Speakers that sound great in terrible rooms

I remember running into an audiophile who refused to consider anything about room acoustics. He bought speakers specifically for live, untreated rooms.

Anyone else? What was your solution?
I remember running into an audiophile who refused to consider anything about room acoustics. He bought speakers specifically for live, untreated rooms.

Anyone else? What was your solution?

Solution to what? You never met anyone who was happy with the way their room looked and wanted to keep it that way? Or was living with someone who didn't share your obsession with fabric covered fiberglass?

Sounds like your imaginary audiophile already found his solution. Seems to me you're the one unhappy with his solution. But that's your problem. Not his.
Let it go. Problem solved. That's my solution.

I think this thread was not clear.  What I meant was, what are your speakers for difficult rooms?
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I just came across this article and a review of the Arakas room mirrors that might be of interest:

And the translated page from the German publication, Fairaudio:

I hope the translated page takes, it not, you'll have to go to the link and do it yourself.

All the best,Nonoise

Speakers with controlled directivity will interact less with the room. Some I can think of are from Kii, Dutch & Dutch, Janszen. There are others that slip my mind now.

The Janszens I use, besides their other virtues, do not interact with the ceiling or sidewalls much, which is great in my room, smaller than ideal.

Bass boom is separate issue. I don't know what speaker designs can mitigate that, if any. I use large corner traps to address bass reverb time.

Bass boom is separate issue. I don't know what speaker designs can mitigate that, if any. I use large corner traps to address bass reverb time.

The best sound in a hotel room, by far, was the top end Vandersteens with built in bass EQ.
11 bands of analog EQ below 120 hz, also available in a $3K Model 3 subwoofer. since 1977 = Vandersteen 

To answer the fuller range question the Larson are unobtrusive, wall close coupled and are quite musical. I have heard them in three untreated but highly livable spaces and they are quite engaging and musical.
The terrible  speakers  that sound great in good room ?
or the terrible speakers that sound terrible in good room ?
or the terrible speakers that sound terrible in terrible room

The way a speaker interacts with the room is a big part of how it sounds, for better or for worse. Imo it is possible to design a speaker to interact favorably with a very wide variety of rooms, including "terrible" ones. Several basic principles come into play:

1. The earlier and stronger a reflection is, the worse it is. So we want a radiation pattern that minimizes early reflections, which implies a fairly narrow pattern. Then ideally we want to aim that pattern in the horizontal plane such that it avoids early sidewall reflections. There are several different approaches to radiation pattern control which are viable, and it is up to the user to analyze his room and make an intelligent estimation of which radiation pattern(s) would minimize early reflections in his room.

2. The direct sound should be what sets the tone for how the speakers sound, which means we want the reflections to have the same spectral balance as the direct sound, or at least come close. (When there is a significant spectral discrepancy between the direct and reflected sound, the timbre can be degraded and/or listening fatigue can arise.) So we want the off-axis response to be smooth; that is, it should not start out emphasizing some frequency regions more than others. Given that a "terrible room" may be one which is overly reflective or overly absorptive, we might want the ability to adjust the spectral balance of the off-axis radiation without affecting the direct sound.

3. For all practical purposes there is no such thing as "the direct sound" in the bass region. It takes time for the ear to recognize those long wavelengths such that by the time the ears actually perceive bass energy, it has already reflected off the room boundaries multiple times. So in the bass region we want to take this inevitable room interaction into account as much as possible. Viable approaches include level-adjustable powered bass sections, user-selectable port tuning, EQ, a distributed multi-sub system, and some combination thereof.

Imo amp + speaker + room = "a system within a system". The speaker should interact favorably with both the amp and the room... even if the room is "terrible".

Ime fullrange controlled-pattern dipoles and horn systems designed to have very low coloration tend to work well in "terrible" rooms when set up correctly because their radiation patterns largely taking the room out of the equation, at least over most of the spectrum. In the bass region, which approach(es) make the most sense depends on the specifics of that particular room’s "terribleness". 

Erik wrote:  " I remember running into an audiophile who refused to consider anything about room acoustics. He bought speakers specifically for live, untreated rooms.  

"Anyone else? What was your solution?" 

I have at times built custom speaker systems for very live, totally untreated rooms, using the principles described above.   I can go into specifics if you'd like. 

