Column: What's your room got to do with it PDF Print E-mail

How do you think you'd feel if you went to the cinema and they forgot to turn the lights down when the main feature began?

Or if you went to the theatre to watch a play, but the acoustics were terrible, there were lots of echoes and you couldn't hear a word the actors said?

If you are as fussy as I am, you probably wouldn't be pleased at all, and it would be correct to demand your money back.

The point I'm making here is that the room in which we watch or listen to movies and music is important, yet when we buy home entertainment equipment, we are almost never asked about this.

To illustrate just how important your room is, think about the following comment.

It has been estimated that 60 to 70 percent of everything we hear in a room depends on the acoustics of the room itself.

I can prove this too.

Take a walk through your home and talk or recite your favourite poem. Stop in each room for a moment and listen to your voice. Did it sound the same in your lounge, in your kitchen, or even your bathroom?

Unless every room in your home has thick padding on every conceivable surface, I can guarantee you that your voice sounded different in each room. It probably sounded thin and tiny in the bathroom, especially if this has floor and wall tiles, and more natural in a carpeted and curtained lounge.

Room size and furnishings make a huge difference to what and how we hear things, and this means that any decent salesman should ask you about these factors before recommending any audio system to you.

Unfortunately salespeople are more interested in the sale than they are in you, and they typically don't make an effort to find out about your specific needs. 

I'm not in the game of  selling equipment so will often recommend that you look at acoustics before spending large sums of money on buying equipment you don't need. Besides, if your room sounds bad your expensive purchase may only sound a little less bad than the item you replaced it for.

You don’t even have to spend lots of money on acoustics either.

In my old house our lounge had a quite a bad echo. This was almost eliminated when I put a bookshelf on the rear wall. With less echo I could hear more music and every piece of equipment I listened to in the room sounded better too.

Rugs and carpeting can help make rooms sound better too, as can strategically placed pieces of furniture. 

On the video side of things, your room is important too, and while it's pretty obvious that a projector won't work too well if you don’t turn the lights down, there are other factors that you may not have thought of.

The wall opposite your TV that your expensive interior decorator said you just have to paint bright orange (it will bring an earthy feel and tone into your room daaahling) will reflect off your TV screen and make every one on screen look a little sickly, and a green wall definitely will. Well, you can use your imagination.

No matter what technology is used in a TV, you will always get a better on-screen image, not to mention contrast but this is a matter for another column altogether.

While I'm not advocating that everyone should have dedicated sound rooms or cinemas in their homes, this would be silly. The point I am trying to make is that if audio and video reproduction is important to you, there are some compromises that you can make that won't destroy your décor but that will make your home entertainment experience a more enjoyable one. 

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