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High End Pre Amp with Tone Controls?

 

New member
Username: Jim1961

Dublin, Texas USA

Post Number: 1
Registered: Aug-07
I know, most of you are probably purests and dont believe in high end pre-amps with tone controls. But in my case, I need this flexibility. Anyway, can anyone recommend anything? Im currently running a Hafler DH-110 pre-amp, a Classe CA-100 power-amp, and a Rega Apollo CD player. A line stage unit would be fine for I have no vinyl.

Thanks.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 11093
Registered: May-04
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What do you need in the way of tone controls? Most are very broad in their action and serve to do more harm than benefit. Others are often too selective and don't do enough to solve problems. Try looking at a used McIntosh pre amp with their version of a graphic equalizer.


http://www.audioclassics.com/detail.php3?detail=C32&nav=cat


Otherwise, scan the Audio Clasics pages. There are several vintage pre amps that still hold their own against anything you'd find new in a reasonable price range that would include tone controls. The B&K, Citation, Marantz, etc. are all good choices offering a step up over the Hafler unit.


.
 

New member
Username: Jim1961

Dublin, Texas USA

Post Number: 2
Registered: Aug-07
As far as what I need, standard bass and treble would be sufficient as long as I get around +/-10db or so in those regions.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 11097
Registered: May-04
.

I'm sorry, I was unaware of a "standard" tone control. Where would that place the knee of the control? 250Hz, 500Hz, 2kHz, 10kHz? What about loudness compensation?
 

New member
Username: Jim1961

Dublin, Texas USA

Post Number: 3
Registered: Aug-07
Your making this more complex than needed.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 11098
Registered: May-04
.

No, just trying to point out that buying and using "tone controls" is not a easy as it appears. Simple bass and treble controls can have very different effects depending on the designer's preferences. Add in the effects of a loudness compensation control, whether fixed or vairable, and it's own non-standard knee frequency - and whether loudness compensation affects only bass or bass and treble - and tone controls can be a bit messy and mostly useless. This leads me back the McIntosh five band tone controls with variable loudness compensation. They are the most effective group of controls I've come across. And, when you buy the tone controls, a Mac pre amp comes along free.


Otherwise, consider what you require and then choose accordingly.

.
 

New member
Username: Jim1961

Dublin, Texas USA

Post Number: 4
Registered: Aug-07
Anywhere you would recommend to find these other than ebay?
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 11104
Registered: May-04
.

You can look at Audio Classics, the site I linked to previously, and Audiogon. Both cater to a high end clientelle with decent prices and far better reputation for handling consumer aduio pieces than eBay. Otherwise, put "vintage audio" in a search engine and you'll find smaller dealers with a more personalized retail operation. I know of nothing in the current market that includes tone controls. That doesn't mean they aren't out there, but they are few and far between since tone controls have fallen into disfavor for the reasons I touched on above. You can also look at the pro audio side where graphic and parametric equalizers are still available. Behringer makes a few that are reasonably priced. Try Parts Express and wade through the car stereo junk.


.
 

Gold Member
Username: Nuck

Post Number: 8304
Registered: Dec-04
Jim, the rec's above are valid.
The preamps are generally straight through, but the tonals are always a crap shoot, resultin in personal rec's based on the tonals.
You could listen to a dozen preamps looking for your ideal sound.
A straight up device makes so much of a dirrerence. Like huge.
You stated a frequency conrol requirement.
Could I ask why you feel the need for tonals?
 

New member
Username: Jim1961

Dublin, Texas USA

Post Number: 5
Registered: Aug-07
First, let me say that ive been down the road of the purest. I know what great systems sound like that dont employ tone equalization. My conclusions were this: While many CD's sounded very good in this environment, I found some did not. Some recordings I find horribly deficient in the bass region, the treble region, or both. Plainly said, the sound engineer didnt always do his/her job properly.

Add to this that nowadays, you have a lot of material out there that is self released. Many of these recordings employ less than state of the art technology and sound flat and lifeless to me.

I also sample a lot of mp3's. Need more be said for the need for tonal capability for these?

I understand what you are all talking about, and trying to get at in addresing my needs. I thank you for your thoroughness. However, my needs are general ones, not specific ones. Its not like im dealing with a room induced standing wave at 52hz, or a speaker resonance peak at 39hz. Im merely trying to get something better that doesnt what the Hafler DH-110 already does, and that is give me the ability to add to the top or bottom end to compensate for poor engineering, sub standard mastering equipment, or a inferior medium (mp3).
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 11112
Registered: May-04
.

JL - Since the tone controls on the Hafler seem to suit your needs, find the frequency knee for those controls in your owner's manual. Choose a new/old pre amp with those frequencies in mind. Unless, of course, you chose to go with the more effective Mac pre amp or a true equalizer.
 