Listening "nearfield" within a couple of feet of the speakers can help overcome room issues.  Small, good quality speakers played at low to medium, levels can create a huge soundstage and incredible imaging.  
*G* Now, There's a quest:
How to make terrible speakers sound great in a given room....

I suppose it could be done....but at the end of it all, one would rather toss them into a bonfire since it took so much effort...

nonoise....I dunno, guy....'acoustic mirrors'....🤔

What to do if the 'sweet spot' isn't sweet enough?

Now, I've run into omnis' like the Duevel that use ellipsoid cones and balls to bounce sound around to varying degrees....

I've not been impressed, frankly....

But they could be fun to fart around with while we're in lock up....;) 
(...I'm not just active late @ night.....vampire status is not something I aspire to.....yet....*g*...)
Tomic61 wrote: "amp + speaker + room +ear/brain = system"

Very well said!!  

By the way I’ve yet to hear a pair of the Larsens, but their innovative approach makes a lot of sense to me.  

and this goes back to something else I've noticed. I simply cannot ignore a room.

I can ignore the air conditioner more easily.

Those audiophiles who can hear the nuance of equipment in a bad room, you are amazing, because I can barely listen.
Smaller is often better with speakers in rooms with bad acoustics.

My wife's sunroom is pretty bad.   I've tried a lot of speakers in there but the tiny  Vanatoo Transparent 1 Encore speakers on Isoacoustic stands in there really shine.  I think the built in signal processing helps.
I unfortunatwly have no personal experience with Ohm Walsh speakers (yet,) but I'm surprised no one else has mentioned them. (At least I didn't spot anyone mentioning them during a quick skim of the responses.) One of the most commonly praised aspects of the Ohm speakers is that not only are they one of the few speakers that sound good in live/untreated rooms, but they are actually meant for such rooms!
Ohm Walsh are always a good choice in general IMHO regardless of room acoustics, more so than more directional designs.
Just going to say give these guy's a shot. Dumped my Sonus Faber Olymlica II for the the Celest and zero regrets and this is an American Company that is run by musicians.  

Tall line source designs. Maybe the Sanders ESL. Diffusion on the wall behind the speakers.
Simulate and build to exact dimensions. The room has a unique quality as soon as you enter it - a quality to the silence. Music sounds good too.

That's my solution.
@erik_squires ...I've got a heater to contend with, so I hear your pain. ;)

..and then the ambient temp goes up...AC racket, yay..."It's always Something...."

@jsandman...Well, Walsh (and Ohms) do respond better to 'carefully treated spaces' because they're omnis..and depend on the room but in a different fashion.

Played loudly in a small space isn't something to recommend....unless you're not 'playing for nuance', *G*

At that point, you may as well put a dog door on the speaker enclosure and get in....;)

'Drive those demons away with dB's...' 😜
Erik. A very detailed and well-thought-out answer to your question is provided at http://www.linkwitzlab.com/. Like many, I have found my LX-mini’s, Orion’s and LX521.4’s fussy and time-consuming to get ’just right’. But I enjoy all that fussing. Did you ever get over the bridge to Corte Madera or up to Sea Ranch to hear Sigfried Linkwitz’s systems set up in his own spaces? I did. What did you think?

I am very sad to say I never met the man in person. As I noted elsewhere, his work has been with me in some form or another for a very long time. More recently I liked going to his website, trying to understand his views of a Duelund crossover, as well as his work on measuring just how quickly thermal compression happens in a tweeter, and then he was retired, and soon after gone.

....and I lived in Corte Madera for awhile...and was totally clueless at the time....

Missed opportunities.....

Hell, he may have been the guy yelling at me from his car that my 2 stroke Yamaha RD-350 was too loud!

(....the fact that we were approaching a right turn with a merge, with him on the 'inside' and next to me was more of a concern at the time....and a tight left after....  Survival supersedes Subtleness, frankly.... )

Tam Drive, approaching the 'S' @ the intersection w/CM...

Used to ride that into and back from work in Sausalito....back when it was non-burb'ed.....
That audiophile might had some bad experience with damping materials/panels since lot of them have not full-range damping character so they will affect frequency spectrum like a badly used equaliser or for example DSPs can cause audible ringing, "euphoria" or loss of low frequency details in the music without proper use.

I don’t think he is right when refuse room correction, no other way to solve acoustic problems because of the following reasons, IMO.

