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Update. By May 2, 2011 Clayton had this. "We kept running into an issue with the computer itself when trying to use internal i/o routing. This has turned out to be a Channel D issue. Rob confirmed it and plans to correct it this week. The other work is done so we are only waiting on him. The Duet2 has not arrived yet but should soon. However we now won't need it for our new measurement routing system, only the Centrance USB mic pre you already have. I know you need to get the review wrapped up so we are moving as quickly as possible."

By May 10, 2001 Clayton was ready. "At long last we have a simple and effective method of measuring any speaker with any DAC. We have been testing the new software and feel confident that it is solid. Rob had to alter the software design to accommodate this idea. A simple stereo mini to stereo mini cable is the only additional hardware item necessary to create a loop back within the iMac. No other DAC such as the Duet2 is necessary. We're anxious to calibrate your system and demonstrate the effectiveness of our approach."

For the final session, Clayton installed Rob's software patch for Spatial in just a few minutes. My job consisted of inserting the perfectly sized jumper he'd supplied; have the provided microphone and Centrance mic pre connected; then move the microphone from the 1-meter nearfield to the listening-seat farfield position as instructed. In less than two hours including chatting the calibration session was over.

For review purposes Clayton created two compensation profiles. One was 'FF-Fantasia - Bass EQ', the other 'FF-Fantasia - Full Range EQ'. The former applied correction only below 1.000Hz.

By going into Spatial --> Audio Setup --> Audio Plug-Ins --> Settings, then the fabfilter profile selector, I could pull up either curve or defeat it for easy comparison. You might store any number of profiles of course, including for different speakers or applications.

The sonic goods: On gulf—percentile improvement—and seeing how I've recently reviewed a number of 'em, spatializing my Mark+Daniel speakers went well beyond what separates $1.000 from $4.000 DACs. Or $1.500 ICEpower™ amps from $4.000 class A/B variants. Etcetera. Really, no conventional component change/upgrade addresses the fundamental flaws which built-in speaker nonlinearities and gross speaker/room interactions produce. Hence this difference is different. First off, some remaining fuzz, blur, opacity, boom and thickness I didn't recognize for having gotten used to vanished. What emerged instead was more vibrant, multi-hued and intense. On the iMac display my final in-room response showed itself to be essentially a straight right-to-left incline - lower in the treble, higher in the bass but without any strategic rise or concavity built in between the end points of 20/20K.

fabfilter Pro Q profile selection

Obviously bass was cleaner, drier and texturally more seamlessly integrated with the rest. Removing mud and hot spots opened up the curtains into the cellar to show more finely differentiated rather than somewhat amorphous clumped-together bottom life. Then there was the benefit in the midband. Its suchness, in the air as though to be carved out, was higher. It had been liberated from previous ballast. On Javier Perianes' Blasco de Nebra Piano Sonatas for example, the presence of hall sound increased noticeably. There was greater overtone development and decay action. Glassy pungency enveloped by rotund woodiness—that obligatory piano paradox of wiriness and large resonances coexisting, of percussive crispness and languid legato—was more teased out in fully coincident parallel rather than either/or. This single instrument sounded bigger and more dynamic. It definitely was more interactive with recorded space. Hence the scaled-up perception of raw size.

Bass EQ curve

Going to the well with Hector Zazou's final masterwork In the House of Mirrors, the key word again was intensity. This is deceptively minimalist fare brilliantly recorded. The worse the system, the more boring Mirrors sounds. As resolution, rise times and rightness of timbre increase, the palette of ethnic sounds where exotic instruments play space by charging it up expands. Forget showmanship, technical dexterity or intricate structurization. This is about tone communicating urgency of intent. That's what improved. Breaking it down into constituents is irrelevant. The relevant thing was greater intensity as a function of more and richer colors. This wasn't just about removing mud. This also was about greater linearity which established the tonal center with proper fullness.

Full-range EQ curve

The basic yardstick with Mirrors is fascination. The more one gets engrossed in the sheer wealth of nuances, the better the system plays. The full-range EQ compensation upped what fascinates me about this recording. To obtain this level of musically relevant improvement without any change in hardware was brilliant. 'Make what you already own perform at a higher level' would be the slogan any marketeer worth his salt should attach to this software/service package. In the context of my gear, I don't see where applying the same $2.995 elsewhere would reap this type/level of perfectly predictable benefits. The improved tone-fullness particularly in the midband when I selected full-range EQ is what drives some of us to tubes. Rather than the strategically focused benefits Spatial created, valves also buy into associated liabilities of costs, maintenance, sonic instability, noise, drive/control issues and increased harmonic distortion overall. Other elements like bass linearization/clarification routinely drive us to more powerful amps and bigger speakers. The latter generally cause more grief than joy without proper counter measures.

