Room management - front or back wall dampening?

I have the opportunity to modify my listening room by dampening my my front wall ( behind speakers) or back wall (behind me).

Any views as it if one dampened wall is better than another. My room is smallish 12x12x12 that is fairly well furnished.

A perfect cube is probably the worst possible shape you could have! Anything you can do to make the dimensions different from each other should help, although assuming you mean 12 feet, not 12 metres, I guess there is limited scope for that.

Chris is right. A perfect cube is (acoustically) a nightmare.
I’d recommend dampening the back wall. You may also try a diagonal setup, near field listing, dampening both back walls, and bass traps everywhere.
Does that help?

Yes- 12ft cubed…not ideal and little chance the dimensions will change. Ha.

There are certain positive aspects to the room - there are two doors in one corner allowing a person to pass through if they step in the room and make an immediate 90degree turn to the right/left to exit it. These are open and reduce node issues. One wall is a closet w 8 floor to ceiling doors about a foot wide. These can be opened randomly to absorb and reflect.

But the question is more about dampening the front or back wall. In any square or rectangle room, is there a preference to do the front or back?

I’ve always dampened the listening end, usually with sofas, drapes, casually tossed leopard print throws - that sort of thing. At the source end I have seen people put bass traps in corners, but never experimented with that myself.

In addition to dampening one end, I understand there are two other room management techniques that pay easy dividends for SQ:

  • Bass traps can prevent standing wave nodes at the listening position;

  • Dampening the first reflection from parallel surfaces (walls or ceiling) to the listening position. You can check where the first reflection occurs with a mirror and some blue-tac. Just shift the mirror until you can see your speaker in the reflection from the listening position. That is where the sound will bounce of the wall to your ear. You want to have something there like a tapestry or a canvas picture or egg cartons that disperses the energy and dampens the reflection.

As has been mentioned, a diagonal setup will likely yield the best result for your room dimensions. Traditionally you’d absorb on wall behind speakers and first reflection points on side walls, ceiling and floor and diffuse on wall behind listening position. Properly designed and installed traps make a huge difference to bass articulation and consequently midrange.

These days many would opt for digital room correction over traditional physical means of room treatment. To me digital would be the last piece of the puzzle rather than a solution in and of itself.


I have visions of a somewhat louche figure lounging amongst the leopard skin throws, inquiring if one would care for some Madeira…


Without measuring the room or having something done professionally, I would guess the rear wall would be the one. Possibly also reflection points on side walls. How about the ceiling? There may be more free space to play with there than on the walls of a small room.

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Not very effective for absorbing sound, far better off with panels containing PET


Good point on the ceiling… will give that some though.

Many thanks to the other suggestions. Agree on Room first, DSP second (if at all). Will look at first reflection points on side walls - had forgotten about that and it is a doable fix. Thinking to try diffusion on the back wall. It is a large hard wall space and ripe for some mgt. I has some diffusion/absorption on the front wall behind the speakers off the floor, but the wall only holds a large framed canvas between the speakers. Wonder if that is making much of a difference…

I know it is not a great room…but at least it is a dedicated room! That is an improvement from 5 years ago…

Any room where you can listen to good music is a good room :wink:
And: it’s dedicated. That’s great. Then you can go with bass traps - as much as you can get in and afford - it makes a huge difference. Room first, DSP second is a good approach - it will get better results. And yes, first reflection points are important. But also the listening position. Place the speakers for imaging and timbre and yourself for bass response (to avoid bass node nulls and highs).

Regarding diffusion behind you: this only will make a difference when you have some distance to the diffusor. Usually it’s said to be at least 1 meter, better 1,5. If you sit closer than that to the wall I doubt that it will have a big impact.

Also you wanna check out a search on the interwebs about “live end dead end listening room”.

Have fun!

Pretty much agree with this. If the room is a given, I’d bass trap the front corners. Also the back corners if you can.
Then diffuse/absorb the back wall, especially if you sit close to it.
Then absorb reflection points.
GIK will give you free advice. Use their online form to ask what they recommend. They obviously recommend a setup with their panels, but don’t do a hard sell and won’t bug you. It will give you an idea what type of panels are needed where.

I’d get reading and follow a guide. You never know, that guide might tell you to start elsewhere and only worry about front and back walls if you hear or measure specific problems. Until then furnish the room as normal and have a listen.

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With that huge room height and if you are willing to sacrifice some of the eccessive height, you could most probably attain some nice results due to the possibility to go thick over the whole area.

Finding good guidance re specifics
is easier said than done. This is a good primer to get a baseline understanding:

Because of the typical cost involved in paying a co to measure, design, manufacture/assemble and install treatments I ended up doing it myself by sourcing materials, making up jigs for chunk traps, cutting and assembling the traps and then taking the lot to an auto upholsterer to do the finishing. Cost me about 3/4 less than having it done for me and had the added advantage that I could experiment with different options as I went. The basic principles remain the same though - deal with first reflection points and room corners first.

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I was so confused reading this, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why you’d want to get the room wet, i.e. dampening, then I realized you meant damping. lol.

I would change the dimension by filling the top 2’ or so with absorbent/diffusion, along with trapping the 4 corners floor to ceiling and any other floor/wall/ceiling intersections you can. Bass will be the nemesis, first order reflections are easy but may take too much life out of the room as all the bass trapping will also have an absorbing component.

GIK makes good stuff and won’t try to sell you panels/solution you don’t need. Something is better than nothing and cubes need all the help they can get.

Consider convolution as a final touch to bring back some of the life lost by potential over damping.

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Interesting calculator tool here

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My suggestion is to dampen behind the listening position due to room size you are probably up against the back wall and that reflection will be the worst. I would install diffusion on the front wall to try and make the sound reach you much later giving the illusion of a larger room. The point of diffusion needs to be at least 6 feet from your ears so the rear wall would not be good so that leaves the front. Bass traps if you can in the corners, at least two corners if not four. Lastly the first reflection points on the side wall just in front of the speakers. This is the best I can think of for a 12 by 12 room. Angling the room is a great solution but hard to furnish.


aka doing a Rees-Mogg


GIK have recommended diffusers for my back wall and my listening position is right up against it this seems to be in contradiction to advise on this thread. As I only have one wall I could treat for first reflections due to furniture and large fireplace they recommended not to bother. But have recommended to have bass traps on the front wall behind the speakers. I can’t do corner ones as 2/3 of the wall is window.