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Global feedback: lounge room or listening room – or both?

The DARhaus’ main listening room is nearing completion. A pair of passive KEF LS50 in dashing Racing Red have been returned to the top of the white Atacama Nexus 6 loudspeaker stands and a full suite of PS Audio electronics is now in situ along the side wall. Too bulky/heavy for Hifi Racks’ Podium Slimline shelves, the BHK Signature 300 monoblocking duo sit to the left on an IKEA Aptitlig chopping block.

In the rack itself, PS Audio’s BHK Signature pre-amplifier and their DirectStream DAC, complete with Roon Ready Network Bridge II. Ready for digital audio front-end rotation is the Aqua La Scala MKII/Optologic fed by the Roon Ready Sonore microRendu and lassoed via USB with a Curious cable. Everywhere else, a full suite of AudioQuest wire joins the dots: Carbon Ethernet cable, Rocket 88 loudspeaker cable, Yukon interconnects and NRG-X2/3 power cables.

A whole bunch of other gear is scattered tidily around this one bedroom apartment in Berlin’s central district of Mitte. The Instagram snaps below show only works in progress. Proper photos will follow once everything is in its right place. Everythiiiiiiing….

Lining the wooden floor, a trio of LOBBÄK rugs from IKEA. Up on the front wall, above an IKEA Kallax unit (4 x 2) that houses a quickly growing vinyl collection, sit a pair of EQ Acoustics 50L Spectrum Studio absorbers and a pair of the same company’s 50L low frequency absorbers. Amazon.de provided the cheap-ass foam bass traps that sit in each of the front walls’ corners. 3 x 50cm2 diffusers (to be strategically placed) are in the post.

Taking pride of place above the Pioneer PLX-500 turntable is David Bowie. Low was recorded forty years ago at Hansa Studios; a 15 minute walk from where I sit and listen to it. Mind you, the Pioneer ‘table is soon to be replaced by something $uperior.

However

The room treatments must be either discrete or reasonably attractive, the hardware well presented (and not strewn everywhere). Those cables need tidying. Why? Because this isn’t a dedicated listening room. This is my lounge room where I also watch TV, read books, entertain guests and sometimes sit in silence and do nothing. I don’t have the luxury of a dedicated listening room – defined here as a room that has no purpose other than music playback/listening – and I’m not sure I’d opt for one even if I lived in a larger apartment.

My desire to fit audio gear into my life – and not the other way around – is central to this website’s broader thinking. I hope this thinking also reflects that of the DAR readership but hey, ya never know until you ask, do ya?

Time for a poll:

Do you have a dedicated listening room?

  • No (81%, 390 Votes)
  • Yes (19%, 90 Votes)

Total Voters: 480

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Simple, huh?

As always, on-topic comments are welcome below. HINT: this one’s about the listening room itself.

Written by John H. Darko

John H. Darko

John is the editor of DAR, from whose ad revenues he derives an income. He is also an occasional contributor to 6moons and AudioStream and currently resides in Berlin, Germany.

Twitter: DarkoAudio
Instagram: DarkoAudio
Facebook: DAR

48 Comments

  1. Always a good read and I look forward to each instalment. Your logic is always sound and your apartment looks great. As you say – electronics are separating increasingly towards more growth of digital music closer to whatever a human wants it to be and where. Then the nice still exists and always will of hifi ‘porn’. Your Pagani Huayra of the HiFi world. We love both of course, but few can own both.

  2. The only dedicated listening space I have is inside the ear cups of my headphones. I wouldn’t want a single-purpose room (for any purpose), but I dream of having a family room that I have complete control of the size, shape, acoustic treatments, and speaker placement. Until then, I’m just thankful that my wife tolerates my gigantic Klipsch tower speakers without complaint.

  3. Hi John,

    As always a good read indeed. As I was looking at the picture of your ls50 I wanted to ask you the following question which is probably relevant for many potential buyers of the ls50 (passive or active):
    Do these speakers – combined with a subwoofer -reprisent a good match for a living/lounge room of 30/40 m2 or should we rather pick the white Elac floorstanders ?

    Best

    • I could live with either. But I’d probably go with the active LS50 as it’s app can assist with sub integration.

  4. Hi John

    Those nice carpets, are they IKEA too ?
    Is the PS AUDIO your reference system, or is it there for evaluating ?

