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30/10/2014 Room Sizing Tutorial | Acoustics, Audio and Video | University of Salford

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Room dimensions for small listening rooms
Methods for choosing correct dimensions
These web pages gives some more detailed numerical results from an Audio Engineering Society journal paper
which appeared in June 2004. The journal paper gives more details of the method used and can be downloaded from
the AES web site.
Many optimum room ratios have been suggested over the years to minimize coloration. Essentially these methods
try to avoid degenerate modes, where multiple modal frequencies fall within a small bandwidth, and the corollary of
bandwidths with absences of modes. The starting point for these previous methods is usually the equation defining
the modal frequencies within a rigid rectangular enclosure. Often the best dimensions are given in terms of the ratios
to the smallest room dimension.
Bolt [1] investigated the average modal spacing to try and achieve evenly spaced modes, but using the average
mode spacing is not ideal, and the standard deviation of the mode spacing is a better measure. Ratios of 2:3:5 and
1: 21/3:41/3 (1:1.26:1.59) were suggested, but Bolt also noted that there is a broad area over which the average
modal spacing criterion is acceptable. (Note, this later ratio appears to be often rounded to the commonly quoted
figures of 1:1.25:1.6).
Gilford [2] discusses a looser methodology whereby the modal frequencies are calculated and listed. The designer
then looks for groupings and absences assuming a modal bandwidth of about 20Hz. The dimensions are adjusted
and a recalculation is carried out until a satisfactorily even distribution is achieved. This is a cumbersome process.
Gilford also states that the 2:3:5 ratio suggested by Bolt is no longer popular and that the axial modes need to be
given a stronger weighting in calculations as they cause more problems.
Louden [3] calculated the modal distribution for a large number of room ratios and published a list of preferred
dimensions based on the standard deviation of the intermode spacing to achieve evenly spaced modes. The method
produces the well known room ratio of 1:1.4:1.9.
Limitations:
The work is only applicable to rectangular geometries with rigid surfaces.
Absorption neglected
All modes (axial, tangential, oblique) treated the same
Standards and recommendations also stipulate good room ratios for activities such as listening tests and
broadcasting and recent versions have drawn on work by Walker [4]. Walker states that the aim of the regulations is
to avoid the worse cases, rather than to provide proscriptive optimum ratios. Consequently, the recommendations
cover a wide range of room proportions.
In addition, it is stipulated that ratios of Lx, Ly and Lz which are within about 5% of integer values should also be avoid. The British Standards Institute and
International Electrotechnical Commission give slightly different criteria.
New Method
The new method has been produced based on producing the flattest possible modal frequency response for the room to determine the best room size. It uses a
computer algorithm to search for best solutions [5]. Furthermore, the algorithm has been further advanced since reference [5] to look at room dimensions which
are robust to changes in room size due to construction tolerances in terms of the room size and the properties of the construction material (the details of the
analysis and method have been submitted to the Journal of the Audio Engineering Society..
Previous: Why choose the right room size?
Next: So what are the best room dimensions
Might also be of interest: Another article of studio design, How to design diffusers
[1] R.H.Bolt. Note on the normal frequency statistics in rectangular rooms. J.Acoust.Soc.Am. 18(1) 130-133. (1946).
[2] C.L.S.Gilford. The acoustic design of talk studios and listening rooms. J.Audio.Eng.Soc. 27. 17-31. (1979).
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30/10/2014 Room Sizing Tutorial | Acoustics, Audio and Video | University of Salford
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[3] M M Louden. Dimension ratios of rectangular rooms with good distribution of eigentones. Acustica. 24. 101-104 (1971).
[4] R. Walker. Optimum Dimension Ratios for Small Rooms. Preprint 4191. 100th Convention of the AES. (5/1996).
[5] Trevor J Cox and Peter D'Antonio. Determining Optimum Room Dimensions for Critical Listening Environments: A New Methodology. Proc 110th Convention
AES. paper 5353 (2000)

Trevor Cox's research pages
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