Play the Room

Play the Room

سه‌شنبه 15 مارس 2011
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هزار بار گفتم هیچ چیزی نمیتونه جای آکوستیک و مکان بلندگو رو بگیره و اگر یادتون باشه نوشتم همه سیستم ها اگر بین 0 تا 100 امتیازدهی شوند تو آکوستیک خوب و با Placement خوب این درجات بین 100 تا 1000 شیفت پیدا میکنه. چه 500 میلیون پول سیستم صوتی بدید چه 500 هزار تومن تو شرایط نامناسب آکوستیکی بین 0 تا 100 درجا میزنید و فقط چیزی که رومی و جیم میگویند میتونه این معادلات رو به هم بریزه.

از ما گفتن از شما پول بیخود خرج کردن …

این ایده احمقانه باید عوض بشه که سیستم بدون Setup درست میتونه درست صدا بده. از نگاه من هر سیستمی نیاز به Setup درست بلندگو ، آکوستیک کردن اتاق و حذف لرزش و به حداکثر رسوندن وضعیت برق داره. بدون این کارها 500 میلیون هم پول بدید همون 0 تا 100 درجا زدید.

جیم اسمیت شروع کرده به نوشتن در مورد موضوع مکان بلندگو و با ابزاری که در اختیار داره سعی میکنه بهترین نقطه رو برای بلندگو بدست بیاره . مفهوم Play the room رو من اولین بار تو سایت رومی دیدم و همونطور که میدونید هم رومی هم جیم اسمیت هر دو تاثیر آکوستیک و مکان بلندگو رو خیلی خیلی بیشتر از بقیه اجزا میبینند.

درسته مورون ها (90 درصد آئودیوفیل های دنیا مورون طبقه بندی میشن) تو همه جای دنیا همش بحث های مورونی میکنند و صدای خوب رو فقط تابع کامپوننت میبینند اما شما باید بدونید اساس صدای خوب آکوستیک سیستم خوب هست و اگر اون نباشه هیچ تلاشی نتیجه ای که باید رو نمیده.

Does your system “Play the Room?”

Introducing RoomPlay™ custom voicing (aka In-Home Consultation & System Voicing).

In a recent ad in Stereophile, Jim Smith said,

“Dear Audiophile:

As I’ve traveled around North America, voicing readers’ systems, three things have become very obvious:

1) Audiophiles have standards that are simply too low. They accept much less than they deserve (and much less than they paid to get).

2) It’s not really their fault. They simply don’t have a reference for how good their system can be.

3) Addressing how electrons travel in wire and electronics is one thing—addressing how sound waves are launched into the room and how they are received at the listening seat is far more critical and pays far bigger dividends.

Playing the Room

RoomPlay™ is my custom voicing service. Imagine that your listening room has no walls, no ceilings, and no speakers. The musicians have assembled to play a special concert, just for you. You feel the emotional impact of the music the next day, as if it had been a live concert.

I call it “playing the room.” Hence, RoomPlay.

Srajan Ebaen, Editor & Publisher at, commented on my personal system:

“With my eyes closed, I attempted to obtain an aural signature of the room. I couldn’t. Nothing. There was very tacit recording venue data, yes—but none that portrayed the room itself. It had been entirely subtracted from the listening equation!

“This ‘no speaker!’ sensation was uncanny. Moreover, it was exceedingly tactile. That was clearly the result of meticulous setup… In short, Jim had banished from my awareness all reminders of mechanical sound sources and actual versus virtual environs.”*

Listen, a $10,000 system properly playing the room is vastly superior to a $100,000 system that isn’t.

Your most important component

Your most important component will always be your room. Proper voicing yields greatly enhanced dynamics,presence, live-liness, tone, and soundstaging. Therefore, your musical involvement is enhanced as well. That’s why the thing that’s been most edifying—and gratifying—to me is that my voicing clients are no longer replacing components. They are off the equipment merry-go-round. These days, they shop for music.