  5. I answered yes: my dedicated Man Shed is nearly finished after 5 years building
    Size and proportions for music / dedicated power / Multi-functional space – music, joga etc

    My gear is Mac Mini / Audio Alchemy Pre/DAC, Amp and Power Supply / ancient Wilson Watt Puppy’s / Rel Sub
    My happy dilemma – Wilson Sabrina’s or Spatial M3’s plus microRendu plus new cables plus, plus, . .

    John – any chance you could get Robert at Mach One to lend you a pair Spatial M3 Turbo S with new oak or bamboo baffle to try and to review?

    Can’t wait for Spotify to offer lossless . . .

    DAR Haus looking good

      • Yes – For Europe and the UK in fact.
        And I am given to understand that Clayton Shaw and Robert Andorf have agreed to manufacture baffles and assemble the whole product, including the new wooden ones, locally in Germany.

      • Mach One also distributes Zu, Klipsch and Cabasse among others. Looking at the website Robert Andorf apparently has a faible for higher efficiency speakers und tubes. I recently got a pair of Zu Audio cubes from him and can say that service was good.

    • I have and i didn’t. I suppose one’s desire for a hideaway depends greatly on the significant other. 😉

      • Indeed! You can have a huge amount in common and a really great relationship, but not quite agree, consistently anyway, on sound-in-space. At times like those, a separate listening room can be really very handy…

  6. Voted no, open plan living spaces have their pro’s & con’s.

    What do think about those Elac’s in the second picture? I heard them briefly at the Bristol show and was pleasantly surprised.

    • Very nice sound indeed but a little more laid back than the KEFs. Of course, the ELAC go deeper.

  7. No, I don’t have a dedicated music room. Though we have the room to set one up, for me, music is a social activity, it’s a parallel activity to cooking, talking, reading, complete silence, quiet time with my wife or my adult children and the list goes on. So many dedicated rooms feel like such lonely pursuits.

  8. I have been working on and off on my listening room for about 8 months now. Will be complete in a month or two. Designed as a decoupled room – i.e. no sounds leave or enter the room. In reality it will be a refuge/oasis within the house. It will also house a TV. So, like your space, more of a multi-functional room for listening, watching, reading or just relaxing. My wife and daughter are also both looking forward to using the room once it’s finished.

  9. I also voted no. Out of practical necessity, I have jumped on the personal audio bandwagon for high end listening. My place has too much street noise, a noisy HVAC system that seems to run continuously, and a room and furniture layout that would defeat any effort to get good sonics.

  10. After a years of setting up a modest home office rig ( dac amp / tube headphone amp / powered monitors) and a medium priced common use open room set up with dedicated separates that includes a TV AND a decided room in the basement with higher end components and sound dampening, Ive come to the conclusion I’d much rather have my best foot forward with just a single system where I work, play and share. (messy desk and all) That way i’m always listening to my finest. ( and improving my finest)
    Second really important conclusion, for me, is I really don’t like basements, regardless of how much time my eyes are closed anyways. I need to like the room I’m in, so if i don’t, what’s the point. The partner issue for me is solved with headphones.

  11. That’s a big No – 4, good buddy! DARhaus is evolving into quite the audio oasis. I share your penchant for sleek, simple, and a clean open floor plan . Mind you, I wasn’t born with this innate aesthetic. I owe this and many other tastes for the finer things in life to my wife, Anya. The hobby, vocation, or religion (depending on your level indoctrination ;- *) we all share is an inwardly focused pursuit. Not that I don’t try to share this obsession for “the” sound with Anya. It just that to Anya iTunes sounds fine. And when I attempt to point out the differences, she tires of the conversation quickly. I think it’s easy for us Hifi Heads to forget that we live in a world where our major concerns are quite minor to the majority of people. They’ll appreciate the benefits when they become sensibly priced and available at your local department store. And truly, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. A big shout out to the wives, friends, family, and significant others of audiophiles! They put up with our obsession and don’t kick us to the curb – even though, we probably deserve it somethings. It’s a miracle they don’t become audio-phobes. But, as they say, “love is blind.” “All the better to hear you with, my dear.” Keep up the fanatically fantastic job your doing, John!

  12. The thing about dedicated listening spaces is dedicating the time to listen. For about 5 years, that meant in my car during 3 to 4 hours of commuting a day. Certainly not ideal and I continue to rediscover music I wrote off during that period which wasn’t well suited to the context.

