Open Floor Plan Listening Room

Hi All,

  I have an open floor plan listening room. Any ideas on how to close off the room in order to improve lower frequency bass response?  I’m looking for room dividers that can be made to close off the space when I want to listen to music, but have aesthetic qualities and can be opened/closed easily.  The open plan consists of my living room and kitchen together at 45’ L x 17’ W x 10’ H.

  The open section separating the kitchen/living is 15’ W x 9’ H.

  I don’t have other room options in my home.

  Any help appreciated.  Speakers are Apogee Duetta Signature.  I have moved them around to make a difference but still need to close off the room behind sitting area to get the lower frequency bass I desire.

That’s a tough one.  I love open plan homes, and I can’t think of a good way to occasionally close off a room - at least in a practical or attractive way.

Since you have planars, which are usually a little light in the bass anyway, perhaps adding a subwoofer would solve the problem and also be less complicated and more aesthetically pleasing.
Yup right on.  It’s a struggle :)

I was hoping to not go the way of subwoofers as I’ve heard these speakers sound great in other rooms and wanted to stay with ribbons.  I probably am asking for too much haha.

Leave it as is.  You are avoiding room nodes

And BTW, anything you put there will vibrate with bass notes.

For bass, you will use a multiple sub setup - many like REL.

But, you could build QRD diffuser panels to sit on the sides between you and the speakers -- if it would help.

What is the problem you are trying to get rid of besides lack of bass?

+1 randy-11

Closing a room or making a room smaller will increase the amount of bass problems you have in the room because you will be causing more bass nodes that will cancel/boost certain frequencies.

An open floor plan will actually help bass response because the open parts that lead to other areas of the house are essentially doing the same thing as "bass traps" (allowing the bass waveforms to escape instead of bouncing back towards the speakers and cancelling certain frequencies).

What amplifier are you using.  Since these are panel speakers, they really need a very high-current high-power solid state amplifier to really drive them.  If the amp is good and you still lack bass, add a powered subwoofer.

Thanks for the advice guys.

I’m using a Krell FPB400cx amplifier.  Previously I was using a KSA-200s.

What I’ve noticed is that sitting at the kitchen island (creating a half wall of sorts behind me) I pick up a lot of low bass frequencies.  The normal sitting position on the couch in the living room in front of the speakers has a complete lack of bass.  My theory is that if I could put a dividing wall in behind my couch that can be opened or closed I can have the best of both worlds- open floor plan and an enclosed listening room.

Without a wall behind me I’m looking at a room that essentially has 45’ of space (with a large kitchen island in the middle) which I fear is too much for these Apogees.  I’ve heard them in a large but enclosed room and they sound much better.  Even if I enclose the room I would still have plenty of space for the Apogees to breathe (roughly 20’ x 17’). 

Two subs such as the Hsu VTF-15H Mk II.... properly integrated will be magical.

That is kind of key though. JL makes some of the best auto-EQ subs, but super expensive, and have known reliability issues.

Leave the room plan alone.



Ah, I re-read your original post. It looks like you have a very large rectangle room (open room) that contains both kitchen and living room. It is still considered a single room and will have bass "room nodes":

This means that certain bass frequencies are going to be cancelled out at your listening position. In addition, bass will tend to build up and sound louder in the back of the room (where you are sitting at the kitchen island).

Building a wall in between is not likely to improve things at all, unless you can build a "permanent wall". Your Krell FPB400CX is a very high power amp and you do not need to replace it.

I would start stacking up bass traps in the corners. Look at GIK Monster Bass Trap with FlexRange Limter (I know --- I love to recommend these things). Or maybe a GIK Soffit trap with scatter plate built in. You seem to have a lot of very low frequency room nodes (33hz, 37hz, 49.9hz, 56hz, 62hz, 66hz). The Monster Bass Trap with Flexrange will not be as effective for stuff under 70hz (but it’s still better than nothing).

I always hesitate to recommend full broadband bass traps (such as Soffit without scatter plate or Monster without Flexrange Limitor) because they tend to suck out too many high frequencies.

