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  • Writer's pictureJim Cathey

Where do you start? REW testing? Outside consultant? Clap listening for echos?

Let's start with the easy stuff; 1st and 2nd reflection points on the sidewalls and floor. Yes, the shape of your room will need more planning but straight away its about the first reflection points and the hard services, corners, furniture, wall, and floor coverings. In the end, this is a game about managing the timing of the sound waves to your left and right ears for mid and high frequencies and if necessary, managing the low frequency.

There are plenty of books and web-references on this subject as well as outside services. For me I started with some Roxul acoustic panels 48’x24’x2” to see how that would impact the room; it was an experiment I could do quickly. Literally raw non framed batts could be placed in the room at the obvious reflection points using the mirror test. Yes, it made a difference, and soon I was adjusting my speakers and seating position and relistening to reference recordings. It was clear the delta was significant from just my listening alone and there was a path to keep improving. My room is not a standard size or dimension and hence I wanted some help, and that was available. The GIK Acoustics team was able to advise and provide a suggested treatment with their products and some straightforward analysis that included the spec of speakers and amps along with room measurements; videos and photos of the room also played their part and were helpful. If you like what they suggest order away or add more or trim back their suggestions. They are a wealth of knowledge and also have improvements that look like art/framed pictures that may be needed for multipurpose non-dedicated rooms.

After some discussion with the GIK teams, the products eventually arrived and I placed all of the wall and floor stand treatments for the side, front and back walls and placed the bass traps in corners as suggested by the GIK team. I again went through the reference recordings and again there was a significant improvement that required me to again adjust the speaker positions, listening position and make a few adjustments with the panels although I admit very minor. Finally, was the ceiling-mounted treatment which again demonstrated another significant improvement in the audio, and it should have; it’s a major 1st reflection point. The audio improvements are as you would expect and can read on other sites as it relates to imaging, depth and width of sound stage, and a much tighter and true low frequency. The removal of interfering sound waves allows more detail to be imaged and with this, you will re-experience your library of recordings.

Below are pictures of the digital representation of my audio room. The 1st and 2nd reflection points on the floor, ceiling, and walls or lack of walls were straightforward. What was impressive is the number of base traps I put into the corners. The bass traps are as if you never have enough. I also like the option of selectable frequency absorption coupled with diffusion. I did not want a completely dead room. Notice the rug in the room? It’s not synthetic but a thick uneven wool rug with a non-slip pad under it. This helps with the absorption whereas synthetic uniform cut rugs can reflect. And that grey table in front of the listening position, yup it must be removed when performing critical listening. The reflections are well managed in the room to the point where that table’s interference is noticeable.

Post the room treatment I did go the route of measuring the room acoustically with REW; Room EQ Wizard. Great software that when paired with a miniDSP USB mic can do far more analysis of your room. The REW software is great but you will have to read/study, it’s not for a novice. Nevertheless, for 2 channel stereo systems, it's helpful but if our doing a studio with digital acoustical adjustments it’s a must-have. Again, you can have experts for this. In the end, I trust what I hear or can’t hear and like the REW as a reference for my 2-channel listening room.

Going through this process was necessary given the challenges of the current San Diego room. It did give me an opportunity to think about the rooms the system was in before; Tokyo and Taiwan, and how those were naturally better and why. It also gives me a heads up for future planning for the next room. Bottom line, room treatments are necessary for a significant improvement in your home audio experience and there are solutions for dedicated rooms and shared multipurpose rooms.

You can read more about REW here


San Diego (Home) Audio Room set up - Reference Pics

  • Writer's pictureJim Cathey

Updated: Sep 5, 2020

Clearaudio Jubilee MC

After a faithful run and some melodious memories, the Benz Ebony TR cartridge hit the re-tip point; loved that cartridge. It was amazing with great warmth and yet solid detail but all things or should I say good things do come to an end at some point. The Benz Micro in Switzerland stopped production ☹. So, after a lot of research, reading, and consulting, I decided not to have the Ebony TR re-tipped by a third party and decided to move to a Jubilee MC, Clearaudio. It has been months since I installed the Jubilee MC but was just too busy to try it out and share my notes. Finally got a chance this weekend, after a burn-in period.

The feeling with Jubilee MC goes something like Wow and Oh let me play that song again. Yes, the Clearaudio performed on an elevated level as compared to the beloved Benz Ebony TR. Now grant it the Benz needs a re-tipping aka tune up but the Jubilee demonstrated more power and energy creating more separation of instruments and voices with a sliver of detail/brightness that was complimentary and not harsh. You could, as with the Ebony TR, feel the music more, and more is better. Thank you Clearaudio.

A few records I put under the Jubilee MC, all live performances: Eagles Hotel California - Hell Freezes Over 1994 live recording pressed in Europe (yes that’s a really good one). Patricia Barber, A Fortnight in France Album with the song Norwegian Wood. Diana Krall, Live in Paris album, A Case of You. After playing these and other vinyl selections it was like being at the Eagles concert, having Diana Krall and her piano in my music room and Patricia Barber’s entire band perform live especially the bass player. Great music records with an outstanding cartridge.

Note the Jubilee was paired with a new step-up transformer from Bob’s Devices, the Sky 20, and connected with Transparent Audio cables. The TT is still a McIntosh MT5 Precision Turntable ("The turntable of the gods." - Rolling Stone) with a special Asai disc sheet AMG-2000, powered by a custom McRu linear power supply and modified vibration isolation from IsoAcoustic and a Minus K isolation table. Yes, I went crazy with vibration isolation and room treatment since arriving from Japan. I am still a big fan of Bob SUT’s; great performance and value. And the Asai disc continues to provide a surface that combines the warmth of the MT-5 Acrylic platter but pops the music with clarity and no muddiness.

Vibration isolation and room treatment are altogether a different ball-game so let me leave it for later. For now, getting back to tuning up my week😊

Where words leave off, music begins.” - Heinrich Heine

BoB's Devices SUT SKY 20
MT-5 with ISO ACOUSTICs Feet and Minus K Isolation Table

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