Live End/Dead End

Back in the 90’s live end/dead end studios and stereo listening rooms were all the rage. Does anyone still use that sort of room treatment or has it been superceded by absorption and diffusion panels, bass traps, etc. If so, why?

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I liked the concept at the time - from a studio perspective - the psychoacoustics behind it added up (although more recent research may not have).
It always struck me as needing a larger listening room than the average UK living room so I never saw it in-home.

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Just had a quick google and the explanations all seem to focus on the deadening absorbing the reflections from the live end, and no mention of the requirement for the live end to be further out so that the brain can ignore the reflections due to their time lag (20 ms comes to mind but these are ooold memories…)

(apologies in advance - this turned into a caffeinated ramble🙏🏻)

It is and was about those things. Still in existence. Though people get different ideas at different times, and systems change. Multiple subs, surround and now Atmos - these may dictate a different approach than LEDE.

As John mentions, size matters here - if you’re in a small room, there isn’t enough distance (and hence time) for some techniques to be effective. With the rise of the spare-bedroom home studio or music room, I’ve seen what seems like the counterintuitive move of the speakers toward the front wall rather than away.

As you move your speakers out from the wall, the bass rise they cause in the room moves UP in frequency - more in to the kick drum and bass area. This muddles your low end. So the partial fix is to move the speakers as close to the wall as possible - with absorbtion between - so that hump goes down in frequency. This is part of the reason you often see speakers flush mounted in the wall - “soffit mounted” in studios.

I should mention that studio use tends to involve nearfield listening, so the chair is likely to be on the same side of the room as the speakers rather than say, speakers on one side and listening chair or a couch closer to the opposite wall. That is, it is unlike the typical rule of thirds sort of approach for a stereo and a chair.

It is also important for studios in a small room because having the speakers out from the wall may put your chair in the worst spot acoustically, such as the center of the room. Moving everything closer to one wall can help that as well - so you’re both lowering the bass hump frequency and moving the seat out of a bad bass room node. Treating first reflections becomes potentially more important, since you’re getting closer to more surfaces. It can be sort of a tradeoff between lows and highs.

If you have a big enough room, and can move the speakers and seat far enough out into the room, the first-reflection delays can be long enough to be less of an issue. The thing that doesn’t change is that if the room wasn’t purpose-built for sound, the only way to truly mitigate these issues is to build “a room inside the room” of absorbtion and diffusion. It is very costly, and for small rooms, there just isn’t the real estate - truly effective absorbers and diffusors being around 18" deep. So we do a combination of compromises based on space and money.


Beef, how small a room are we talking here?

Well - bunch of variables here with respect to speaker size and so on, but I’d consider a room with sides less than 15’ “small” for the purposes of this discussion. This is leaving height out of it (which of course you can’t) as it is often a standard 8’ in the US. But that’s another factor in my choosing a number significantly larger than 8’. As all of the room dimensions get closer together toward 8’, the more difficult it becomes to mitigate problems acoustically (as opposed to electronically).

I’m making that 15’ number up from experience with rooms and control rooms and the acoustical stuff I’ve been exposed to. I’m not an acoustician, so take with a grain of salt. I doubt acousticians would disagree with what I’ve said so far though.

We’re usually sort of stuck with what we have, with what’s practical. I’ve gone from a 17’x33’x8’ studio room to 13.4’ square x8’. Nearly impossible room, but that’s what I have at the moment. Headphones, anyone?:stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

And my larger stereo is in a completely asymmetrical loft room, which you can talk yourself into being better than a box - which it is in some ways - but which is not at all left/right symmetrical. Difficult for stereo.

The reason I’m not going straight to a discussion of electronic mitigation with DSP is that the better you can make the room acoustically, the less need there will be for DSP, and the results will be better.

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Thanks folks. Interesting discussion.

I had a simplified LE/DE setup in our previous home. When first set up in our family room (don’t remember the dimensions but it wasn’t huge), my speakers (Marantz 3-ways of the KLH/AR3a type configuration) and tv (32" Sony Trinitron) were at one end of the room with heavy custom made curtains behind and to the side (dead end). Couch was at the opposite end (live end). Left side wall had a bi-fold door with cork panels on it with a large rack holding LPs and cassettes next to it. Right side wall had my equipment rack with a Carver C4000 Sonic Holography Preamp (it was the one demonstrated by Myer-Emco at the old Washington DC Hi Fi show), VHS recorder, Pioneer turntable, and Pioneer cassette deck. A Carver M400 Cube power amp sat on the floor on a small board. Two small RadioShack speakers were mounted on the wall behind the couch near the ceiling for the C4000 reverb channels. I’m probably missing some details, it was a long time ago. I thought it was pretty “high end” and sounded great for the time. Of course it went through many speaker, electronics, and source equipment changes over the years.

Now I’m retired and my system in our new home is installed in the great room. Denon AVR-X3500H and DCD-600NE CD player, Panasonic 820 UHD Blu-ray player, Dish receiver, Polk speakers, and 65" LG NANOCELL TV. Four Polk bipole speakers finish the 7.1 configuration system. Room has a cathedral ceiling with floor to ceiling bookshelves on the left, open to a dining area on the right, and floor to ceiling windows with mini-blinds behind the couch. Not the best acoustics but Audyssey XT32 keeps things under control. Sounds great to my almost 69 year old ears.

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Thanks Beef. Yeah, I went from a 17x24x8 family room that was further open spaced on one side (good in some ways, but horrible in others), to now a dedicated 14x16x9. I have only very primitive room treatment at the moment, but in most ways it sounds way better than that off kilter mess of a space I had before. Given my experience I’ll vote for room symmetry over asymmetry any day! :grin:

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Agreed. Sometimes you’ll find out that some major reviewer’s room is far from ideal in various ways - there are plenty of stories. And indeed it is possible to “hear around” the room to some extent. But man, it is a lot of work that your brain is having to do to compensate. And bigger isn’t automatically better.

I’ve literally been thinking about trying to find a new place, based not on where it is and how “nice” it is, but on the rooms/spaces it contains. Don’t know if I could deal with the tradeoffs ultimately, but it’s been on my mind.:thinking:

Tell me about it! When I started looking for my new home one of the most important priorities was a first floor dedicated space large enough to be my listening room. I found plenty of two story homes with potentially wonderful bonus rooms on the upper levels, but I wanted my new listening room to be on a solid concrete slab, and without me (in my advancing years! :confounded:) having to try and haul 100+ pound boxes up or down flights of steps. Finding really big first floor rooms - in houses in areas that satisfied all my other wants and needs - at my price point was harder than I expected. I’m happy this room (after some renovation!) sounds decent. After I’m done with treatments im hoping it will be very good to maybe quite good. :slightly_smiling_face: