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Speaker choices for a reflective, large room

HooStat

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I would like to get some input on ways to maximize the sound quality, and dialog intelligibility in particular, in our family room. This is really a speaker question because we can't move the listening position (against the wall) or use anything on the walls. So, room treatment, to the extent it might help, is just out of the question. Hence, I am asking for input on the type of speakers we should get. This is primarily for movies and TV.

Room is about 20' x 30' and is completely open on one end (it becomes the kitchen which is similarly sized). It is very open. Vaulted ceiling is painted wood, and varies from 8' to 11'. Walls are either glass or drywall. So, the sound needs to be loud because the space is big, which exacerbates the reflections. We don't actually like it loud, but the louder it is, the easier it is to hear the dialog clearly. See picture attached. Couch is against the wall (and can't be moved).

Currently, using Anthem ARC, the frequency response seems respectable to me (see attached). This is with 1 sub and 2 KEF Q300 speakers, and a KEF Q100 speaker as a center channel (not shown in photo). These are holdovers and will be sold or used elsewhere. The center was a way to test to see if a dedicated center might be an improvement. It was, but not by much. A few thoughts on approaches that we could consider:

1. Cardiod speakers like Dutch and Dutch 8C and go 2-channel with phantom center. The thinking here is minimizing the room reflections with more focused sound.
2. Wide dispersion stereo speakers like Revel 328Be (or similarly wide dispersion speakers). The thinking is that if the reflections are uniform, it will be easier to hear.
3. Focus on a high quality center channel (e.g., Revel 428Be) and some relatively less expensive Revel towers plus a sub (or two). The thinking here is that a single, excellent center channel will focus the direct sound on the listening position and we will have less to worry about in terms of reflections.

Any thoughts would be appreciated.
IMG_1806.jpg
 

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Inner Space

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That's a really nice room. I can see why you don't want to mess with it, in terms of treatment. But honestly, you really need to do one little thing - put a rug on the wall behind the sofa. It could match the floor rug. Would that ruin the look?

Then you need narrow dispersion speakers, toed in quite hard, to cross a little in front of the sofa. Prominent midrange and lower treble will help vocal articulation. Some peakiness there will help more than hurt. Ability to form a strong center image will tie the dialog to the screen. Decent SPL capability and low distortion at everyday levels will give a sense of security and intelligibility.

So what speaker? I'll get killed for saying this on ASR ... but, based on hard-won practical experience, for your situation ... Klipsch Heresy IVs.
 

GimeDsp

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I've never heard the Dutch and Dutch 8C but if that is how your room is set up then you have major issues.

A cardioid speaker or a speaker with narrow directivity can help

An MTM would also help control vertical dispersion.
https://www.audioholics.com/bookshelf-speaker-reviews/arendal-1723

https://shop.atlantictechnology.com/collections/8600e-flagship-system
https://rbhsound.com/statusacoustics/8t.php

I have a couple sound systems from Atlantic Tech. One is MTM and one is not. I have used both in a wood floor/clay walls, concrete fireplace family room. The MTM system was much easier to understand vocals but didn't sound as good for music. I am using the non MTM and it's hard to hear/understand speech.

You will find this trade off in such a room.
 
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HooStat

HooStat

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Would that ruin the look?
I agree 100%. But it won't happen. I feel better knowing I am not the only one who thinks that way. Maybe in a couple of years. We do have a piece of art on the wall, but it isn't very absorptive.
 
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HooStat

HooStat

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I've never heard the Dutch and Dutch 8C but if that is how your room is set up then you have major issues.

A cardioid speaker or a speaker with narrow directivity can help

An MTM would also help control vertical dispersion.
https://www.audioholics.com/bookshelf-speaker-reviews/arendal-1723

https://shop.atlantictechnology.com/collections/8600e-flagship-system
https://rbhsound.com/statusacoustics/8t.php

I have a couple sound systems from Atlantic Tech. One is MTM and one is not. I have used both in a wood floor/clay walls, concrete fireplace family room. The MTM system was much easier to understand vocals but didn't sound as good for music. I am using the non MTM and it's hard to hear/understand speech.

You will find this trade off in such a room.
Interesting. Something with a ribbon tweeter might also fit the bill. I do like the Arendal speakers though. I was worried about the horizontal dispersion being limited, but maybe I need to rethink that. 3 of those (LCR) would fit nicely and would be much more cost-effective.
 

GimeDsp

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A Horizontal MTM almost always has a narrow sweet spot, like 1 seating position. I've had "nested" MTM and they have a bad sound IMO.
I believe the Revel, infinity and other better measuring center channels have the tweeter and mid vertical and woofer on either side, which may or may not fix some of your issues

I am not a big fan of ribbon speakers but they do on paper at least seem to solve some of the issues.

