How to get good sound without annoying neighbors?
May 27, 2010 11:53 AM   Subscribe

Do you have any recommendations for a sound system / speaker layout that will get good sound to my ears, but not to my downstairs neighbor?

I just moved above a middle-aged tenant. I want to be respectful, but would also like good surround sound for movies and music. I have shag carpet, if that makes a difference.

How do you minimize sound in this situation? Are there specific brands of sound systems specifically designed for this? Would mounting speakers make things better or worse? Does elevating the sub-woofer help? Are there any products or methods for sound-proofing the floor?

Just FYI, I plan on introducing myself to him and opening a dialog about the noise, too. I view this as a crucial step.
posted by TimeTravelSpeed to Technology (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
posted by jon1270 at 11:55 AM on May 27, 2010

Another kind of obvious consideration is that I'm trying to avoid paying extra for systems that are really good at high-volume since I'll rarely use it. I'd prefer to spend the money on something that's easy to set up, has a variety of speakers, plenty of audio connections, etc.
posted by TimeTravelSpeed at 11:55 AM on May 27, 2010

Unless there is something exceptional about the sound insulation in your building (which is unlikely), there probably isn't any way that you'll be able to fully utilize a surround sound system that would be bothersome to a neighbor (regardless of age). Bouncing a subwoofer would just be cruel!

Headphones are the best way to crank it up without being rude.
posted by HuronBob at 12:09 PM on May 27, 2010

would=wouldn't oops
posted by HuronBob at 12:09 PM on May 27, 2010

Yeah, I've had to consider this question myself recently, and decided on a really good pair of wireless headphones. I live alone in a small apartment, and I can turn it up as loud as I like. Nothing ground-shaking—of course—but it's super convenient and oughta sound good enough.
posted by carsonb at 12:23 PM on May 27, 2010

Headphones aren't really an option since I would like to watch movies with friends or have music in the background.

If there isn't a way to muffle sound being transmitted to his ceiling, then my question would change to "what's a decent sound system that produces good sound at low-mid volume, and is versatile?" E.g. uses the latest technologies, has more speakers, plenty of inputs, etc.

I just don't want to waste money on a system that's only considered good because of its ability to handle high volume.
posted by TimeTravelSpeed at 12:29 PM on May 27, 2010

Bass is the thing that travels really well through anything - you'll want to avoid all types of subwoofers and large speakers that have SUPERBASS!

I'd avoid surround sound at all costs, and get a good pair of monitor speakers. I used to be a Home Theater nerd for a long time, but tossed it all out upon moving to NYC. A pair of ~$200 monitors can really sound good at any volume, and they are tuned to be flat, and not have turbo bass like a lot of big speakers have.

Something like these would be all somebody needs in a low-volume apartment, even for movies.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 12:45 PM on May 27, 2010

I have the m-audio AV-30s; specifically bought them for neighborliness factors. They're excellent, and made me realize that while it's not surround sound, man, the high-end of the spectrum is so much better than my former subwoofer-owner's mind thought.
posted by circular at 2:09 PM on May 27, 2010

My place has thin floors and ceiling, too. Though I run most of my audio through a standard computer system (subwoofer, two higher end speakers), I put everything through my DJ mixer first. This allows me to do some basic EQ-ing, including trimming the low end as required.

And yeah, BASS is rather over-rated these days ... unless you're out on the dance floor.
posted by philip-random at 2:22 PM on May 27, 2010

Most quality subwoofers will have the ability to be calibrated and equalized to your preference of more or less bass. Focus on acquiring a high-quality subwoofer that you can calibrate rather than a poor-quality subwoofer that doesn't do the thing it's supposed to do (pump out clean low frequency bass).

This way you will be able to calibrate it appropriately for your current place (high quality sound with minimal disturbance to neighbors). On top of that, you will be able to recalibrate it in the future to match new surroundings and circumstances.

Also, remember to demo the system in person (if you are spending money for a more expensive system) at a participating retail vendor before you purchase (even if you purchase elsewhere or online). This will also provide a basic touch-point for determining the point of diminishing returns in terms of price/budget vs. sound quality based on your own ears.
posted by seppyk at 2:39 PM on May 27, 2010

Could you coordinate with him? Set up your stereo at various volumes with him on the phone and he can tell you when he can hear it. Plus establishing the social lines so he can call you freely if it's too loud seems more important than speaker selection.
posted by chairface at 3:38 PM on May 27, 2010

Could you coordinate with him?

This is basically what I meant by the crucial step of opening a dialog with him. I agree that this is very important, but speaker selection will also be.
posted by TimeTravelSpeed at 8:32 AM on May 28, 2010

The AV30's look like a pretty good choice. A friend of mine suggested that I place the speakers on either end of my couch, that way I won't need to turn them up very loud for other people to hear, and I'll get a pseudo-surround experience. Sorta like couch headphones :)
posted by TimeTravelSpeed at 8:34 AM on May 28, 2010

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