Glen F.: “Jim, I can’t tell you how much more involving my system is now. [My wife] listened to one of her favorite records last night and she was astonished with the changes. She even sent a text mess-age explaining to me how she now feels more part of the music.”*

Jerry P.: “It easily represented the best “bang for the buck” that I’ve spent on my system over the years. That’s as glowing an endorsement as I could make and I make it willingly.”*

All the best in music and sound,

PS—If you have a significant investment in your system, doesn’t it make sense to finally hear what you paid for?”

To learn more about RoomPlay, and why a custom voicing session can be the biggest improvement you can make in your system, read more below. If you have already read enough to know that this is something that interests you, contact Jim Smith –

Who is the typical RoomPlay client?

It’s someone who wants to extract far higher performance from his or her existing system.

Someone who has had little or no voicing assistance.

Someone who – more often than not – is time-poor.  They want to move their system to the next level.  But they want someone to come in and get it done.  They don’t have the time to do it themselves.  And they’ve finally realized that throwing more money at still another highly reviewed component will be money wasted, at least until the foundation for their system is built.

RoomPlay Details

Jim’s custom voicing service includes, but isn’t limited to, the following tools:

1/3 Octave Real Time Analyzer
Calibrated Microphone
15” MacBook Pro, optimized specifically for RoomPlay Applications
Bosch Laser Distance Meter
Four Laser Levels
Custom Grid System
Grid Tripods
Woodworx Acoustic Polarity Indicator
Ayre QB-9 DAC
Fluke VTVM
Mark-free Marking Tape
Marking Labels
First Reflection Point System
Selected Music from Top 185 Reference Disc List
Jim Smith’s 35 years of voicing experience and knowledge

The tools for this voicing kit are worth well over $10,000. You get the full benefits of it, but you don’t have to buy it, nor do you have to learn how to use these items (unless it interests you to so).

Contact Jim Smith to schedule or to make any inquiries

After your RoomPlay Session…

RoomPlay clients often get more excited about their systems than they have been previously.  So they have questions.  The price of the RoomPlay session includes free consultations by phone or e-mail for 12 months following the session.

RoomPlay™ Testimonials

Caution – unless you are considering having your system voiced, this section is long and perhaps more detailed than a casual reader would enjoy reading.

In addition to serving his long-time personal clients, recently Jim has been able to help a significant number of new people – mostly readers of Get Better Sound – in their homes, working in their rooms, voicing their systems.

The results have been consistently gratifying, not just for his clients, who can best be described as ecstatic over the improvements, but perhaps to his surprise, for Jim as well.

He has especially appreciated the ongoing contact with these clients and especially the fact that they really love their sound now, that they spent far less than they would have spent to buy almost any component, and perhaps most gratifying – that since the voicing session, they haven’t spent a dime on any more components!

Having received a large number of inquiries about in-home system voicing, Jim thought this description of a typical job would be useful. But he wouldn’t exactly call this a program. Because he never knows what he may encounter. However, there are some generalities that are illustrative:

“I’ve been doing these installations/voicings for years. In general, I like to arrive the evening before the day of the job – especially if I flew in, to give my hearing a break overnight. Depending on the time, it’s useful to check out the site and meet with the client that evening.

The next day is open, meaning that it may take as few as 6-8 hours or it may take 12 or more. For what it’s worth, in the past 30 years, I’ve never been able to complete a new system evaluation and voicing in less than about 8-10 hours. I don’t stop working until I know the system would satisfy me (which will be after you are already pleased). I do this within the context of using what you have on hand.

Also, we’ll create what I call a ‘roadmap’ in the manual. So you’ll have an idea of what you may want to do later, as well as what you shouldn’t…

I book a flight out the next morning.

Often I will drive, if it’s a drive of perhaps six hours or less.

I require my clients to commit the entire time to be with me when voicing a system. So if I came on a Wednesday, you’d have to be there all day.

Often a weekend is best for my clients, and I’m willing to do that at the same price.

