You Have Definitely Never Heard This! (part 2)

We trucked across the hall to the treated room which contained several sets of RPG Variscreen free-standing variable acoustics screen ($700/each), a Modex Plate ($1000)—which offers broadband low frequency absorbtion from 50–500Hz—and two Rives Audio Sub-PARC crossover/EQs ($4500/each). The system also boasted an extra pair of VAC Alphas—Richard Rives explained that he was using the Sub-PARCs as crossovers, bypassing their digital woofer amps to kep the signals equivalent from top to bottom.

Was there a difference? Man, I'll say. We think of room effects as subtle, but they aren't—and Rives was the first to confess that you just can't use EQ, no matter how flexible or specific, as a band-aid. Room effect has to be attacked in a multi-front assault.

Bass was clearer and tighter, the mids were clearer and more mid-y, and the lack of hash and sibilance in the highs was startling. Then there was all that space I hadn't heard in the other room. Based on this demo, not to mention my recent experiences building a dedicated small speaker listening room, I think you aren't hearing your components if you haven't dealt with your room—you're just listening to your room.

"You never get a chance to hear so clearly what the room does to a hi-fi," said XLO's Don Bouchard. "Yes, these rooms aren't identical, but you don't usually get a chance to just cross the hall and hear how much the room influences what you're hearing. I've been in hi-fi forever and I never heard anything like it before.

In the photo, Richard Rives lurks behind the Talons, next to a SubPARC/Alpha stack.

Jeff Kalman's picture

My friend and I were impressed with the Rives demonstration rooms, but we were already believers because we both had the benefit of seeing him transform my own untreated basement listening room into an acoustically engineered masterpiece. All I can say is, what he did in that room, he can do to any room, as evidenced by how my room now sounds. My basement room was basically a murky sounding bomb shelter and now it sings and is alive with clear, airy, and localizable music... The only problem for me now is that it makes me more aware of weaknesses in my current equipment, but that is OK, because I can correct those by upgrading my speakers (which I have already done - now if only it didn't take time to order them and have them voiced...). :)

David's picture

Did anyone else here think that the untreated room was the better-sounding of the two? It seemed livlier, with a greater sense of clarity and detail. The treated room just sounded muffled, as though someone had thrown a blanket over the equipment. Don't get me wrong, I have heard plenty of treated spaces I've liked. Our friends at Rives just went a little overboard.

Jeff Kalman's picture

My friend and I didn't. The first room didn't sound bad, but the music was muddy (the bass was indistinct and flaccid), details were incoherent, stereophonic localization of the instruments were lacking (imaging was fuzzy), the highs were hard on my ears (they rang), etc. At least that is what I experienced. Listening preferences are a subjective thing, so to each their own, but I was able to enjoy the music more in the second room, especially since I could hear more of it. It is funny that you mentioned "muffled" though, as the problems, that my friend and I noticed (listed above), made the sound seem muffled to us in the first room. Moving from the first room to the second was like coming out of a fog, in my experience.

Wes Phillips's picture

Actually, this is exactly what I found so cool about this. You don't have to drink the Kool Aid, you can decide it's not worth it -- but at least you get to judge.

Helen's picture

There was obvious improvement. Unpleasant resonances in the first room were cleared up in the second, and the bass was tighted up. But who wants to live with that amount of acoustic treatment? Ugh!How about a few Acoustic Resonators instead??I did not like the Talon's. They look like just another Watt/Puppy clone and did nothing spectacular as far as I am concerned. Give us back the Firebirds, please.

Richard Bird's picture

Talon is still manufacturing the Firebird. In fact we just did a production run and have a new woofer with greater extension and dynamics than the original Firebird. It is still the statement reference speaker. However, the Firebird requires a larger room, not the best choice for this hotel room, particularly considering we needed to seat 7 or 8 people at a time. As to treatment aesthetics, I agree, this was not "pretty", but that is a limitation of a temporary setup in a hotel room. A permanent installation in the home can actually add to the aesthetics of the room rather than detract. Please see some of the examples on the Rives Audio website.Lastly, the RT times in the treated room were very short. Considerably shorter than those for most rooms, but this is a function of such a small room size. Larger rooms would have extended RT times and more high frequency air.