One fine September morning the electricity shut off at 9:05 sharp. A call to the utility company's fault line clarified intent. They had day-long maintenance in our area. Since we'd just moved in and the house sat empty two months prior, we'd not gotten the 1-month notice. Off we were for a day on the town to escape our regional black-out. Upon return, the lights came on at 18:00 as scheduled; except on the Denafrips Gaia. Without mains or other fuse but a whiff of burn inside, it had to ship off for repair. Back it was to the Soundaware D300Ref which had moved upstairs. I clock-sync'd it once more to the Terminator Plus. The iMac entered this bridge via USB, reclocked digital signal hit the big Denafrips DAC via I²S over HDMI. While at it, I also spent the following day adding Franck Tchang's resonators back into the frame. Three added in front—one platinum high on the wall, two rose gold on the amps beneath floating glass domes to prevent our cat from playing with them—another three above the door frame behind the seat.

Et voilà. Suddenly 'my' sound was back. It was about a very particular tonality similar to how as a clarinet player, I'd pursued it with embouchure, mouth piece and reed since I couldn't afford a premium Wurlitzer. The moral of this anecdote would seem not to second-guess our proven choices. I'd used resonators and the Soundaware in our previous digs. Setting up shop in Kilrush, I'd diverged from the straight 'n' clearly narrow without paying sufficient attention. Once I did, the mystery of close but no cigar was solved.

Sometimes it simply takes a black-out to wake up and smell the roses. And those needn't even be real.

Two weeks passed. I took note that on more recordings than not, the soundstage bunched strangely up in the middle. It wasn't mono but the usual wide stereo panorama too condensed. 'twas time to play a game of 'wall flower, how far dare you come out?' Enjoying a dedicated sound room where anything goes—within reason!—I still had plenty of wiggle room. Even the Artesanía rack on the right side wall could move back a fair bit to make more room in front. So I anti wall-flower'd in increments. My sole yardstick was de-clumping image fill without changing sidewall distances. Once the speakers had crept toward the listening seat by about one full depth so ~½m, the strange center stickum let go completely. I'd gotten the idea after wondering whether the room's asymmetry—short diagonal wall behind the right speaker, conventional 90° corner behind the left—somehow messed with the imaging. If so, might not moving the right speaker away from that diagonal minimize it?

Whether that had been actual cause or not, it certainly fixed the issue. With that crossed off, what else might emerge in the space just created? Bigger stuff overlays smaller stuff. Once we solve whatever becomes a constant disturbance like a pebble in a boot, a more subtle thing can rise to the surface. Sometimes it takes just the right kind of tune to first ping our consciousness. We must wait until circumstance chances upon that album. Should that prompt a smaller pebble we now can't overlook with most or all other music… then our room tuning continues just on a finer level. That's the wheel of hifi karma.

The lesson embedded in this stage of my story is simple at least according to my own experience. The more we move speakers away from the front wall thus nearer to the seat, the more they and the music we play detach from the room. Since we can't fix the room, we have to make it matter less. A relative nearfield setup with from good to extreme toe-in virtually always does that for me. Meanwhile typical setups with speaker baffles within one meter from the front wall mostly don't. And so lessons we've learnt a few times over keep presenting themselves again and again. Shouldn't we eventually trust that we actually know what works for us?