trying to create a neutral listening environment

Get that song on tape! Errr... disk?
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Plumerai
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trying to create a neutral listening environment

Post by Plumerai » Fri Apr 09, 2021 12:51 pm

Anyone use anything like sonarworks? It checks the room/speaker placement then creates an eq setting to compensate for issues. I plan on doing some acoustic treatment, but even if I placed bass traps & panels around the room I still wouldn't know which area needs it to provide a somewhat neutral listening environment. I figured something like sonarworks would get me close. Maybe there's something better or cheaper. Their studio bundle is around $300.

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Re: trying to create a neutral listening environment

Post by mbene085 » Fri Apr 09, 2021 1:46 pm

Sonarworks is a combined analysis/correction software and not what you want to use purely for analysis.

Room EQ Wizard, aka REW, is free and powerful. All you need is a calibrated reference mic. If you don't own one, ones like the UMIK-1 get the job done for $75 if you have an interface and cable already.

There are also iOS and Android-based software/hardware packages, but REW is basically the gold standard for consumer-level acoustic measurements.

There are basically two dimensions to room treatment that most people are concerned with - frequency and time. Sonarworks and other room-correction EQs work in the frequency domain, trying to compensate for the peaks and nulls at your listening position created by the standing waves in your room, but keep in mind that they can make other listening positions worse, sometimes much worse. It only measures in a few spots and tries to figure out how to help in the tonal unevenness of your room, but you might end up listening from another position where you had a peak rather than null at the measurement position or vice versa, and the compensation is now throwing gas on the fire of your room's issues.

They also can't do anything about the time domain, i.e. reverberations in your room. Only absorption, diffusion, and scattering can accomplish that.

By analyzing your room, you can figure out where its biggest problems lie, and you can figure out how you want to address them (in terms of time, effort, and money).

The coles notes version of acoustic treatment is that whatever room you have in your home is probably an acoustically "small" room that needs bass trapping, and probably has nasty flutter echoes from parallel hard surfaces. Placing broadband absorbers at the first reflection points of the side walls and ceiling (as a cloud) makes the most dramatic improvement in the temporal domain, and bass trapping makes the most dramatic improvement in the frequency domain.

Bass traps can either be velocity-dependent (e.g. thick absorbers) or pressure-dependent (e.g. tuned membranes, helmholtz resonators, and active bass traps). Velocity-dependent absorbers are by far the cheapest, and once you choose the right density of material, it's about having adequate depth +/- airspace behind them, and then about having enough surface area of the room covered to get the bass under control.

Since absorptive bass traps are also broadband absorbers, they act at higher frequencies as well, and can easily end up over-deadening the reverb time in the room, leading to an uncomfortably dead space. Using hard, thin membranes or scattering plates on the front-facing surfaces can help them reflect high frequencies, allowing you to cover a greater percentage of the room's surface area for adequate bass control without creating a problematically-dead response at higher frequencies.

But measuring your space arms you with info to help keep you from making common mistakes. Like, if you understand that you have a massive issue at 60Hz, and then you notice many foam wedges sold as "bass traps" only don't have any effect below 125Hz whatsoever, you'll realize that they're useless wastes of money, instead of throwing a few hundred bucks at them and getting frustrated that you can't hear any improvement.

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Re: trying to create a neutral listening environment

Post by Plumerai » Fri Apr 09, 2021 2:05 pm

Thanks for the quick reply. I'll look into REW & UMIK-1.

I have a bunch of Corning 703 panels. The plan is to double a few for the low end.

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Re: trying to create a neutral listening environment

Post by øøøøøøø » Sat Apr 10, 2021 4:30 am

Plumerai wrote:
Fri Apr 09, 2021 12:51 pm
Anyone use anything like sonarworks? It checks the room/speaker placement then creates an eq setting to compensate for issues. I plan on doing some acoustic treatment, but even if I placed bass traps & panels around the room I still wouldn't know which area needs it to provide a somewhat neutral listening environment. I figured something like sonarworks would get me close. Maybe there's something better or cheaper. Their studio bundle is around $300.
The best way is to use an analysis software like Room EQ Wizard (free) and a cheap Dayton or Behringer measurement microphone at listening position (about 50-70 bucks), and figure out what's going on.

Armed with a bit of knowledge, you can then use the AMROC room mode calculator and begin to figure out what needs to happen and where within your space (assuming your space is rectangular).

