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  The Villeneuve flat's living/listening room had standard ceiling height with 5.5m width. The system was set up on the short wall. The new room has far higher ceilings, the overall layout is long wall. And the overall air spaced seen by the speakers is far bigger.

A number of readers predicted that I'd face major issues "taming" the glass. That proved to be a crass misconception. As Nagra's Matthieu Latour shared whilst visiting the new place, today the BBC builds recording studios entirely of glass - as translucent rooms within larger spaces when a recording engineer doesn't wish to get visually boxed in. Whatever absorptive treatments are required end up in the ceiling or floor. Speakers by Crystal Cable, Perfect8 and Waterfall Audio have shown that specialty glass as an enclosure material can work exceptionally well. And Munich HighEnd exhibits facing far larger floor-to-ceiling glass surfaces—which as a result actually flex—have made excellent sound too. The glass-is-bad notion needn't be an inescapable conclusion. Obviously glass shows up at various thickness and quality, single- and double-paned, properly framed in wood or flimsily supported in cheap-rent aluminium. In our case modern construction is of very solid quality. And then our glass surfaces behind the speakers are strongly angled.

Laterally directed reflections either 'get lost' on the open left; or encounter the built-in art/CD shelving and in front of it the rack on the right. Whilst it might look wrong, it absolutely doesn't sound it. The main acoustic differences to the former place are actually these:

There's far lower room resonance in the upper bass/lower midband. By contrast this makes for a leaner more transparent quality across this bandwidth. It naturally bleeds out faux warmth. This gave the small-diameter rear-hornloaded Irish Eist Audio Dubh widebander less support than the design intended. Here low bass encounters none of the prior front-corner pressure build-up. This has the twin rear-ported AudioSolutions Rhapsody 200 speakers perform beautifully without port plugs. Meanwhile the very low bass wants a bit more subwoofer assist. That's readily accommodated with the burly Zu Submission.


In the treble I now have far lower reflective reinforcement because there's no effective sidewall to the left and the right one nearer to the speaker is 'sealed off' by the fireplace protrusion. On top of that the upsloping ceiling into the loft eliminates yet more early HF reflections. As such there's less perceived energy on high to sound more as it does in concert where one doesn't get hifi's kind of treble illumination. Because I enjoy some of that, at the time of writing strategic employ of Franck Tchang resonators was still on the to-do list to optimize that performance aspect.

We all know the room to be the most important determinant on overall tonal balance which is further influenced by a predetermined mix of reflection and absorption that's not linear across the audible bandwidth. All of that pools directly into how much high fidelity we will enjoy. Knowing that as a fundamental rule is very different from knowing, by experience and exactly, how it imprints itself on a given situation. It's not as though one could turn these effects off for a quick A/B. Having now worked out of a variety of spaces, I have a solid appreciation for this reality. Yet each move is still a surprise by the time the furniture and carpets are in, the paintings hung and the system is fired up for the first time.

But as Matthieu Latour put it, in this instance we couldn't have asked for better. Sizeable space, a high ceiling and a plethora of non-parallel walls add up to a kind of domestic best-case scenario whose only disadvantage is that it's not exactly common. Reporting from any 'idealized' condition when the reader majority must contend with more problematic rooms can skew things in a different way. That's a subject I'll have to remain mindful of particularly with the type of larger speakers I can now accommodate both on placement and—due to the convenient elevator—transportation into the room. That said and given the lovely views which it'd be a shame to cover up, I still won't pursue overly large speakers. I'll stick to domestically acceptable boxes. Now those can simply be heavier than before.

Blessings in disguise. When as part of his W5 review I visited Sven Boenicke in Basel, I'd arranged to trade my B10 for two pairs of the small monitors. That's because in the short-wall setup of Villeneuve, the sidefiring 10-inch woofers caused too much boundary reinforcement whereas the W5 ruled. Then Peerless discontinued his vital W5 mid/woofer. Eventually Sven negotiated with them to keep building it just for him. This of course meant a very large order commitment with a 3-month lead time. It also meant that my second pair hadn't manifested by the time we moved. So the B10 slivers were still in my possession. And in the new space they just sang. Without Sven's temporary driver setback I'd never known. I'd already let go of 'em. So now he's not getting these back after all. Now I need an invoice for the one pair of W5...