I solved my problem  by adding open baffle subs. My speakers want closed corners, but I don't have a pair of them. So, I needed more fill-in. It was a leap of faith investment, but the addition worked out great. If you're interested, you can check out my system.
Thanks everyone!  Perhaps I should get someone to come in and measure what’s happening with the low frequency sound waves.  Sounds like closing off the room is not the way to go here from what I’m reading.  

Aux, let me look into the room treatments after the sound/room consultation.
Kenny, would be great to see your setup.

measurement USB mic is $90; REL is free - then you can do your own measurements
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Understood.  If I should go the subwoofer(s) route I assume I’ll have to introduce new crossovers in my system as well?
The bigger the room the better for deep bass. Irregular shapes also help, as was already pointed out. From the description, it sounds as if you have a null at the listening position. If so, the first thing to do is to measure the response in various locations to make sure that this is the case, with, e.g., REW. After all,  the louder bass you hear elsewhere in the room could in fact be bass peaks. But if there is indeed a null at the listening position,  it cannot effectively be equalized/boosted. The solution would be multiple subs like the Audiokinesis Swarm system.
I meant you can check out my system here on Audiogon regarding the subs. The pictures will give you an idea of my space, so what my challenge was.

I have a combination great room / kitchen also.  My room is actually 55L x 35W x 19H.  I added to Triad in wall subwoofers and it complements the rest of my system extremely well.  I also added a lot of acoustical panels down both sides of the room.  I did different colors and a pattern to appease my wife.  Unfortunately the panels are not at the speaker level which was not feasible.  However, I can say that they help a lot.  My system was Wilson Audio Duette 2's, Raven Audio Integrated Reflection MK2 tube amp, Lumin A-1 music streamer / dac.  Despite the large room the sound was still fantastic.  Subs do help!
Question.. pardon my lack of knowledge here- My setup is currently all XLR (balanced) cables. How do I wire for subs? Do I need separate crossovers or do some of these active subs have built in crossovers. If I were to go that route would the signal flowing out to the main speakers be compromised by the quality of the connectors/wiring at the subs?

What’s the best way to wire for subs without compromising on cable influences? I know, I know, many of you don’t believe cables make any difference but with planar speakers like these Apogees they are very sensitive to the cables used in the signal path.
There are two ways to wire subs. The first is from the pre out, and if that is XLR and the sub(s) do not have that, you will need an XLR to rca cable. If the sub(s) have XLR, use those inputs. The alternative (not available on all subs) is to connect them at speaker level. REL are strong advocates of connecting this way. Nearly all subs have their own inbuilt low pass crossovers. Some also have a high pass facility to relieve the main speakers of the duty to reproduce the demanding low frequencies. This makes for a slightly cleaner sound from the main speakers, but makes integration harder. If the main speakers are full range I would not bother. It is usually best to use multiple subs in mono rather than stereo, as you can more easily equalize them succesfully.
Sometimes you have to combine speaker level and line level connection. If you were to use a DSpeaker Antimode 8033 room eq for the subs (as I do and strongly recommend) it only has a line level input. If you do not have a pre out, you will have to get the signal from the speaker level output, and use an attenuating cable to reduce the level to line level. Fortunately none of this is complex, and no fancy cabling is required.
There are number of cabling options, so it depends on what you pick. The sub amps I use have RCA inputs, but there are other models (same brand) with XLR inputs. I also use the high level inputs into the sub amps from my line stage, so the subs are independent of my speakers that play full range. I happen to have two outputs from my line stage, but if I didn't I could use a quality splitter, but I tend to stay away from those things. The sub amps also provide for a low level input for connecting the speaker mains directly to them. I plan on trying this method, but the manufacturer recommended to me the high level inputs. Another recommendation, was adding quality custom filters in-line with my power amps to limit the bass frequencies going to my speakers, so passing that part is the job over to my subs. I tried this for a while, but preferred my original setup.

So, it depends. My opinion, is that you need to match the proper type of sub(s) to your room. How a sub loads the room becomes important. So, a swarm system as mentioned may do the trick for you. I have even heard of mixing up the types of subs. Luckily, I got really good advice from a couple of knowledgeable Goners and what I wound up picking got the job done.