New member
Username: Jim1961

Dublin, Texas USA

Post Number: 6
Registered: Aug-07
I appreciate the responses so far, yet, I cant bring myself to spend money on a 30 year old Mac or Marantz, and little else has been suggested.

Any more thoughts? Anybody?
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 11129
Registered: May-04
.


Huh? No, he's not talking to me. I think he means you. Go ahead, answer him.
 

Bronze Member
Username: Wattsssup

Barrie, ON Canada

Post Number: 29
Registered: Aug-06
Lol.
 

Gold Member
Username: Nuck

Post Number: 8359
Registered: Dec-04
Jim, as a long travelled purist(as you said) then the answer is clear.

Unless you want band equipment, which usually involves seperate channels and electronic crossovers.
 

New member
Username: Jim1961

Dublin, Texas USA

Post Number: 7
Registered: Aug-07
So far, found a:

B&K Mc 101 $450
AR sp4 $350

See, this can be done. But im still in research mode. Any helpful makes, models, or sites where stuff is sold is still helpful.

Thank You.
 

Gold Member
Username: Nuck

Post Number: 8361
Registered: Dec-04
Jim, the B&K is a fair unit, not sure as to the inputs.
B&K is a solid brand.Does it offer all that you need?
Does the phono have what you need?
If yes, then pursue it.
The brand will dot(likely) let you down.
As always, why is the seller selling?
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 11141
Registered: May-04
.

Nobody said it couldn't be done, JL. We just can't do it for you. Did you check the link I posted in my first reply? It will take you to Audiogon to check for pre owned gear. And I mentioned B&K at that point. But I thought you didn't want to spend money for vintage gear. Both pre amps you list are vintage. The Audio Research SP4 is approaching 25-30 years of age. It's your money, and Audio Research is a very good company with product support, but I would rather pay for a 30 year old component that has appreciated in price rather than a vintage piece that has only depreciated. Why do you suppose the Mac and Marantz gear sells for ten times its original asking price? Could it be the sound quality or construction quality. Do ya suppose?


.
 

New member
Username: Jim1961

Dublin, Texas USA

Post Number: 8
Registered: Aug-07
Well your right, im leaning against the AR unit because of its age. When was the B&K unit made? Im trying to determine that now. It seems newer.

I think one of our problems, you and I Jan, is communication. One being whats vintage and whats not. I dont have a preconceived idea what is and isnt. While the McIntosh stuff I would think of in that vein, the B&K I wouldnt have.

Anyway, Im still learning whats out there. True, Marantz and McIntosh might be better from an investment point of view, but I have to be able to afford them in the first place. So far, I havent seen any McIntosh gear that I can afford, so the point is mute.

I did wade through the Audiogon classified. Theirs a lot of stuff there, some of which I suspect is garbage like the all that Anthem gear (perhaps its not), much of it is too pricey. I appreciate the link never the less. This is where I found the AR unit btw.

Where I am at right now is trying to determine if their is anything that competes with the B&K unit. Its my front runner right now. By compete, I mean price, features that I need, and being less than ancient.
 

Gold Member
Username: Nuck

Post Number: 8365
Registered: Dec-04
JL, Anthem makes some very impressive gear, although expensive, and maybe above your requirements.
Classe also makes some very expensive gear, but available as pre-loved equipment.
 

Gold Member
Username: Nuck

Post Number: 8366
Registered: Dec-04
JL, if you get out of the requirement of tonals, you will be much happier.
 

New member
Username: Jim1961

Dublin, Texas USA

Post Number: 9
Registered: Aug-07
Nick, the sad truth is that only about 30% of my music collection would I be happy with listening to without tone compensation. Thus, 70% of the time id more more unhappy.

I know, I fail as a purest. Shoot me.
 

New member
Username: Jim1961

Dublin, Texas USA

Post Number: 10
Registered: Aug-07
btw....I said Anthem was crap just to point out that I dont know the good, from the bad, from the ugly when it comes to many brands. Thats a strong reason for this thread. Guide me please....
 

Silver Member
Username: Stryvn

Post Number: 433
Registered: Dec-06
I believe they're trying, Jim.
 

Gold Member
Username: Nuck

Post Number: 8368
Registered: Dec-04
Jim, i was just like you a while back.
i believed that I needed tonals to control the music.
Truth be told, I just needed to let the music play and control itself a little bit, and let my head get around Little Willy John a little more.

Get offa the mp3's.
You have a good setup, let the music take over and be a good owner of the music media.
Tonals are for lazy people.
Straighten out your media, play good music on a good source and let it just happen.
Tonals are for people who cannot make the music right from the source.
Make it right and never look back.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 11143
Registered: May-04
.

