The way to audiophile bliss is embracing all of the small changes to get big sonic results in the end. Too much energy is put into the copy published in traditional audiophile print magazines that literally abuses their readers with bullshit phenomenon like “The Preamp of The Month Club” reviews. These unfortunate ploys suggest that if you just keep spending money on gear that you will get to the holy land of audio. They also sadly appeal to a consumer’s and-or enthusiast’s insecurities in that suggesting that THIS component or THAT component is the solution to your audiophile personal journey and all you need is money to get there. The reality is: there are far more smart, affordable and scientific upgrades that you can make and enjoy. Simply put: you can’t pray than cancer away. You need to deal with physics, science and math first. The good news is that many of these suggestions aren’t too terribly expensive (some are and some are quite invasive) but you don’t have to go crazy to make a big difference in improving your audiophile listening room.
Here’s a list of some creative audiophile tips that can help you get the most from your system.
Audiophile tip Number Five: Call An Electrician
Before you need any more new audiophile gear, how about we do a check up on your electrical system first?
- How are the physical breakers in your box? Could they use to be replaced because they don’t cost much at all? Are they neatly labeled and perfectly installed? They can be and should be.
- Do you have dedicated circuits run for your electronics and power? If not, that is always a solid upgrade and should only cost a few hundred bucks total. That is an easy fix and well worth the money in any AV system.
- Are your light fixtures noisy in your listening room? If so, how about replacing them with some LED lights that easily can be retrofitted even into those big-nasty six-inch, old floodlight holes. This can cut down on a) the background noise in your room but also create better psycho-acoustics meaning you might just enjoy your music better with more dim, better or more accurate lighting control.
- Have you ever changed out your electrical sockets? New code states that you need to have child-proof sockets but audiophiles find that crappy “spec-house” level workmanship can leave a lot to be desired in terms of solder points and overall quality as well as an upgrade in overall safety.
- Moving your electrical outlets can cost a little more money because of drywall repair but having your amps getting power as they need it and the same for your rack – can reduce cable clutter which can make your audiophile room look less like a recording studio that Motely Crue just partied all night in.
Number Four: HVAC Control and Dampening
Reducing noise in your audiophile room should be a TOP priority. Just as we invest electronic and source components with close to ZERO distortion – we should seek total quiet in our listening room. We discussed how your lights might affect your system earlier but getting your HVAC system tuned up is a secret that top audiophiles use to get their room even more quiet.
- Your HVAC technician can help you find ways to use “hush kits” (yes, like the ones on your 1972 Gulfstream III that you can’t fly out of Santa Monica Airport without) for your HVAC system. They can try to knock down the noise from your heating and air conditioning and while sitting there looking at your SPL meter ($40 and everybody should have one) you can see a drop of a dB or two because of this tweak. Every little tweak helps and a dB of noise gone from your room is, respectfully, not small in terms of audiophile upgrades.
- Look into the new crop of HVAC controllers and see if you can set up a zone JUST for your listening room. Even if you can’t – having iPad or iPhone control over your HVAC can allow you to pre-cool your room before a listening session so that you can turn your HVAC off completely so that you can get VERY SERIOUS with your sit-down listening.
Number Three: Call Your Contractor
If you have a handyman or a contractor that you like – you might choose to rip your room up (meaning down to the studs) and upgrade on a much more meaningful scale.
- In the corners of your room look to add bass traps that eat “long” standing, sonic waves that make your bass sound muddy. RPG makes something called a Modex Plate which is an expensive option but if the walls are ripped open – this is the time.
- In other areas of your room you might load the walls with a green but dead sounding material like recycled blue jeans. This should not be some DIY project for your old Bel Bottoms as that would pose one hell of a fire hazard. In this case, you can give your room that “studio sound” for not a ton of money. External sonic factors will start to disappear.
- Replacing windows with double paned, highly efficient window can be a big way to improve enjoying the all-year temperature of your room but did you know that there are window companies who make windows designed to keep outside noise basically outside of your house? Check out this company, Brennan, for options that could get one more level of comfort, enjoyment and yes, audiophile performance.
- Depending on the layout and location of your listening room, could you accommodate studio doors? These, often double doors, can prevent the outside world from effecting your audiophile listening experience. It also can increase the drama of entering your room. Studio doors aren’t cheap but being able to rock out in your listening room at higher levels at night has its value too. Not getting divorced or evicted are high on the list.
- You can consider all sorts of flooring options. Often having a harder surface like hardwood floors is good for the area around your speakers. That might be good for the first 1/3 of your room. A more thick carpet tends to be better for the next 2/3s of the room. This is your room so making sure that you have the lighting, electrical and other subs right before the flooring is key.
Number Two: New Seating
In golf, we talk about the importance of your grips as it is the only way that you interact with your clubs. Race drivers talk about the importance of their tires as that is the only way a car generally interacts with the track. For audiophiles, having a great seating solution is key no matter what your budget.
- IKEA Poang Chair ($179 all dressed up) is a true classic and still priced right. You can build one in about 10 minutes and now you can get them delivered to your house via Amazon. Game one.
- Herman Miller Eames Chair and Ottoman ($6,495) is possibly the most iconic and classic options for your main seating in your audiophile room. $6,500 for a chair is expensive but you need to gauge how much time you will spend in your room and how much enjoyment you could get from a massively comfortable chair.
- If you are looking to make a little bit more of a statement with your audiophile seating – look to Modernica’s custom version of the Ox Chair ($2,995) which can be made in Los Angeles and shipped to you including your choice of dozens of fabrics, leathers etc… This is a statement piece to say the least.
- WARNING – avoid having ANY coffee tables or extra clutter for furniture in your listening room. A big reflecting ottoman or coffee table can cause more first order reflection issues than any “preamp of the month” could ever hope to cure. Simply remove it and don’t replace it.
- Make sure that you have some comfortable, possibly easily movable furniture so that other people can enjoy your system with you and that your room isn’t an introvert’s audio den. You should have accompanying furniture so that a wife, girlfriend or another couple might want to spend some time enjoying music in your room. The audiophile hobby doesn’t have to make you a weirdo. You can be social and should be – around your system.
Number One: Acoustical Treatments
I would cut my gear budget by thousands of dollars so that I knew that I could have even highly affordable acoustical treatments in my room first. No one factor is going to improve your sound more than improving your acoustics. We talked about moving out excess furniture and that is good. Building in acoustical treatments into the wall is also good as we discussed but once the drywall is up, the walls are painted and possibly treated (with or without fabric) it is time to get serious.
- Treat your first order reflection points mainly with absorption. These points are about two to three feet in front of, below, above and behind your speakers. Simple absorption takes a lot of the audio junk out of play right away. Many studios like diffusion (think: those city-scape items) on the front wall behind your speakers as well as the rear wall behind you. RPG’s Defractal Defusser is a great solution that is A-list studio grade. Note the custom wood finishes that these come in which can become a focal point or at least a nice accent in your listening room.
- We discussed bass traps in the walls but there are more bulky but less expensive (and invasive) options like from ASC Tube Traps link. These more affordable fabric towers tend to get ugly and the company wants you to have a ton of them in your room. I would use them as options for your corners and stick with that.
There is much more to your overall to accomplishing accentual audio. Looking into plants can help with making a more groovy room that you want to spend time in and that have good diffusion qualities. Finding an acoustic cover for your wall-mounted 4K or 8K HDTV is another side project that an seamstress or interior designer can help you make as you should never exclude a TV from your listening room. There’s so much more.
Enjoy each and every step in the process. This is the fun of the hobby.