Does the first reflection point actually matter??

Hello my friends,

So please read the whole post before commenting. The question is nuanced.

First, as you probably know I’m a huge fan of the well treated room, and a fan boy of GIK acoustics as a result, so what I am _not_ arguing is against proper room treatment. I remember many years ago, perhaps in Audio magazine (dating myself?) the concept of treating the first reflection points came up, and it seems really logical, and quickly adopted. Mirrors, flashlights and lasers and paying the neighbor’s kid (because we don’t have real friends) to come and hold them while marking the wall became common.

However!! In my experience, I have not actually been able to tell the difference between panels on and off that first reflection point. Of course, I can hear the difference between panels and not, but after all these years, I want to ask if any of you personally know that the first reflection point really matters more than other similar locations. Were we scammed? By knowing I mean, did you experiment? Did you find it the night and day difference that was uttered, or was it a subtle thing, and if those panels were moved 6" off, would you hear it?


This is a great thread,

may I suggest that moving speakers into a near-field listening position, i.e. far away from the walls or using omnidirectional speakers is a better way to address the issue than selectively cutting out some reflections and parts of the frequency spectrum. If needed, bass traps in the corners of the room are obviously useful.
There really is no issue in my mind to be fixed. 

It's more of a theoretical discussion. 

Maybe another way to word it is this:

You can't do much with room acoustics until you reach a critical mass. 4 2' x 4' panels in a modest living room are probably not going to do anything by themselves no matter how well placed.
I saw a interesting video about carpet and first reflection floor points.

Here is a myth to bust!

The carpet that we can see as a thin sound absorber do NOTHING to the first reflection point on the floor.

Instead what the carpet do is that it absorb only/mostly the high frequencies instead from 2nd and higher order of reflection.

Something to keep in mind. Look at the graph in the video:

This example with thin carpet shows that we should always go for the thickest absorbers that we can get.
may I suggest that moving speakers into a near-field listening position,
To no avail.... People dont realize that nearfield listening cannot canceal the room acoustic at all... I know that firsthand, i listen to the 2 positions and i had implemented not only passive but also active room controls...

The impression that listening nearfield gives you some freedom from the room acoustic is only an illusion born with a comparison between the 2 positions before any working methods of controls were incrementally put in place....Without any changes in acoustic of the room, nearfield ans regular position of listening for sure are different but they are greatly affected by the presence or absence of room controls and treatment anyway....

You can’t do much with room acoustics until you reach a critical mass.
My experience concur with that... Optimal results cannot be gained without this critical mass of active controls and passive treatment...An equilibrium between absorbing, reflecting and diffusing for me....And more than that also the use of active devices....

In acoustic of "small room" only your EARS can do the job, because of the geometry and topology of the room and because last and not least of the acoustical variable content of the room furnitures and objects.......

Timbre instrument perception and imaging perception are phenomenon for living ears only.....They dont comes at their OPTIMAL actualization only by virtue of a correcting apparatus of any kind....

Ears are king in the kingdom of sound.... Especially " biased" one because it is these biased ears of yours that will listen your music in this room of yours....There is no 2 identical pair of ears by the way....And the complex structure and dynamical properties of your ears and of the room are ONE indissocciable phenomenon in the music experience....

for the OP

Are you sure you have well determined the 1st reflection points? have you treated all 1st reflection points? meaning the 1st reflection at the ceiling, at both side walls, behind your listening position and off the floor?

ime, even just treating the side walls, then removing the side-panels, makes a tremendous difference. but the magic happens when all 5 first reflections points have been dealt with.

as the post prior to mine mention, make sure your panels are thick enough with good fiberglass or real material used from the likes of GIK. carpets actually make thingrs worst cause they absorb upper mids and treble, but do nothing in the bass and mids. ideally, you want your 1st reflection panels as thick as possible (mine are 8 inch thick). the goal of room treatment is to acheive even decay (ETC) at all frequencies, but carpets will make just the opposite (will absorb the highs, but do nothing in the bass therefore it really doesnt acheive the goal of even decay at all FR)