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Can snake oil fix a bad room? (a survey)

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Graham Slee View Drop Down
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    Posted: 18 Jul 2017 at 10:54am
Disclaimer: I am in no way associating myself with or promoting the use of snake-oil products.

Firstly the definitions:

Snake-oil has come to refer to any product with questionable or unverifiable quality or benefit.

A bad room is one which has poor acoustics, making it difficult to hear all the joys of your music.

If we're stuck with poor acoustics what can we do? Perhaps a little snake-oil could help?

And there must be a reason that snake-oil exists in hi-fi. Perhaps some of it came about because a guy had a bad room and found by chance that something helped?

He may not have had a clue that his room was bad - most of us wouldn't know how to find out - but now we can.

Go to http://www.bobgolds.com/Mode/RoomModes.htm and enter your room dimensions. It will tell you a lot about your room.

It will tell you how tightly spaced room modes of similar frequencies are, and if less than 5% apart, it could explain why things may not sound as good as you think they could. Then again, you may be happy with the sound you're getting regardless.

This is for people who are aren't.

Now, if your room isn't exactly up to scratch what do you do?

One answer I found on the internet was "to move". Not very practical. But I have heard it said by numerous people that the use of one idea or another has helped them tidy up a muddied sound.

As these products or other solutions can be described as questionable or unverifiable, then they will often be lumped under the label "snake-oil".

I will add here that in my unsuccessful previous listening room I found by swapping desks for another type improved the sound quality - it didn't boom as much. I don't think of that as snake-oil but some might.

So here's the survey:

1. Please provide your room dimensions (ceiling height by width by length).

2. Go along to http://www.bobgolds.com/Mode/RoomModes.htm and enter the dimensions there and comment on what you read. It is a bit technical so your comment(s) can be in the form of a question(s).

NB. unfortunately this can only do rectangular or near rectangular rooms.

3. Tell us about awkward things like glazing down one side or chimney breasts.

4. Tell us about any tweaks you may have done which seemed to help and improve your results. If you think any of these could be classed as snake oil don't be embarrassed and say so. This forum doesn't tolerate abuse so nobody will try to shoot you down in flames (moderators at the ready please).

OK, that should suffice, but I'm sure we could have to expand it to include other factors as they (may) arise.

Now, let me point out that even in a room considered to have perfect ratios there has to be some damping. An empty room will sound empty and echoey. Exactly what amount of soft furnishings you need is difficult to quantify, but I don't think there is any need to go overboard. We don't need an anechoic chamber!

Understanding the results:

When we enter our room dimensions in the calculator it gives us lots of information. I'm no expert in understanding most of this, but if you take a look at the section called "Computed Information" it will show you whether your room has passed the "R. Walker BBC 1996" test. There is also a Bonello chart which shows your results and shows what's "good" and what's "bad".

What I did was to partition off part of my workshop to make an exact best room ratio according to Walker, but not being big enough meant placing speakers close to the walls, and I had to use absorbers to make it appear that the speakers were further away from the walls and corners than they are.

Absorbers might also be considered as snake-oil to some, but mine were built as closely as possible to published BBC designs. Even so there has been much subjective judgment as to how many, what type, and their placement.

I have been asked which are the best room ratios, but I have only experience of my room. The Bob Golds calculator can show what is "best" through trial and error.

In my case I found the ratio 1:1.3:1.61 (ceiling height:width:length) was doable and removed all what I found objectionable before. The actual size is 7'6 x 9'9 x 12'1. I was limited by the width and height and so I could only adjust the length by building a partition.

Even so it can be seen that there is a congestion of modes around middle B or roughly 250Hz, but after lots of reading about BBC talk studios and control rooms, it seems 250Hz is often a problem frequency. Both types of absorbers I am using are tuned to be quite effective at this frequency however, and I only needed a total of 7. Any more and some music appears lifeless.

Over to you.
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Richardl60 View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Richardl60 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Jul 2017 at 2:39pm
I Will have a more detailed look at this later but logic by Richard suggests that if colourations, booms, blooms around the bass region are properly eliminated one way or another this should be less likely to excite room resonances.   

