THE CHALLENGES OF APARTMENT LIVING FOR AN AUDIOPHILE
Apartment living is not ideal for the dedicated audiophile, to say the least. But if you have no choice, a few adjustments and accommodations may help you survive it.
If you have been living in an environment where the use of your stereo hi-fi system and/or 5.1 surround sound system can be cranked to your fullest satisfaction without disturbing other human beings, those days are over when you move into an apartment unless you can spend time and money to mitigate the transmission characteristics of your beloved sound waves.
There are actually three major challenges for the apartment-dwelling audiophile to overcome:
• Can’t disturb the neighbors
• Poor acoustics
• Limited space for your gear
THINK OF YOUR NEIGHBORS FIRST
If you don’t address the issue of disturbing your neighbors first, starting with picking the best apartment to deal with the situation, then you may as well not worry about the other two challenges.
Ideally, the best apartment for you would be the end unit in a one-story single-row building, which would give you just one wall with a neighbor on the other side of it and, of course, no one living above or beneath you. It could be difficult to find depending on your area, but well worth the search. The floor plan is also important, since it would be best to be able to place your gear on the wall that is at the end of the building in order to have it located as far away from your neighbor as possible. Hopefully, the kitchenette and perhaps a closet would be on the wall between units and the living area would be situated on outside walls with adequate space to situate your gear.
If you can find such an apartment, then your major concern would be that your system could still disturb residents of the complex who are trying to peacefully enjoy their home or any outdoor spaces near your unit.
This is where you would need to spend some time and money to properly encapsulate all walls, windows and doors of the room where you decide to install your gear with a surface-mountable soundproofing material. At AV Enthusiast, we recommend the use of a product called Acoustiblok Wallcover®. This simple sound isolation solution was developed especially for home theater use, and as such is great for similar use in home studios, apartments, or condos. It is approximately ¼” thick and applies like wallpaper. The exposed surface is a woven silver fabric that can then be textured, painted or wallpapered as if it were simply drywall.
Keep in mind that you may very well need to apply soundproofing material to the ceiling and floor of the room also, even if you have found the suggested type of apartment – it all depends on the structural characteristics of the building. We suggest that if you want to skip doing the ceiling and floor, then it would be a good idea to do a test to find out if those measures are adequate. Simply do a temporary installation of your sound system and crank it up to the level that you normally enjoy. Then step outside for a listen. If there is little to no sound leakage, you’re good to go (you may also want to check with the resident of the neighboring unit).
If, after all of this effort, you nonetheless get complaints from residents or management of the complex, you will simply have to accept the fact that you will not be able to crank your system to the level that you prefer. Lowering the sound level by just 3 dB can effectively produce a 50% reduction in noise transmission, so bite the bullet and reduce your listening level little by little until you receive no more complaints.
SELECT YOUR GEAR AND TUNE THE ACOUSTICS
Most likely, you won’t be pleased with the sound quality within your new abode due to the acoustic challenges of the smaller space. Carefully-selected gear paired with acoustic treatments can be an effective cure for this aggravation.
Acoustic treatments start with the furnishings in your apartment. Since hard surfaces should be rigorously avoided, be sure to have padded carpeting on the floor and use cloth or leather seating.
Colorful decorative acoustic wall panels, such as those manufactured by Kinetics Noise Control® and sold by AV Enthusiast, can be customized to blend into your décor, or they can be further personalized with images such as movie posters, vacation photos, or artwork. And a Starcoustix™ ceiling by Kinetics could round out your acoustical treatments and create some needed aesthetics for your small space.
Each of these acoustic fixes can be incremented one at a time if it better suits your time and budget, as you may not necessarily need them all. Start with the furniture, then install your system and see how it sounds. If the sound is way off, the professional integrators at AV Enthusiast can assist you in tuning it to perfection.
As for your current gear, it will probably work as well in your apartment (assuming that you have added proper soundproofing and acoustical amendments) as it did in your previous living situation, with a few exceptions. Any ceiling or in-wall speakers will need to be replaced by much more apartment-friendly ones, such as a full cabinet-style speaker system, floor standing speakers, or bookshelf-style speakers. AV Enthusiast is a dealer for such high-end speaker systems as KEF, TOTEM, Denon, and Sonance and can advise you concerning the best fit for your situation.
AV Enthusiast is your go-to A/V integrator for apartment living! Give us a call today at 256.882.5081to schedule a consultation or drop by our showroom at 514 Madison Street in Huntsville Monday – Friday from 9 AM to 5 PM or Saturday from 10 AM to 3 PM.
We look forward to meeting you!
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