Last week I returned from the AES Munich Convention where I gave a paper entitled ”A New Reference Listening Room for Consumer, Professional, and Automotive Audio Research.” It describes the features, scientific rationale, and acoustical performance of a new reference listening room designed and built for the purposes of conducting controlled listening tests and psychoacoustic research for consumer, professional, and automotive audio products. The main features of the room include quiet and adjustable room acoustics, a high-quality calibrated playback system, an in-wall loudspeaker mover, and complete automated control of listening tests performed in the room. A copy of my Munich AES presentation is available here.
The first prototype reference room was built at the Harman Northridge campus in 2007. Additional reference listening rooms have since been built at Harman locations in the UK, Germany, with the fourth one being constructed in Farmington Hills, Michigan. We are in the process of measuring and calibrating the performances of the different rooms using acoustical measurements and binaural room scans, which will be evaluated for their perceptual similarity in sound quality.
With a standardized listening room and playback system, Harman scientists can conduct listener training, psychoacoustic research and product testing at different Harman locations throughout the world. The results from these different locations can be compared or pooled together since the room, playback system, and trained listeners are a constant variable. With this brings greater testing efficiency, flexibility, and new opportunities in the kinds of product research and listening tests Harman is able to do in the future. Already, we are using the unique features of these rooms to conduct very controlled listening tests on consumer in-wall speakers, and to research and benchmark the performance of various commercial and prototype loudspeaker-room correction devices.
You will hear a lot more about the Harman International reference listening rooms in the near future because of the pivotal role they will play in the research, testing and subjective benchmarking of new Harman consumer, professional and automotive audio products. Just thinking about these research possibilities makes me truly excited!