Good luck,

@sandpat - what kind of preamp do you have?  Probably the easiest and best way to add a sub is to use the RCA output of your preamp and keep the XLR for the Krell/Apogee.  This is 99% most likely the same as putting in a Y-splitter cable (unless your preamp is one of the rare ones that have two completely separate output stages -- an example would be the Classe CP-800).  It's also better because you're not putting in another cable where the cable/connectors will influence the sound.  This would keep the Apogee speakers playing full range and the subwoofer crossover would be set somewhere between 40hz and 60hz to "fill in" the bass region.

You can always use something like a Bryston 10B active crossover or the Pass Labs XVR-1 active crossover ... Or you the active crossover in the subwoofer (worst option).  These solutions would require you to connect the "high-pass" output of the crossover to the Krell amp (more cables).  None of these are the most optimum because you would be losing/changing the sonic signature via the active crossover module.  This may or may not be a bad thing -- just something to keep in mind.

I have a Krell KRC-HR.   I’m pretty sure I read in the manual that it outputs to both balanced and unbalanced simultaneously, so I should be able to do this.  Are there any timing issues I need to worry about in this setup?
So just an update I’m contemplating buying one or two REL T9i subwoofers and connecting them using the high input with supplied cable directly from my stereo amplifier.  This seems like it would give me the best way to carry the original signal through all my components and wouldn’t mess much with timing (although the subs have their own class A/B amps built-in.

im going to give REL a call hopefully Friday and see what they recommend to match well with my Apogees.  It seems the T9i works well with Maggies so likely would be a similar pairing with Apogees.

I will keep everyone posted on the results.  The RELs I believe have a 120-day free audition period which is great.  They even pay return shipping.

Thanks everyone, you likely saved me a lot of money trying to create a useless pseudo-wall behind my couch.

I would also look at the SVS PB12-Plus subwoofer.  It's close to the same price as the REL T9i.  However, it is significantly heavier/larger (cabinet bracing) and will play a lot lower.  I don't know how the REL vs. SVS really compares, but I would lean toward the REL for power overhead and low bass.  Just an option.  And I also think that getting two subs (of whatever model) is better so that they each supplement the left and right channels individually.  There aren't really any timing issues to consider.  However, some subwoofers will have a phase adjustment to help with blending.

You could hook the subwoofer to the high-level output of the amp, but the signal still has to be converted back to low-level before it enters the subwoofer amplifier.  If it were me, I would just use the RCA output of the Krell KRC-HR.  The KRC-HR output impedance is documented at 5 ohms (which is insanely low for a preamp).  Your FPB400 has an input impedance of 100k ohms (it is very high which is good).  This means that you will not have any problems with the preamp driving two different amplifiers (the FPB400 and the subwoofer inputs).  The impedance can be an issue if the amplifier impedance is really low (like 20k ohms) and it is driven by something like a tube preamp.  I would just use a nice large awg solid-core interconnect such as the Beldon 1695A coax subwoofer interconnect from Blue Jeans:

The larger 18awg solid-core conductor will transfer bass frequencies extremely well.  You do not need a super high resolution cable for the sub.  In fact, going to a higher resolution interconnect that will have smaller awg solid-core conductors may actually produce weaker bass waveforms.

In your situation, since you have bass nulls at the listening position, I would not implement a high-pass crossover for your Apogee's.  You should still run the Apogee at full range so that it is outputting as much bass frequencies as possible.  Then place the two subwoofers as far away and as far into the corners as possible.  This will give you multiple distances where bass frequencies are generated and help reduce the bass nulls from waveform cancellations (when they bounce off the rear wall and come back).

While this will definitely help with bass resolution, keep in mind that you may still end up having to do some acoustic treatments for the bass frequencies (such as GIK bass traps I mentioned above).

