How to: Diffusing room sound

What’s the easiest (and most cost-effective) way to dramatically improve the sound in a too-reflective room?

If you answered ‘room treatments’, go to the head of the class! You can spend thousands (and thousands!) of dollars on components, but if the room isn’t right, you’re not getting your money’s worth. When sound waves leave a speaker, they come into contact with walls, the ceiling, floors and furniture, causing resonances and reflections that can negatively impact the sound you ultimately hear.

Room reflections are caused by (primarily) high frequency sound bouncing off adjacent walls that combine with the sounds coming directly from the speakers. For the most part, you’ll hear more of the reflected sounds than the direct ones, although the reflected sounds reach your ears milliseconds later because they travel a longer distance.

Those qualities that are the hallmark of great audio: accurate imaging, a wide soundstage and crisp highs and lows are all compromised by too much reflected sound. The solution is to use acoustic absorbers that reduce those reflections, letting you hear more of the audio directly from the speakers.

The best part of this is that you can make dramatic improvements without breaking the bank!

Simple changes, such as covering hardwood floors with area rugs, or using wall hangings or art to cover highly reflective walls will have a profound effect on the room. Sure, you could spend big bucks on acoustical materials, or custom build studio-quality baffles, but these simple changes will be nearly as effective, at a fraction of the cost.