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...coustics-horizon-center-speaker-review.15199/

LOL, the cheapest way to fix it is turn on subtitles.
 

LTig

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Moving the couch just about 10 cm or a little more away from the back wall could improve intelligibility. Try it by sitting on it as it is and then move your head forward.
 

Snarfie

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I would like to get some input on ways to maximize the sound quality, and dialog intelligibility in particular, in our family room. This is really a speaker question because we can't move the listening position (against the wall) or use anything on the walls. So, room treatment, to the extent it might help, is just out of the question. Hence, I am asking for input on the type of speakers we should get. This is primarily for movies and TV.

Room is about 20' x 30' and is completely open on one end (it becomes the kitchen which is similarly sized). It is very open. Vaulted ceiling is painted wood, and varies from 8' to 11'. Walls are either glass or drywall. So, the sound needs to be loud because the space is big, which exacerbates the reflections. We don't actually like it loud, but the louder it is, the easier it is to hear the dialog clearly. See picture attached. Couch is against the wall (and can't be moved).

Currently, using Anthem ARC, the frequency response seems respectable to me (see attached). This is with 1 sub and 2 KEF Q300 speakers, and a KEF Q100 speaker as a center channel (not shown in photo). These are holdovers and will be sold or used elsewhere. The center was a way to test to see if a dedicated center might be an improvement. It was, but not by much. A few thoughts on approaches that we could consider:

1. Cardiod speakers like Dutch and Dutch 8C and go 2-channel with phantom center. The thinking here is minimizing the room reflections with more focused sound.
2. Wide dispersion stereo speakers like Revel 328Be (or similarly wide dispersion speakers). The thinking is that if the reflections are uniform, it will be easier to hear.
3. Focus on a high quality center channel (e.g., Revel 428Be) and some relatively less expensive Revel towers plus a sub (or two). The thinking here is that a single, excellent center channel will focus the direct sound on the listening position and we will have less to worry about in terms of reflections.

Any thoughts would be appreciated. View attachment 153603
Curious what did ARC for the sound so in % improvement.
 

Duke

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I would like to get some input on ways to maximize the sound quality, and dialog intelligibility in particular, in our family room. This is really a speaker question because we can't move the listening position (against the wall) or use anything on the walls. So, room treatment, to the extent it might help, is just out of the question. Hence, I am asking for input on the type of speakers we should get.

Let me start with a few imo relevant points made by acoustics and psychoacoustics researcher David Griesinger:

"The goal of the ear/brain is to extract meaningful sound objects from a confusing acoustic field. To the brain reverberation is a form of noise. Where possible the brain stem separates direct sound from reverberation, forming two distinct sound streams: foreground and background."

“If you want to communicate with sound, you need to make the direct sound distinctly audible.”

"The earlier a reflection arrives the more it contributes to masking the direct sound."

"Transients are not corrupted by reflections if the room is large enough - and 10ms of reflections free time is enough." (Ten milliseconds of reflection-free time is long enough for the ear to separate the direct from the reflected sound down to 700 Hz, according to Earl Geddes.)

Imo the above quotes point towards maximizing the direct-to-reverberant sound ratio, which implies narrow-pattern speakers. The next (long) quote will indicate that frequencies north of 500 Hz are the most important for speech, which implies that a narrow (and ideally uniform) radiation pattern down to 500 Hz would be great, but that below 500 Hz the radiation pattern doesn't matter as much:

"It is well known that the information content of speech is (almost) entirely in frequencies above 500Hz. For all people, even children, this means that information – at least the identity of vowels – is encoded in amplitude modulations of harmonics of a lower frequency tone... harmonics have a unique property – they combine to make sharp peaks in the acoustic pressure at the frequency of the fundamental frequency that created them... The sharp peaks also facilitate separating the signals from noise, and with the appropriate neural network the peaks from one sound source can be separated from another.

"These peaks only exist when the incoming signal consists of a tone with a definite pitch and lots of upper harmonics. Furthermore, the peaks only exist when there are two or more harmonics at the same time within one critical band." [emphasis Duke's]

The part that I bolded above, about the peaks which exist when the harmonics arrive at the same time, imo implies that a speaker which is time-coherent north of 500 Hz or so is likely to be superior from an intelligibility standpoint. (Floyd Toole did not find phase coherence [and therefore presumably time coherence, which is much more elusive] to contribute to sound quality, therefore my interpretation of Griesinger here is apparently at odds with Toole's position.)

