TacT Audio RCS 2.0 digital equalizer/preamplifier Page 3
What did it sound like?
Objectively, as measured by the ETF and the Sencore analyzers, the RCS accomplished three things. First, it eliminated the jagged response irregularities below 200Hz that result from the dimensions of the room and the placement of the speakers and other large objects. Second, it corrected, across the audible spectrum, the amplitude imbalances between the channels that are created by the asymmetric distribution of absorbing and reflecting materials in the room. Both of these problems had been predicted by CARA and, therefore, had already been minimized as best I could without precipitating a divorce. Third, the RCS adjusted the arrival times of the direct radiation from the two speakers to be precisely equal at the listening position.
Subjectively, the result was my perception of vastly improved resolution of detail across the spectrum. Initially, I thought the bass seemed a bit less full. It was, but, with continued listening, it became apparent that a pervasive bloom associated with the listening room's low-frequency resonances had been removed. Consequently, the bass was exposed with greater definition and impact.
Tracks 7 and 8 of The Chieftains' The Long Black Veil (RCA 62702-2) feature Ry Cooder on electric guitar and "floor slide" (!). With TacT correction, the bass shook my room, yet was defined and entirely devoid of boom. Even Telarc's signature bass-drum sound was improved. Compared with the familiar full whomp of bass, the corrected sound on the "Cossack Dance" from Tchaikovsky's Mazeppa (Erich Kunzel/Cincinnati Pops, Telarc CD-80541) hit me like a sledgehammer hurled from the back of the orchestra.
The RCS also made the placement of bass instruments in depth and width much more precise. I had been particularly impressed by Dean Peer's electric bass and Ty Burhoe's percussion on I think...It's All Good (Turtle 599008), which Avalon Acoustics used to demonstrate their big speakers in a big room at CES. I found it unexceptional on my system until I used the RCS, when, finally, I heard what had blown me away at the Show: tight and powerful sounds occupying a really huge space. It's gotta be the room! (Yeah, the components were okay, too.)
With the masking influence of the listening room eliminated, the soundstage was strikingly more wide and deep, but instruments were still stably placed and seemed tonally more true. In fact, the bigger the music and the recording venue, the greater the improvement wrought by the RCS. Glen Cortese's recording of Mahler's Symphony 6 (Manhattan School of Music Orchestra, Titanic Ti-257) was recorded at a live performance in the Riverside Church—as big and reverberant as any indoor site for classical music. Engineer Jerry Bruck captured a superb balance of orchestral detail, impact, and ambience, but unless you wipe away the blotting acoustics of your listening room, you won't appreciate it. Instead of hall sound, the RCS let me hear this hall's sound, and transmitted the instruments—as well as a lot of extramusical goings-on—with uncanny immediacy.
Voices, speaking or singing, were also devastatingly improved. From Odetta and the Cowboy Junkies' Margo Timmins to Leonard Cohen and Johnny Cash, every voice was notably more intimate and direct, and more characteristic of the singer. In the duet from Bizet's Le Pêcheurs de Perles, I heard Jerry Hadley and Thomas Hampson move about and turn their heads as they sang. Small choruses were easily heard to be what they are: groups of individuals. The CD layer of Tom Jung's wonderful recording Sacred Feast (Halley, Gaudeamus, DMP SACD-09) sounded more detailed through the TacT than did the two-channel SACD layer without processing.
The latter has more resolution on paper, but the TacT-processed 16/44.1 layer delivered more information to my ears, which made me think that a room-corrected SACD signal in two or more channels would be marvelous. And even though I have concerns about the absolute transparency of the TacT's A/D performance, those were more than outweighed by the advantages of room correction: Voices snapped into focus, and LP surface noise disassociated itself from the music. It was like getting a cartridge's VTA set perfectly!