Actually, thinking about it, you really don't want any phase adjustment on the subwoofer, so don't worry on whether the sub has one.  You want the sound to come out of the sub at the same time as the Apogee.  However, you want the subwoofers at a different distance that the Apogee's.  I think your Apogee's will probably be pulled out further into the middle of the room.  If you put the subs in the corners, it should work out well.
This is all extremely invaluable information.  Wow this forum is impressive.  I'm processing all this info; a lot of what you say makes a lot of sense to me.  I think I will have to play with it a bit alternating between high input and low inputs.  I do know that REL absolutely recommends using the high inputs to push the same signal forward through all the equipment, but I have the luxury of trying the low input as well due to my preamp and extra cable I have lying around.  Thanks guys.
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Good to know and I suspect you’re right with regards to finding the correct overlap point in frequencies with the full range speakers.  I do have an audiophile friend nearby who can help with this.  I also plan to purchase the appropriate measuring components to make it easier.  I may have a local company who specializes in this come out for a consultation as well.
I have two recommendations to make. The first is to go for at least two smaller subwoofers instead of one big sub. In most situations that produces a far more even response. See here for some reading:
The second suggestion is to invest in a DSpeaker Antimode 8033 room equalization unit as well. This tightens the response significantly in both the frequency and time domain. With two subs this is even more effective because the equalization will be effective over a larger listening area. Subs have a bad reputation in audiophile circles, but this is largely due to the problem of the room modes that they excite. These not only produce peaks and dips, but they also linger on. People speak of slow subs, but it is not the subs that are slow, but the lingering room modes.
Excellent, thank you.  Funny you should mention Acoustic Frontiers.  That’s who I reached out to for a quote in order to handle the work of calibrating and positioning my subs and speakers.  They are local to me so if the consultation price is right that’ll work out really well.
You might be sitting in a NULL spot. I use the 1/3 speaker setup and have used the 1/5 setup in the past. This means placing the speakers 1/3 of the room length from the rear wall and my listening position is also 1/3 from the wall behind. Since you are hearing a lot of bass 45 ft away, I would try using different speakers and listening positions in your room. Check out speaker room setup from the likes of Cardas and others
But what if it does? The description seems to be exactly a null, which could indeed be the case if the listening position is halfway the length of the room. But it could be that the louder bass elsewhere is actually a peak. So as I said at the beginning, measurement should come first. The only investment is that of a $75 calibrated measurement microphone.
You need an additional opinion like a hole in the head but I have exactly the opposite problem. My audio room is really confined (8-1/2 x 12-1/2) and uses not only room treatment but multi band equalizers to null out or correct (mostly) bass... so count your blessings! I’d trade in a minute if I could.

The problem with movable walls is that they tend to resonate more than fixed ones that can be re-fortified for rigidity. Back in the day I had my share of planar speakers (Magnepans, Quads, etc.), all crying for more bass. My suggestion along with others here is a subwoofer but without any ports (or block the port) and a very low crossover point, judiciously used and keep your room open. Good luck with your choice!
Ahh the memories...20 years ago I entered this hobby diving in with a Cat pre-amp and Krell 300 monoblocks driving Apogee Duetta's.  In a wide open Split atrium house where the listening room extended to the roofline and two rooms back I had an indoor mini-theatre with a refined high-end audiophile sound system.  Even 2 large Muse model 18 subwoofers didn't fix the basic dilemma of the Duetta's reserved bass or give that real-world dynamic punch that I wanted for some music some of the time. Nothing would or could solve it, even after moving 4 times to 4 homes and other listening rooms when compared other dynamic speakers substituted into the system. 

