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Writer: Frederic Beudot
Financial Interests: click here
Digital Source: Esoteric X-03SE
Analog Source: Acoustic Solid Classic Wood with RB300 and Grado Reference Sonata 1 [on loan]
Preamplifier: Clearaudio Nano, Esoteric C03 [in for review]
Amplifier: McIntosh MA2275, Genesis GR360 + MDHR
Speakers: FJ OMs, Rogers LS 3/5a
Cables: Zu Varial, Zu Libtec, Esoteric Mexel XLR interconnects [in for review[, Cobalt Ultimate Speaker cables
Power Cords: Zu Mother, Isotek
Powerline conditioning: Monster Power HTS5100mkII
Sundry accessories: Isolpads under electronics and good 'ol wooden chest
Room size: 12' x 13.5' x 8'
Review component retail: Dedicated Music Room (priceless)

At one point or another in our audiophile career, we'll most likely have to go through it, the dreaded move. Be it from one room to another within the same house or continents apart, it is one of our most demanding experiences. Imagine this system which we fine-tuned for months, a centimeter this way, a few more degrees of toe-in that way, a pillow judiciously placed, years of love and care, all the things we thought we knew ... they all go out of the window the very instant we decide to pitch tent elsewhere.

You'd think reviewers are mostly immune since we change gear on a monthly, sometimes weekly basis which in many cases throws the balance of a finely tuned system askew until we get a good handle on the gear under review - by which time it's time to send it back. Unfortunately as I and probably Srajan can attest to with close to a dozen changes of residence, country or continent between us, moving is orders of magnitude more challenging [I'd say - Ed].

So you'd think that experience had me plenty wise not to force a move upon myself when I didn't have to. Cough. Sanity is not a trait desirable in audio reviewers and I lost mine a long time since. About six months ago I braced myself for a move back to Europe. That was derailed due to the change in our economical environment. Unfortunately one of my preparatory moves had been to sell off the Nomad Audio RPDs speakers as being ill-suited to the typically smaller listening environments one expects to find in the old world. Thus I was left with a huge but not dedicated listening space and no speaker adapted to fill it well. Rather than hunting for appropriate replacements, I opted to relocate my main system to a dedicated although much smaller room and see if I could squeeze the last drop of performance from my existing gear but now in an optimized environment.

It seemed like a great idea at the time. But as the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Stripping all the furniture from the home office was a matter of mere hours. Once done though, I was left with an empty 12' x 13.5' squarish box with a huge window and echoes competing with Notre-Dame for reverberation (okay, not quite but it sure felt like it). A few rugs, chairs, shelves and pillows later, things were much better. Never underestimate the impact of furniture on the sound of your room, especially in a constrained space. Big comforters will kill a room more efficiently than anything I know but pillows and chairs typically have a more favorable effect.

It was then time to introduce the gear into the new space and a first conclusion became obvious in a matter of minutes. I no longer had enough room for a large rack. Enter hidden cost #1. Out went the Standesign rack and in came a very old, low-profile wooden chest which proved a far sturdier and efficient support than originally thought. The over two inch-thick panels are as inert as can be and with the interior cavity filled with books and clothes, internal resonances are minimized if not eradicated. The chest and Isolpads combined give a detailed yet smooth sound that I like very much, to the point actually that I wonder if I will return to a dedicated stand or not. All this to say that in a pinch for money, space or both, massive wood furniture bought at an auction may just be as much your friend as fancy racks. In the same predicament, Srajan successfully opted for Ikea furniture this time around and that's next on my experimentation list although some of the models he found to work well are not necessarily available at my local store.

Next in came the Esoteric X03SE and McIntosh MA2275. That was mainly a non event as much as moving a 100lb integrated with all the weight in front can be. Except that once you get rid of your rack, you quickly find that all those half-meter interconnects that worked so swell between shelves no longer reach far enough. Enter hidden cost #2. Thankfully I had enough quality interconnects on hand to get me through the initial setup but it could become a pricey proposition if you don't think ahead about room layout and cable reach [amen - my new setup necessitated a 4-meter interconnect which I never needed before and thus didn't have - Ed].

Finally the FJ OMs speakers entered the room to create what I can only qualify as the absolute worst sound I have ever heard at my house. If you're not familiar with the FJ OMs, they are short omnis with a front-firing tweeter. They've been very favorably reviewed by John Potis a few years ago and based on his review as well as personal listening tests, I ended up buying a pair months before I even thought of joining 6moons. So they have been with me a long time. I love those speakers and so do many other folks. They couldn't be the culprit here. Or at least not the only one.

What I heard was boomy bass that completely overtook and blurred the midrange as well as confused soundstaging and imaging. Moving the speakers around the room was to no avail and the space for movement was limited to begin with. I quickly concluded that these speakers loaded the room in a way that did not work. That was a shock. I always considered the FJs very placement friendly and unfussy. Based on this experience, I'll re-qualify this statement as placement friendly and unfussy as long as they have breathing space. In confined and reflective quarters, they quickly lose all composure.

S out went the FJs, in came the Rogers LS 3/5as and their AB1 bass units. The improvement was huge and instantaneous. The far more directional 3/5as excited the room resonances far less, images started to coalesce and the lower midrange cleaned up somewhat. Yet after a week of moving the speakers inch by inch, I just could not get them to sound their best. Not even close in fact. In horror, I began to contemplate hidden cost #3 - back on the hunt for a small room-friendly speaker.

Before going down that radical and far from guaranteed route, I reflected on the boxy and echo-ridden room. I never have used room treatments before, having always been lucky enough to enjoy large spaces not obviously plagued by severe resonances whose small remaining sonic aberrations where far more easily put up with than an upset wife. But now there seemed no way around it. Still, hanging large absorbing panels and corner towers had me reluctant, never mind the huge window on one side which gives the room its character but would need to be obstructed. There had to be another way.

That's when I entered the twilight zone. From this point forward, stop reading if you need a rational explanation. I neither have nor need one. Remembering Srajan's as well as Marja and Henk's experiences with Franck Tchang's mysterious but efficacious devices, I contacted the gentleman by email. Franck is as charming and helpful as they made him sound, if possible even more so. On his advice, I sent him photos of my room. His verdict was as depressing as it was hopeful. "Your room is an echo box. But, I can help."

Within a week, I received a box containing three resonators (two silver and one basic), a set of the sugar cubes reviewed by Marja and Henk and instructions on how to position them in the room. Before I get inundated with sarcastic emails, let me clarify a few things. I am a molecular biologist by training. My parents nicknamed me Saint Thomas because of my inability to believe what I could not see. My wife is as far removed from being an audiophile as anybody could be and she does not put up with my nonsense (she tolerates my toys only for friendly cohabitation purposes). Neither did I talk to nor meet Franck except for my email exchanges which makes the probability of group hypnosis unlikely. Clarification accomplished. [You think? I still prepared Frederic to expect hate mail and thereby join club M&H. Our two Dutchies were the recipients of countless, from their exploits with the Nespa photon cannon to their resonator and sugar-cube reports. Naturally, they and I and now Frederic enjoy the benefits regardless and none of us much worries over who believes us delusional - Ed.]