If I fly, I ship in a kit of instruments/tools/recordings via FedEx Express or Ground that I’ll use, and I ask you to ship it back. The shipping is not expensive, but you would have to cover transportation both ways. Having insured this kit for voicing trips, I know that it’s worth (insured for) over $3,000. For you, it’s like getting the use of it without paying to rent or buy it.

Rarely, but once in a while, an unusually difficult situation might call for another day. Of course, I will share with you what I think needs doing if you don’t want to incur more expense at that time. If you opt to have me stay over, most of the time, it’s just a portion of the next day, and if I can still make my return trip later that same day, then the price for that second day is adjusted down accordingly.

But first and most important, we would need to have a phone conversation. From there, I can generally decide if I think it would be worth your time and expense. Occasionally, I have to tell folks that it might not be worth it based on certain restrictions they have.

I also recommend that folks get the Get Better Sound manual and go through it, both to get a feel for what I think is important, and – honestly speaking – for the feeling you get from reading how I write. If you are uncomfortable with what I say or how I say it, that should be a warning sign!”

The Concept

Virtually every audiophile that Jim has ever visited (many hundreds, if not thousands) has had a stereo system that was performing below – usually well below – the potential for that system in that room. This is true no matter how expensive the components are, whether or not the listening area is a dedicated room, or how knowledgeable the owner is reputed to be.

After 30+ years of installing and voicing systems that perform at a high level, Jim finally realized why this phenomenon was so depressingly true.

First, it had been apparent that he was working with many exceptionally bright people. People who were experts in their respective fields. But just as we wouldn’t recommend that you hire Jim to perform an intricate medical procedure, why would a cardiologist expect to be able to extract all of the performance from his/her music system? Reading magazines won’t impart the experience. Going to shows won’t either.

It all comes down to having a reference. The one universal comment that Jim reports hearing is that the client simply had no idea that the resulting sound was possible. He/she hadn’t heard it before, didn’t know if the room would be good enough, thought they needed “better equipment”, etc.

So not only do his voicing clients report vastly improved sound, now they have a reference for what is possible. It means that they can not only become far more involved in their music and the overall listening experience, they are now in a position to determine if a new component truly merits the expense.

If you’re unsure of what is entailed in a voicing session, perhaps reading the accounts below will be of assistance. Plus you can always Contact Jim Smith for more info.

Two additional points should be emphasized.

(1) It’s Jim’s goal to move your music system to another level of performance and involvement without replacing one single component.

(2) The improvement in your system should be by far the biggest you’ve ever experienced, well beyond that obtained by replacing any electronics or cables at any price.

The bottom line for clients

“…thought to myself that what you did was the best investment I had made for my Hi-Fi ever.”

“It easily represented the best “bang for the buck” that I’ve spent on my system over the years.”

Client accounts of what happened in a voicing a session

There have been some unsolicited posts on Internet Forums that describe Jim’s in-home voicing procedure.

The following is excerpted from one such account:

First off, Jim Smith is a class act all the way and is a walking encyclopedia of audio information. He was very professional and flexible from planning, execution and follow up. He did not know me at all until I gave him a phone call. If you have not bought his book yet then I would seriously recommend buying it and if you have the ability to pay for his on site services then I would highly recommend that as well. Jim was able to take my system to the next level with components I already had.

Keep in mind I am new to higher end audio so for me I needed to better understand what “good” is supposed to sound like. I had my own perception and felt my system was sounding great before Jim arrived.

This was Jim’s first exposure to Martin Logan CLX’s. He had read most of the reviews and talked with a few other people so he had a general idea of what to expect. Jim spent about 2.5 days with me and my system. Outside of phone conversations and a few photos and diagrams Jim was coming into an environment he had no experience with.

Upon arrival Jim focused solely on better understanding my environment. He asked pertinent questions and there was no music played until he understood the room, the components and the reasoning for certain positions and configurations. While I had always considered my room less than ideal, Jim thought it was just fine and not a real issue.

