A Cheap Way to Test A Room's Acoustics


In previous newsletters, we covered the importance of room acoustics and its impact on sound quality. We use to live in a house where the main system was in the den. The den had horrible acoustics, which greatly diminished our listening experience. When it was time to look for a new home, we made better acoustics a priority.

We started looking at potential homes and needed a way to quickly get an idea of a room’s acoustics during a brief visit. Obviously, it’s not practical to set up an audio system or test equipment. So, I came upon a method that could quickly give a rough idea of a room’s acoustics.

If you’d like to give it a try, walk into the middle of a room and clap your hands with a single sharp clap. To be able to do the clap test, you need to train your ears. Do the single clap outside, where you’re a substantial distance away from walls that reflect the sound. You should hear the clap and nothing else; no echo or any sound of the clap occurring after the initial clap.

Then go inside and try the clap. You should be able to hear the initial clap and then some additional sound as it reflects off walls and other objects and travels back to your ears. If a room has a lot of echo and the sound seems to continue, this could present acoustical problems. Sometimes these issues can be corrected by adding furniture, carpeting and wall treatments. Sometimes, the room correction built into receivers can help. I remember one house that had a vaulted ceiling. After the clap, you could hear the sound continue to ring up into the ceiling. I think an audio system could have difficulty achieving good sound in a room like this.

Practice the clap test outside and in different rooms. Let us know if it works for you.


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