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In a couple of month I'll be building my own house. As a two channel purist, I'm torn between my audiophilia and nomal tendencies in either designing a dedicate audio-room versus integrating the listening space into the general living areas in some contemporary/ultra modern sort of way (inspired by some of the architectural designs I've seen which are probably not very acoustically sound. Obviously this is a very personal decision, but I'd like to hear some general views.
Given a choice, which way would you go and why?
if I were single and building my own house I would definitely build a home E room for audio and maybe HT also.
...As some of you have noted, this will be in Singapore where space and construction goes for a significant premium unfortunately. That said, bottom line is that I would probably regret not having built the dedicated space where I can tweak to my audiophile heart's content ;)
That means BOTH it'll have to be (I'll just have to figure out how to make the cost & limited space work).
You have the chance to do it now so do it! Having a dedicated room allows you to set it up optimally for sound. No WAF acceptance issues in the future. No worrying about your young kids accidently destroying your expensive equipment. You won't have to give up listening when the family arrives.
You can always have cheaper monitors or in wall speakers for casual listening in the rest of the house.
Having a dedicated room allows you to decorate the rest of the house in a way that is more woman friendly. It does amazing wonders when you bring a date home. She sees a guy with taste instead of a quack with monster speakers and cables lying on the floor.
Although a 2-channel only room is very nice, you can integrate both and not make very serious compromises if you have the space.
On problem with home theaters is that folks want really nice and big wide screens. This is a good thing. But it's not the best if the screen is forcing you to put your front/main speakers excessively far apart. I found this to be the case in my last residence where we did both in one room.
I even thought about AUTOMATED custom stands with tracks to move the speakers between HT and Audio positions.
The "centered listening chair" should not be an issue. You can put a listening chair in the sweet spot, and angle two love seats towards the screen on either side of the chair. Even with tiered seating, you can always go with a "two aisle" approach to have a center chair or ever TWO center chairs that are tiered as well (This is neat when two people who need to be in the center to listen to music are listening at once. I call it '2-channel bobsled seating') Do it all the time witht he girlfriend. She sits in the audio chair, and I sit in a computer chair raised up so I am higher than her. Not optimum, but we like it. We're enjoying music together and getting a symmetrical presentation at the same time.
If you HAVE a decent sized extra room - I say go for it. But some people can't afford to use two rooms for entertainment (2-channel + HT). Bedrooms often get used for guest room, offices, excersize or storage rooms and having two rooms for entertainment is just not realistic, especially in places where housing costs are through the roof and even big dollar places are getting smaller and smaller.
I think room size and ceiling height is a big factor, and it's also about balancing other life priorities with your hobby.
My $.02? You can make a "combo" room that serves both functions and does both WELL! But it does take some sneaky planning and design.
Not only will you have a room you can build with acoustics and room setup in mind, but if you sound proof the walls and located it strategically significant other won't be annoyed when you listen. I would also suggest using an acoustical consultant such as Rives Audio for the design.
...I'm a two-channel man even for film and video, plus I found a cheap and easy solution to getting my screen out of the way. The room itself is 31' x 14.5', plenty large for either purpose.
If you end up with two rooms, try to find a way to push music from the dedicated room to the integrated room. I use a 2 speaker capable receiver connected to the tape out of my integrated to send source material to two other rooms, and use a Niles volume control to allow for different volume levels in those two rooms. Creates a very nice ambiance of music throughout the house and outdoors!
Sometimes having a small room for reading/listening is nice. Back in the 80's open floor plans were the thing to do, but now many folks find that sometimes you need some privacy. My new home has a small away room for music on the main floor 75' from the master bedroom. My wife can sleep and I can stay up and listen.
...the dedicated room will offer you a unique opportunity to design and treat your room for optimal sound quality. Do it. You may not get the opportunity again.
If you do it right, it will be nearly soundproof so your family can be in the adjacent room watching TV while you blast the music and neither will interfere with the other.
It will become a focal point for entertainment as most of guests will want to hear your system there.
And it will enhance the value of your house as a 'media room' where the next owner may install a home theater system.
But, since you can't spend all of time in there, you need a kitchen/eating area/family room that flows together so the smaller system you put in your family room (perhaps a receiver and speakers to go with your TV) can entertain you while you are with your friends or family.
That's having your cake and eating it, too.
First a lot of good answers and I'll join the crowd and say if you have a chance for a dedicated space, do it. Where else could you do the tweaks and room treatments to make the sound as good as possible?