    In between, I tried to find ways to fit music into my life in other ways. Our open plan home meant that TV won out 98% of the time.

    A couple of years ago, after a water leak caused the insurance company to replace my office furniture, I was able to set up a system in my redesigned home office. The floodgates opened and I find myself listening at home again. Is it a dedicated listening space? No. Does it give me hours of amazing sounds each day? Yes!

  13. I’m 100% with you that for greater relevance to our readers, it’s better to have ‘normal’ rooms which double as listening spaces. That’s what most of us must content with and work within. Purpose-designed rooms with massive in-ceiling absorptive panels, a forest of bass traps, dedicated power spurs and such are a perfectly valid goal for extreme hobbyists but if our reviews reflected results gotten from such spaces, how would our findings translate to regular rooms?

    A side benefit is that whatever equipment we review and set up, by din of its integration into our décor (or outright refusal to do so) is another reference point for potential shoppers. If it looks too dominating or fugly in your space, your photos tell the tale. If your room dimensions and interior style approximate a reader’s who must consider a significant other… he or she may think twice about pursuing that component regardless of sonics (mostly it’s speakers that are the cosmetic culprits). All of this is a very real aspect of potential ownership which magazines that don’t publish photos of gear in their reviewer’s’ personal spaces don’t cover.

    Anyhow, it’s why I’ve never pursued a dedicated listening room either. Also, my wife and I prefer more open floor plans where, say the kitchen, dining room and living room bleed one into the other. It gives the hifi a bigger space to unfold but also forces it to be domestically acceptable. Those are good constraints to work under, I think. Otherwise reviewing becomes even more of an ivory tower approach than it already has a tendency to…

    • Having recently moved house, my wife and I have been having a very similar conversation. We finally have a room large enough to let the music breathe and my mind has been whirring with as yet still unaffordable upgrade options.

      But we need to live in this room too. It’s intentionally ours, not mine. I want my wife and kids and guests to feel welcome and comfortable in this room, to share in my joy created by the combination of the room, the company, the music and the hifi. And if we decide to turn off the music so that we can watch tv or chat or read, I want to be in a room where everybody can continue to feel equally comfortable.

  14. I’m fortunate to have a small but dedicated listening room. It allowed me to put in extensive room treatment, which in my experience made a bigger difference in sound than any component upgrade.

  15. I now have a dedicated room and I love it. It allows me to install all the room treatment I need and arrange the seating for one purpose. A ridiculous luxury but one I have waited decades to enjoy. I share the house with a couple of teenagers who regularly take over the living room with their friends. I spend many evenings bouncing around Room having a huge amount of fun. Even better when I have friends over and we fight to fill the queue with our newest favorite tracks.

    • Under the speaker stands so that their spikes don’t scratch the floor through the rug. Under the amps because I like the look of it.

  16. Nice set up the way it looks. Balanced and tidy. My only caveat is to not indulge others too much in the looks department. If you have cables laying around, fine. If accommodations need be made for front wall placement, fine. Visitors should have to negotiate your place, not vice-versa.

    As much as I’m a clean freak, my set up takes second place to no one, so my cables look unruly and placement of gear is functional, not practical, and I don’t have a dedicated listening room. It works out fine. People are familiar with my affliction. 🙂

  17. I used to think I’d like a dedicated room, but the very idea suggests that music isn’t part of your ordinary life.
    I don’t mean endless streaming from somewhere which is essentially muzak and makes it difficult to listen when you want to and you have to stop the eternal sizzle of unwanted sound.
    I mean music in your life, where you live it, when you want it.

  18. Currently my setup is the Gallo A’diva in bedroom 40cm apart DSP’d with ambiophonics other due to room limitations. An ideal lounge/living room with audiophile system for me would be LS50 wireless, and DSP with ambiophonics so that I can place the speakers side-by-side below the TV and get wide soundstage.

  19. Lovely set up, thanks for sharing John. I voted no but really my living room is both.
    “and sometimes sit in silence and do nothing” I vote yes for that too.. 🙂

  20. Good hi-fi should be heard and not seen

    So I totally agree about audio gear fitting in with your life, not vice versa, hence my No vote.

