Our last house had an odd modern design which we loved. Part of the charm was the living room with its 25 foot ceilings and open space into other levels; rooms with half-walls and odd angles everywhere. To my joy it sounded very good! And my wife didn’t object when I cut through the wall to wall carpet and drilled through the floor to run my large diameter Transparent Reference cables through the basement! Here’s a shot from above which shows some RPG diffusers (Skylines) and several Room Lens Helmholtz resonators. I am sure the 250 pound marble coffee table placement didn’t help, but I had no cure for that. Once when my wife was out of town I put wheels on the couch between the speakers and wheeled it away. No real difference in sound, though there was a small bone of contention raised by that handiwork.
At the time, Rives audio design services were touted online and elsewhere. I called Richard Rives, and after a short while, agreed to their tier 2 service – they’d design the room but not personally oversee its construction. I feared paying for top tier travel expenses involving FRONT of the airplane seating at high prices.
There was some back and forth: the $4000 line conditioner suggested was dropped. I remember it was an industrial model weighing in at 400 pounds! Also I decided I wanted some windows and natural light. Then, Richard assumed the rear wall would be shelves, bookcases, etc., and that wasn’t what I had in mind. I added doors to the outside. It IS a give and take process, for certain. As you’ll learn, the finished project was a blend of ideas. Power is supplied by dedicated circuits from a 100 amp box just outside the room.
The house was being built while we lived 1200 miles away. Careful instructions to the builder (and Rives blueprints) were given, yet visiting the site only every few months gave me little true perspective. Also, since the listening room would be special, it was to be completed last, due to the amount of custom work which would be necessary. Enter the builder’s brother, Max, who is the trim guy.
I think the finished room looks quite good. Max says he’d never want to do THAT again. He put many many hours into this room, much of it doing things he never did before, like stretching fabric.
We put in enough A/C runs to cool the equipment closet as if it was running a 1500 watt electric heater. Later I sold my ARC VT-100MKII, my PS AUDIO P600 and P300. I went with Nuforce amps, then switched to a Classe CA-2200. Looking back, though, I’d advise overdoing the HVAC, because I realize now the air returns are outside the room so the room has to vent through the equipment closet as the windows are fixed and I seldom open the doors to the outside. That’s actually a nit to pick. I also wish I had the room on its own zone. Someday I may retrofit it that way. I hear no noise through the ducts even though we did no mitigation. Note – I measured it – there IS noise… at about -40db.
The whole house has a 10Hz wave throughout. After 5 years here, I found it! It’s the always-hot hot water pump, circulating hot water fulltime throughout the house. It’s in the garage in a closet, but vibrates the sheet rock just enough.
The ceiling has a large area inset into it into which are channels of 1 inch thick 12 inch square boards set into channels full of fiberglass. One channel tilts at about 45 degrees one way, the adjacent one 45 degrees the other way. I shot some pictures and sent them to Rives – the word came back (as Max groaned) to put twice the number of boards up there!
My gear was set into the wall and the back of it was placed in a narrow closet with bi-fold doors. The rack just fit by a millimeter. My idea was to get the rig away from vibrations, even though I use Aurios under the amp and source, a heavily modified SONY SCD-1 player. I’ve experimented with myrtle wood blocks and BDR cones but can’t hear any change for the better.
There was to be a liberal use of fabric – covering the ceiling, the big absorber/diffusers, and the bass traps. Stretching that fabric was quite the chore, and getting it up without puckers was hard. I held my breath many times watching Max struggle. Rives suggested and we used vinyl pool liner as the membrane of the bass traps.
I ordered RPG BAD panels for the rear wall. These would match the RPG flat panels at the points of first reflection.
Just for fun I put bowed Plexiglas over the windows to kill more flat surface.
My Wilson Watt-Puppy System 7 was set up by the local Wilson dealer, Casey McKee. Owner of Austin’s Ne Plus Ultra audio. Subsequent to that, I discovered that moving the left speaker by about ¼ inch gave me much better imaging.
My first listen was disappointing. “Uh-oh,” I thought. I’ll bet many ‘philes have had the same reaction to some change – your change takes everything a step in the wrong direction. The system sounded correct to Casey, but to me it wasn’t as open or clear as it had been in Minnesota. I realized I had some work ahead of me. After extensive modding, tweaking, and equipment replacement the dynamics, imaging, and clarity have greatly improved. I believe, in my case, that the new room allowed me to expose the weaknesses inherent in my system synergy.
I now have new ICs and Speaker wire (Audience AU24). My preamp has been modded by GNSC to their reference level. My SCD-1 also had the level 5 Mod followed by Jim Ellis’s BOL mod. My ARC VT-100MKII was replaced by NuForce 9s, upgraded to SE, then V2 status.
I took it to be “close” with some predictable problems at certain bass frequencies. He also said he thought the room was a bit more “live” than optimal, “The RT-60 times in the upper midband are just above 400 ms. Normally I would like to see those just below 400 ms.” which is why I put up 3 BADs stacked in front of the doors, also adding drapes, but the liveness never bothered me. The drapes we found looked good and I had those 3 BADS left over so why not use them? I’m sure it’s sub 400ms now.
We got a nice bonus, too! I said to the builder, why don’t we put a deck on top of the listening room? And today we have a 400+ square foot “star deck” onto which we do to watch the heavens. There’s always a nice breeze and it’s very private!
Terri doesn’t choose to join me very often but I DO use the pool! Such a deal!
If you go this route, my advice is to insure great communication between you, your architect and the builder. Finger-pointing after the fact is too late! Consider extra soundproofing. Put in more outlets than you anticipate using. Don’t forget to discuss A/C and heating issues. Beware pipes within the listening room walls, an unanticipated noise source (and later, for us, a leak!) Finally, if your room is more integrated into the house routine than mine, realize that open doors or windows change the volume of air which can change resonant frequencies.
I do voicework as my job. I record on a microphone in the listening room to take advantage of its hush. The recording computer is at the other end of the house.
The Sony SCD-1 has been upgraded again and again… and again. I sent my ARC LS5 MK III preamp to Great Northern Sound for their Reference upgrade. I tweaked with Walker extreme sst (nano-silver). I did a shoot out for various power cables and settled on a boutique brand which, sadly, I can’t remember. As part of Rives’ deal, he sent a rep to measure the room, who turned out to be the owner of local Ne Plus Ultra – a high end Wilson dealer who also positioned the speakers for me (Watt/Puppy 7s.)