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Diwali Special: Designing your perfect music room

Always wanted a dedicated music room but didn't know how to go about it? This Diwali, we help you look at this important space in a new light

A sample listening room in Bass’n’Treble. Photo: Ramesh pathania/Mint
A sample listening room in Bass’n’Treble. Photo: Ramesh pathania/Mint

Jenny and Denny Jose of the sound company Bass ‘n’ Treble have been offering audio solutions to individuals and clubs for 11 years now. Started by Denny in 2007 out of his house in Dwarka, Delhi, today the company is one of the biggest of its kind—a one-stop music and home theatre showroom—in the country. Apart from dealing in some of the highest grade international brands, the siblings also design music rooms, audio solutions for homes, home theatre systems and audio designs for commercial venues. Lounge sat down with Jenny at the company’s showroom in Ghitorni in south Delhi for a chat on what goes into creating the perfect personal entertainment space.

Decide on the perfect space

For Jenny, the basic question that needs to be answered is where you’re going to set up your music/home theatre room. This is especially important if you’re setting up your home from scratch. “What we ask when people come in here is the room size. Are you someone who sits and listens to music or are you going to be moving around while the music is playing? And the second is, what kind of music do you listen to? That’s what mainly determines the speakers."

The key to setting up a music space is to pay attention to the “sweet spot", says Jenny. The point of the listening experience, she says, is to create a concert space inside your room. “To create a soundstage, much like at a live music venue," says Jenny, “you have to hear the artist right in the centre of the room." For that, your speakers and you have to be at equidistant points forming a triangle. “There’s no mean distance, but the triangle should be maintained." she says. The system needs to be against a wall with no doors or windows so that there’s no loss in sound.

For a richer, fuller sound, you need to absorb sound waves that can mar the experience, like excessive booming from a subwoofer. “Subs can get a little too boomy sometimes, so we put a thick rug under a sub; that also contains the first impact of the bass," says Jenny, “Glass is a reflector, so you cover the glass, preferably with a thick curtain." The first reflection point of the sound is usually right in front of a system. A large rug there can reflect the sound more effectively towards you. The next point is to absorb the sound so the music doesn’t get diffused. You can use furniture to keep the sound from diffusing, especially in the empty space right behind where you’re sitting. “Books are great as absorbers, so keep a bookshelf there."

Choosing the right speakers and amplifiers

To choose the ideal speakers, there’s no substitute to demoing as many as you possibly can. “We never tell people what they should buy, even though we know that if a client likes jazz, or, say, EDM, then what kind of speakers they would prefer. Your music will sound different through different systems. You have to find a fit, like which sound do you like the most? And that is a process of elimination," says Jenny. One mistake people make is to base their decision on reviews. “Internet reviews, or forums are a great way to maybe shortlist some names. You can’t base your purchase on that. Sound is very subjective and no two people like the same system," she says.

When it comes to choosing amplifiers, you need to look at two things—power and tonality. Amplifiers are an important part of any music or home theatre setup, as they provide greater flexibility that speakers alone can’t provide. Jenny says she can’t state their importance enough. “A lot of people who come here, if they have a 1 lakh budget, they would keep about 70 for the speakers and 30 for the amps. We’d tell people to do a 50:50. Spend equal amount of money on the amp," she says. The power level of your speakers will determine the amp you need. For example, you can pair a high-sensitivity speaker, which is powerful even with a low power amp, with a tube amp, which substitutes power for richer tones. “Tube amps are like single malts," Jenny laughs. But for really powerful speakers, you need amps that are at least 50-60W.

How to design a home theatre

Your home theatre space can be basic, designed for two, or it can be a grand theatre that can seat 10-15 people. For the former, the set-up is similar to a music room, which, according to Jenny, can be easily accomplished. But, for a true surround sound experience, all the speaker components have to be at their precise, specific points. You also need enough space behind where you’re sitting, and on the sides, for the surround speakers. The main speakers go on two sides of the screen, and the third, right in front of the screen. Two subwoofers are required, but they can be placed anywhere in the room. You can build a rack if you have bookshelf speakers. If you have tower speakers, they can just be placed on either side of the screen. Satellite speakers go on the wall.

If you’re looking for a 10-15 seater, which means a room that’s at least 20x30ft, you need professional treatment. “You get such spaces only in a basement or a terrace," says Jenny, “For such a space, you need massive, big driver speakers, like in a cinema hall. So those are usually hidden. And every speaker has an absorption panel built all around it. And you need about four subs stacked one on top of the other. So the interiors are done in a way to hide all of this and absorption panels are put on the ceiling or the floor, but never both. There are all kinds of acoustic panels. It could be absorption panels made with foam but if you want aesthetics, go with wood panels hanging on the walls. We use wood as absorption panels and diffuser panels. Then again there will be carpeting on the floor. If you’re putting acoustic tiles on the ceiling for absorption, then leave the floor alone."

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