New room, new broom, new possibilities and – for the hi-fi system owner – new challenges: standing waves and suck-outs in the low-end plus soundstage smear caused by wall, ceiling and floor reflections.
I’m now two years into my first Berlin apartment and I have my listening room dialled in so that it sounds pleasing to the ear but also looks and feels cosy enough to sit in when not listening to music. I work hard to keep the electronics tidy so that the room doesn’t appear overrun with audio gear and the (judiciously-placed) acoustic panels don’t have it looking like a sound lab. The tussle between what sounds best and what looks best is closely fought and neverending.
It wasn’t always this way. I started with bare walls, hardwood floors and a slapback sound that would make the average cafe owner wince. Rugs quickly went down to cover 70% of the floor but playback from a pair of ELAC Uni-Fi UF5 floorstanders, although considerably improved, was still too swimmy, their imaging too diffuse and, in the room’s corners, standing waves too abundant.
The short-term fix – until more furniture could be loaded into the room, a larger wall of vinyl acquired and acoustic panels mounted to the (thick) concrete walls – was to pull the loudspeakers further from the front wall and the couch further from the rear for a midfield listening setup. A psuedo-room within a room. Plants were placed at first reflection points for diffusion (frequency scattering). Do not underestimate plant power.
In the months that followed, I tried this configuration firing down the room and then across it to ultimately settle on the former. Aesthetic considerations vetoed a diagonal setup despite loudspeaker soundstage and directional fire running non-parallel to the room’s walls.
It was in the middle of a similar diagonal fire test run that I caught Vinnie Rossi setting up for RMAF 2016. Only Rossi didn’t have months to play with. He had only hours. Room setup for audio show exhibitors must be sorted inside a day. Expediting the process, Rossi draws a playlist of twenty songs, that he knows inside out and upside down, to call ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on a Marriott Hotel room configuration before moving loudspeaker and electronics to new spots and testing again.
Rossi is no traditionalist. In recent years, his LIO platform has given us high-current off-grid ultracapacitor power, integrated modularity and instant upgradability. His LIO pre-amplifier added DHT tube linestaging for marriage to solid-state amplification for the best of both worlds.
Catching up with Rossi at RMAF 2018 at the same Marriott Hotel but a larger room, the East Coaster had gone with a straight firing but midfield loudspeaker placement to put several feet between the Anniversary Edition Harbeth 40.2 and the front wall bench that housed his all-new L2 Signature pre-amplifier (US$15,000) and monoblocks (US$15,000).
A month later in New York and at another audio show, Rossi again gave the 40.2 midfield room placement to minimise the negative influence of any front-wall/window reflections. Plants were positioned at first reflection points to work as diffusers.
And if a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a billion.
Darko.Audio video editor Jana Dagdagan spent the weekend at the Park Lane Hotel next to Central Park for her Earspace YouTube channel to capture Rossi’s L2 Signature electronics and the (binaural) sound of music as they played into the Harbeth loudspeakers, all in a less-than-optimally looking/sounding hotel room.
I’m sure you will agree that visually and sonically, Dagdagan’s video is a treat for the senses, one that does proper justice to the luxury nature of Rossi’s handiwork and his room setup skills: