Music Room

This is the largest listening space at Gy8 and is based on the same thinking as we employed so successfully for our previous room. However, the new Music Room enjoys not just the benefit of lessons learnt from the old one, it is also free of the dimensional limitations that were imposed by the available space for our first project.

Physical Structure and Furnishings

Rather than being built from the ground up, in this case the listening space is constructed within an existing, stone-built barn. The vast interior has allowed us to select golden ratio dimensions for length (9.5m) and height (4.0) to match the existing 6.5m width, with materials and construction to suit. The front and sidewalls are all solid stone, around 70cm (a little over 2’) thick. The front wall is plastered in order to conceal various door and window cavities that needed to be filled, but the sidewalls are left bare, leaving a rough, random, dispersive surface. The rear wall is formed from insulation blocks with concrete filling. None of the walls are actually parallel (or even very straight) which contributes to the distributed resonant nature of the room, but makes precise speaker placement far more of a challenge than the old, super-symmetrical arrangement.

The floor is formed from solid, poured concrete, but has been sub-divided into three physically separate zones – one at the front of the room, supporting the speakers; a second to the side to support the system and the third representing the rest of the floor area. Solid bamboo is glued directly to each of the concrete base areas, creating three distinct and easily identifiable zones. The speaker support area extends to one-third depth within the room, allowing maximum flexibility for positioning. Direct, roll-in access is provided across hard floors and the main doors to the Music Room are both taller and considerably wider than standard. Combined with the dimensions of the room this means that literally any existing system or equipment can be handled or accommodated – practically and, if not easily, then at least as easily as possible. With many speaker systems and amplifiers weighing in well into the hundreds of kilos these days, easy access is an essential requirement.

The ceiling is formed from 30cm (1’ deep) wooden I-beams with 18mm compressed OSB used to form the floor. These boards are structurally similar in many ways to plywood, but with a far more random nature. The cavity between the ceiling and the supported floor is filled with acoustic wool insulation and the lower joists are left open to further randomise the surface. The floor space above the new room offers a massive storage area, accessed by an electric hoist capable of handling even the largest crates – thus solving one of the biggest logistical headaches associated with high-end reviewing.

In keeping with the original concept, all absorptive elements are elective and removable. Furnishing is light, with a large, thick wool carpet and sofa in the centre of the floor space. Additional stacking chairs are available, but these are simple metal frame designs, without upholstery. The rest of the furniture consists of record storage and the system racking, which is arranged symmetrically in the rear half of the room.

Electrical Supply and System Support

The AC supply to the Music Room consists of a dedicated ring, feeding a pair of Russ Andrews DCT UltraSockets, equipped with a clean ground. <READ MORE> The sockets are placed immediately behind the system racks, the intention being to run short interconnects and long speaker leads, keeping the audio equipment clear of the speakers/soundstage. But, with an increasing number of part-powered speakers on the market, a second outlet is provided to the left of the speakers in order to provide power to those speaker designs that need it, or to allow mono-blocs to be used on long interconnects where this proves desirable.

The main system rack is a double-wide HRS RXR, equipped with a mix of R-shelves and M3X platforms, along with a full suite of Nimbus and Vortex couplers used in conjunction with various HRS Damping Plates, to provide a flexible support solution with near state-of-the-art performance. The use of the couplers and DPs elevates the musical performance of the RXR significantly, raising it above that offered by the more expensive and sophisticated HRS racks used in isolation – although I’ve yet to experience the massive VXR stand. Bottom line here is simple: controlling and draining energy from the equipment itself is as or more important than isolating it from the outside world. Add the couplers and DPs to an MXR rack and that will improve things dramatically – but ignore the issue and you will be compromising system performance at its most basic level. With physical support so key to overall musical performance, we prefer to keep the support solution for the core elements of the system consistent, but we also have a range of additional racks, support platforms and couplers available for those times when the system outgrows the HRS: These include examples from Quadraspire, Hutter, Raidho, Symposium and Stillpoints.

Acoustic Behaviour and Treatment

With its solid walls and total absence of fixed, absorptive elements, the Music Room is extremely live when empty. The thick walls and semi-rural location also make it incredibly quiet, with a very low noise-floor and remarkably low levels of RFI. Like our first listening room that this one so resembles, the plan was to add acoustic treatment and absorption until the desired level was achieved. But in this case there are some differences in detail. The basic combination of a large dispersive area (RPG Skylines) behind and between the speakers, a suspended velocity choke array and a large absorptive element on the rear wall holds good, but the move from a vaulted ceiling in the original room to the flat surface in this one, together with the increase in length and overall volume has meant increasing the choke area and adding additional absorption to the rear trap. In the latter case, adding sheets of Basotect acoustic foam to augment the heavy felt hanging labyrinth has proved to be both a highly effective and tuneable solution. We have also installed sliding panels at the first reflection points, an extremely effective measure (developed from a suggestion by John Giolas at Wilson Audio) put to excellent use in the previous listening room. Here, set against the broad dispersive areas represented by the rough sidewalls, we’ve found simple absorptive panels are more effective tuning devices than the Skylines previously used. Once again, these can be slid back behind the plane of the speakers, or removed all together.

The golden ratio dimensions ensure a well-spread resonant signature within the room, which is refreshingly free of excessive low-end emphasis or humps. The other key aspect of controlling the acoustic behaviour of the space is the two large doors that are placed in the rear corners and allow direct venting of the primary pressure zones: their effect can be tuned simply by adjusting how far you open them, but not surprisingly and irrespective of the speakers employed, the room sounds better with the doors open, allowing the space to vent to the even larger volume beyond. The end result is a clean acoustic that supports deep, powerful and articulate bass. Low frequency pitch definition is notably clean, soundstages are expansive, with good boundary definition where appropriate. Micro dynamics and timbral resolution are exceptional, with a tremendous ability to project presence, immediacy and dimensionality – again, where appropriate. Shifts in scale, dynamic range and density are handled with ease, partly because the room doesn’t kill the dynamics.

The asymmetrical nature of the space makes precise speaker set up both painstaking and essential, but rewards you with clear insight into system performance, potential and attributes, ideal for critical listening and reviewing – as well as just enjoying great performance(s).