Occam's Razor: The Signal to Noise Ratio

Occam's Razor can be paraphrased as "the best explanation is the simplest one". In the case of audio, I suggest the best "explanation" for the best sound is the highest signal to noise ratio. We commonly pursue this with equipment topology, vibration isolation for turntables, electronics and speakers, electrical isolation with dedicated circuits, component isolation, cable hygiene and all our other efforts to eliminate noise pollution. I believe it extends well beyond this, culminating not in what comes out of the speaker, where I think many folks stop, but rather what finally hits our ears. This means wave interference in the listening room is one of our largest noise contributors.


I have been fortunate in having the time and means to curate a nice system, but I recognized that it would never deliver the best SNR if the signal that leaves the speaker is corrupted by the noise created as it careens throughout the room before it reaches my ear. Over the last few months, I have added room treatments that together cost more than any one single component in my system.  I initially paid attention to first reflections, creating what I call the “circle of silence” with absorption on the walls, ceiling and floor. I also directed my efforts towards speaker boundary interference response with appropriate placement of the speakers and listening position. Bass traps and a distributed bass array deal with uneven lower bass response. Not wanting to dull the room with overabsorption, I added pure diffusion or a combination of diffusion and absorption.


What I now have is a system that not only provides a very accurate signal, but one that is not muddied by all of the other signals (noise) bouncing off the room surfaces.  Instruments and voices are clear with an obvious start and stop. While the system always had decent width and height, they are greater now.  The most significant contribution is that the soundstage now extends in front of and far behind the speakers. On a good rock recording, I can place the drum set, the bass, the keyboard, the vocalists and the guitars three-dimensionally. Classical and jazz are even more remarkable. It is stunning and at times, even startling.


I recognize that not everyone has a room they can devote to their audio pursuits, but within your means and what you and yours find socially acceptable, you should do everything you can to attend to the noise your room adds to your pure and pristine signal. Fuses, power cords, cables, amplifier design, speaker type, etc., all pale in comparison. No matter how your particular equipment tastes run, if you were to put your system in my room, it would likely sound better.


Bottom line, defend and protect your hard won signal from all the noise throughout the entire reproduction process. Everything counts, especially the room.



I like room treatments, Occam's Razor, and the Occam processors, but I think the SNR metaphor is not quite right.

If that were true a purely absorptive room would be the right approach, but in fact it is not.  As you've found, a combination of diffusion and absorption is the right approach, so I think cooking might be a better metaphor.

You don't want a pure sound, because speakers are not meant to go into sterile environments, you want an enveloping sound that makes you feel passionate about the illusion you end up perceiving.  And, passionate as I may be about room acoustics and measurements, recognize that they are tools to reach a satisfying emotional experience.

Not to anyone in particular - the signal to noise ratio on internet forums dwarfs every other example in difficulty. Would that it were that diffusion and absorption could buffer human discussions. Alas, there are times when only "mute" does the trick.



you got it backwards, simplest comes first. i.e. the simplest explanation is most often correct.

The origin and purpose are mostly unknown to us, I went to wiki:

" William of Ockham himself seems to restrict the operation of this principle in matters pertaining to miracles and God’s power, considering a plurality of miracles possible in the Eucharist[further explanation needed] simply because it pleases God.[12]"

Thus, better S/N ratio must please God.