Hi all. Having grown up in a musical family, I've been exposed to
jazz and classical music as a kid which dad and mom would listen to. I've played several instruments and would
attend live music (e.g. saw Oscar Peterson at the Burlington, ON library in the
basement for FREE in the '70s), so moving into the audiophile world was a
no-brainer once funds became available.
Below are a few thoughts around why I bought the equipment I did and the
importance of adding acoustic treatments to further the enjoyment. Thanks for
reading! .... Kevin
I've always had box speakers so wanted to try electrostatics. The size of the SoundLabs means they also do
low bass (~30Hz) which is augmented by a pair of servo-controlled subs by
Rythmik. A Dayton Audio OmniMic is used
to optimize the placement of speakers, subs, and acoustic treatments. I like a tilted upwards bass
curve meaning that 25Hz is about 15dB louder than 100Hz in a pretty linear
straight line. Much experimentation has
gone into SoundLab placement and front wall treatments. When the speakers are too far from the front wall all songs
sounded like reverb had been added to them, and too close to the front wall collapsed
the soundstage depth and introduced phase issues. The best distance was 5' front back to speaker to front wall. Just as important as distance was front wall treatment: Absorption killed the "live" sound I prefer, Diffusion (QRDs, Skylines) was better at keeping the live sound, but the best solution was a bit of absorption behind the speakers with diffusion mid front wall. This allowed the details to be presented along with the "live" like sound.
Digital files are managed by JRiver and fed to exaSound DAC
which handles all file types and offers headphone listening. An old Sony 5-disc player is used to play CDs
picked up at garage sales to know if I enjoy them enough to rip to my laptop
Tubes have always sounded a bit better to my ear than solid
state so have selected a solidly built preamp (PrimaLuna) and time tested amp
(VAC) with the magic of 300B tubes. With
two 300B tubes per channel, it puts out 32watts/channel which is enough to
drive the speakers to levels I enjoy.
Having built a dedicated music room in my previous house, I
was appalled at how bad it sounded without any acoustic treatments. So I began studying the physics of small room
acoustics and bought and built my own treatments which began a multi-year
education and experimentation process. I'm
a huge fan of how much of an improvement room treatments can make despite the
room looking more like a recording studio which I'm fine with. The Dayton OmniMic is critical for seeing what you're hearing in real-time so placement adjustments can be made. NOTE: just because the room measures well doesn't necessarily mean it sounds best I learned. The ears/brain must be able to detect things the mic didn't . . .
HP Laptop (music server) with JRiver and JRemote software HP Pavilion
running JRiver and JRemote music mgmt software and ASIO Windows drivers for the DAC
USB noise suppressor
AudioQuest Diamond USB A-B digital cable from laptop to DAC
exaSound DAC with Teddy Pardo power supply e48 8 multichannel DAC
Wonderful DAC that supports all DSD hi-res formats and hi-res PCM.
Great headphone amp and preamp too!
I use 4 of the eight channels to do speaker-by-speaker tailoring of parameters to optimize the sound quality. The DAC is the foundation upon which JRiver's DSP functionality comes to life by being able to control hi/low-pass frequency and slopes, delay, phase, polarity, gain, and parametric EQ for each individual speaker and sub! It's like a manual Audyssey for a 2.2 stereo rather than a home theatre ....
PrimaLuna DiaLogue Premium preamp
Heavy and solidly built preamp.
Using Tung-Sol 5AR4 and Genalex ECC82 Gold Lion tubes
Comes with a metal remote that must weigh 2-3lbs!!
SELLING: Bryston 10B STD active crossover
NO LONGER NEEDED:
(The Bryston active crossover is used to limit the low bass going to the 300B tube amp and redirect it to the pair of Rythmik subs. The 10B is incredibly flexible with separate crossover frequency and slope settings for each channel (Hipass Left, Hipass Right, Lowpass Left, Lowpass Right). After trying about 200 different combinations of settings I found the best setting at 100Hz and 6dB for the mains and 100Hz and 18dB for the subs.)
Valve Amplification Company (VAC) Renaissance 30/30
300B SET amp with two 300B tubes/channel producing 32watts/ch.
Using Genalex PX300B Gold Lion tubes and Tung-Sol 6SN7GTB tubes
to drive my 87dB efficient speakers with surprising ease!
Sound Lab A-3PX
Dipole electrostatic speakers standing nearly 75” tall and 3 feet wide each panel.
Because there is very little sound energy from the speaker's sides I placed them very close to each side wall as the room width is only 11 feet and change wide. They are toed-in about 10 degrees and pulled 8' from the front wall behind them. There is a 3-high stack of RPG Skyline diffusers about 5.5' behind the speaker to scatter the rear firing sound waves. More diffusion is placed mid wall on the front wall with thick bass traps behind and below it.
Rythmik F15 subs
Two F15 servo controlled subs (15" drivers, 300watt plate amps ea.) cut over around 50Hz serving the bottom octaves.
Each is placed halfway across the room's width with one near the front wall and the second near the back wall.
Freq cutoff, phase/delay, volume and a one-band PEQ are used on each sub so that together with the main speakers I get a smooth tilted up bass curved below 100Hz. Meaning that 25Hz is about 12-15dB louder than 100Hz which sounds better to my ears and generally falls in line with the equal loudness curves of how our ears work (i.e. less sensitive to lower frequencies hence the bass boost).
OnFilter CleanSweep EMI AC Filter
Two industrial AC line noise filters that really work!! They reduce EMI/RFI and surges and are small black boxes with 2 outlets each. One box is used for the amp and a heavy duty Tripp Lite powerstrip/bar that powers the DAC, preamp, and main speakers while the second box powers the pair of subwoofers. When using a EMI noise measurement tool, the OnFilter did significantly better than the audiophile line filter conditioner previously used.