It's difficult to tell when the B&K was built. The basic unit was designed in the late 1980's-early'90's. B&K updates their product more often than they change models. But the unit you're looking at could be anywhere from fifteen years old to a few months as far as I know. I would still consider it an upgrade over the Hafler.


Check the B&K web page to see if they can be of greater assistance and to see if the pre amp is still in their line up. If you're still interested, contact the seller and inquire about a serial number and date of manufacture. Then you might want to check back with B&K to see if that jibes with their serial/date information. Usually a company can tell you when a stretch of numbers were built, such as 90-075520 to 90-077857 were built between such and such date.


.
 

Bronze Member
Username: Jim1961

Dublin, Texas USA

Post Number: 11
Registered: Aug-07
Thanks Jan :-)
 

Bronze Member
Username: Jim1961

Dublin, Texas USA

Post Number: 12
Registered: Aug-07
Well Jan, I called B&K. To make a long story short, they told me that they no longer have many of the parts for this unit. Additionally, the power supply is a separate unit and if goes out, they have no replacements, or ability to fix them. Basically, if something goes out, throw it in the garbage.

To say the least, this was quite discouraging. But realistically, im going to run into this with probably all these old dinosaurs.

So, im going to change my strategy. See my new thread for details.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 11146
Registered: May-04
.

Audio Research still supports every product they ever sold. McIntosh doesn't stock parts but they are readily available for 90% of all McIntosh ever built. Scott, Dynaco, Marantz and Citation can almost always be repaired.
 

Silver Member
Username: Leonski

Post Number: 189
Registered: Jan-07
Late 80's NAD1700 has 3 turnover freqs.
bass= 50 / 120 / 250
treble= 3k / 6k / 12k
NAD called them 'semi parametric' and they had fairly steep curves.
there is also a 'bass eq' and a backpanel switchable bass cut filter, which I think was once called a 'rumble filter', good for TTs and maybe to keep from killing a modern sub?
While not up to Mac standards, this is a good example of a reasonable tone control with a little more controlability. I have set them for a little increase at 50 and a little increase at 12k, to make up for deficiencies in my Maggies.
 

Gold Member
Username: Nuck

Post Number: 8488
Registered: Dec-04
Cool, Leo.
I have a 73 Pioneer pre/pro and that old thing has it all. input voltage selecter(110/100)v!
Bias, seperate channel attenuators, a selector for damping factor! up to 120 on the knob and some other stuff.

It's just been sitting in the room for months, your post reminded me that the shop is waiting for me to bring it in. Dan at DTSaudio.com says he has all the parts, and can clone most for cheap.

Sorry if I am OT, Jim, but lots of stuff can still be great.And fixable.
 

Bronze Member
Username: Jim1961

Dublin, Texas USA

Post Number: 21
Registered: Aug-07
I agree Nuck. Its just that it isnt common knowledge to all what old stuff is fixable and whats not.

Surely most would agree that putting good money into something old and unfixable is a risky investment.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 11190
Registered: May-04
.


JL - You must work for an HMO.


If not, don't show that post to your kids.
 

New member
Username: Janalon

Post Number: 1
Registered: Feb-10
I know this is an ancient thread... but as someone who still uses tone controls, I have been looking for something in a similar vein. That is, a TUBE preamp that has tone controls... So far my big find is Vincent Audio stuff. They have many items that are their tube hybrid type and have tone controls. Have not auditioned one yet, but will soon...

-Jesse
 

Platinum Member
Username: Nuck

Post Number: 14611
Registered: Dec-04
Tonals are OK if they can be completely removed from the path when not used. Even with the device out of the circuit, the path is longer than necessary in a simpler design.
McIntosh has tonals that are removed from the path entirely.
I would investigate this on an component.
 

Silver Member
Username: Nmytree

Post Number: 438
Registered: Aug-04
McIntosh C220 preamp- has tone controls and it's an excellent preamp.
 

Silver Member
Username: Nmytree

Post Number: 439
Registered: Aug-04
Or even better look for a previously owned McIntosh C42, it has the EQ built in.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Nuck

Post Number: 14889
Registered: Dec-04
I havn't seen a C42 for a while...
 

New member
Username: Henrio

Post Number: 1
Registered: May-10
Hello, this is a pretty impressive discussion about preamps with tone controls. I am also a big fan of tone controls.
I just bought a pair of Spendor S3 and power amp. Simaudio Celeste 4070, and own a Musical Fidelity The preamp (but no tone controls). I find the sound a bit dark. Would it make sense to use the preamp stage of my old Nad 3020i, or it is a total sacrilege?
Thanks.
Henri
 

