Hifi on a budget : The listening room

accoustic treatment room foam

Few month ago we wrote an article on building a good audio system on a budget. Today we talk about hifi on a budget!

I often see people talking about the most important piece of gear in a hifi system, not being able to determine wether it’s the amplifier, the speakers or the source.

Those people forget one important thing, the first element and one of  the most important in a hifi system is… The room.

I’m always skeptical when I see thousands of dollars spent on hifi elements and not one buck on acoustic room treatment. I mean, try to listen to a 50,000$ hifi system in a cave with echoes and you’ll end up with a way worse sound that with a portable speaker in your bathroom.

Your listening space is going to determine what kind of speakers you need. Then, you can pick an amplifier with adequate specs to drive them. There’s no interest in buying giant, powerful standing speakers with a 2x200wpc amp  if your listening space is a 60 square foot room.

Here are few things to consider in your listening space :

  • Shape of the room
  • Surface
  • Volume
  • Flat surfaces like big windows and big screens
  • Echo
  • Obstacles between the sound wave and your ears
  • Speakers placement in the room
  • Listener position in the room

So, before spending thousands of dollars on hifi equipment follow those little steps :

  • The best listening room shape is a rectangle, avoid square rooms, open rooms and weird shapes
  • Buy speakers adapted to the surface and volume of the listening room (read the specs and the manual)
  • Use curtains for windows and a thick rug for the floor
  • Fill the room (best listening spaces usually have 360° floor to ceiling bookshelf so there’s little to no flat surfaces)
  • Remove obstacles between you and the sound wave
  • Treat the room with acoustic foam if needed
  • Place the speakers and the listening position carefully (Read the speaker’s manual)

The most simple and cost effective way to acoustically treat a room is to use foam.

Reflection points on the walls can be covered with this kind of foam :

Red/Charcoal Acoustic Panels Studio Foam

In order to find the reflection point on a side wall, you can sit at the listening position while someone with a little mirror walks from the speaker to the listening position, sliding the mirror on th side wall listener’s eyes length. When the listener see the speakers in the mirror, that’s the reflection point.

The wall in the back of the listener must be treated too.

Ceiling can be treated above the listener position using this kind of foam :

Acoustic Foam Sound Absorption Pyramid Studio Treatment

The corners of the room can be treated with bass traps like those :

bass trap acoustic foam hifiBass trap cube

Bass trap panels

Pro tip : if you don’t want to glue the foam on the walls and be able to remove it easily, you can use blue tack to hold the foam pieces.

Room treatment is key to a good hifi system, cost less than 200$ and is usually forgotten by most of audiophiles, but not you thanks to the ifiwererich team!


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