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University of Massachusetts-Lowell - February 13, 2013

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Summary

For this meeting, we had the pleasure of hosting UML SRT alumnus Lou Clark. After graduation, Lou took the direction of architectural acoustics and formed his own company Sonic Space, which specializes in the design and construction of rooms with specific acoustical considerations. He also participated in the major studio redesign and renovation that occurred at UML in the past decade by drafting much of the design.

Lou also presented a topic that is as relevant to his work as it is to students; creating listening spaces in small rooms. Most students do not have the opportunity to restructure an existing room in their home, and often rely on their bedroom to work on projects where critical listening is required. Lou described how to achieve the best results using temporary, reasonably priced solutions; but not without describing the limits. Every room has its problems, including its inherent room modes, non-ideal surfaces, and possible asymmetry. While one may never create an ideal, flat listening environment, it is possible to make enormous improvements.

Assuming an accurate set of monitors, Lou described that it is possible to create a listening position with good stereo imaging, decay time, and level of frequencies from the low mids upwards. However, most problems with bass in the first couple octaves will prove unsolvable without major reconstruction.

To achieve the most out of one's room, Lou described the importance of prioritizing possible solutions, starting with the most important changes. These include speaker and listener position, based on speaker/boundary interference and modal considerations. Setting up a room with these considerations will play a massive role in the monitoring accuracy, and is the best starting point. Once the best result is achieved, he advises that room treatment is the next best step. This includes bass control traps, early reflection absorption, and room diffusion. Lou describes common practices and how one can choose the right option for their room. Done properly, this step will massively improve a room's performance. The final step to improving a room is adding equalization to the monitoring system, post mix/master bus of course. Lou advises that not only is this step optional, but should only be implicated when the limits of placement and treatment have been reached. If used, the EQ curve should be very minor and dovetail with the existing response of the room at lower frequencies.

We'd like to thank Lou Clark for his presentation, which absolutely increased our acoustics literacy while giving us the opportunity to immediately improve our own listening spaces.

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AES - Audio Engineering Society