Wouldn’t it be wild if we could bring some of the early audio pioneers like Emile Berliner, Thomas Edison, Alan Blumlien, or even Alexander Graham Bell into the future? Sit them down and play for them a modern stereo system. From their perspective, I’ll bet they’d think we had made magic.
In a way, we have.
I remember hearing a vintage JBL system that once would have been the pinnacle of sound reproduction. It was memorable not for its perfection, but because it sounded so contrived. I was not listening to music, I was listening to an obvious contrivance, a HiFi, a recording. Good? Yes. But compared to even the simplest of modern systems, it couldn’t hold a candle.
Progress comes in small little bites that might seem big when you’re in the middle of them, but lasting change comes only from their accumulation. How many thousands of hours did audiophiles spend tweaking their JBL systems into perfection only to be eclipsed over time by the accumulation of shared knowledge that resulted in real innovation and progress?
The future is built brick by brick, layer by layer. Each tweak, each improvement we make adds up, but only over time.
My ceiling is 8.5′ in height at the front of the room and 9′ at the rear. The idea was to reduce standing waves and it works beautifully. Basically the idea came from every good concert venue I’ve ever visited. It helps to use speakers that are designed to intentionally to not bounce sound off of the ceiling, like the Daedalus Ulysses I use. !!
Top of the room
One of the most ignored part of the room is right above our heads. The ceiling—often flat, sometimes arched, broken up with timbers, slanted, domed, and everything in between.
We position our speakers in the room more to keep the wall dimensions and layout happiest but rarely do we take into account the ceiling. And for what feels like good reasons—there’s generally not much we can do about it.
Or is there?
In my 45 years of playing with high-end audio, the best rooms have ceilings that have been included in their design. One of my favorites was at New York City’s Lyric HiFi store in downtown Manhattan. No doubt the room is gone now, but back in the heyday of 2-channel the IRS V (and later the Genesis Gen 1) room had a gorgeous slat-wood wavy ceiling. The undulating waves of wood broke up standing waves and helped any speaker in the room sound its best.
Today, there are companies that make versions of this wavy ceiling modifications among the many choices available to those interested in the best sound. Here’s a picture from what the company Vicoustic has to offer as an example.
Working on the ceiling in our three Music Rooms is high on my list of “wanna does” but hasn’t yet bubbled high enough to the top.
If you’re looking for a way to improve the performance of your HiFi system, don’t forget the ceiling.