A Matter Of Diffusion Page 6
With the RPGs, however, the speakers sounded tidier but strangely less involving. The sound lost much of its spirit and hence its fun. Although I was more engaged acoustically---immersed in the soundfield, really---emotionally I was oddly disengaged. This effect was commented upon by other listeners who were not predisposed by Otvos (or me or my staff) to the Waveforms' "unsuitability" with the RPGs. The soundstage became larger and more credible, and even the lower-treble peak seemed to lose its edge, but these were "improvements" of an oddly unflattering type. After living with the Waveforms and RPGs for some months, I called "Dr. Diffusor" D'Antonio about it and he, too, was at a loss to account for the effect. Otvos could offer nothing more than the observation that the speakers were designed to be used in a fairly reflective living-room-type environment. But there you have it: a case where the untreated room "outperforms" the same room with the full RPG complement.
The Big Picture
Without question, the diffusors did more to upgrade the overall musical experience in the main soundroom than any previous mitigation measure, whether it happened to be installing 4'x8' Sonex sheets on the front and forward walls, standing Tube Traps in corners, or isolating all undriven speakers in the separate holding area. The reduction in sonic grundge, the exposure of previously obscured inner detail and interleavings, the marked sense of envelopment within a musical event, and the perception that the walls had been blown down all contributed to a heightened sense of involvement in the music-making.
The results obtained in the main soundroom were duplicated in a smaller adjacent soundroom as well. This room has a low ceiling and a somewhat unpleasant sound, mitigated (partially) by the installation a few years ago of Owens-Corning floor-to-ceiling acoustical wall material on the front wall. When the diffusors were "parked" in this room (during the times we were "A/B'ing" the main soundroom), the sound was transformed in ways consistent with my descriptions of the treated main room.
Final Thoughts and Remaining Questions
Because all of us audiophiles---consumers, retailers, manufacturers, critics---are accustomed to seeing audio "solutions" take the more familiar form of devices that can be set on a shelf, plugged in, auditioned, paid for, and carted home in the back seat of the car, there is a chance the diffusor may not get the real "hearing" it so richly deserves. During the course of my year-long evaluation, a prominent high-end firm informally introduced the diffusors to select dealers at Chicago CES. The feedback they got suggested that most audiophiles would not purchase anything as unwieldy, expensive, and aesthetically unflattering as the RPG units, despite clear-cut and often dramatic sonic improvements. I hope this pessimistic prediction proves untrue, for it seems unlikely we'll have much meaningful audio progress unless and until we deal with the fundamental acoustic limitations of the average listening room.