So imo here are four characteristics we'd like:

1. High direct-to-reverberant sound ratio at the listening positions;

2. Minimal reflections arriving within the first 10 milliseconds (Toole and Griesinger both consider reflections in the vertical plane to be relatively benign, so this is mostly about lateral reflections);

3. The reflections should have approximately the same spectral balance as the first-arrival sound; and

4. Time coherence north of 500 Hz is arguably desirable.

Imo the Dutch & Dutch 8c and JBL M2 are two strong candidates (even if you have early reflections off the wall behind you). But I wanted to post the Griesinger quotes because they offer a basis for evaluating these and other candidate loudspeakers. A speaker with a bit narrower pattern than either, perhaps in a two-way with a bit lower crossover point than either, might also be a candidate, IF it is as free from colorations and limitations as the 8c and M2.
 
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Frgirard

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I would like to get some input on ways to maximize the sound quality, and dialog intelligibility in particular, in our family room. This is really a speaker question because we can't move the listening position (against the wall) or use anything on the walls. So, room treatment, to the extent it might help, is just out of the question. Hence, I am asking for input on the type of speakers we should get. This is primarily for movies and TV.

Room is about 20' x 30' and is completely open on one end (it becomes the kitchen which is similarly sized). It is very open. Vaulted ceiling is painted wood, and varies from 8' to 11'. Walls are either glass or drywall. So, the sound needs to be loud because the space is big, which exacerbates the reflections. We don't actually like it loud, but the louder it is, the easier it is to hear the dialog clearly. See picture attached. Couch is against the wall (and can't be moved).

Currently, using Anthem ARC, the frequency response seems respectable to me (see attached). This is with 1 sub and 2 KEF Q300 speakers, and a KEF Q100 speaker as a center channel (not shown in photo). These are holdovers and will be sold or used elsewhere. The center was a way to test to see if a dedicated center might be an improvement. It was, but not by much. A few thoughts on approaches that we could consider:

1. Cardiod speakers like Dutch and Dutch 8C and go 2-channel with phantom center. The thinking here is minimizing the room reflections with more focused sound.
2. Wide dispersion stereo speakers like Revel 328Be (or similarly wide dispersion speakers). The thinking is that if the reflections are uniform, it will be easier to hear.
3. Focus on a high quality center channel (e.g., Revel 428Be) and some relatively less expensive Revel towers plus a sub (or two). The thinking here is that a single, excellent center channel will focus the direct sound on the listening position and we will have less to worry about in terms of reflections.

Any thoughts would be appreciated. View attachment 153603
The cardioid is dedicated to tame the sbir occured by the distance between the front wall and the speakers.
Dutch wrote the cardioid doesn't works under 100Hz.
 
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HooStat

HooStat

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Curious what did ARC for the sound so in % improvement.
ARC was good in that it allowed me to integrate my subwoofer better, at a higher crossover point. I am not doing any modifications above about 500 Hz other than a bit of shelving.
 
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HooStat

HooStat

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Moving the couch just about 10 cm or a little more away from the back wall could improve intelligibility.
Yes. This helps a bit. But moving several feet closer really makes a big difference.
 
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HooStat

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Let me start with a few imo relevant points made by acoustics and psychoacoustics researcher David Griesinger:

"The goal of the ear/brain is to extract meaningful sound objects from a confusing acoustic field. To the brain reverberation is a form of noise. Where possible the brain stem separates direct sound from reverberation, forming two distinct sound streams: foreground and background."

“If you want to communicate with sound, you need to make the direct sound distinctly audible.”

"The earlier a reflection arrives the more it contributes to masking the direct sound."

"Transients are not corrupted by reflections if the room is large enough - and 10ms of reflections free time is enough." (Ten milliseconds of reflection-free time is long enough for the ear to separate the direct from the reflected sound down to 700 Hz, according to Earl Geddes.)

Imo the above quotes point towards maximizing the direct-to-reverberant sound ratio, which implies narrow-pattern speakers. The next (long) quote will indicate that frequencies north of 500 Hz are the most important for speech, which implies that a narrow (and ideally uniform) radiation pattern down to 500 Hz would be great, but that below 500 Hz the radiation pattern doesn't matter as much:

"It is well known that the information content of speech is (almost) entirely in frequencies above 500Hz. For all people, even children, this means that information – at least the identity of vowels – is encoded in amplitude modulations of harmonics of a lower frequency tone... harmonics have a unique property – they combine to make sharp peaks in the acoustic pressure at the frequency of the fundamental frequency that created them... The sharp peaks also facilitate separating the signals from noise, and with the appropriate neural network the peaks from one sound source can be separated from another.