New member
Username: Wilsonlaidlaw

Post Number: 1
Registered: Aug-10
I had exactly this problem after my old Quad 66/606, with tone controls, died in my French house after a lightning strike. I replaced them with a Boothroyd Stuart Meridian G02 pre amp and 2 Musical Fidelity K550 550W RMS Monoblocs. I use Klipsch RF83 Mk4 speakers and a JBL E550 sub. The house is 1960's style avant garde (think of the badies' houses in old James Bond films) made out of steel, glass, and stone. It is all open plan with odd shaped sunken areas, curved walls and stone tiled floors. The acoustics are odd to say the least. The new system just did not sound right, with a very cold feel to it. I installed a studio grade LA Audio EQ-231G 31 band, balanced equaliser between the Meridian Pre and the Monoblocs. I then spent a day with a hired dB meter and tone generator getting the sound as even/level as I could and cutting back on bands which were resonating. I then did the final trimming by ear, as it is my ears I am listening with and not a dB meter. Total success. I am now delighted with the system. If people ask if it works, there are a pair of bypass switches to the equaliser. I just switch it in and out. Nobody has so far disagreed it effects a huge improvement. I think there is an element of snobbishness about not having tone controls or equalisation but surely the acoustics of rooms differ enormously.

Wilson
 

Platinum Member
Username: Nuck

Post Number: 15271
Registered: Dec-04
Welcome Wilson.
While certainly, some rooms need correction, either by ear, scope or ARC, improving the listening are is a far better solution for the sake of neutrality.

However, if Mr. Bonds death table takes up one unweildy side of the room, with all of it's hard (but easy to clean) surfaces, then some added correction is in order.
 

New member
Username: Wilsonlaidlaw

Post Number: 2
Registered: Aug-10
Nuck,

Because the house was built by Mikel Patout (Le Corbusier's protegé) as his own retirement house, it is the French equivalent of a listed/scheduled historic building. If I tell you I have had a two month correspondence with the mayor's office on slightly changing the colour of the paint in one of the bathrooms, you will get the idea. I certainly could not put in acoustic modifying panels in the main living area. I am not sure I would want to anyway, as it could spoil the unique character of a very unique house. I have improved matters by putting in some large Persian and Moroccan loose carpets. My wife was not too pleased, when I took one she had bought on a trip to Morocco, from our UK house, as it was just the right size to fit in front of the system, to act as an acoustic damper on the stone floor. I think a lot of the problems may arise from the very large flat glass surfaces, as there are floor to ceiling windows around close to 50% of the wall surface, anything up to 4.5 meters wide.

Wilson
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15092
Registered: May-04
.

http://www.synergisticresearch.com/featured/acoustic-art-analogue-room-treatment /

http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/francktchang/resonators.html


Both systems are available for audition and both manufacturers provide full return priviledges.


.
 

New member
Username: Wilsonlaidlaw

Post Number: 3
Registered: Aug-10
Jan,

There is a certain "snake oil" smell to these devices. It is like the platinum plated unobtanium speaker cables, which turn Korean $25 Wal Mart speakers into Wilson Audio Alexandra 2's. I would want to see a proper review in a recognised audio magazine, before I spent a single cent on them.

Wilson (cynical old b*****d)
 

Bronze Member
Username: Jim1961

Dublin, Texas USA

Post Number: 22
Registered: Aug-07
Long time no hear guys......

I realized I never said what I did. I got an A.R.T. model 258 Tube Parametric EQ. Its so musical, I honestly cant tell when its engaged. Using it, worble tones, and a db meter, got things nice in the sweet spot.
 

New member
Username: Wilsonlaidlaw

Post Number: 4
Registered: Aug-10
Jim,

You and I will just have to accept, that with equalisers, we are 2nd class HiFi citizens

Wilson
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15094
Registered: May-04
.

WL, you do not need to spend "a single cent on them". They both have in home auditions possible with a fully refunded return policy. You can also stop at Ted Denney's showromm for Synergistic Research or visit a reatiler in your area who is stocking the devices. Why make comments about "snake oil" if you have no experience with the devices? You'd be one heck of a blind date, WL.


Do a web search on the devices. You'll see numerous high marks and positive comments for both systems from both consumers and reviewers alike indicating the "snake oil" has been well extricated by their respective designers leaving only the naysayers who have never auditioned the product to continue the battle of what's next in room treatments after you've tired of eq's and sound killing fiberglass. If you should take a moment to do a search for comments regarding the ART devices, please keep in mind many (a vast sum actually) of the negative comments you will find come from one other acoustic treatment retailer ("manufactuer"?) who has spent the last two plus years slandering the systems and its creator across every nook and cranny of the audio forum world. All the while this competitor has never even heard the devices on display at any of the numerous audio shows where the system has garnered vitually universal praise and sales. This one competitor employs numerous false identities and exists as mulitple sock puppets on the web based forums oftentimes even addressing himself as another poster just to further disparage the ART devices and their designer/creator/manufacturer. I'll leave it to your imagination why another acoustic treatment retailer might want to devote so much time and effort to such a pursuit unless there is a fear of lost revenue motivating his actions.