Brilliantly mastered stuff like Lynne Treekrem's Haugtussa—for an overview of label Kirkelig Kulturverksted's output, splurge on their 30 Years' Fidelity compilation—became more obviously brilliant. No surprises there. But even lesser material I love for its musical but not production values benefited. Once you think about, no surprise either. No matter the flavor of water, once you filter out flotsam and barriers which slow down its flow, it'll run more freely and clearly. That's what Spatial does. Theory and practice meet head on.

This doesn't rule out tubes, big amps or big speakers. Spatial simply proposes to do first things first. Harvest the potential of what you own more fully. It could mean—and will, trust me if a reviewer may ask for that—that we already have what we've always wanted (or at the very least far more of it). A serious benny is that as software, Spatial easily adapts to changes in rooms, layout or equipment with new compensation profiles; and improves/expands as technology progresses with new features and capabilities. By June 1st for example, PureMusic v1.8 will have introduced DSD playback at user-definable PCM sample rates; playthrough mode for other computer audio sources; bug-free Flac compatibility including conversion of entire folders; one-click multiway crossover filter configurations; gapless break-tag options in iTunes; 33% more efficient memory usage with gapless albums; and more. By running an OEM version of Channel D's software, all these updates will flow into Spatial too.

Spatial appearance on the monitor docked next to iTunes

What if your DAC's USB input is configured without full compliance to play music files fine but still stalls data capture like the very first 48kHz-limited Burson HA160D did? As fallback the Apogee Duet2 remains in place. Clayton would simply send out a loaner for the calibration session to be returned thereafter. Seeing how I promised hard improvement figures, I'll use a simile. I recently noticed that our Subaru Forester Turbo started to shake quite badly at 100+km/h freeway speeds and acted constrained below. Though the tires were new enough, alignment had seriously gone to seed. Returning to the pneu shop that had fitted them originally, they were rotated front to back, left to right and rebalanced. One wheel couldn't be rebalanced so the Swiss shop replaced it under warranty. The handling & ride difference before/after was significant. Where the rubber meets the road had been optimized, no alterations to other hardware required. In many ways Spatial drives with new perfectly balanced perfectly pressurized tyres. You can go faster/louder without shaking/distortion. Even at slower/quieter levels the ride is plainly smoother. Just as bolt-on mods, bore jobs, bigger engines and better fuel make their own differences, none can duplicate/replace the foundation requirement of quality tires which are appropriate for the job. What type of percentage figure should one apply to that? Key is that it's - um, key. Basic. Elemental. Foundation stuff. Vital. Critical even.

Peachtree Audio's break-out iDecco was the very first fully integrated digital-direct iPod dock/integrated which offered so much for so little that a very rare kind of award distinction was required to single it out from the crowd. Now Spatial offers similarly fair value combined with what currently is a unique software-only speaker/room-correction system that stands out by finally addressing the root cause of audiophile unhappiness in the most user-friendly fashion - by expert remote calibration. The same award must be applied to send the proper message. We're bound to see a lot more of this in the future. With Spatial the future is simply now. Pipe in the applause!

Human interactions:
Excellent once in action, email communication promptness could still be improved.
Pricing: Very fair value considering that it includes significant maintenance/update hours for peace of mind post installation.
Final comments & suggestions: DIYers will be tempted to duplicate this approach with the raw software plug-ins and programs. Blessings. Make it so. The target customer meanwhile will be thrilled to bits not having to worry about and deal with configuring software and making it all work. Obviously no digital compensation is a panacea for poorly matched systems and bad components. That said, it's quite impossible to imagine a properly qualified customer not being thrilled with this investment. Seeing that the entire core structure of Spatial the software—as distinct from Spatial the service—rests on the brilliance of Channel D's PureVinyl/PureMusic invention, major props are due to its creator Rob Robinson for vision, execution and support. The same goes for the fab in the filter and the warm and fuzzy in the measure...

Spatial website