On Dalston Rio’s retro acousics

This week I went to he Dalston Rio for the first time and was pleasantly surprised by the acoustic environment I found there.

Most recent times I’ve been to the cinema i’s been to multiplexes or otherwise somewhat plush or high end places. The room is very soft, carpety and dull sounding to dampen any room-noise; the seats are on a steep incline to ensure everyone gets the best view; and the soundtrack is bass heavy, booming, yet crisp and, above all, loud.

The Dalston Rio differed from that and it changed my experience quite profoundly. While the room still feels plush, it’s not been acoustically engineered in the same way as modern ‘plexes – the space still sounds quite lively and doesn’t have the muffled feel of a modern screen; The seating, as the picture shows, is on a much gentler incline; and the film’s soundtrack was played at a much more moderate volume than is now normal.

The cumulative effect of these three factors could be seen as a negative one: The experience as a whole was much more “noisy” by usual definitions, the noisefloor was much higher; The view was less clear and it felt like I was leaning back to look up at the screen rather than a typical forward/downward TV-viewing posture; and people’s coughing, shuffling and laughter was more noticeable due to a combination of the three factors.

But for me this extra noise served to enhance the effect of the film. Watching the Liberace story seemed much more credible to be in what felt like a 1970s cinema. The whole experience felt much more social, communal, to hear others’ reactions to the film and interactions between one another. Perhaps it relates to my love of ¬†record crackle, tape hiss, environmental sound and the like – these sounds that are generally seen as unwanted noise to me add some kind of authenticity.


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