Foundation Research LC1
Line conditioning filter used for the DAC.
Isotek EVO3 Syncro
DC cancelling power cord feeding the VAC amp.
Teo Audio Game Changer (GC) II interconnects
Liquid metal interconnects between DAC->preamp and preamp->amp
Audio Sensibility Statement
Cardas Audio Cardas Clear Power cord
Used on the Rythmik subwoofers.
Audience AudienceChord Power cord
Used on the amp and preamp
Salamander Designs Synergy amp stands - 2 of them (for preamp and amp)
RPG Skyline Diffusers
The 7" depth version is used on the front wall to scatter the rear-firing sound waves. I tried bass traps and lots of absorption but it didn't sound natural and lost much of the "liveliness" so was swapped out for diffusion instead.
Also placed on sidewalls by my listening chair.
GIK Acoustics QRD diffusers
These are 7" depth and 9 of them (3 columns of 3) are positioned on the back wall about 7' from the listening chair.
GIK Acoustics Tritraps and Monster bass traps
TriTraps are placed on the floor / side wall corner along the left wall and also on the floor / back wall corner.
Two stacked Monster bass traps are placed in the middle of the front wall.
DIY acoustic treatments Skyline Diffuser
501 blocks of wood ranging from 0 - 10.5” in 1.5” increments and effectively diffuses down to 645Hz and likely another half to one octave lower. Prime number used was 547. It hangs on the left side wall about half way between where the listening chair and back wall are.
DIY acoustic treatment Hemi-Cylindrical Diffuser
DIY hemi-cylindrical diffuser (i.e. polyfuser) and bass trap for back wall corners. Started out as a 12' long 48" diameter SONO tube used for concrete pillars. I added Owens Corning 701 fiberglass for bass absorption and covered it in black speaker cloth. Total thickness of 30” means it absorbs down to about 65Hz while the curved hard surface diffuses/scatters mids and high frequencies.
Dayton Audio OmniMic Precision Measurement System
Used to optimize the following:
* speaker's location
* two subwoofer's locations
* effect of adding, moving, removing acoustical treatments to the room (i.e. Freq Response and Reverb Time).
May 19, 2020 Update: With COVID and stay-at-home orders I've had lots of time to experiment with speaker and chair positioning, and front wall (behind the speakers) treatments. It has literally taken me months and hundreds of hours to experiment to get the "best" sound for my room. Keep in mind that I'm new to dipole speakers so experimentation led to learning led to more experimentation etc. A very iterative process. Some insights are listed below:
* bare front wall is very alive sounding but all the reflections obscure details, even when speakers are pulled 7-8feet out. Also, every tune sounds like it was mixed with lots of reverb. Not ideal.
* absorption (i.e. thick 6" traps) on front wall killed the musical energy but allowed musical details to be heard kind of like listening via a huge pair of headphones. Not ideal.
* diffusion on front wall allowed more details to be heard and kept most of the aliveness. Problem was that the GIK QRDs made from hard plastic didn't sound as good as the RPG Skylines made from hard styrofoam. Both types are 7" deep so work to the same lower end frequency but I think the styrofoam absorbs more than the plastic. Nearly Ideal.
* finding the right mix of diffusion, absorption, and reflection on front wall equalled "Ideal" sound (for me). The SoundLabs are convex shaped at the front and therefore concave on the back with a focal point about 3feet from the back of the panel. Placing a RPG Skyline diffuser another 2 feet back from the focal point (so 5' back) and having the back of the diffuser about 9" away from the front wall seemed to work best. Corner bass traps absorbed too much aliveness from about 200hz on down so I opted for a centre wall absorption position with reflective bafles on either side that angle the reflections out to between the speakers. Now I have details and aliveness sound.
* No toe in and increased sitting distance from the speakers presented a huge sound stage
* Diffusion is on side wall and rear wall to open up the apparent size of the room which is only 11' * 25'
I’ve switched out the Elacs and moved in a pair of very large Sound Lab A-3PX speakers. At nearly 75” tall and 3ft wide for each panel, they are hard to miss but oh they through a huge sound stage not surprisingly. And what bass they produce, both depth and clarity and integration from a single panel.
Been experimenting with acoustic treatments and ended up with bass traps in front wall corners with a wall of QRD diffusion in the middle of the front wall. I tried all absorption on the front wall but it made the speakers sound like I was listening through headphones instead of the more lively and to me more engaging sound from using diffusion. Speakers are 5-6ft away from the front wall
Back wall is RPG Skyline diffusers and a pair of Rythmik subs.
Using RPG Skylines on side wall reflections.
Lastly set up some mood lighting on the front wall ....
Update: I've been playing around with front wall (i.e. behind the speakers) acoustic treatments. I had corner bass traps and vertical boards on either side of the centre hemifuser that were angled so reflections hitting them would be sent to the side walls where I have diffusion. Upon re-reading Dr Toole's book that suggests absorption on the front wall, I replaced the vertical boards with GIK Monster Traps also angled but not for reflections but to absorb more frequencies of varying quarter wave lengths. The result was an improvement in the ability to hear more musical details and a tightening of the bass (not surprisingly). I've posted the latest in room frequency response which is pretty darn flat with the bass tipped up below 100Hz on purpose to sound better.
Hi Tablejockey - thanks for your post and compliment. My second Rythmik F15 sub is on the right side wall near my sitting position. The corners are taken up with bass trapping so alternative placements had to be found using a Dayton OmniMic and test tones to "shoot the room" for best placement.
For what it's worth, if you do decide to get the Adante FS-61 speakers, I'd recommend a Parasound amp as their high current does a great job of controlling the speaker drivers (I guess any high current amp would). ...Cheers