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?



murphythecat has been ignored due to the use of word salads to belittle others. 

Please ignore it without fear of being impolite.

This concludes this alert of common sense and good manners.
I've found treating first reflection 'zones' to be very beneficial in my 6 x 4.3 x 2.7m (L/W/H) room.

Many other things come into play of course. Optimum speaker positioning for best sound balance is fundamental and should be determined before adding treatment IMO - the latter should not be used as a bandaid for lazy positioning/toe-in etc. 

I used experimentation to determine what sounded best to my ears, propping up panels with stacks of books or whatever else I had handy so I could move/orientate panels and then listen.
I found too much absorption on the side reflection points over-damped the sound. I opted for Vicoustic Wavewood diffuser/absorbers in that area, which sounded much more balanced than my thick DIY absorber panels.
Treating the ceiling reflection 'zone' between the speakers and listening position with eight 600x600mm diffuser panels provided one of the most profound improvements in clarity and image focus/stability.
I found too much absorption on the side reflection points over-damped the sound. I opted for Vicoustic Wavewood diffuser/absorbers in that area, which sounded much more balanced than my thick DIY absorber panels.
That is good to hear! I love your room!
As you say the "Vicoustic Wavewood" is not the same as absorbing panels when they reflect more of the higher freqencies sound on most of the area.

I look at your pictures. And that mat is great for just that. To tweek how much "over-damped" sound we like to have or not.

As we know the floor mat does nothing for the first reflection point on the floor but it acts as a thin absorber that it what it exactly is.. So it absorb only the high frequencies (she the link on the subject that I posted earlier)

So if you experience "over-damped" then out with the mat. If it is to lively in with the mat. :)

Another observation is that low bass is radiating omnidirectional so those low frequencies are radiated behind the speakers. I see great corner bass absorbers. But there is also thin foam that will not help against that the bass is reflecting from those surfaces. Instead those foam will only take hi frequency reflections and also contribute towards "over-damped" feeling. Maybe remove or replace with thicker absorbers.

Is those cool white 3d diffusers the "styrofoam" or other material?
(I never had any experience of them and it is great to hear that they work in that material in that case)

Keep in mind that bass traps can go in more places than behind the speakers. Every corner, including wall to ceiling, and wall to floor can be a good place for them. The GIK soffit traps for instance are meant to be mounted along the soffits, or the line where the wall and ceiling meet.

Yes, overdamping is always possible, which you can prevent by carefully picking the products used as well as making sure to include diffusion.

One trick I often suggest listeners missing bass is to add mid-to-high frequency absorbing panels. They will act like an equalizer, and lower the overall mid-treble energy, and boom, like a ship emerging from the water at low tide, here is the basss!! It’s amazing how you can do this with small speakers.


Let me alter my thesis, because the original was so hard to transmit, even by those who really know their stuff. In fact let me reword it ENTIRELY.

"In a modest, average home listening environment, you can’t do much for the acoustics with just 4 panels, no matter how ideally placed they are."

And that is what I was sold, long ago, as something useful. Get 4 panels, put them on the reflection points and imaging and detail will get better. I’ve done this. It does not. You can’t do anything with these 4 by themselves.

Part II:

" The overall decay rate of the energy in the room will probably so obscure the original and early reflected signals requiring a minimum critical mass of room treatment, or minimum sound field quality that must be achieved before those original 4 panels mean anything. Control the reverberation time first, and with 4 panels you are barely getting started."

Part III:

"Once the overall sound field is treated, the _exact_ placement of the original 4 panels. becomes moot. You can move around the room and everything sounds good, no matter where you are, and no matter if the current reflection points (which change based on your position) are covered or not.

Part IV:

"While the overall idea of our ears seeing / hearing mid-treble frequencies as light beams is attractive, it is my experience that even then we hear not photonically but statistically. Covering up that magic reflection point to 1 ideal seated location is a trivial if not imperceptible change. Treat early reflections statistically, not precisely. "
Of course, much here in part IV can probably be informed by Head Related Transfer Function research, which I have not looked into.

I'm clearly not saying not to treat the wall behind the speakers or to the sides, or the floor or ceiling.  I'm saying that the original messaging, that there are 4 magical places you must put panels on and that alone will provide noticeable improvement oversells the benefits.