Oohs and aahs

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Oohs and aahs

I am in the process of setting up a new listening room at PS Audio. It'll be Listening Room Three and a simple one.

Here's a situation where I don't want to invest a lot of time and money into perfecting the room or the system, but rather focus on cobbling together an excellent setup from "stuff" I have around the office. I am building this room so I can master the many hundreds of hours of tape I recorded years ago and hopefully turn out some gems worthy of your attention (if I get the artist's permission to distribute them).

I am writing about this setup because it may be closer to what many of you have to work with and unlike the mega system I have in Music Room One. In fact, this setup uses an older pair of Era loudspeakers I had laying around. These originally retailed for $1,200 the pair, the company since out of business and you can probably pick up a pair on eBay for a few hundred dollars. I am powering it with our older A100 low cost power amp based on a B&O ICE module, good cabling from my stash of PS Cables and, of course, a couple of Power Plants to make sure I don't have any power problems.

The room itself is an office with a drop ceiling, drywall sides and carpet. Certainly no attempt has been made to help the room.

Yet, within perhaps an hour it sounds wonderful. The speakers disappear and the soundstage is wide, deep with proper tonality. All that's missing from the system is a subwoofer. I will fix that shortly. I have my eye on a REL on eBay. This whole setup is well under $5K even if I had to go buy it new.

What makes the system sound so transparent? Setup. Because the room is quite small from front to back I am forced to sit within a few feet of the loudspeakers. My first inclination is to toe them in, pointing right at my head. I always do this. It's almost always the wrong thing to do. I just can't help myself.

When I first fired up the system I put on Diana Krall's Isn't it a lovely Day from a CD of mine. Sounded good, Diana is nicely centered with a reasonable amount of depth of soundstage and tonally she is about right. Unfortunately the entire presentation is trapped between the two speakers. Too much toe in. But I am afraid to toe them in less because I don't want to loose the great focus of the center image. I go against these first instincts. I point the speakers straight ahead. Zero toe in. Doesn't look like it could possibly work from my seating position. But it does.

The soundstage now exceeds the boundaries of the two speakers. Depth is even better than before and surprise of surprises, Diana's voice is exactly the right size and maintains perfect focus (if she wasn't I could put the pair closer together slightly). The speakers are now no longer in the room. I add a couple of small diffusers on the back wall and everything gels perfectly. It now sounds like a small version of Music Room One.

It's instructive to remember about setup. Whatever you do, getting the speakers to disappear, the soundstage extending behind and beyond the sides of the two speakers along with proper tonal balance can be achieved with nearly any loudspeaker setup at any price.

Don't let the fact your system is inexpensive or expensive stop you from getting oohs and aahs from you and your friends when it properly disappears and all that's left is the music, clear, plain and simple.

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Paul McGowan

Founder & CEO

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