It's not important you immediately understand how the devices operate as a quick scan of the web will tell you they do operate as advertised. Did you immediately grasps how cables might affect the sound quality of your system? Most do not and even after years of "listening" to cables, they still have no verifiable explanation for why most cables can improve sound quality and musical engagement without altering the inherent quality of sound as your eq will. An open mind is all that is required. Difficult rooms are the best opportunites for the two devices.


.
 

Bronze Member
Username: Jim1961

Dublin, Texas USA

Post Number: 23
Registered: Aug-07
WL, lol. What people here need to know is that I wanted them on demand, not on full-time. So I guess when I hit that by-pass button, im an audiophile, and when I hit it again, im no longer a member.........

Given that what I ended up with was a parametric, I discovered I could really smooth in room responses to the order of 40hz--10khz +/- 3.5 db (my meter doesnt measure above 10k). Where as in by pass mode, 45-8khz +/- 5.5db. My corrections are fairly mild ones:

+3db @ 40hz
+2.5db @ 500hz
-3db @5500hz
 

New member
Username: Wilsonlaidlaw

Post Number: 5
Registered: Aug-10
Jan,

If you read my post, you would see that I did not say they were "snake oil" but that there was a "snake oil" smell about them. I cannot find a single review in any European HiFi magazine in English, French or German. You would have thought, that if they are as incredible as the manufacturer says, they would have submitted them to independent review. As someone with science degrees from Cambridge and London Universities, I am always suspicious of miracle devices, with ancient science from the east.

On cables, I agree that one should use decent cables and I use mainly Chord and Van der Hul mid-priced items. However the point I was trying to make was that a "miracle" cable is not going to change a sow's ear into a silk purse. A number of blind listening comparison reviews have shown that stratospherically expensive cables made no appreciable difference to the sound from normal good quality cables. Have a look here www.audioholics.com/education/cables/the-truth-about-interconnects-and-cables

Wilson
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15098
Registered: May-04
.

"If you read my post, you would see that I did not say they were "snake oil" but that there was a "snake oil" smell about them."


That is a semantic boogaloo which you don't look good doing.

You would have thought, that if they are as incredible as the manufacturer says, they would have submitted them to independent review."

You would have thought, wouldn't you? But I suppose you didn't even bother going to the Synergistics home page as you would have seen at least four "Reviewer's Choise" or "Product of the Year" awards provided there and you could have at least followed those links to find information. But, I suppose you didn't. Your loss.


That's fine, WL, you've now provided a sufficient number of code words to prove to me you've made up your mind about innumerable things long before you got here. And that I have no need trying to get you to the point where you accept, "An open mind is all that is required".


.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15101
Registered: May-04
.

http://www.synergisticresearch.com/press/reviews-press/


Geeeeez, WL, that wasn't difficult at all.


.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15102
Registered: May-04
.

Here's a review written by a friend of mine who happens to own the ART system ...

"WHAT IS THE ACOUSTIC ART?

The "Acoustic ART" system from Synergistic Research is an alternative approach to acoustic room treatment. It dispenses with the use of older traditional methods of absorption/diffusion, consisting of fiberglass stuffing or foam, which are known to have the side effect of damping fine harmonics in their heavy-handed approach to acoustics. The ART system adopts a more "synergistic" approach, based on principles of harmonics, and uses small, finely tuned metal resonators to treat acoustics at pressure points a room. The system I am reviewing includes the full compliment of 5 resonating devices. Although each of the devices in the Acoustic ART system can be purchased separately, for those who might not have the budget right away for the full 5-piece. (I hear there's also a much cheaper 4-piece entry-level version of the Acoustic ART system called the "Basik", but the resonators are not made to the same standards as the full system).

I read some of the enormous controversy surrounding the Acoustic ART last year on the Stereophile forum. It is that very controversy that convinced me that I needed to listen to a demonstration of this system myself, to see "who wins". That is, to see if the efforts of all the detractors of the A.R.T., who were attacking everything about it relentlessly, had any validity behind it. Or if those who were defending it, were right to do so all along. It was imperative that I find out for myself, because no one amidst all of that controversy seemed to have actually heard the system themselves! That, and the fact that I knew I needed some kind of room treatment.

THE SET-UP

The full ART system consists of two satellites (Magnetron), placed around the first order reflection points. A third one (Gravatron) placed on the rear wall. The fourth (Bass Station) is a little larger than the other three, and normally situated a few inches from the wall behind the speakers, and below the fifth resonator module, (the Vibatron). Which I call "big daddy". Vibatron consists of two very large bowl-shaped resonators, with a dispersion disc separating them, and the affair is connected by a rod of marine brass, permanently placed on a wood support. It is designed to radiate in a 360 degree pattern. The Vibratron also comes with a unique system of ball-shaped magnets, large and small, gold and silver. This can be placed atop the brass rod, and is designed to aid in contouring the effect of the resonator module.




