impulses into sound. Depending on the dimensions of your room, as well as your listening preferences, a well-designed audio system will transmit the desired range of frequencies (note that this is not necessarily the widest range). Some swear by 2-channel, with speakers positioned at a calculated distance apart and at an optimal distance in front of and facing the listener for a true, 2-dimensional listening experience.  The 2-channel system creates a virtual sound stage.  When professionally set-up and calibrated, the listener is able to close his/her eyes and identify exactly where, on the “stage”, that musician was positioned. Unlike viewing a movie, there is no need for various sounds (music, voice, special effects) to “follow” around the room, so rear speakers or a full surround sound system are neither needed nor desired. In fact, some find it unnatural for instruments to be heard behind them. The perfect speaker system, in the perfect acoustically treated room, will reproduce the sound as authentically as possible. However, while science can measure all facets of sound, the listening experience is quite personal and our passion for particular brands is rather cult-like. We, of course, have our favorites.

Martin Logan sees audio as both real and imagined. Inspired by the art of emotion, like the Expressionist masterpieces, the Expression ESL 13A delivers a highly expressive audio experience.  While inspired by design, its recognizable profile is more about sound than art. The tall, slender “blade” of its MicroPerf stator technology allows for almost twice the exposed electrostatic diaphragm surface as a traditional panel.  Combined with the newly-designed rear-firing subwoofer and 13-inch wide XStat CLS Transducer, the result is a uniform, harmoniously blended audiophile-quality experience.  The American speaker manufacturer also receives rave reviews for its MartinLogan Motion 40 Floorstanding Speakers.  Hometheaterhifi.com concludes that it is a “luxury product for a modest price having a strong musical voice to go with a beautiful, well-made cabinet.” Check out these videos to learn more about this incredible line of speakers.

The Room

Equally as important to the components is the space.  The ideal listening room will be free of ambient noise and any other distractions. Acoustic treatments will absorb the noise of the HVAC and rattling of water pipes.  Doors can be acoustically treated as can floors and ceilings. The space will be free of harsh lighting, filled only with soft, relaxing light and there will be no video. This combination of exceptional components producing nearly flawless sound and the distraction-free environment, will allow the listener to hear subtle artifacts in the music that were previously unnoticed.

The room’s furnishings and physical dimensions are essential to the experience.  The proper room requires some soft surfaces, opting for fabric furnishings over sound-reflecting leather. The height of the seat back is recommended to be below the listener’s ear level, allowing unobstructed hearing without reflection. The single seat should be positioned in what will be known as the “sweet spot,” as determined by the engineer’s calculations. The calculations for the room itself are of the utmost importance.  To determine an acoustically accurate room for optimal listening, audio engineers employ the Bonello Graph, or acoustic amoeba, a method of calculating the ideal room ratio of dimension and volume, explained here by AcousticFields.com.

Do you want a dedicated space to experience all that the music has to offer?  Hearing is believing! Let’s set up an in-home consultation and schedule a demo. And stay-tuned. Part 2 will cover amplification, calibration, connectivity and content.  Listen to the music! Really….listen.

Additional Resources:

A Room to Listen In

Ideal Room Size Dimensions and Ratios for Audiophile Listening

Ideal Room Size Ratios & How To Apply The Bonello Graph

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