Jim then listened to a few tracks to determine what challenges he might have for the next 2 days. The tracks he selects are ones he knows very well and so he knew what to listen for. Now I was hoping I had them setup pretty good (they sounded damn good to me and anyone else to date I put in front of them) but the look on Jim’s face and body language told me otherwise. Jim’s initial thoughts boiled down to:

– Lack of body
– Lack of tone
– Lack of depth
– Lack of emotion
– Flat sound staging
– Thin presentation
– Lack of sound staging “Wall”
– Overwhelming bass (but controlled)
– Both male and female vocals lacked warmth, texture and realism

While I did not take offense to his comments I was a bit surprised that I was that far off. At the same time I was now excited at the prospects of making it sound better than it already had.

Once we discussed the game plan to “fix” the system then we addressed the bass first.


I am very happy with the process and results of working with Jim. The system sounds great and I learned a ton throughout the process. It is good to know that I have the system sounding its best within its current environment.

I should note that my general preference was for a bit too much bass in my system which was destroying the details and tonality of most music. I can now appreciate a seamless bass and additional details in the music. I cannot even pinpoint where the bass is coming from now.

I should also note that I thought having the speakers further apart was the solution for a wider sound stage, which is not the case. I now get a much wider sound stage by having the speakers closer together. I now have a continuous “Wall” of music across the soundstage.


To read more detail, you should go to the original website. To save time, we suggest starting at Post #190.

Here is the link:

Contact Jim Smith to schedule or to make any inquiries


The following is another excerpt. The first part is from the evaluation of the system:

System Evaluation

As I promised in an earlier post, below are the results from Jim Smith’s observations concerning my listening room and setup. Jim really is a class act and all of the critiques he offered were professional and honest. My wife and I enjoyed his visit to our house immensely and felt very comfortable talking with him.

We are confident in his ability to take our system to the next level and to do so without buying anything new. While Jim has a lot of accolades to his name along with a list of references from many professionals in the business, he was very humble and patient with our questions.

I’m sure our setup does not even come close in cost to the systems he normally works with, but he was extremely kind in his compliments and treated my wife and me as if we were millionaires looking to spend a fortune.(Which we are not!)

The intent for his coming out was by design to be an evaluation of approximately 2 hrs.with some discussion of a future time to have him back out if his services were needed. The only negative about this approach was not being able to solve the issues immediately, but rather me having to display some patience on my part and wait for our next meeting.

Jim graciously gave me permission to post some of his critiques of my setup on this forum.

However let me add that there would have been much more work to be done if I had not read his book. It truly is a great value and a valuable reference to getting better sound. Even if I could not afford Jim’s services I would still enjoy a much more musical system due to the advice in his manual. I’m sure others that are more careful in their reading of his book, and follow his tips thoroughly concerning speaker placement, can be confident they will have a much more musical sounding system. So without further ado…..

1. Overall sound too soft, ill defined.

2. A bit muddy – bass “wooly”.

3. No deep fundamentals – no authority in the bass. Piano sounds emasculated.

4. Need to re-evaluate bass performance, based on seating, speaker position, and – to a minor extent – separation.

5. One reason the sound is lacking may be that the bass drivers are in opposite acoustic polarity to the screens. We’ll need to simply reverse it and see.

6. Speakers too close together (BTW – this is very rare – they are usually too far apart).

7. Too many absorptive wall treatments, sound is dead, lacking life.

8. 50-60Hz and down too low in amplitude.

9. Mid-bass peaks around 80-100 Hz.

10. Another peak around 200 Hz.

11. Another peak around 2-2.5 kHz, causing unwanted signature to string sound, and making loud female vocals a bit “shouty”.