"These peaks only exist when the incoming signal consists of a tone with a definite pitch and lots of upper harmonics. Furthermore, the peaks only exist when there are two or more harmonics at the same time within one critical band." [emphasis Duke's]

The part that I bolded above, about the peaks which exist when the harmonics arrive at the same time, imo implies that a speaker which is time-coherent north of 500 Hz or so is likely to be superior from an intelligibility standpoint. (Floyd Toole did not find phase coherence [and therefore presumably time coherence, which is even more elusive] to contribute to sound quality, therefore my interpretation of Griesinger here is apparently at odds with Toole's position.)

So imo here are four characteristics we'd like:

1. High direct-to-reverberant sound ratio at the listening positions;

2. Minimal reflections arriving within the first 10 milliseconds (Toole and Griesinger both consider reflections in the vertical plane to be relatively benign, so this is mostly about lateral reflections);

3. The reflections should have approximately the same spectral balance as the first-arrival sound; and

4. Time coherence north of 500 Hz is arguably desirable.

Imo the Dutch & Dutch 8c and JBL M2 are two strong candidates (even if you have early reflections off the wall behind you). But I wanted to post the Griesinger quotes because they offer a basis for evaluating these and other candidate loudspeakers. A speaker with a bit narrower pattern than either, perhaps in a two-way with a bit lower crossover point than either, might also be a candidate, IF it is as free from colorations and limitations as the 8c and M2.
Thanks @Duke. This is what I was hoping someone might be able to parse for me. It is very helpful.

Lateral reflections from the side walls shouldn't be a problem because one side essentially has no side wall. And on the other side, the glass doors are far enough away (11' to closest edge of sofa) that I believe we should have more than 10 ms (the reflected sound would have traveled > 22' on that side).

If vertical reflections are not generally problematic, then that leaves the reflections from the back. That leaves problems behind the listening position as a major issue. Which can't readily be solved as things currently stand.

It seems that these speakers are just completely inappropriate. Bookshelf speakers with wide dispersion have a low direct to reflected sound ratio. And they are getting pushed harder than they should be in such a large room. They were never intended to be the solution for the room, and now it is time to replace them with the right equipment.

It sounds like most people are agreeing with narrow dispersion speakers, so I will look into some of those options.
 

RayDunzl

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I'd happily slip my Martin Logans in there.

Not mine:

1631802033884.png
 

RayDunzl

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I have never considered electrostatic speakers. Would those have narrow dispersion? Or limited vertical dispersion?

Both.

Red, JBL LSR 308 - wide controlled dispersion
Black Martin Logan reQuest - narrow dispersion dipole

Both with AcourateDRC feeding a miniDSP OpenDRC-DI with a "flat" frequency target.


Splash off the walls as it affects un-smoothed micro-frequency response

1631803439895.png


Imaging is smeared on the JBL, very focused on the ML.

No specific wall treatments.



Splash off the walls as it affects extended Impulse response

Black - 7ms, the wall behind the ML, 29ms, room length bounce back toward listener.
Red - JBL, never tried to figure out where all that comes from.

1631804356369.png


My own interpretation, of course.
 
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HooStat

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@RayDunzl thank you for a great suggestion. Their center channels seem to be more of a hybrid AMT + electrostatic design. I wonder if those would perform as well. But maybe just a phantom center would be fine too. I did that for years without much of a problem.
 

Hipper

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Electrostats are called bipole speakers because they throw out sounds equally forwards and backwards. They are said to disperse more narrowly though.

Whatever speakers you consider it's a must that you try them in your home.

If (and I would check this to be certain) reflections off the side walls aren't a problem then getting speakers with a narrow horizontal dispersion is not necessary, and if reflections off the floor and ceiling also aren't problematic then there's no need to worry about vertical dispersion either.

I would have thought there must be some EQ/DSP method to enhance dialog intelligibility whilst watching TV. If your Anthem has such facilities I'd try that before looking for other speakers.

As you get older some modern films and TV programmes become harder to understand. In part it might be because they try to cram so many side effects in or the 'background' music is too loud. It's a fault of their production and a lack of consideration for older people or the home audience.
 

RayDunzl

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But maybe just a phantom center would be fine too.

Sit in or near the sweet spot and the center is in your face.

Sit away from the sweet spot... it varies as it should with any speaker.

Seven measures across the couch:

Green, left of center, Black, center, Orange, right of center, 1/6 smoothing

1631804870659.png


When Audio Buddy comes over, we both sit on the couch and enjoy the playback just fine.
 
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