Subs helped a lot in the lower extremes but not higher up and did not mimic a full range dynamic speaker and the solid punch you get all the way through the upper bass and midrange.  Yet 20 years and 4 homes later I still have the Duetta's and since parting with the CAT preamp and Krell monoblocks am using Jadis Defy monoblocks to easily drive either the Apogee Duetta's or Martin Logan Quest Z.  The ML Quest hybrid really showed me how reserved the Duetta bass is as far as real world impact, that you feel and taste.  The Duetta can put out some volume of bass that is controlled, tight and can measure, but it will never be visceral and never touched the way it is with dynamic speakers.   But time after time, year after year, floor plan after floor plan I have always turned back to tubes and either panels or stats, whatever their limitations may be.  The musical magic that comes out of those continues to be priceless and irreplaceable and not for trade. Subs have often helped fill in with many rooms but do not replace or turn the Duetta's massive woofer ribbon into a dynamic driver.  But that's ok, put on some female vocal and you'll forget all the discussion and worry.  I'm moving soon again, but  I'll will still look for an open floor plan  and of course am keeping my planars. The joy that comes out of those components has far exceeded the perfect audiophile setup I could never achieve after so many years and dollars later. 
This is an important reminder that no domestic space will ever give you the acoustics to mimic a concert hall. It will always be too small, limiting the dynamic range that can be reproduced, and creating havoc at lower frequencies. A good postage stamp image of reality is the best we can hope for, and all the more so with large scale dynamic music like a symphony orchestra. Here, the real thing will always remain better.
This is an important reminder that no domestic space will ever give you the acoustics to mimic a concert hall.
That's pretty obvious, unless you actually live in a concert hall.

It will always be too small, limiting the dynamic range that can be reproduced, and creating havoc at lower frequencies.
You can certainly obtain full dynamic range in a domestic environment - that's easy to measure. Room treatments can ameliorate its acoustic issues.
Sandpat- great intro to the forums. You ask great questions and have a good attitude. Well done. We’ve had a lot of know-it-alls who have signed up lately and proceeded to school us all and save us from our ignorance. Not a great first impression.

I can’t help with advice for your issue, but it sounds like you’ve plenty of that. I just wanted to second the recommendations for room measurement. I recently purchased a calibrated USB mic that I use with REW, a free program. It’s the mic they recommend and was $90 shipped. Each mic also has a specific calibration file to use, making the whole process more accurate. I’ve found some bass modes that I thought were there, but I didn’t know at what frequencies or if they truly were problems. Now that I’ve the info, I need to decide what to do. But that is a way better situation than buying room treatments and placing them based on my thoughts instead of data.
I'm convinced re: the room measurements.  I did reach out to a local specialist but their prices seem a bit steep to me at this point.  Also, they insist on a solution of cutting off the bass to the Apogees and letting the subs do the work.  Normally I would be happy with that, but with Apogees the bass ribbons are their strength.  The definition, when you hear it, is fantastic.  

I'm going to attempt to measure and figure out the room bass issues myself and if I don't succeed I can always go back to the consultant.  I've ordered the mic that is recommended.  Wish me luck!  Either way I'll come out of this learning a lot more about sound engineering.  Thanks for all the feedback here I've already learned a lot, mainly that my original assumptions were probably completely wrong about the room.  
Hi All,

Thanks again for all the advice. I wanted to provide an update- I purchased a couple REL T9/i subwoofers for stereo setup and dialed them in using my ears. The improvement has been just outstanding. I enjoy listening to music again, even regular rock music that was not from the best recordings. This is about as close as I can get to getting an Infinity IRS (Beta or V) system at a palatable price. No doubt the Infinitys are better (but comparatively I am satisfied with the sound I have now at the right price overall).

Note that I did originally buy measuring equipment but I didn’t have the time to really understand how I should interpret the results. I do intend to go back and try and take a more scientific approach to all of this but in the meantime trusting my ears has resulted in, well, pleasing my ears. 🙂

Next on the list is to get rid of a bit of boom I’m now getting in the lower frequency bass. I already pulled the subs out from the corners and positioned halfway along the side walls at an angle towards the listening position and that has helped with the tight higher frequency bass and reducing boom in the lower frequencies. I also took the styrofoam and cardboatd box the subs came in and placed those directly behind the subs and that has helped quite a bit as well. I intend to go the professional room treatment route and will post updates as I discover newer ways to thin out my wallet.   Talking to GIK about treatments.  Perhaps next on the list after room treatment might be experimentation with servo controlled subs.

Thanks again for all your help. Saved me from wasting a lot of money on the wrong areas of my room.

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I would suggest an Antimode 8033 room eq unit to smoothen your subs even more. They are cheap, easy to use, and highly effective.