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Subwoofer Control: DSPeaker and Cathedral Panels

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Customer email newsletter dated: May 17, 2011.


 

Subwoofer Control: DSPeaker and Cathedral Panels

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In our last mailing we looked at two fabulous room acoustic products, the SteinMusic Harmonizers, and enhancements for the standard 5 piece ART Acoustic Room Treatment Kit from Synergistic Research.

Here we continue writing about room acoustics, this time focusing on that most difficult of all areas to control acoustically: deep bass.

All rooms have standing waves at deep bass frequencies. These are specific frequencies where the sound waves reflecting off the walls are either meeting and canceling each other (i.e.. nulls), or meeting and doubling (i.e. booms). The specific frequencies for these standing waves will depend on the dimensions of the room, but whether you know it or not, you have 'em.

These standing waves will manifest themselves by either weak response at certain frequencies (nulls), or by booming at certain frequencies. But the more significant problems musically may be at the harmonics of these deep bass frequencies right up through the mid-bass and midrange. The good news is that when you address deep bass standing wave problems, you will not only improve bass response, you will also improve midrange response.

The traditional approach to controlling standing waves is the use of big 'ole bass traps, sometimes a lot of them, starting with the corners of the room. If the correct products are chosen, this approach does work, but it can be quite expensive both to purchase and to ship, and not everyone is prepared to live with a phalanx of 6ft tall bass traps.

A breakthrough acoustic product for standing wave control, which has been available since 2008, and we have written about numerous times, is the Cathedral Sound Acoustic Panels. Measuring only 11" x 16" x 2" and weighing under 5 lbs each, these panels hang on the wall like a picture, but up near the upper corners of the room. Applying for the first time to room acoustic treatments the long understood principal known as the Venturi Effect, these panels create negative acoustic pressure at whatever frequencies standing waves are forming.

A great product, not expensive, easy to use, and easy to live with, and suitable for all manner of music and home theater systems.

Subwoofer magic:
If you are using a subwoofer, we would like to introduce you to a third way to control standing waves. this approach can be used alone, or it can complement the Bass Traps or Cathedral Panels described above. This is a product coming to us from Finland called DSPeaker. Although we pronounce it "D-Speaker," the operative letters in this name are DSP. DSPeaker is designed to equalize deep bass in rooms using subwoofer(s) by application of a heavy dose of DSP (digital signal processing).

The use of DSP for room acoustic control is not new, in fact the Audyssey room correction technology has now been licensed to Denon and Onkyo, and now appears even in some of their inexpensive receivers. But broad band DSP room correction has never been particularly successful where it is often needed most - deep bass - until now.

Enter DSPeaker, a small box that connects between your preamp outputs, or surround processor subwoofer outputs, and the cables leading to the sub(s) itself (or place between the sub cables and the sub). An included microphone on a long wire runs to your listening position (or positions as the case may be) for set up. The system runs a series of bass frequency sweeps and automatically flattens out the frequency response curve under 150hz. By using a microphone at the listening position this system is accounting both for the output of the subs in the room, and also for the tendencies of the room itself.

Simple! Well, actually, simple to use, but the technology is very sophisticated, creating a counter-model of the room using a sophisticated algorithm. For the technically inclined you can read more about it here.

But the important thing is that it works- wonderfully! If you use a subwoofer you know how challenging it can be to successfully and optimally integrate into a system. It may seem like cheating, but by using the DSPeaker you can place the sub wherever you feel like it, and let the DSP "fix" it. You can even place the sub in the corner to maximize the output. This is usually a big no-no because of the way a room horn loads in the corner, but you can do it this way using DSPeaker.

Once the equalization program is run, the DSPeaker commits it to memory, you remove the microphone, and just enjoy your system which will be producing tighter and more extended bass, and a clear, more open midrange.
For multiple subs:
For multiple subs you have several DSPeaker options. The "absolutist" would use one mono DSPeaker ($395 for model 8033c) for each sub, and run the eq program for each sub one by one.

But the DSPeaker is "smart" enough to allow you to run multiple subs off a single mono unit (you would need a Y-adaptor because the mono unit only has one RCA input), or use the stereo input version which costs an extra $100 ($495 for model 8033s), but also adds some other features and upgrades.

Although new to the US the DSPeaker has already developed a following and received a 2010 Golden Ear Award from The Absolute Sound:
"The result is superlative bass from any decent subwoofer."

"Even relatively inexpensive subwoofers enter the realm of close-to-perfect bass."

"A must-try product for anyone who uses a subwoofer, and yet another stage in the use of DSP to rationalize audio."

Simple is better, but...
I am not a big believer in most uses for DSP in audio. I don't like the side effects you hear in the form of a loss of transparency and naturalness. But for deep bass frequencies it doesn't bother me - not at all. I don't think I am nearly as discerning an audiophile snob with respect to frequencies under 150hz compared to the midrange, where most of the music is. And my subs finally are doing what I always wanted them to do. Huzzah!

So if you use a subwoofer or two, you owe it to yourself to try the DSPeaker - available for testing from our Library. And the combination of the DSPeaker with the Cathedral Panels will take you even further.

For the rest of the music spectrum, both of these products are also compatible with the full frequency room acoustic systems we wrote about last time - the SteinMusic Harmonizers and ART Acoustic Room Treatment Kit from Synergistic Research - and with conventional acoustic panels and bass traps. However you want to address control of your room acoustics, these products can help!

You don't have to buy on our say so: these are all available for your audition. If you are willing to do the homework, we can help you get to the next level!
For additional information on these offers and frequent updates speak with your Cable Company consultant, or visit our websites:  www.thecableco.com and www.ultrasystem.com.  For hundreds of specials on used and demo cables, visit  www.usedcable.com.

For other highlighted products and special offers, take a look at the previous editions of our customer Email Newsletters in our Newletter Archives.

Or call us Mon.- Fri. 10 -6; Sat. 11-5 Eastern time on 800-328-9973 (or 215-862-4870). Fax: 215-862-4871

 
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