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Once upon a time. Isn't that's how all good yarns begin? Well, today's is far too short for a yarn. It's a mere stitch. And the good of it is at best the exposure of stupidity. Well, perhaps that's a bit harsh. After all, it only took me two months to catch on. And I did have lots of moving-related business to attend to first.


The crux today is the role which assumptions play in hifi. Each one ought to be questioned if we're to advance our installations. My most recent eureka came when Thomas Fast of Fast Audio visited to drop off a pair of Kiso Acoustics mini speakers after a dealer dem in Z├╝rich. As a trained acoustician who over the last 12 years has treated over 500 rooms in Germany alone, Thomas' traveling tool kit includes a Danish Bruel & Kjaer OmniPower dodecahedral cluster speaker good for 122dB peak output; a battery-powered Swiss Neutrik white-noise generator and decay-time analyzer; and a yeoman amp and passive pot to generate annoyingly loud tone bursts for various microphones. This takes the measure of a fully loaded room's so-called RT60 performance before he recommends any acoustic counter measures. Those could include various traps, absorbers and diffusors—certain issues will require large cubic volumes of absorptive mass—or strategic employ of acoustic resonators.


Measuring my present room showed a surprisingly even graph within a 0.38-second window, albeit with a peak at 160Hz and a suck-out around 80. This corresponded to my sentiment of lack of foundation weight. Thomas took eight high-power measurements for any given data acquisition session, then let the Neutrik processor sum them all. Now this story meets its mark. Having used Advanced Acoustics Orbis Wall &┬áCorner units in my previous Chardonne residence to good effect—albeit exclusively behind the listening seat to treat a close back wall—I wanted to install them 'properly' this time. This meant Corner units into the front-wall corners, Wall units on the sidewall area of the first reflection. Textbook.


With Thomas' test system, I proposed we measure the effects of what I'd intended to try for quite a while - remove first the sidewall absorbers, then the corner bass traps. As the Neutrik analyzer showed unequivocally and our ears heard even faster when our voices changed quite significantly, these Advanced Acoustics units are very effective absorbers. Removing them simply smoothed out the RT30 response, improved bass power and very noticeably removed the previous damper on overtone action which had bothered me the most.


The removal of the bass traps was akin to removing two small black holes into which were sucked elements of speed, vitality, micro inflections and tone color richness. Overdamping clearly kills harmonic finesse. In this case the lossier construction of our old building and a good-size room of 5 x 12 meters with an attached open second floor needed less not more damping. Much to the glee and delight of my wife, out went the eye-sore absorbers. As a result the room feels bigger, livelier and lighter and the music exhibits the same elements whilst having better LF support. Make no mistake, the Orbis products did exactly what they were designed to do. They're good effective products. They simply were inappropriate in this instance, never mind the peanut galleries which see a layout without sidewall absorbers or diffusors to cry foul on principle; and our own assumptions in that regard which foster an attendant desire to cover all the bases and 'do it right'.


The moral of this anecdote is simply to question beliefs and 'guaranteed' solutions. Sometimes right is wrong. Sometimes sacred cows must be slaughtered for a nice barbecue. Sometimes they need to be groomed and properly fed. Only you can tell which is which if you experiment. If you don't, everything might look proper and considerate yet parts of your audiophile addresses and fixes could actually be detrimental.


The first reader to feel that my four Orbis units might be just what the doctor ordered is welcome to pick them up from my garage free of charge (I won't ship them). You'd set your GPS for Villeneuve on Lake Geneva, Switzerland.