If you measure acoustic of a room you will find 12-15 dB amplification/attenuation on some low frequencies coming from the speaker position and the size of the room. You can use bass traps (looks not too pretty in a living room) or digital equaliser like Allo USBridge Signature which is a streamer/DSP for 300$. It can solve bad room problem at low frequencies but a good speaker itself does not, since room self frequencies coming from the room size, for example the average 2.7m room height cause a standing wave around 63Hz. (voice speed in air about 340m/s, 2.7m is the half size of the 63Hz wave).

Other problem is speakers are not linear in full range, it is true for the best designs as well, so digital equaliser improve performance for all speakers. With good speakers it is possible to equalise flat sound character between 20-20000Hz, if you give up some power.

Third is the room ringing time/reflections. It is something what you can might solve with directional speakers partially, but for good result you need some (full range, except low frequencies) damping material. Damping panels will not destroy the audio quality if they have proper characteristic. I have only 4+1 nice looking panels (plus carpet) for very few money and it solves most of the problems. If I move speakers from the damping panels (reflection) area, vocals become "singing in a bathroom", difference is clear and huge.

Theoretically Kii Audio speakers can be a way against "bad rooms" but they use internal DSP as well and they are not cheap.

I get the entire room treatment thingie but if your components cannot product the correct tone (such as piano, sax, violin), dynamics, dimension, clarity, details, etc, then IMO the room has less of an impact.  For example, old 70's box speakers may have less interaction with a room as they are usually sweet in the mids, slightly boomy in the bass region and slightly less open in the top end.

Happy Listening.
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The entire premise of this thread and its responses exhibits the snarky, esoteric attitude of too many audiophiles. The solution is to enjoy the music where it happens. I daresay that there is more music happening on streets, in bars, around campfires, in gymnasiums, (etc ad infinitum) than on stages or in concert halls. If you are unable to enjoy it in less that 'perfect environs you cannot really be a music lover. 

You are right, I've measured some of the same issues, and I wouldn't move without my speakers AND my acoustic supplies. :)

This audiophile's view was that speakers should be made for untreated living rooms or they should not be purchased. That the maker of the speaker should already have dealt with those "issues."
A speaker that sounds like it's in a treated room, perfectly positioned WITHOUT it being in a dedicated space with all the room tweaks would be the greatest invention since sliced bread.
I have to admit I've had a fascination with line sources all of my life. That and large ESL panels, and yet, I have ended up rather conventional.
KR at stereophile has been reviewing dsp based speakers. anthem arc, dirac, all the dsp software that measures and tunes the bass help., but the easiest solution thats free bepoletti said already, nearfield listening.
Here is a line array from ex-McIntosh speaker designer Roger Rusell I've wanted to hear.

I have to say I've heard current XRT speakers and really did not like them, but this is a much more simple implementation.

Hi all.  I'm new to Audiogon and have done more reading than writing.  I tend to believe (would that qualify as IMO?) that a well designed speaker will perform well, more or less, in a wide variety of rooms.  The better the room is for sound quality the better that speaker will sound.  And of course, what you kit is comprised of plays a role, too.  More importantly, enjoying the music, with the kit you have and in the room you have, is what it's all about.  Of course, tweaking and tuning to within what is realistic in your life, goes a long way.  Much better than ignoring the room altogether.  But, enjoying the music is surely what it's all about.  Back to a well designed speaker... I do like the approach that Dynaudio takes.  They make wonderful sounding drivers, all engineered and manufactured in-house, providing them with the ability to control the end result in a superior way than many other speakers brought to market.  Then, they engineer the given enclosure for those drivers from a total "system" approach to the finished product.  This includes engineering the front baffle for directionality and, therefore, room interaction = acoustics at your ear.  
Anyway, that's my two cents on this matter.  There are many wonderful products on the market.  Make your kit, work with your room the best that you can, and enjoy the music.
Hi @mammouthguy54

I like Dynaudio a lot, but they have different house curves built in. I’ve seen W and V shaped curves built into different models, so none of them are the speakers I've heard are true neutral speaker that lets me listen to a variety of music in a variety of volume levels without that Dynaudio personality.

