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Reviewer: Marja & Henk
Financial Interests: click here
Sources: CEC TL5100, Audio Note tube DAC; Philips DVP 5500S SACD/DVD player
Preamp/integrated: TacT RCS 2.0 room control system, modified Audio Note Meishu with WE 300B (or AVVT, JJ, KR Audio 300B output tubes); Moscode HR401; Trends Audio TA-10; Avantgarde Acoustic Model Three [in for review] ; Qables iQube [in for review]
Speakers: Avantgarde Acoustic Duo Omega; Avantgarde Acoustic Solo in HT 2.0 setting; Audio Note AN/Jsp silver-wired; Podium Sound Podium 1 [in for review]
Cables: Audio Note AN/Vx interconnects; Siltech Paris interconnects; Gizmo silver interconnect; Qunex 75 reference interconnect; Crystal Cable CrystalConnect Reference interconnect, CrystalDigit S/PDIF RCA/RCA and RCA/BNC, Y-cable, Crystal Cable Piccolo iPod to XLR, CrystalPower Reference AC-Eur/IEC CrystalSpeak Reference; Audio Note AN-L; Gizmo silver LS cable. Nanotech Golden Strada #79 nano 3; Nanotech Golden Strada #79
Power line conditioning: Omtec PowerControllers; PS Audio P1000
Equipment racks: Two double sets of Solid Tech Radius; Acoustic System amplifier shelf
Sundry accessories: IAR carbon CD damper; Boston Audio graphite CD damper, Denson demagnetizer CD; Furutech DeMag; Nanotech Nespa #1; Machina Dynamica Magic Box; TacT RCS calibrated microphone and software; Exact Audio Copy software; Compaq server w/Windows Server 2003 and XP; iPod; wood, brass and aluminum cones and pyramids; Xitel surround processor; Manley Skipjack; Boston Audio Design TuneBlocks
Room treatment: Acoustic System Resonators; Gizmo's Harley Davidson cap
Review component retail: €200

It must be clear that when listening in our home environment to reproduced music, we are in fact not just listening to the audio system. No matter whether you spent $1,000 or $50,000 on your system, you are listening to a great extent to a much more expensive part of the audio chain. And here we mean really expensive. There might even be a mathematical equation that defines a relationship between what you have spent on the electronics and this additional factor - your real estate or in other words, your very brick and mortar, the subject of the catchphrase Location, Location, Location.

Though the real estate market in certain parts of the world is, to put it mildly, shaky, we all have to deal with its acoustical component not only in the realm of our audio hobby but also in the professional environment. Everything auditory is influenced by its surroundings. A schoolteacher should be clearly heard and hence understood while in front of a classroom. An oboist in the middle of a symphony orchestra should be heard in any row in the audience just like we want to hear her when we play back the recording of her performance in our room.

Put the subjects of the above outside in the open air and things change dramatically. The teacher is only heard close up. The orchestra loses much of its flavors as most of the lower frequencies disappear. Our carefully chosen loudspeakers produce merely a fraction of their earlier musical qualities when used out in the open. So we have to conclude that the room or house in which an audio signal is played back is just as -- if not more -- important than the electronic producer of said signal.

Let's get a bit more specific. What we all want in this hobby is to reproduce the sound including its emotional content we think was present at the recording session. That means we want the illusion that we are part of it. We want to be transported in a virtual way to the Boston Symphony hall, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, the Village Vanguard or the Wembley Stadium.

Recording and balance engineers use every trick in the book to record as much acoustic information from the original venue as possible so that on replay, large portions of that information can be used to build a virtual image of that venue. It'd be wonderful if only we, the listeners, had a blank acoustical canvas on which the electronics we bought could paint that virtual image. Imagine an electronic Bob Ross giving a double bass a happy little friend next to him.

But alas, the virtual image in reality is rudely distorted because our canvas is not blank - or at least not blank enough. This canvas is our acoustical space, our room and all that is connected to it. The medium used to paint the canvas is air. Air is all around us and most importantly, always in contact with all the other air inside and out. Our speakers cause compression and rarefaction of the air and that's similar to the paint colors on a artist's palette.

When we try to put a large painting in our room, we notice that we run out of hanging space. Windows are located in the wrong places as are doors. A cupboard or a bookshelf is blocking that particular spot that would be a nice location for the painting but then, where do we put the cupboard or bookshelf?

This situation is very similar for music reproduction. In a small to normal room, it is hard to depict a lifelike auditory picture. The room is easily overloaded with the music in such a way that one cannot step back far enough to appreciate the full picture which turns into a blur. That blur is a result of all kinds of interactions between the room and the wave-emitting loudspeakers. Standing waves and all manner of unwanted reflections are abundant. In short, compression is introduced. Furniture in the room and even the listener add surfaces that contribute their own reflections or damping of sound. As they get excited, they add their own sympathetic frequencies to the perceived auditory image.

Room treatment is the answer to many of these problems. In places where real estate prices are high to extremely high (as in all the big cities of the world), apartments and rooms are generally limited in size. Occupants with an audio hobby have an extra challenge when they want good sound and a fair depiction of their favorite music. On the other side of the spectrum, occupants of large rooms and their own houses -- be it more in the country or at the expense of mucho dineros -- have related problems. Their listening environment is more prone to echoes.

In two earlier instances, we reported on the merits of Acoustic System International's acoustic resonators. This invention by Franck Tchang battles air compression in confined environments by what he calls pressure-to-tension conversion. Excess pressure in the air is transformed by using select metal cups. Though ridiculed and attacked by naysayers from all over the world, Franck's products are now finally accepted by a wide group of people. Contrary to the naysayers, these people have actually heard and evaluated the results of the tiny bowls. They don't care how they work in detail, they just accept their musical merits. Resonators are not only found in small apartments of audiophiles in cities like Hong Kong, Paris or New York, non-audiophile environments like concert halls, spas and even airports use them now to combat acoustical flaws with great success.