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In collaboration with Audiophile-Magazine and our own Joël Chevassus, we present this translated syndication of his original French report published in February 2014 here. All images are the property of Audiophile Magazine, the various treatment vendors mentioned or Joël Chevassus - Ed.

PYT, Microsorber & Acoustica Applicata. Acoustic treatment is a twice cursed audiophile matter. First and foremost, listening room acoustics derive from complex interactions of factors that are difficult to understand and even harder to model by the novice. Second, it quickly becomes difficult to reconcile aesthetic considerations and the effectiveness of passive acoustic correction. No sane person wants to live in as stressful an environment as this one except perhaps for some hardcore bachelor. But as soon as Mr. bachelor softens up to find a permanent mate, aesthetics become a serious issue again. The larger the room, the greater these inconsistencies will be - except for the lucky few who anticipated it all from the beginning when they built their property.

Designing correct acoustics from the onset seems a good option in fact. But will it guarantee fully satisfactory results? Concert halls designed by renowned acoustic architects whose sound is a total disaster aren't rare.

When I thus began construction of my new listening room, I did not devote much energy to model the 'perfect room'. Aesthetics and comfort prevailed. My first priority was efficient sound insulation to not disturb my family with my day and night listening sessions. I then looked for more reverberant materials. I also wanted to create a living and not monastically confined environment where everything was solely dedicated to sound quality. From this need sound insulation was designed from floor to ceiling with insulated windows and an insulated door. Bottom line, my room is very well protected from any outside noise and does not contaminate the rest of the building with self-generated noise. Even living in the countryside of Paris, I can assure you that even bird song can drastically reduce your peace and quietude when you are listening to music.

Once the room was built and furnished, it became possible to study its acoustic modes and consider first treatment options. Indeed it’s when the room is quite finally furnished that you start getting a more precise notion of its acoustic modes. Paying attention to acoustics whilst the room is still empty in my opinion leads to needless fears. Once even partly furnished, original reflections are already significantly reduced though it doesn’t mean they are
sufficiently lowered.

Now two avenues open - trial 'n' error method and science. The former consists of empirically arriving at the most effective positioning of materials designed to modify the acoustic characteristics of the room. The technical approach is based on measurements to highlight critical points to be treated with priority. We will see that beyond what we can theorize on paper, the most pragmatic approach often is a mix of both. Another important criterion especially not for a man cave is our tolerance threshold for disfigurement of the living room. This will draw the lines of your search for acoustic treatment solutions and the limits of their ultimate performance. In fact therein lies the dilemma: convincing your wife and family of the crucial interest of this visual intrusion (that’s the hard way); or going for softer and less intrusive options like draperies, carpets and plenty of decorative objects placed here and there to accumulate absorption and diffusion effects that won’t give you a complete result but will look very conventional and unobtrusive.

Some polyurethane acoustic foam manufacturers will tell you that they can provide you with decorative accessories to blend smoothly into the privacy of your living room. Are they kidding? Egg crates remain egg crates no matter what. Thinking on it, you'll probably conclude that it was necessary to account for your audiophiles requirements when you built the house and that since you didn't, you're one unlucky 'phile. This of course condemns all tenants whilst delighting the suspicious ones like me who doubt that anything worthwhile is ever achieved by just computer modeling. But surrender isn't an option. The purpose of this article is to explore solutions most audiophiles can afford. Implementing them is aesthetic enough to blend quite seamlessly into a décor or become decorative elements in their own right. My article reflects an actual exercise in style undertaken with my own listening room as one possible approach to acoustic passive treatment. The result is necessarily imperfect but some means were identified that might convince a few fence sitters to tackle this common problem.

Initial conditions.
First know that despite primarily intended for my listening sessions, my new room is not exclusively dedicated to this purpose. Even so the furnishings are more like an auditorium than true living room. Whilst my listening room might look like a converted attic with its exposed framing, it is in fact a completely new addition to my house. The disadvantage of this configuration is a more open substantially more reverberant space because of its height whilst the sloping ceiling limits the use of furniture along the side walls to reduce resonance. By contrast, the advantage of this room resides in the relative ease whereby speakers and acoustic treatments may be positioned.

My room's floor is about 50m
² and an almost perfect square. This normally does not favor great sonics. Surprisingly though once furnished, those predicted demerits proved less detrimental than feared. The undeniable intrinsic qualities were a quite uniform reverberation time at all frequencies, an impressively deep soundstage that extended behind the speakers and a very convincing three-dimensional image.