October 15, 2010

My New Room - Part 2

The photo of my new room above was taken last night. It has a skewed perspective, like when you look into a funny mirror. I used Photoshop to merge a few photos together to produce the panorama. I guess that was all what it could do with the photos I provided. The lens used was a little too wide.

Anyway, back to the new room. The wait for the sofa set turned out to be shorter than expected, it was delivered last week. I have also put up bookshelves and CD racks at the room corners behind the sofa. The bookshelves were filled with magazines, boxes of my hifi stuff and documents and trays of CDs.

With all these additions, I could sit down and have a more complete evaluation of how the system sounded.

A few things that I dreaded before I moved in did not quite happen.

First dread was excessive brightness. that did not happen, not even when before the sofa and the bookshelves were added. When I did not hear excessive brightness I grew concerned again instead of feeling relieved. I was afraid that, with the sofa and the bookshelves, too much absorption could occur and I would end up losing treble volume and sparkle.

In fact, though without brightness, the treble in the beginning was diffused and lacked definition. On cymbal work, for example, there was no sense of the stick hitting metal. I was so happy that I did not hear excessive brightness I missed it all together. Until PuchongWong pointed it out to me. This was probably caused by too much reflection/echo. The definition actually improved with the sofa and the shelves in.

There was also another aspect to it. The treble got better when I placed Shunyata Dark Field cable lifters under the loudspeaker cables, two per cable, close to the cables ends. The effect of the Dark Fields was not night and day, but it was significant enough. My speaker cables didn’t lie on carpet, so rather than the ‘Dark Field drains away static electricity build-up’ angle, I tend more towards Jim Smith’s assertion in his book, ‘Get Better Sound’, that cable lifters reduce resonance in the cables (induced, for example, by the vibration transmitted by your speakers to the floor when they play). I also found that 2 pieces of Dark Fields per cable were enough, adding a 3rd one made the sound a little too dark for my liking.

However, the area that I dreaded most was bass boom or a fat bottom. I had very little experience and success dealing with bass in my old room. In the new room, probably due to its bigger space, the bass did not sound too excessive to start with. But it sounded lumpy and blur, and if I pause a track at the middle of a loud bass note, I could hear it go on a short while more.

I piled what I could find – boxes and luggage full of books, magazines and stuff that were not yet unpacked, into the four corners of the room, which are the places that created the most amount of reflected sound (not just bass but the whole spectrum. You can stand close to and speak into a room corner. You might be surprised by what you hear, I was). Later I also piled on some Auralex LENRD bass trap that a friend loaned me. I put the bookshelves at the corners and stuffed them with magazines and boxes. All these, plus the plush sofa, solved the problem somewhat.

The bass region could use more work for its definition, extension and focus though. However I can live with it right now. All the ‘ad hoc treatment’ I put on will be replaced with more proper and permanent solutions in due course.

Soundstage wise, it was wider and deeper than what I had in my smaller old room. The soundstage though, did not extend much beyond the left-right speakers and beyond the front wall. Both were confirmed by listening with the hitting-on-wood-block-and-walk-around tracks on the ‘Throne’ CD, intended to test stage width and depth. I would also like the images to be better anchored. More work on speaker positioning needs to be done.

My other concern was my 60-watt Pass Labs XA60 monoblocks. Would they be powerful enough to drive the EgglestonWorks to satisfactory level in the bigger room? In fact, before I moved, some friends were already teasing me to get a bigger amp. To my pleasant surprise, the little XA’s played fearlessly. The Pass Labs–EgglestonWorks pairing retained its tonal quality, details and speed. In terms of dynamics and loudness, I can still enjoy Hugh Masekela’ ‘Hope’, Charly Antolini’s ‘Crash’ and the torture tracks from the Manger disc. Though they would sound a little stretched at time, I think for at least 90% of my music, these little guys are fine.

So, there are more things to be done. And I’d definitely value observations from friends who come and visit. In the meantime, I’d enjoy the music too (don't forget the music) :-).


Drubb said...

Hi Odiosleuth,

Your room seems to be shaping up very nicely indeed.

I am sure you will have lots of fun ( and frustration too ) when grappling with the issues you mentioned. But you are lucky to have such knowledgable and experienced friends to discuss with.

One similarity that we have is the heavy drapes covering our front walls, though mine is not nearly half as much as yours. My drapes cover a long glass window. I found that I am able to dial in as much treble energy as I need by parting the drapes accordingly.
I wonder if you have such 'facilities' as well :=)

kiarch said...

Congratulations!! I would love to have the chance to drop by for a serious listening at your convenience.

You've moved?

OdioSleuth said...

Hi Drubb,

Thanks for the photos of your system and room that you sent us after Big E contacted you. You have an excellently put together system, we hope very much to hear it one day, despite the geographical distance!

Yes, what a coincident, both of us have heavy drapes on our front walls! Your 'dial-in treble energy' design is what I was thinking too! I had to order the drapes without knowing what they would do acoustically. I wanted the front wall covered, in anticipation of a projector screen. The right side wall has 2 panes of windows so I had to get them covered up anyway. The left side wall is solid concrete, but for symmetry sake (visually and acoustically) I had them covered up too. I still remember the confused expresseion the curtain shop proprietor had when I told her I wanted to make curtain for the solid wall. :-).

Not knowing how this much fabric would do to the acoustic behaviour of the room, I decided to make the front wall drapes in 4 panels (2 X 4.5ft wide and 2 X 3ft wide), so I can draw them open individually or even dismantle a couple of them if need to. (again the curtain shop lady looked confused, but hey I was the customer!)

The curtains at the side walls came in 2 panels, so I could also draw them open or close.

So far, I have been listening with all the curtains drawn closed, and am quite happy with the result. Have not experimented drawing some of the panels open, later may be.

The fabric is of the blackout type, so when they are fully drawn, the room is totally darkened even in the middle of the day. I did this again in anticipation of the HT, but it turned out to be a bonus for hifi - I could listen in a darkened environment for a better sense of stereo even during daytime.

Hi Jo,
Yes, we have moved into the new place for a month. I have been thinking to invite you over for a listen, your opinion and feedback will benefit me tremendously! Will definitely contact you to arrange!

PuchongWong said...

Drubb and OdioSleuth,

Both of you are best brothers I suppose.

Ken said...

Hi OS,

I agree with Drubb. The curtains can really suck out the treble.

I have 2 suggestions

1. I would suggest that you open the curtain slightly in the center. This will help focus the center (vocalist) and also brings back some treble.

2. Another thing I would do is to pull the speakers further away from the front wall. This will help with image depth and also improve bass definition. Pulling too much away will reduce bass though, so experiment.

Just my opinion

OdioSleuth said...


All audiophiles are brothers, no? :-)


Thanks for your suggestions, shall experiment with them in due course.
Please give me a call when you have some free time on your hands. Come over for a listen la. :-)

Ken said...

Hi OS,

Will try to make time to come visit. I have been extremely busy lately, travelling around Malaysia and also Thailand for work reasons. Next week I will be going down South for the whole week.

Will try to catch up