Audiophile interview: Bob Ross – room acoustics fundamentals

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Basics of nodes and standing waves... By Bob Ross

Getting your music room to sound good can be a confounding and frustrating experience if you don’t take some basic physics into consideration. There are some fundamental principles of acoustics that apply to all small rooms with parallel walls. Once you are aware of the behavior of sound waves in these spaces, it becomes much easier to understand why music sounds the way it does when played in a certain room. It also can help predict how music will sound in that room, and how this “room sound” might affect your recordings

Two terms, which you will invariably encounter in any discussion of studio acoustics, are Room Modes and Standing Waves. The two terms are very closely related, practically synonymous. Moreover, they are inextricably related to the physical dimensions of your room.

A room mode is essentially a resonance, an area of increased amplitude that results when a sound wave reflects off a boundary surface (wall, floor, or ceiling) and combines in phase with the original direct sound wave. What causes the direct and reflected waves to combine in phase is simply a whole-number correlation between the length of the sound wave and the length (or width, or height) of the room.

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