I'd get a smaller second system for the living room, that's where you'll do a lot of listening with friends, plus the important social background or "while cooking" listening.
I have something similar, a CD simple system upstairs and a SET single driver vinyl based system downstairs. I still have kids so I have not been able to optimize a semi-private areas, but some day....
In any event, for me the bottom line is there is only one way to get the best system performance and the best social performance? A dedicated room and a socially oriented 'lil-system. That's the one to wreck with a big TV in the middle.
One other point that you did not mention, if you do have audiophile friends, they'd prefer bunching up in the dedicated room. If you ever plan to have a wife (or feel like practicing)
she'd prefer not to be surrounded by Stonehenge or the Crypt Keeper's coffins - so do both!
This is my third house offering that flexibility. Wife can watch the HT while I zone out on music. Allows optimum speaker (eight feet out from back wall) / couch placement and eliminates worry about kids tripping over speaker and power cabling. I wouldn't want forest of bass traps in living room.
Separate HT system can always provide background music.
Since you're building from scratch, why not build a solid, well-braced double wall and dedicate the inside volume to subwoofers and/or horns? You would be able to optimize the volume of the enclosure required for really deep subwoofers and hide the size of really large horns. With mini-monitors you would be free to place them in the optimum position in your dedicated or integrated rooms (I vote for both!)
I think you are only allowed one wife, even in Singapore. ;-)
..."The 1961 Women's Charter gives women, among other rights, the right to own property, conduct trade, and receive divorce settlements. Muslim women enjoy most of the rights and protections of the Women's Charter; however, for the most part, Muslim marriage law falls under the administration of the Muslim Law Act, which empowers the Shari'a court to oversee such matters. The act also allows Muslim men to practice polygamy. Requests to take additional wives may be refused by the Registry of Muslim Marriages, which solicits the views of existing wives and reviews the financial capability of the husband. From 2003 to 2005, there were 142 applications for polygamous marriage, and 50 applications were approved."
I admire the purity of purpose in a dedicated room, but by having it integrated I actually find myself listening more.
It would be a good idea to do the dedicated listening room thing. You can always use a spare bedroom as a listening room and move the speakers out of the way on the occasions when you have guests.
Get a dedicated 2 channel room and have fun before real responsibility, WAF and kids guide your priorities.
In your situation, where you're currently living on your own, you have a lot more flexibility and choice than those of us with significant others (and progeny). You don't have to consider any potential conflicts in preference (audio vs movie, musical taste, etc.)
What you probably will need to consider is more to do with when you entertain at home and the differing needs between when you do entertain and when you're on your own and doing your own thing.
Which brings me the two major categories of audio usage:
1) Active listening - focused attention on the music being played with no distractions
2) Passive listening - where some other activity (eg reading, cooking, eating, entertaining, etc) is the primary focus and the music is secondary
Another way of differentiating between these two categories:
a) Foreground Music
b) Background Music
If you have a fair balance between these two categories, the choice becomes a bit more difficult, but if the balance is not that equal, then:
a) Predominant focus = Foreground Music -> Dedicated Environment
b) Predominant focus - Background Music -> Integrated Environment
The rationale behind this based on some mandatory trade-off situations when electing to go with an Integrated Environment:
- aesthetics vs ideal sonics
- conversation-enabling vs speaker-centric (room orientation)
- serving-space vs music-storage space
Where total space-availability is a key factor, then the dedicated space can tend to be too small to be ideal, and an integrated space makes more sense - particularly as a single living alone.
So, assuming that total space is NOT a constraint, I would shoot for the dedicated space for a main system (to support the "2-Channel Purist Mode") and then look at alternatives around how best to provide "Background Music" in the rest of the house.
Mention has been made of "wiring during the build" to provide multi-room and this is the best time to do it - if wired connections were the only option. What we are beginning to see emerge from various manufacturers are solutions to providing multi-room audio WITHOUT the need for purpose-installed wiring:
a) True "wireless" "music servers" with RF links to "music clients" such as those from Arcam and Yamaha
b) Systems that use the mains power circuit in the house as a "carrier" for both audio and system control links such as the recent release from Marantz
For a "Background Music" application, when the priorities are more biased towards convenience and remote-controllability, the option of using a wireless music server (usually with a large hard disk holding up to 200+ hours of uncompressed music) and multiple clients positioned in those rooms where indicated, you get the right balance.
The beauty of non-wired solutions is that you also get to take it all with you when you move.