THE SYSTEM

I was not able to do this test in my own system, as I am awaiting a part from France for my amp (I think they are still manufacturing it for me...). I set it up at my older brother's place, but I know his system very well. ( I was the system consultant. Not only the one who chose all of the components and assembled it for him, but I spent many hours in that room, tweaking, listening and tweaking some more).

Hardware:

Digital: Shanling CD-S100
Analogue: Rega Planar 3
Amplification: Naim NAIT
Speakers: KEF 104/2
Speaker wire: NAIM
IC's: Audioquest
Cassette: Nakamichi LX3, Nakamichi BX100




THE SOUND

This was not the first time I had heard the Acoustic ART, but it was the first time my brother had. He had no idea how these little "bowls" were supposed to work, nor did he even seem like he wanted to. Which is a good thing, because it avoided me having to try to explain it. I only installed the wooden supports at first, to set up the A/B trials to follow. So, without the ART resonators in the room, we started with the first track on A.J. Croce's s/t CD, "He's Got A Way With Women". Which was pleasant enough, and quite a nice recording. Good tune, good soundstage, plenty of piano. I installed the resonators in their respective perches next, and we had another listen. My brother sat there, saying nothing, but looking rather shocked, as he was taking all the information in. I was just kind of grinning.

The biggest changes were that the sound now extended well beyond the boundaries of the speakers in all planes. The dimensions of the instruments and voices the soundstage were much larger, more realistic, and could clearly be located the soundfield. Even more significantly, the tonal definition and timbre of those sounds were improved dramatically, such that the music took on new meaning. Details came out that I hadn't heard before, and they were musical details. Bass notes, for example, were much more controlled, and reached deeper than was possible without the acoustic resonator treatment. And unlike the traditional room traps I was used to, we did not have to turn the volume up in order to try to hear fine details, that are normally swamped by large surface absorptive-type damping.

With the ART resonators in place, you could now hear the full weight of AJ's piano, and the full impact of the wonderful sharp crashing sound it made as he struck down on the keys. In contrast to this upgrade, the previous version had a rinky tink piano sound, a smaller soundstage (along with a confused image), and you could not get into the music as well. Afterward, my brother told me it barely seemed like the same recording. I understood. When I first evaluated the ARTs, I would occasionally find myself checking to be sure I had repeated the same track.

We really did choose a different recording for the next test; "The Anyway Song", from the Lullabye Baxter Trio. It's your typical carnival jazz married with nursery rhyme music, but done to perfection. Again, the Acoustic ART's influence on the music was superb. Every nuance came out of the light, as Baxter's vocals took on life-size proportions. The mood created by the static and bird sounds in the background being more palpable, while there were now bags of reverb emanating from the strike of the bass drum. The whole song became more dreamy, as you got swept up by the melody coming off the cello. I felt transfixed to my experience of listening to the song, whereas in the session without the ART resonators installed, I was easily distracted during play.

Chris Whitley's "Blue Chicago Moon" turned out to be an excellent test track for the Acoustic ART. It was here where the differences were most amplified, thus far in the listening session. With the ART installed, you could now see the sound field extend way beyond the speakers themselves. You could hear a much greater range of contrast in the dynamics of Whitley's vocal performance, which better communicated the emotional purpose behind it. You felt the drum kit, more than just hearing it, as without the ART installed. It was there, on one side of the room. We were also able to hear deeper into the music, as things got that much more transparent, and bass melodies that were difficult to follow before, came out of hiding.

On the Stereophile forum, Buddha had asked if there were ever differences observed from one recording to the next. I said I would listen for that, and I did try to. I would say that I don't think the ARTs are having more of an effect on some recordings than others. But that some recordings can be perceived as having a greater change than others, due to quality of the recordings themselves. For example, the differences were more linear than dramatic, on Opal's "Happy Nightmare, Baby". The recording is ho-hum, compressed, and very much your typical pop recording with a lot of electronic effects. Once you got into a better recording, like some of the stuff from Songshia or the A.J. Croce, there was a much starker contrast between ART-in and ART-out.

My brother is by far, not the first person I've demonstrated the ART system to. And so far, nobody attending a demonstration had any difficulties hearing its effect. Which tells me that for most people, the effect of the full Acoustic ART system is not a subtle one.

CONCLUSIONS

There is no way I am going back to using traditional bass traps, room traps, triangular pillows and sculptured foam, that ended up destroying too much of the music. The cost of my Acoustic ART system was half of what outfitting my room with conventional traps cost me, and yet the ART system produces a degree of quality that I was never able to obtain from the traps I used to have. There is also no way I plan to continue listening in an untreated room. I consider good room treatment an essential component in a serious music system. The Acoustic ART was one of the best purchases I've made in audio.