12. Extreme top end a bit down. May need to toe in speakers very slightly to restore it.

13. Slight but pervasive “awk” coloration, probably related to the 200 Hz peak.

14. Speaker tilt may need to be addressed.

My biggest concern was with #5. I wonder if others have noticed this issue with your Logan’s. Is this by design from Martin Logan or are both my speakers unique in this regard? Just curious. The next visit with Jim will be in late August, and once we are finished I will post again about the differences he made along with some new photos. This will be a long wait for me, but I know it will be worth the wait.


The next section is excerpted from the actual voicing process:

Hifi setup

On August 20th Jim paid me a visit and spent nearly 6 hrs. voicing my system to the room. He already had a good idea of what to expect from a previous visit which entailed a brief listening session several weeks prior. There were several areas of concern that he noted in which my setup was deficient. He addressed these areas this past Thursday and provided me with an excellent reference point when listening to music. Anyway on to the good stuff:

First off Jim is highly focused and goal oriented when he is working. He does not stop to eat or drink anything until he is completely satisfied with the sound. I tried my hardest to get him to take even a glass of water, but to no avail, he was relentless in his goal and continued to work straight through to the end! When he first arrived he sat down and listened for a couple of minutes to familiarize himself with his previous visit and compared this to his notes.


Upon Jim’s exit I sat down and listened to multiple cd’s and quickly realized the changes that were made were much more pronounced than I had first thought. The improvement in the bass was absolutely huge. Never did I imagine that the Vantages’ were capable of such deep bass with well-defined definition.

I am not saying that the bass was louder, but there were now lower registers being played in the music that I had never noticed before. This added a new dimension to the music that was sorely missing. Jim had mentioned on his previous visit that there were notes missing and this contributed to the instruments sounding emasculated. I did not disagree with him, but since I had no reference I was not entirely sure what he meant by this at that time. Now I know!!! It’s amazing that when the bass is right how much this adds to ones listening pleasure.

As for the soundstage, I wish I had the vocabulary to describe the difference. There is just a certain rightness to it that you can’t help but wonder at how two speakers can do this. Of course I know there are many others out there that have even more magic in their systems than I do, but just to experience this in music you know backwards and forwards is extremely satisfying. The Vantages really do just get out of the way and play music.

Musical detail has increased along with a much livelier presentation. My theory is that because I had the panels leaning too far forward then this attributed to some of the details being lost or masked. I was probably realistically listening to only the top 1/3 of the panel and this was squashing some of the nuances that are so important to the music. Why I had decided on that rake a few months ago is beyond me, but it definitely opened back up when Jim used his method.

I could not be more satisfied with hiring Jim and his many years of experience. The enjoyment that I have gotten just these past few days has been more than worth the effort and cost. I don’t know if I will try to get that last 1% or not, but the difference he has made already makes me a satisfied customer!!!!


To read more detail, and there is a lot of it, you should go to the original website. To save time, we suggest starting at Post #79 and go to at least Post #97.

Here is the link, beginning at Post #79:

Here is an example of unsolicited correspondence that Jim has received, this time from Glen – the poster above:

Jim, I can’t tell you how much more involving my system is now.  (My wife) listened to one of her favorite records last night and she was astonished with the changes.  She even sent a text message explaining to me how she now feels more part of the music.  Thanks again and keep up the good work.

And another:

Hey Jim,

I wanted to follow up with you since it’s been about three months when you last visited to voice my system.  This morning, like many other mornings, I was enjoying some vinyl and thought to myself that what you did was the best investment I had made for my Hi-Fi ever.  Thank you again for your help and providing me with many wonderful listening sessions.

Contact Jim Smith to schedule or to make any inquiries


Below is a report on another voicing session:

My Experience with System Voicing by Jim Smith of Get Better Sound

I won’t dwell on the mechanics and logistics of the experience, since those are well documented elsewhere, both online in various forums and on Jim’s own site. And the overall structure stays pretty consistent, as I understand it, even though each situation is unique and may call for changes in one way or another.

