Tannoy Churchill loudspeaker Page 2

My listening area (a "living room" in a more conventional household) is airy, open, and full of natural light, with a view to the north across the valley, where the town is nestled. Some folks say it looks like Italy. The room's east wall—the front of the house—is 18' long and features a large picture window flanked by two hinged windows, which are usually open during all but the most extreme weather—or the loudest listening sessions. A bamboo shade and full-length drapes mitigate both the amount of incoming light and the acoustic character of the glass. On either side of the hinged windows stand extremely sturdy and fully loaded bookcases (the world's best room-acoustic treatment, in my opinion). Each is 7' high and slightly over 4' wide, with just enough room on top to display a collection of rotund ceramic pitchers.

The ceiling is the standard 8'. Occasionally I'll feel the audio perfectionist urge and break up the overhead expanse of sheetrock with some corrugated acoustical foam or flat sound-absorbing panels like those from Echo Busters. Ceiling treatment does sound better, but I hate the way it looks.

The north ("front") wall has a brick fireplace with a row of brightly colored bowling balls on the mantel, finger-holes turned toward the viewer so that the balls resemble the faces of blowfish. ("Jeff Koons," deadpanned art-savvy Jonathan Scull during a visit—a reference to one of contemporary art's most enduring charlatans.) Three-foot-wide windows on both sides of the fireplace can be covered in an instant by draperies. Officially, the dimension of this wall is also 18'—but it continues another 13' into the open dining area. The 120ft2 dining area is, in turn, wide open to the kitchen—an additional 130ft2.

Opposite the north wall is the "back wall" of the listening area, assuming the loudspeakers are positioned astride the fireplace—my favorite arrangement most of the year. This surface sports another large, loaded bookcase and a sizable (4' by 5') faux Motherwell painting that hides two 4' by 2' acoustic foam panels. On either end of this back wall are passages to a wide hallway, a stairwell, and to other rooms at the back of the house. The net effect of all this architectural openness is that the room looks and sounds much bigger than its measurements might indicate. Standing waves—the plague of enclosed spaces—seem not to exist here. My guesstimate of the effective acoustic volume "seen" by the speakers? In excess of 6000ft3.

Furnishings strike a balance between whimsy and utility—an Amish rocker, a couple of butterfly chairs, a Bauhaus-inspired recliner, a black-marble coffee table, an almost room-size zebra-pattern rug. (A sofa was recently added—a concession to social civility.) There are a couple of overgrown house plants, plenty of objets trouvés—such as a broken Zildjian cymbal, an aureole of stress fractures around its center hole—lots of inexplicable bad art, incomprehensible publications, and tons of CDs, most of which reside in a parody of order on some shelving in the hall.

I've got a garage full of sound-treatment products with which to experiment: Echo Busters' full product line (thank you, Michael Kochman); a pair of Acoustic Solutions bass traps; turgid sheets of corrugated acoustical foam; assorted ceramic tiles and marble slabs; samples of exotic hardwoods in many sizes; pillow stuffing and moving pads; boxes of stones, blocks, cones, pucks, amulets, ointments, aids, and ceremonial objects—a museum-worthy collection yearning for its own retrospective: Obsession: A Life in Hi-Fi.

Some of it gets used all the time—like the 2' by 2' cultured-marble tiles that serve as plinths for large loudspeakers. I can't verify any sonic contribution, but they sure protect the floor against scars caused by spike feet. Behind each speaker stands an Echo Buster "Double Buster" panel—a combo absorber/diffuser ("abffuser") to soak up and redirect any reflections from the front wall that might besmirch sonic perfection. Such besmirchment, as all audiophiles know, is a crime against music.

First impression: huge, warm, intimate. This particular string of adjectives was also my recurring and lasting impression. Intimacy isn't something I usually associate with huge loudspeakers; it's rather something that occurs at rare intervals late at night, listening to English pastoral music or solo bluesmen through small speakers in cozy, well-appointed rooms. Many large loudspeakers offer great power, dynamics, and bottom-end extension—"external" qualities, if you will—at the sacrifice of inner life, that warm'n'fuzzy sensation that you're burrowing into the deepest recesses of the music, or that it's burrowing into you.

TGI North America
300 Gage Avenue, Unit 1
Kitchener, Ontario N2M 2C8, Canada
(519) 745-1158