I don't particularly like the term snake oil which could be applied to such products as cables speaker or otherwise?
More later.
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Adytiger View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Adytiger Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Jul 2017 at 5:23pm
Hi! Interesting discussion point. It seems to me perfectly understandable that room ratios, reflectances, surface absorbtion characteristics, etc. can influence sound waves and imaging. I have more trouble understanding how pointy spikes, mains filters and green rings around the edge of cd's can improve sound quality but it does make for interesting debate!WinkSmile

Will have a go on the website and feedback later.



Edited by Adytiger - 18 Jul 2017 at 5:25pm
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miT View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote miT Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Jul 2017 at 5:39pm
Hi all,

The new customer-engaging emails are an entertaining read, hence I'm here.

Apologies for my never-ending absence from the forum. Life and work is always so busy; I'm only replying now due to being on annual leave because we moved last weekend!

As we're still in the middle of unpacking everything and I haven't picked up my new speakers yet, I can't really comment much on this but the email updates will be interesting.

As to what is included in snake-oil products, I can only comment on the few things I have tried, namely automatic room correction. I have been using an Antimode 8033 C to balance my various subs for a few years now, and my AVRs have used various versions of Audyssey. The Antimode in particular has been outstanding and produced sublime results; I cannot fault it.

As for Audyssey... There are improvements but it would be hard to quantify without trying on my new speakers as my cinema kit wasn't a good example of "hifi". From my (limited) experience though I'm all for room correction and think it could be the answer for real world room issues once you've physically adjusted as much as you can, although not all are created equal. Some of the "summit-fi" systems out there come with their own systems in-built so I'm confident it would improve even high-end systems, although I don't currently have a truly high end system in place to compare for myself. Yet!


Tim
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote carolus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Jul 2017 at 6:04pm
Hi,
I don't see (understand) the relation(-s) between "snake oil versus bad room" ...

I am still from the old school ..... so (audio components in home made):
No snake oil when I listen to music (only a single malt)...
No spikes on my 5 way horn concept & home made electronics (amps, X-over, CD-drive, Dac, tuner, TT & TA air bearing ...), cabling (amp & driver) in ordinary 2,5mm2 ...
About my (or) room ... all audio components in the living room with L=11m, W=5m & H=2,5m. 
Impossible to compute in metric the (exotique) divers modes .....
I can say, I have a WAF 10/10 .... she (& other listeners) loves the @ home large deep music scène ....

It's music, I like it ....

One (musical) note: 
In the past, I did (for the fun) some (long blind) test like (big) slate beneath CD-drive & TT & amps, rubber rings around tubes (300B e.o.), cleaning & edging CD ......result: no musical amelioration ...

Sorry, I can't go further in my reflexions & (audio) experiences .....

Karel


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Ragtime Society Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Jul 2017 at 6:12pm
Hello:

New forum member.  Snake oil is a disparagement really.  Many things including objects in the room contribute to the ultimate sound.  Orienting the stereo so it wasn't parallel with the walls helped or should I say that was the situation I ended up with because the rest of my room treatment is lots of records.  Moving components away from each other also important.

I would think users of Graham Slee products would be more music and not so system oriented.  Meaning in my case, if I'm thinking about the stereo there's a problem.  If I'm deep into the music the stuff is doing its job.  Like theater, you don't want to be conscious of the hidden mechanics.  Suspension of disbelief.

Having said that the best thing I did since I added the GS cables was to place both turntables (Well Tempered and Technics (for 78s)) on granite slabs sitting on sorbothane discs.  More detail.  More magic.  Definitely not snake oil.




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Graham Slee View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Graham Slee Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Jul 2017 at 6:31pm
Originally posted by Ragtime Society Ragtime Society wrote:

Snake oil is a disparagement really.


I agree, but no other short phrase sprang to mind, and that was after days of thought. But I'm sure you intelligent lot are able to read through it and get the gist Wink
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