We’ve been focusing on the importance of the room to a stereo system over the past couple of days. Let’s dive a little deeper.
Nelson Pass designed an interesting product called the Shadow a while ago. It was an active bass correction device that made sense – because instead of correcting the output of the speakers for bass problems in the room – it fixed the room itself and left the main speakers alone. Not sure whatever happend to it but it mirrors an idea I’ve had for years: fixing the room has to be better than fixing the output of the speakers with what’s incorrectly referred to as “active room correction” (because it doesn’t actually correct the room).
“Active room correction” through DSP is really something of a can of worms. This technique basically changes what comes out of your loudspeakers to correct for problems of the room. So, for example, you have too much bass at your listening position because of the room – so the DSP reduces how much bass your loudspeakers generate to compensate. While this works I think it’s wrong headed because it is fixing a symptom instead of the problem.
Imagine something entirely different for a moment: instead of correcting what comes out of your speakers, correct what the room is doing by adding a series of wall-hugging modules around the room – one on each wall. These modules are somewhat like Nelson’s idea only full range and much more powerful – each with a microphone, amplifier, DSP and loudspeaker “listening” to what’s around them and eliminating the room according to the user’s instructions. Designed properly you could walk into any room and change the perceived dimensions and acoustics of that room with the touch of a button. You could make a large hall for one type of recording and a small and intimate one for another.
I know this is totally whacky, only for Audiophiles, unfriendly to wives, small children and dogs. But I can dream can’t I?
I picture being at a consumer audio show with a group of people sitting in the room. I ask everyone in the room to close their eyes and “feel” the space they are in as I talk. Then I touch a button on my remote activating the modules and ask “ok what size room am I in now?” The room just grew to huge – those sitting in the audience are now in a large hall, or a small one, or perhaps even “outside”. The important feature here is the audience is IN the room. The main loudspeakers or even a live group playing in the room sound completely different BECAUSE of the room.
Perhaps some young designer out there will have a lightbulb go off after reading this. I’d be his first customer.