Listening Room Design
Acoustics, Loudspeaker and Subwoofer Placement

Learn how to easily improve your listening room design and thus your music experience by improving the acoustics and loudspeaker / subwoofer placement!

If you listen to classical music at home, you probably have one room that you use most for this purpose. This is usually your sitting room, or you might even have a dedicated "entertainment" room.

Here's a great tip - a lot of the time, you can significantly improve to the quality of your sound by moving the furniture around a bit! It's free, and can be an enjoyable afternoon's entertainment for all the family (hah).

But where to start?

First, you probably have to look at where the electrical sockets are in the room, because you'll have to plug your equipment in near there. For most people, this will decide the location of your amplifier and speakers.

Obviously, you'll want to sit on the other side of the room, facing the speakers. This is your basic layout. Now you can look at positioning the other furniture.

What you are trying to do is cut down on sound reflections around the room. You can do this by...

  • putting uneven, irregular shapes around the room
  • having lots of soft surfaces like curtains, couches, and rugs or carpets.

Guidelines for Listening Rooms

Here are a few rules that could help you with your listening room design...

First, the floor. You don't want a completely bare floor, whether it's ceramic tiles, timber flooring or a plain carpet. You should have a thick rug about halfway between your listening position (couch) and the loudspeakers.

Also helpful is some sort of low coffee table, but ONLY if it's made from timber. Glass or marble tops just reflect sounds, instead of diffusing or absorbing them!

Second, the side walls. Ideally you want these to be irregular, and the commonest way of doing this is to have some bookshelves with books along one side wall.

The other side wall is usually a window, and the panes of glass will create unwanted sound reflections. The best answer here is to get the heaviest curtains you can, and pull them across the windows when you're listening to music.

Thirdly, there are front and back walls. These are walls behind you, and behind the speakers. Again, you want to break up the smooth, flat surfaces with something irregular and soft.

A great idea is to get a really nice wall hanging, like a Persian rug (a cheap imitation will also work) or old family patchwork quilt, and hang it squarely on the wall as an "exhibit". It can look great, and will really soak up those unwanted sound reflections!

Another (but not so good) is to park a few extra armchairs around the room, or to have a Japanese screen (a zig-zag folding screen) against a wall.

The heavier the material, the better. Although most screens are very light weight (ie. silk), the zig-zag shape helps to break up sound reflections. Lots of screens also have interesting oriental designs, such as a fiery dragon or cherry trees in blossom!

Loudspeaker placement can be a bit of a black art! There are some general rules to follow, and usually the best place to start is to check the recommendations of the manufacturer of your speakers.

For example, Bose 901 speakers must be quite close to the rear wall and side walls, to get the best sound from the eight rearward-facing speaker cones. On the other hand, electrostatic speakers need a LOT of space behind them to get sound good.

If you have more conventional speakers, things are a little simpler! Generally, you should angle the two speakers slightly inwards, towards the listener, but this is not written in stone.

Subwoofer placement isn't usually that important, as low frequency sounds are not as "directional" to our ears as higher frequencies are. Put them wherever you have a space!

BAD ideas for your listening room design are anything that has a large, flat surface, such as a big ornate mirror, a 50-inch plasma screen, or a big glass- or marble-topped table. These will mess up those beautiful orchestral sounds!

Hopefully I've been able to give you some ideas to improve your classical music appreciation and your listening room design. The important thing is to experiment, and be prepared to completely re-arrange your room!

Now that your listening room is set up, why not explore the different types of speaker (active loudspeakers, electrostatic speakers), or learn about amplifiers?

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