So, to answer your question "Given a choice, which way would you go and why?":
I would create a dedicated 2-channel listening room for "Active Listening" to "Foreground Music" (nice and selfish approach) PLUS I'd go for a wireless music server with clients in lounge, dining area, patio/porch/deck, kitchen, bedroom(s) and bathroom to provide for "Passive Listening" to "Background Music".
This approach would permit you to retain the "purist" aspect, while providing for lifestyle support at the same time and in the same dwelling.
Of course, this all totally ignores any HT/AV aspect - something that is also best stuck away in it's own environment... :-)
My $0.02 worth...
There are plusses and minuses to both. I've got a 2 channel system in a dedicated space and a 5.1 channel HT system built around an LCD TV in the general 'family room'. The HT system is a relatively new addition. There are advantages and disadvantages to both.
A dedicated space gives you total freedom about where you place things and that makes a big difference. If the space isn't dedicated, then the other uses the space is put to and, in a modern open plan space, where the traffic areas are can impose major restrictions on where things go. Where things go is important. A dedicated space is also easier to treat acoustically, and that can make a huge difference. There are ways of introducing acoustic treatments that aren't visually intrusive into a non-dedicated space but they usually aren't anywhere near as effective as what you can achieve in a dedicated space.
On the other hand, having things in a non-dedicated space tends to help integrate the listening activity into the normal daily activities of the house while having a dedicated space tends to compartmentalise listening.
In the end, I think it boils down to a matter of personal preferences and priorities, plus a certain amount of practicality concerning just how much space you have and whether or not you can devote some to a dedicated room. I only achieved mine when we shifted into a larger house after I retired (not the usual sort of pre-retirement move, I have to admit). Up until then, the audio system was always in the living room.
What counts is what works best for you in the accommodation you occupy. Dedicated rooms can be very nice but they're hardly essential. Great sound is very nice, but it also isn't essential for musical enjoyment as I prove every time I listen to music on my car radio. Yoo can get quite good quality sound in a non-dedicated space if you work with the space. You can do a little better in terms of sound quality in a dedicated room but a dedicated room isn't necessary to enjoy listening to music at home. One could even mount a very utilitarian argument that the things a dedicated room is most useful for are keeping the gear safe from the prying fingers of children and providing the adults in the house with a place to escape to every now and then.
have a more or less* dedicated room where I've been able to (1) determine how much and what kind of furniture to include in it, (2) optimize speaker and listening chair placement, and (3) configure the room's acoustic profile within budget and pre-existing construction constraints without having to worry about esthetics or any other extraneous consideration.
My experience in playing with the room and acoustic treatment placement (another advantage of having a dedicated space--you can experiment 'til you get it just right) confirms what many already know, that the room itself is as important a factor in system performance as the quality and synergy of the playback equipment. So if you're a serious listener and want to maximize the value of your audio investment, a dedicated room would seem to be the way to go. (It's also a way to have fun when you watch visitors wonder where you've hidden the rest of what they think is your multichannel setup.)
* I've had to include storage for books and a desk for a computer.
I had an integrated setup for four homes. What I have learned is that my family loves movies and the tv, and is not interested in listening to music. So we have a separate home theater setup and I have a dedicated two channel room. For times when we are playing games, eating, or entertaining, we can play music on the home theater system in the family room using the Directv music channels, CDs in the DVD player, or if you have an iPod you could use an input for that.
If you really love music this is the way to go.
If you're seriously into two channel, make sure you have a dedicated room in the house or else you'll pine for it like hell when you do have a kid. The kid will take naps and sleep early so make sure that room is as soundproof as possible. That room will be your santuary. Now that you're single, take advantage of having no one else around telling and dictating what you can or can not do with your space. Go all out. Have fun.
One of our priorities when we were shopping for a house was a room big enough for my surround system. As it turned out we finally bit the bullet and took out two load bearing walls... (Here's a brief report: http://www.audioasylum.com/forums/hirez/messages/224992.html )
It's great having the room just be a part of the living space, we can listen while we work at the computer desk, play the piano, sit by the fire, walk on the treadmill, etc. We also have a beanbag on the right side where we can enjoy each other as we listen or watch TV...
Do as your experience tells you with the dedicated 2 channel system but for "whole home" or "house system" you can do the pre-wire and plant ceiling speakers in various rooms with the equipment running them hid away in an equipment closet, with volume control for each room or 'zone'. The back patio or outdoor area can also benefit from some speakers.
Seem these days if you do it yourself with the "house system", you can get by at about a dollar per square foot, wire and speakers. Their are many devices on the market which you can use to run several pairs of speakers off of a simple stereo receiver or intergrated amplifier.
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