The Room EQ Wizard analysis will start to give an idea of problem frequencies, and the AMROC calculator can give you an idea of where those frequencies are most-energized within your space, allowing you to target your acoustic treatment accordingly.

It's not simple, but it's very doable with a little bit of investment of time and thought.

(edit: I see this is largely redundant info, but I'll leave it up for the link to AMROC)

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Re: trying to create a neutral listening environment

Post by Plumerai » Sat Apr 10, 2021 7:11 am

I purchased the Behringer ref mic last night via ebay, so hopefully I'll have this figured out next weekend.

What's the down side to having the monitors/desk in a corner with the listener facing into the corner? Given how the rest of the room is setup this would be the best way to have symmetrical walls on both sides of the monitors without having to rearrange the rest of the room (bedroom/control room). Currently everything is situated near a corner with the listener facing a wall, so one monitor is in the corner & the other is about 5' from a wall. The room next to it is the recording space, so we're trying to keep the studio stuff on that wall to keep things clean (don't want cables running across the room).

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Re: trying to create a neutral listening environment

Post by mbene085 » Sat Apr 10, 2021 10:38 am

Plumerai wrote:
Sat Apr 10, 2021 7:11 am
What's the down side to having the monitors/desk in a corner with the listener facing into the corner? Given how the rest of the room is setup this would be the best way to have symmetrical walls on both sides of the monitors without having to rearrange the rest of the room (bedroom/control room).
Read up on SBIR - speaker-boundary interference response. Putting speakers near hard boundaries creates comb filtering that makes the tonal response uneven. When you're in a corner, each speaker is now near two different walls instead of one, which increases the number of frequencies that get thrown out of whack.

In addition to that, you move the lateral first reflection points much closer to your ears, while also crowding in and reducing the room you have between wall and desk to place absorbers. You're turning the early reflection behaviour into that of a much smaller room, so you're going to have a harder time getting the clarity in the time domain that you could have in a larger room (or rather, from the lateral walls being farther away even in the same room) where you have longer travel time and more room for absorbers.

Placing a desk in a corner also puts a third close-by reflective surface to introduce even more comb filtering...the corner of a room is basically the worst possible place, acoustically speaking, to put a desk and nearfield monitors.

Of course, if the corner is the only location that lets you use your space to create music effectively, that supercedes acoustic considerations, but mixing on headphones or a secondary location would probably be your best option. You don't need perfect acoustic conditions to compose and arrange but you certainly would struggle to mix or master anything in those conditions.
Last edited by mbene085 on Sat Apr 10, 2021 10:41 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: trying to create a neutral listening environment

Post by FEXII » Sat Apr 10, 2021 10:40 am

Maybe try Switzerland?

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Re: trying to create a neutral listening environment

Post by øøøøøøø » Tue Apr 13, 2021 3:29 am

mbene085 wrote:
Sat Apr 10, 2021 10:38 am
Plumerai wrote:
Sat Apr 10, 2021 7:11 am
What's the down side to having the monitors/desk in a corner with the listener facing into the corner? Given how the rest of the room is setup this would be the best way to have symmetrical walls on both sides of the monitors without having to rearrange the rest of the room (bedroom/control room).
Read up on SBIR - speaker-boundary interference response. Putting speakers near hard boundaries creates comb filtering that makes the tonal response uneven. When you're in a corner, each speaker is now near two different walls instead of one, which increases the number of frequencies that get thrown out of whack.

In addition to that, you move the lateral first reflection points much closer to your ears, while also crowding in and reducing the room you have between wall and desk to place absorbers. You're turning the early reflection behaviour into that of a much smaller room, so you're going to have a harder time getting the clarity in the time domain that you could have in a larger room (or rather, from the lateral walls being farther away even in the same room) where you have longer travel time and more room for absorbers.

Placing a desk in a corner also puts a third close-by reflective surface to introduce even more comb filtering...the corner of a room is basically the worst possible place, acoustically speaking, to put a desk and nearfield monitors.

Of course, if the corner is the only location that lets you use your space to create music effectively, that supercedes acoustic considerations, but mixing on headphones or a secondary location would probably be your best option. You don't need perfect acoustic conditions to compose and arrange but you certainly would struggle to mix or master anything in those conditions.
Excellent post, very well said

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