THE LOCATION AND REMOVAL TESTS

A few people were curious about the effect at different locations; ie. near-field, far-field, etc. So I did some listening specific to this. Including both sitting nearfield/farfield, and walking around the room to get a sense of the change in acoustic effect. My overall sense is that the resonator system treats the whole room, and there is no particular localization effect, or pockets where the effect is not heard as well. Apart from the obvious effects of changing your ears relative to the speaker drivers, as you change your position in the room. I think the reason for this assessment is explained by my single resonator test, detailed below. Where, I discovered, that "the Acoustic ART effect" is still there, even with a single resonator in the room. It just isn't there in the "power and the glory" of the full 5-piece system. Yet small changes in the placement of the resonators can affect various characteristics of the sound, depending on what you change or how. I also did very brief (incomplete) testing on each of the modules, to better relate their individual effect. Briefly, they are:

Magnetron: There are two in the set, and I found that removing one of these, made a great difference to the sound. I did not observe the stereo image shifting with the removal of a single Magnetron on either side. But the sound became more congested, and less well defined with its loss. From its removal, the midrange was harsher, and vocals there were less clear and distinct.

Gravatron: From a picture, the Gravatron could easily be mistaken for one of the Magnetrons. However, it is subtly different physically, and so is the perch it sits on (no magnet). Removing this resonator produced harsher midrange, a reduction in mid bass, weaker definition in the bass overall, and the imaging was less distinct as well.

Vibatron: This is the big daddy, the one that looks like a sculpture of a planet. It probably caused the greatest change from its removal. Upon which, all sounds lost their original quality of definition. Details were hidden behind each other. Bass went not nearly as deep as before, and the notes now bled into one another. Background vocals did not have their own space in the soundstage, as they once did, and were now blended with the instrumentation. Dynamics suffered as well. We played around just a bit with the magnet assembly that is fitted on top of the Vibatron. Normally, it points straight up so I steered it toward the wall. The sound was perceived as a bit darker, after that. So tone can be varied with it, and I have a feeling there is a lot that can be done with this option.

Bass Station: It seemed that many of the core elements remained with its removal. Yet... (as my notes say! ), I could not imagine living without it. Realizing upon its removal, that it brought "more" to everything. More "air" around the notes, better transients, tone, depth, body, weight, etc. It allowed me to hear individual melodies, that were no longer as apparent, in its absence. It provided character to bass notes, in keep with what its name seems to imply, but affected the rest of the range as well.

Single Resonator test (Magnetron Pt. 2): This is where I removed all other modules from the room, and just kept a single Magnetron. Switching it left and right occasionally, and removing it from the room, in order to compare it to the untreated room. As mentioned, the "Acoustic ART effect" was there with the one Magnetron, just nothing like the full system. I would still qualify the one Magnetron resonator as a night/day effect, for me, versus untreated. Though it does not seem to be specifically designed to affect bass frequencies, I noted that it appears to have no distinction about frequencies, having at least some perceptible effect across the range. Small as it may be, it took the edge off the harsher qualities of the sound, provided a richer bass experience, superior resolution in timbre, and I found myself more lost in the music with it in place. More headbanging, if you will. All of which made me realize, this would be very convenient to bring along while traveling. To improve my sound in nearly any location.


THE BLIND TEST

Even after hearing the effect with his own ears, my brother still seemed to have some doubts about whether something this small was really having an effect, or whether he was being influenced by the idea that it could. Then I remembered the challenge that Buddha, on the Stereophile forum, made to me about doing an SBT (single blind test). (He suggested I wasn't "curious" enough, if I hadn't done any. And I explained I didn't need to, because the effect of the resonators in the room is not something I felt I was in doubt of). So I suggested doing an SBT, with me as the test subject. A natural choice, since I was very much more familiar with the sound of the ARTs.

Obviously, this would mean I would have to do the test blindfolded. So the entire time, I had a t-shirt wrapped around my head to use as a blindfold. The idea was that my brother would exit and come into the room, and either leave with the resonators and bring nothing in, or simply leave, and then come back, leaving them in place. Although I already couldn't see, to ensure that I couldn't hear any cues, we had loud music playing from tracks on the test CD, in between playing the test track. I got 9 correct out of 10, over the twenty trials. The one I got wrong was the last one, and I think my ears were just tuckered at that point.


