The Reading Room

Our intermediate listening space, the Reading Room takes its name from the extensive shelves of books that help tailor its sonic character. A large space, it is also upstairs on the first floor so, despite direct access, there’s a limit to the size (or more importantly, the weight) of equipment and especially speaker systems that can be accommodated. It enjoys the benefits of a dedicated AC supply and extensive, tuneable acoustic treatment.

Physical Structure and Furnishings

Walls are a mix of solid stone with plaster facings (front, rear and the front section of the side walls) and stud walling towards the back sides of the room. A total of five windows and doors provide effective venting and there isn’t a parallel surface in the space. The ceiling is broken up with a longitudinal beam, while the floor is solid oak and suspended, with heavy joists and a supporting wall at the halfway point. Despite the almost random construction angles, the room offers excellent acoustic symmetry, which has been augmented with careful placement and selection of furniture. The large floor area is covered with two, thick woollen rugs. Three, separate sofas provide seating. The positioning of these and the storage in the room constitute part of the acoustic solution and are covered in that section.

Electrical Supply and System Support

The AC supply to the Reading Room consists of an eight-way Russ Andrews distribution block, hardwired to its own, dedicated DCU, requiring a short run ring main with a total length of a little over four metres.  <READ MORE> Once again, a dedicated clean ground is also provided. The system is located to one side of the speakers in our preferred positioning, leaving the soundstage free of physical intrusion. It is supported on modular Raidho Racks, with two adjacent stacks providing plenty of accommodation for even complex, multi-box systems. Once again, a variety of coupling devices and platforms are employed as required to optimise equipment support and performance.

Acoustic Behaviour and Treatment

The room structure and comparatively solid suspended floor create a lively, open sounding room, with a quick, clean bottom-end. The 5.55 x 8.14 x 2.8M dimensions create an incredibly even resonant character, but with a three-way coincident frequency (length, width AND height) at 61Hz. That makes the room incredibly responsive to bass trapping, a large, absorptive panel being placed on the rear wall (behind the listening seat, augmented by two highly tuneable traps in the front corners. The one on the left is built into the fireplace and the degree of absorption as well as the frequency can be adjusted by varying the quantity/spacing of the foam inserts. On the right, a stack of six, staggered IKEA Kallax two-by-two storage units is set into the alcove. By filling the rear of the storage cubes with either single or pairs of foam inserts, the bass response can be precisely tuned, with both the enclosed volume and the degree of damping easily adjusted. The volume in front of the foam inserts is partially filled with books, to provide another degree of acoustic resistance but also some adjustable dispersion. Empty storage elements were then used to house random objects to further increase acoustic disruption at higher frequencies.

The physical presence of the system is balanced by another, two-by-four Kallax unit, containing more books and records. This is on wheels to allow a degree of adjustment. A Michael Green PZC-FS panel balances the curtain on the right, with additional fine-tuning provided by a column of acoustic foam set into the front left corner of the room. The listening seat is movable, forwards and backwards and enjoys a large space behind it. As well as the acoustic panel and sofa on the rear wall, this space is controlled by a four-by-four storage unit on the right, again containing books and records, and a small sofa opposite it on the left. This careful mix of absorption and diffraction was arrived at by painstaking experimentation, working round the higher (93 and 123Hz room modes)while the adjustable low-frequency traps in the front corners make this a highly adaptable space.