I think it is fair to assume that the “general” structure involves Jim arriving the day or evening before the primary working day in order to spend some time getting familiar with the existing setup—first impressions of how it sounds and lots of questions about what the client’s goals and priorities are with the system and why choices were made to arrive at the current equipment and configuration and layout in the room (audio preferences, financial restrictions, “bargain” purchases, etc.). In other words, to what extent is the current configuration the result of a conscious, strategic series of selective purchases and articulated audio (or aesthetic or practical) decisions, as opposed to a discrete set of haphazard or fairly random purchases over a period of time.

The goal of the initial discussion is not to pass judgment or encourage changes in equipment—Jim just wants to understand the client’s goals and how the current setup seems to reflect those audio objectives.

One of Jim’s great strengths as an independent consultant is that he is NOT pushing equipment changes or additional purchases on the client. The task he sets for himself is to understand the audio priorities of the client and then, within the scope of the current equipment and practical considerations of room (size, acoustical environment, etc.) and aesthetics (e.g. SAF), voice the system to best effect.

The second fairly unique characteristic and strength of Jim’s approach lies in his own superb ability to listen to known recordings, know what they should sound like, and then translate that knowledge into practical suggestions regarding setup. While that sounds fairly straight forward, I know from experience that it is FAR from as easy as it sounds. Otherwise we could all attend a few stereo shows, listen to a few great-sounding rooms listening to our own favorite test tracks, and return home knowing what it should sound like and tweak till we achieved that sound. Wish it were so.

Part of Jim’s magic lies no doubt in his year’s of experience as a recording engineer, dealer, and audiophile, of course. Developing a core set of source materials with which one is intimately familiar is part of the experience; knowing what it actually should sound like is a step beyond just being “familiar,” and I think that’s where Jim surpasses many others in the field.

So I’d say that’s the first big step in system voicing—getting the lay of the land, as it were, using KNOWN source materials—much of which might be accomplished on the day or evening before the hands-on day of active voicing.

Of course it is an iterative process, but knowing what one is hearing and what one should be hearing is the essential prerequisite to everything else. Having the extensive experience with a wide variety of equipment and environments and configurations is a prerequisite to the next step: deciding where to begin making changes in layout or positioning or environment or any one of many other factors (in my case, we spent much of our time on adjusting crossover parameters on my tri-amped, multi-speaker configuration).

There’s an efficiency of approach that’s really critical and usually undervalued, I believe, to making improvements in a reasonably logical, systematic, and therefore productive manner—as opposed to the more usual process of making individual changes, often seemingly random, over long periods of time, as I suspect most of us do on our own, with no time constraints.

I actually think there’s a qualitative benefit to systematically tackling the overall voicing process in a compressed time period. Try this, move that, listen, evaluate. Get this right first—or at least moving in the right direction—so that a) we confirm that we’re thinking correctly about cause and effect and b) we’ve corrected enough in one area to begin judging a dependent area meaningfully. Adjust the upper bass spike so we can *hear* the lower mid-range and know what it’s doing right or wrong. This is a system voicing PROCESS.

Never fear, I’m confident that it won’t replace the inevitable long-term tweaking and equipment changes to which we’re all willing slaves. I consider it a substantially different process, to be honest.

So the process is not just iterative but iterative with a plan, a strategy, and a known (to Jim, at least, since it’s his source material being used) result—so you know when you get there! Perhaps more than any other single feature, this is what separates Jim’s approach from the pretenders: he goes in with a game plan, determines a baseline (current sound) and a goal (what it should sound like, referenced to a client’s priorities), and then systematically works through an iterative process to get there in as efficient a manner as possible.

In my case, we spent maybe 4 or 5 hours in preliminary work (without changing anything) the evening before, and then another 5 or so hours actually voicing the following day. Your mileage may vary—I know Jim has spent longer and I suspect shorter time on other systems. But I also suspect that my experience was fairly typical.

It easily represented the best “bang for the buck” that I’ve spent on my system over the years. That’s as glowing an endorsement as I could make and I make it willingly.

Jerry P., Wimington, DE, Dec. 5, 2009

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