    And it doesn’t have to mean compromise on quality, with manufacturers waking up to our needs now rather than plugging the old ‘you need separate boxes for everything’ philosophy (OK some manufacturers).

    In my case a Roon endpoint into a USB stick DAC into an integrated amp makes for a pretty compact system (RPi, Meridian Explorer 2, Ayre AX-7e since you ask)

    OK my speakers mess things up a bit (Harbeths C7s; sound great, look somewhat traditional and need a bit of room around them). But the supporting sub manages to avoid attention in the corner (the second REL model ever made and still sounding good).

  21. You mention that you watch TV in this room, which begs the question; do you integrate your TV/DVD/video streamer into this system, and if so, how? If not, do you just rely on the TV’s sound or do you have other components?

    • Right now I’m doing this: TV TOSLINK output –> iFi Nano iONE –> PS Audio BHK Pre. So yes, it’s integrated. I can’t abide the sound of the TV’s own speakers.

  22. I seem to remember many years back reading or being told that you shouldn’t have redundant speakers in a room whilst playing through another pair. Maybe a load of bull, as I only have one room that has a B&W MT50 + PV1 sub surround system across the the width (13ft) and a pair of ATC SCM40 actives firing down the length (20ft). ATCs are attached to PS Audio Signature Preamp and Directstream Dac also, fed by a Melco N1A. When the wife’s out I play my music very loud and have never heard any noises coming from the redundant B&Ws.

    Terry UK

    • Sure – this sounds like an idealist’s POV. All fine and dandy but not for me. That said, the ELACs were only situated off to one side for a day or so until they were relocated upstairs. The LS50 Wireless remain in the lounge room, sat way up high on a shelf.

  23. My “listening room” at the moment is really just my headspace, since I’m headphone only right now. If I do go back to speakers one day, it’ll probably be in my home office, simply because the space where I spend most of my time at home these days is (sadly) behind the computer. My partner would probably be okay with a dedicated listening room of some sort, but we’re rather content with our small studio living space right now (easier upkeep) so it’s not really a bridge I’m planning to cross at the moment. I like that art covered by potted plant aesthetic you’ve got going there. Resonates with my inner philistine. 🙂

  24. I voted yes. Lucky me. It is small, about 45m3 but the coolest place in the house. For asocial listening I close the door. You get spoiled quickly, nowadays I cannot even stand the sound of a LED TV. Good thing about a small room is that you need little of everything. My best SQ improvement, after the loudspeakers, was the rug that went in.

  25. I could have a delicate room but I opt not to, coz the living room is much bigger and is rectangular room with the back open to the rest of the apartment. It allows me to place the speakers farther apart and far away from the back wall. The imaging is very good with no major problem with the bass at the listening position and it also fills up the dining/kitchen area just like in a jazz bar. It also helps when a 130″ screen starts rolling down from the ceiling and can be clearly view from the table. I always believe that good music should be shared with the rest of the family.

    Cheers,
    KK

  26. I voted yes – I waited years for a listening room – fortunately my wife & I sometimes chillout listening to vinyl or digital recordings in the dark with almost total vintage system Yamaha GT-2000 TT (1982) – Klyne 7px phono – Sony TA-E88 pre (1977) – Sony TA-N7 VFET power amp (1977) – Yamaha NS-2000 speakers (1982) (digital is handled by Mac mini – Resolution Audio Cantanta).

    My 2 other systems are multi purpose – the small magnificent Diatone 50th anniversary P610 (1996) full range speakers & Leben cs300xs integrated plus 2007 Denon SACD/DVD player in the bedroom.

    Yamaha CD-S3000 SACD (125th anniversary dac/cd player)/ Oppo BDP-105 blueray – Yamaha A-S3000 integrated – gigantic Diatone DS-5000 (87kg each) speakers dominate the living room – my wife uses them sometimes with Netflix (lol) they just look so magnificent- Japanese engineering at it’s finest circa 1982.

  27. Interesting that the DS DAC and the La Scala are both present as I am trying them out at the moment (DS in Jnr. guise) and am having a hard time deciding between them. Do you feel that the latest OS for the DS has elevated it to the Premier League of your DAC index? I am guessing there is a reasonable uptick in SQ moving from Junior to senior which could tip the balance in terms of my comparison with the la Scala Optologic

Smart and clean: iFi Audio’s Nano iONE DAC w/ Bluetooth

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