When listening you have to take this into account. Make sure the house sound is something you can live with, which I guess is the same advice as for most speakers. :)


I am probably limiting the sound quality I get by the room situation I have.  But how bad is bad?  I am aware of sound optimization for surround sound (e.g., Audyssey), but is there optimization for two channel set-ups?  I guess I’m lazy about moving speakers around (not sure what I would do if I knew the best arrangement), but it would still be interesting to me to see what such a optimizing program would recommend.
Hey @bob540

Here's what I suggest.  Put your speakers 3' in front of you and listen to music.

The difference between that and what you hear at your chair is how good room acoustics can improve the sound.

If your speakers are too big, or you lack the space, pull up a chair near one. Listen to the detail and depth you can hear.
Interesting thread. I would say that there are basically two ways to deal with a problematic room (but aren't they all problematic, to some degree?). First is by passive or active treatment. The former is classic room treatments, as little or as much as is needed. The second are active crossover networks and/or DSP, which includes source-based correction such as Dirac and others.

Second, you can minimize speaker/room interactions by using speakers with omnidirectional or dipolar designs. These may not overcome all the problems with your room but there are other advantages to these designs; namely soundstage and imaging. mapman mentioned Ohm Walsh speakers and alymere mentioned Linkwitz, both good solutions. I sold the Larsen line for several years and setup several pairs in absolutely dreadful rooms, mostly to the satisfaction of the buyer.

Myself, I have happily rediscovered Shahinian's great Obelisk speakers for my difficult living room and I love them, although they did necessitate a change from tube amplification to SS. But they do sound great!

Omni speakers have been mentioned several times, and there is definitely something they do right which contributes to dealing with terrible rooms: Their off-axis response has the same spectral balance as their on-axis response. Thus their reverberant sound is virtually identical to their direct sound, modifed by the room’s acoustics of course.

Now I’m going to make a claim that will probably be somewhat controversial: In MANY cases, "terrible room" is actually a speaker design issue, but it gets blamed on the room! You see, if the room was the root cause of the problem, omnis would be the WORST speakers for such rooms because they send the most energy out into the room for the room to screw up. But here in this thread we have many people who are experienced with omnis and quasi-omnis telling us the exact opposite!

What many speaker do WRONG over most of the spectrum, relative to omnis (and quasi-omnis like the Shaninians and Larsens and many dipoles) is, their off-axis response is significantly dissimilar to their on-axis response. When the ["terrible"] room reflects back a lot this spectrally incorrect off-axis energy, what we perceive is a weighted average of the direct and reverberant sound, and we make the mistake of blaming it all on the room.

(Now there definitely are room problems which clearly exist, such as too much or too little boundary reinforcement, strong bass modes, excessive asymmetry, too much or too little damping, slap-echo, and insufficient size. Speaker design can only go so far in addressing these issues.)

The fact that omnis sound good in many "terrible" rooms is imo proof that, in THOSE rooms anyway, the issue was not the room itself.

A thought experiment comes to mind: How would an unamplified acoustic guitar sound in the room? If it would suck (like due to excess slap-echo), then the room really is terrible. But if it would sound good, then the room may not be the root problem.

Based on my own experiments omnidirectional is not my radiation pattern of choice because I have concluded that less off-axis energy is actually preferable. That being said, the success of omnis (particularly in "terrible" rooms) clearly tells us what the spectral balance of the off-axis energy should be: The same as the on-axis energy.

Good points by Duke.

I have honestly been of the opinion since my first encounters with Ohm Walsh speakers many years ago that more omnidirectional speakers do things right and others are inherently flawed in design.

Omnis radiate sound in a pattern more like if a real instrument were playing, whereas conventional more directional designs shoot all the good sound mostly forward in one direction only.

The pain people must go through to try and get directional speakers to sound good supports that the approach is inherently flawed.

My big Ohm F5s were hand picked for the troublesome L shaped room they run in. Planar and tower box speakers I tried in there prior just could not cut it at all.
The fact that omnis sound good in many "terrible" rooms is imo proof that, in THOSE rooms anyway, the issue was not the room itself.


Having a pro in the thread is like cheating. :)

Can we define good though? I mean, I agree with the on/off axis description, but! What about imaging and detail?

How would omnis compare to dispersion limited speakers like big ESL’s, line arrays or horns with narrow beam pattern?  Pro acousticians I've read say that the better the dispersion control is, the less room treatment is required.

The Omni story flies in the face of this, unless we don't care about detail. (Yes, this is devil's advocacy)


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