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Room Acoustics: SteinMusic Harmonizers and SR ART Acoustic

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Customer email newsletter dated: May 5, 2011.


Room Acoustics:
SteinMusic Harmonizers and SR ART Acoustic

It has been a while since we published our series on approaches to room acoustic treatments (links in second article below). Time for an update and discussion of a new product, the SteinMusic Harmonizers from Germany, and also for a description of enhancements that can be added to the standard 5 piece ART Acoustic Room Treatment Kit from Synergistic Research.
SteinMusic Harmonizers:

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We have been chasing this intriguing product for a couple of years, but only this year have we had the opportunity to make our own in-house evaluations. It was worth the wait!

The SteinMusic Harmonizers are one of those products which is easier to demonstrate than to explain. Their effectiveness is obvious: the soundstage is more open and 3D, with more realistic images, and a more natural sound. Aaahh.

But how is this accomplished? Well the manufacturer proposes a theory, as opposed to a proven explanation, but it is a good theory:-) The best analogy is to moving a heavy object - let's say your car won't start and you have to push it on level ground. The hardest part is getting it moving. Once it is in motion it is much easier to keep it going than it was to first move it.

Holger Stein suggests that the SteinMusic Harmonizers are doing something similar with respect to the air molecules in the listening room. By stimulating these molecules, the air is better able to transfer sound.

A good theory, or it could be something else at work, but the important thing is that it DOES work, again and again, in every system we have tested. And it is not subtle. And it doesn't matter what else you are, or aren't, doing in the way of acoustic treatment in the room. It just plain works.

The basic product is a pair of 6" square Harmonizers named H2A and H2B. In a room of modest proportions, one in the front of the room and the other in the back of the room, each powered by an AC/DC "wall wart," or by standard batteries, and you will experience the magic. The Harmonizers should be placed on a piece of furniture, or you can use the optional stands costing $150 each if no furniture is available. In the basic "two Harmonizer package" (special package price $2099) there are seven 1.5" triangular shaped polycarbonate "Stones" included, which can be stuck to the room surfaces to magnify the effect of the Harmonizers. These are the "cream on the cake," the Harmonizers do most of the work.

For larger rooms, or to enhance the effect, you double up on the Harmonizers and put them in the 4 corners. The "four Harmonizer package" (special package price $3999) comes with 10 of the triangular stones.

If all of this leaves you feeling skeptical, that's ok. We don't take it personally! And we aren't suggesting you pick up the phone RIGHT NOW to order a set. But we do suggest that this is something you should consider trying for yourself, and we have samples available in our Library for this purpose. Check it out (literally). A very easy product to test for yourself.

To read more, there are good reviews in and in StereoTimes

The Synergistic Research ART Acoustic Room Treatment... one of the most successful approaches for treating room acoustics that we have come across, and along with the Cathedral Sound Acoustic Panels, something we feel should have a home in most serious audiophile systems.

For background on our approach to speaker setup and room acoustic treatments, take a look in our archives at these three articles on room acoustics. This information is still current:

Also for background on the Synergistic Research ART Acoustic system, take a look here:

and at these online reviews:
To recap: What is ART?
Synergistic's ART Acoustic system is a surprisingly small, 5 piece room treatment kit. The central unit, called "Vibratron," consists of a two part metal sphere with a metal disk placed between the halves, the whole assembly somewhat resembling the planet Saturn. A vertical stack of magnets tops off this module. The Vibratron is placed on the front wall behind the speakers and centered between them.

Next is the "Bass Station, " which is a wood platform on spikes supporting a metal "bowl." The Bass Station should be placed on the floor, near the back wall beneath the Vibratron and also centered between the loudspeakers. As you might expect from the name, this part of the system has the primary impact on bass response.

Finally the three "Satellites" are wood triangles with flat tops that mount on the wall using poster putty (a.k.a. Blu-Tac). A holder protrudes through the top of the Satellites, and each holds another of these (slightly smaller) metal "bowls" in place. Place two at the first reflection points, and one on the wall behind the listener, up higher than the other satellites.

What does it do?

In a not-very-subtle way, the ART System impacts the sound of a stereo or multichannel system:
- improved tonality: instruments sound more like the real thing
- improved harmonics and decay are another aspect of this enhanced realism
- individual instrument "lines" are better delineated
- bass is tightened and extended
- high frequencies are also extended and more natural sounding
- general sound staging and the air around the instruments is enhanced.

So what's new?

Over time, with experimentation in many rooms, we have learned that there are several things you can do to enhance the effectiveness of the the "normal" 5 piece ART System:

1. Placement of the Vibratron.
The ideal height for the Vibratron (the large piece that looks like the rings of Saturn) would be such that when seated in your listening position you can see through the space below the central ring, but not through the space above the ring. Sometimes due to wall art, or video screens, etc. it is not possible to place the Vibratron as high on the wall as you would ideally like to. In this case placement of an additional (Magnetron) Satellite on the wall above the object serves to acoustically "average up" the placement of the Vibratron.
Additional Satellites
2. Placement of additional Magnetron Satellites at the same height as the Vibratron, but close to the corners on either side of the front wall of the room, with an additional Satellite a couple of feet further = up the wall directly above this new Satellite, maybe half way to the ceiling (depending on ceiling height), is a wonderful enhancement, serving to additionally open up the sound stage.

In a very large room, or if you listen with your speakers on the long wall, you will also benefit from additional Satellites on each side at the same positions as the two you have placed near each corner, but splitting the distance between the Vibratron in the center of the wall, and the corners.

3. Bass: for additional bass control you can:

a. add a second Bass Station behind the listener, underneath the rear Gravitron Satellite.

b. add a second Bass Station, and place each of your two Bass Stations directly in front of the right and left speakers.

c. do both a. and/or b. in addition to using a Bass Station in the original position below the Vibratron.
Did you know...
4. ....about ART Basik?

For audiophiles on a budget Synergistic has scaled down the full Acoustic ART system into a junior version they call "ART Basik." For $500 the ART Basik system consists of 4 "Basik" Satellites and a "Basik" Bass Station. They differ from the full ART in the lack of the "Vibratron" and also the amount of hands-on tuning and finishing for the ART Basik component parts. But still a great and much more affordable way to upgrade your room acoustics! Just place a satellite in each of the same four on-wall positions outlined in the Main Art System Set-up image above, put the Basik Bass Station in that position, and you are good to go.

But this is also an inexpensive way to take your full blown Acoustic ART system up a notch. Just use the ART Basik's satellites in the corner positions outlined in the "ART System Setup with Additional Satellites" diagram above, and use the included Basik Bass Station in one of the optional locations outlined in the Bass section immediately above.

However you approach it, isn't it time to think about your room acoustics? All of the products featured in this mailing are available for in-home audition through our Library. It is well worth your time to try these products out, and very easy to do.
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