THE HOME THEATER TEST

Before leaving, my brother was curious to know what effect the ARTs would have on his home theater system upstairs. Which was truly bare-bones, bottom-of-the-line stuff. It's one of those "home theater in a box" systems ("Daytek" brand). I was game, because I was curious myself what effect would be heard on this, if any. Since it certainly had no pretensions to high end sound. We sat down and popped a CD into the 5.1 system, so I could hear what I was dealing with. The sound was annoyingly dreadful. Tinny and canned, lacking in spatiality, musicality, dimensionality, and whatever else ends in "ity". I guess there's only so much you can ask of five small plastic speakers, and a particle board boombox sub, that probably sold for $150 or less. With a free DVD player and amp thrown in. On the plus side, it had nowhere to go but up.

Once we set up the ARTs in the room and had a listen to the CD again, we both agreed that it sounded like it was no longer the same system. As though a major upgrade had been made. The tinniness was gone, replaced by rich, warm sound with body, depth and character. Only occasional traces of the canned quality remained overall. The sound was more open, involving, detailed, true-to-life and immense. The differences seemed greater still than with the hifi system. That's ironic, because it's not the sort of system you would marry with the full Acoustic ART! It made more sense to test it on movies though, because that's what this set up was exclusively being used for.

I am a 2-channel guy solid, but in comparing movies with and without the resonators in the room, I quickly realized that having an Acoustic ART system in a home theater situation made a whole heck of a lot of sense. Even though this was just a test situation, where a few minutes were viewed at a time, I found the ART effect changed the whole relationship I was having with the movie. With it, I was more involved and immersed in every movie we put on, and realized right there, how much cinema sound is part of the story playing out on the screen. There was almost a hyper-real quality to detail, with the ART resonators installed. Sounds heard in the film were not localized, as they were in the untreated room. On "Paris, Je T'Aime", just the ding of a truck startled you when struck, and the note hung in the air, decaying slowly. Whereas before, I never even noticed it!

On "X-Men: Wolverines", my brother commented about the ART effect overall. Saying that it was as much fun listening to that movie on the Home Theater system with the acoustic ART, as it was listening to music earlier on the audio system. On "Extract", I noticed the bass in the country tune playing at the beginning was very much tighter and better defined than in the session without the ART. Even the FOX Searchlight theme music opening "The Wrestler" showed grandiose differences. This was especially apparent in the bass area. Without the ART system, the soundstage collapsed, the bass drum lacked the fidelity it had before, and it was not even heard as a separate element from the rest of the orchestra. Following the intro, there is a montage shown (to convey the wrestler's history), where a lot of different voices are talking at once. With the ART system removed, this became a dull, homogenized mishmash of chatter. Which you didn't pay much attention to. In contrast, when we placed the ART system back in the room, not only was it clearer what was being said, but it stayed in the conscience.

On "Henry Poole Was Here", the ART effect created a soundstage that was voluptuous, in comparison to the untreated sound. As a result, sonic elements that soundstage clearly stood apart from each other. Voices were sharply defined and clear as crystal. I could effortlessly hear the changes in the echo characteristic of the room that the real estate agent was in (near the start of the movie), as she moved around the room. I was more attuned to the nuances in the actors vocal performances as their vocal characteristics came out more, and without really thinking about it, more responsive emotionally to what they were saying. So the experience taught me there is a lot involved in home theater sound, that goes way beyond getting the channel levels or positioning right. And that having an ART system installed as part of the home theater experience can be addictive! Although I will still prefer to listen to music on 2 channel, where movies are concerned, I think I've become a fan of the home theater experience! For sure I'll have to bring one of the resonators to the theater with me, next time, and see what comes of that. Maybe go with 4 other people, instructing them to sit in the prescribed locations! ("Okay... Gravatron... you go to the back of the theater...")


--------------------
Eric


.
 

Gold Member
Username: Soundgame

Pickering, Ontario Canada

Post Number: 1192
Registered: Jun-08
Based on scientific principles....consider this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helmholtz_resonance
 

Platinum Member
Username: Nuck

Post Number: 15407
Registered: Dec-04
Here it comes....


Wow George, did you just finish reading it too?
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15227
Registered: May-04
.

This thread is so old I don't even know what you're responding to, George. But there is no way around the fact a conventional HR (the sort you seem to be pointing to in your Wiki link) will have to be quite large and cumbersome to tackle even an 80Hz bump in the road. And HR's are designed to deal with only one fundamental frequency which leaves the need for multiple HR's tuned to individual frequencies to effectively deal with most commonly recognized room issues. Spouse acceptance factor begins to wain in the face of a room full of HR's vs. absorptive traps or the more discrete devices being developed today. Should the problem be one of a frequency response dip, then HR's become even less valuable as a solution. I endorse HR's as a solution to the problems encountered when too much absorption has been applied to a room by way of conventional "traps" and absorptive panels. However, the new thinking in passive room correction devices does seem poised to make both of the large scale (physically and in number) devices such as the HR's and traps all but completely obsolete. I realize someone not willing to think beyond what they have been told to believe finds it difficult to accept that anyone else can do so, but the world doesn't wait for the slowest to catch up.


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