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How to Build the Audiophile’s Listening Room, Part 1

How to Build the Audiophile’s Listening Room, Part 1

“I’ve played that song a thousand times and I’m hearing things I’ve never heard before.” That’s the definition of your perfect Listening Room. The past decade has seen a dramatic transformation in the world of listening but all that really matters is what you want to hear. The science and mathematics are real, as are the hi-end audio components. The rest is up to the ear of the beholder.

The Speakers

Loudspeakers convert electrical impulses into sound. Depending on the room’s dimensions, as well as the listener’s preferences, a well-designed audio system will transmit the desired range of frequencies (Note: The desired range may not be the widest range). Some audio enthusiasts swear by 2-channel, with speakers positioned at a calculated distance apart and optimal distance from the listener, facing the listener for a 2-dimensional experience.  A 2-channel system creates a virtual sound stage.  When professionally positioned and calibrated, the listener is able to close his/her eyes and literally pick out exactly where, on the “stage”, each musician is positioned. Unlike viewing a movie, there is no need for various sounds (special effects, voice, music) to “follow” around the room, so rear speakers or a full surround sound system are not desired. In fact, some find it unnatural for instruments to be heard behind them. A perfect speaker system, in an 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 a serious matter. And we do play favorites!

Bowers & Wilkins has built a prestigious reputation over the past 50 years. It touts its 800 Diamond Series as “the industry standard for accurate sound”, and we agree.  The Diamond Dome tweeters of the iconic 802 D3 deliver natural treble while its Continuum cone and Aerofil cone provide authentic, subwoofer-free, midrange and bass, respectively.  Often the subject of audiophile reviews, the iconic B&W Diamond Series does not disappoint. Unveiled last summer in Boston, here’s a review featured in Audioholics that details the author’s experience of both the D3 as well as B&W’s flagship Nautilus at $60k per pair. The line’s CM Series, with its minimalist exterior and “tweeter on top” technology, also offers incredible audio performance. It is designed with the highest quality components and a “less is more” philosophy that ensures “nothing gets between you and the sound the artist intended you to hear.”

The Room

Equally as important to the components is the environment.  The ideal listening room will be free of distraction from ambient noise. Acoustic treatments will absorb the noise of the HVAC and rattling water pipes.  The space will filled only with soft, relaxing light and there will be no video. This combination of exceptional components producing nearly flawless sound in a 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 – some will say that even a glass coffee table or leather couch is not suitable as they will reflect sound, opting instead for fabric seating. 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” or “money seat,” as determined by the engineer’s calculations. The calculations for the room itself are also of great importance.  To determine an acoustically accurate room for optimal listening, audio engineers employ the Bonello Graph, a method of calculating the ideal room ratio of dimension and volume, explained here by  In the audiophile world, this is also referred to as the acoustic amoeba. 

Are you an audiophile or serious music lover that wants to experience all that the music has to offer?  Hearing is believing! Let’s set up an in-home consultation and schedule a demo in one of our showrooms – you can even bring your own music. And stay-tuned. Part 2 will cover amplification, calibration, connectivity and content. Did you know Neil Young was launching a high-quality music streaming service? 

Additional Resources:

Ideal Room Size Dimensions and Ratios for Audiophile Listening

Ideal Room Size Ratios & How To Apply The Bonello Graph

A Room to Listen In