ROOM TREATMENT CASE STUDY
As this is an audiophile magazine, I thought our first physical room treatment product here would be distinctly audiophile in nature – Acustica Applicata’s DaaD system. The Italian company makes elegant treatment towers in broadly Tuscan order (DaaD), as well as wall and ceiling hanging pads (Eco DaaD) to treat first reflections, and some pretty gnarly looking large clear plastic Helmholtz resonators (Polifemo and Phemo). There’s also a DaaD that sits between the floor mounted and wall-mounted models called the Studio DaaD, but the idea of wheeling in things sitting on a tripod into the listening room might push the domestically acceptable envelope.
The main DaaD is a three size affair, working on frequencies over 50Hz, 70Hz and 120Hz respectively. Of these, the DaaD4 (50Hz) is the best first choice for most European listening rooms. Start with a pair of these in the corners behind the loudspeakers. Now, here’s the reason why the DaaD’s push the audiophile buttons. First, they are reasonably discrete in their own right, looking like tall plant-pot holders that disappear fairly comfortably in the room, instead of flat panels bisecting the corners. Second, if they do look unacceptable for domestic management, it’s easy to move them out of the room without too much disruption. But perhaps most important of all, they are not heavy-handed in their acoustic treatment, and can be tuned lobe-shaped profile and different surfaces allow the user to ‘tune’ the room slightly by turning the DaaDs slightly more or less reflective. The benefits of the DaaD system are clear from the outset; the sound is more natural, the bass is better controlled and the diction of any vocalist or speaker is more articulate and precise. It’s like your system had the wax taken out of its ears! The tuning has a direct and obvious effect on the apparent width and depth of the stereo image. Without changing loudspeaker position, you can adjust the sound to make it seem as if the room is slightly bigger or smaller and as if you are sitting further forward or deeper into the auditorium. I’m putting the cart before the horse here, because this grade of fine tuning is best done when all the other attributes of the room are dealt with first.
From here there are three possible next steps. Either add two more of the same to the room corners behind your ears, stacking a pair of the smaller DaaD 3 on top of the DaaD 4s in the corners behind the speakers or going for DaaD 4s at the front, DaaD 3 at the rear. The results are not the same (the former acts more on bass control, the latter on midrange articulation) and ultimately we’re describing steps in the room treatment process (most people seem to start with six DaaDs for the corners).
Next step is not necessarily the one you might think of. The acoustics expert would treat first reflections on side, front and rear walls as a matter of course, but the next treatment I’d recommend is adding a DaaD 3 at the middle of the wall behind the loudspeakers. If possible, make that two. The only way I can describe this is an elimination of crosstalk between the loudspeakers, which makes the placement of sounds within the soundstage far more accurate and precise. Funnily enough, those of a traditional ‘flat earth’ persuasion who think imaging is the stuff of audiophile nonsense (who are also seemingly the most apt to dismiss room treatment too) should try this DaaD 3 between the speakers and nothing else, especially if you use boundary loudspeakers. It will make your wall of sound bigger!
Finally, the DaaD 2 or Eco DaaDs are used in the first reflection points act to tidy up the precision of the sound in general, snapping the sound into some kind of tight focus that is difficult to achieve without first reflection diffusion. The Eco DaaD’s one great advantage over its rivals may be its biggest disadvantage; because it is narrow it looks good, but because it is narrow, it needs to be very carefully positioned for full effect.
The Acustica Applicata system is expensive by room treatment standards, but it’s also one of the few that needn’t be a fixed install (Eco DaaDs excepted) and has a built in fail-safe for overpowering the room – if you have an Acropolis in the listening space, you’ve gone too far!