- Written by Jason Victor Serinus
- Published on 28 April 2008
Air and Depth, Before and After Enhancement
I have never experienced the degree of soundstage depth I've heard on some set-ups when listening to my own system. Since I've reviewed a number of speakers, my hunch is that this has something to do with my particular room dimensions and the large open space on either side of the speakers. Yes, I do experience the depth phenomenon, but it is not very pronounced.
Then again, I'm not complaining, because I do not find the depth phenomenon very pronounced in live performance. In fact, when faced with the glory of the San Francisco Symphony or Diane Schuur or Imani Winds with Wayne Shorter or bass-baritone Bryn Terfel, all of whom I've heard live in the last month, soundstage depth is the last thing on my mind.
Nonetheless, The Nine creates a lovely sense of soundstage depth in my room. Air around instruments also seems natural without being over-pronounced. As mentioned above, the speaker's generosity of midrange has a lot to do with this.
What greatly improve soundstage depth and air in my room are two major sound enhancement products: Shakti Hallographs and Bybee Golden Goddess Speaker Bullets. I hasten to call either a "tweak," given their price.
First, the Hallographs. I use four Shakti Hallographs: one behind each speaker, and one directly in line with each, placed along the sides of the listening area midway between the speakers and my listening seat. (People with smaller rooms might achieve greater benefit by placing the Hallographs in the rear of the room).
In my generous-size room, with its variety of surfaces, materials, and shapes, I use the Hallographs behind the speakers as false corners, to help contain, focus, and control the sound. How they do this, I do not know. But I do know that the slightest change of position – the Reference Recordings folks heard this during our set-up, by the way, when I rotated each Hallograph a quarter degree toward the center to achieve greater brilliance on top, and they commented on the difference – affects both soundstage width and tonal balance from top to bottom. Too open, and the sound gets diffuse, losing color. Too narrowly focused, and the sound gets overly rich, with instruments squooshed together. Get it just right, and you achieve ideal tonal balance, a realistic soundstage, and more control than without the Hallographs. The things are so sensitive it's scary.
Hallographs positioned along the sides of the room, midway between the listening seat and the speakers, do wonders to enhance soundstage depth and realistic layering. They too affect tonal balance, so you have to get them just right. I confirmed their effects by removing them temporarily before writing this review, and immediately experienced a pronounced foreshortening of the soundstage.
Keith Johnson opined that he understood what the Hallographs do, and that socks very carefully hung on coat hangers might accomplish the same thing. Even if that were the case, I doubt few readers would want their listening rooms to look like a Chinese laundry. (My spouse would sock it to me but good if I ever tried this). Nor would pets resist the temptation to jump toward those socks, blowing hours of careful adjustment. The Shakti Hallographs are a far more expensive, but far more easily adjusted, visually tolerable alternative.
I also use the latest iteration of Bybee Golden Goddess Speaker Bullets to connect the speakers to my speaker cables. Yes, I know. The thought of four little devices that cost over $4000 total understandably rubs some folks the wrong way. (Hey, I can't possibly afford them). But Jack Bybee began his career as an aerospace engineer, and has solid science to back him up. Besides, dismissing something out of hand without making the effort to experience it hardly smacks of open-mindedness or intellectual curiosity.
In the midst of writing this review, Jack Bybee coincidentally sent me the following:
People keep asking me what is 1/f noise and why it isn't addressed by others? One short answer is that most people (electrical engineers and audio circuit designers) don't have a clue what 1/f noise is and how it can affect audio/TV etc. I have attached a paper that explains what causes 1/f noise and how it can be measured ["Proposed System Solution for1/f Noise Parameter Extractio"n by Roberto Tinti, Franz Sischka, and Chris Morton]. I hope this paper can be useful...
The Bybee Golden Goddess Speaker Cable devices not only help remove 1/f noise but also act as an inverse dispersive delay line. There is a lot of info available on the net regarding delay lines. The problem with most delay line solutions is that they create massive amounts of 1/f noise. That is why I combined two solutions into one package.
In my experience, the greater silence and transparency bestowed by the Bybees on an already exceptional pair of speakers has enabled me to hear details of execution and interpretation that I have never heard before. Playing Cecilia Bartoli's most recent recorded triumph, Maria, I am able to hear the slight variations of dynamics and shading that constitute bel canto at its finest. I love the things.
I have spent a long time – far too long, with The Nines. I have done so for purely selfish reasons. I have grown quite fond of these babies, and will be sad to see them go. But other speakers are on their way, and there's only so much room at the Inn.
Eggleston Works' the Nine is a speaker that makes listening a pleasure. It is never harsh or obtrusive, never blunt or jarring. This speaker sings, gracing music with its true and detailed midrange, enviable transparency, and natural warmth. Surprisingly full-range, save for the lowest frequencies, The Nine is a speaker that will easily win the hearts of those who audition it. At this moment, I consider it a definite contender for Secrets' 2008 speaker-of-the-year.
JASON VICTOR SERINUS REFERENCE SYSTEM
Digital Front End
Theta Carmen II CD/DVD transport
Theta Gen VIII DAC/Preamp
(Benchmark USB DAC-1 when Apple Titanium Powerbook is in use on the main system)
VTL 450W tube monoblock prototypes with KT-88 tubes
Jadis DA-7 Luxe with GE 5751 Jan and Jan Philips 5814A tubes and cable from Pierre Gabriel
Talon Khorus X speakers MK. III (with latest upgrade and Bybee Quantum Noise Purifiers)
Eggleston Works The Nine (here for review)
Nordost Valhalla single-ended and balanced interconnects
Nordost Valhalla balanced digital interconnects
Nordost Valhalla bi-wired speaker cable
Nordost Valhalla Power Cables
Elrod EPS-2 Signature power cables
Nordost Thor Power Distribution System
IsoClean or other audiophile grade fuses in most components
Dedicated line for system
Clearaudio Emotion turntable with Satisfy arm
Soundsmith "The Voice" phono cartridge
Benz MC-Gold phono cartridge
Classe 6 phono preamp with better umbilical cord
Symposium Platform under turntable
Finite Elemente Cerapuc supports
Ganymede ball bearing supports
Michael Green brass Audiopoints
Audiophile grade fuses in all equipment.
Michael Green Deluxe Ultrarack, Basic Racks and Corner Tunes
Shakti stones on transport, DAC, amps, etc.
Four Shakti Hallographs
Bybee Golden Goddess Super Effect Speaker Bullets
Echo Buster and Corner Busters
Bedini Quadra Beam and Dual Beam Ultraclarifiers
Marigo Signature 3-D Mat v2;
Ayre demagnetizing CD
Various CD sprays
Main System Room Dimensions
Living room is 24.5' deep, 21.4' wide in the listening area. It's big enough to accommodate 16 members of the Bay Area Audiophile Society, positioned in four rows of four seats each. The distance from the front door to the end of the dining room is 37'. Sound extends far to the left and right of the speakers thanks to an 8.33' wide archway into the dining room opposite the right channel speaker. Ceilings are 9' high with heavy wooden crossbeams, each 17" in height. Heavy curtains cover windows behind the sound system. Floors are hardwood and carpet in front of the system, and hardwood elsewhere. Walls in the living room are a combination of plaster and wood, with a large granite fireplace in the rear. The dining room is all plaster. There is RoomTune and Echo buster treatment in corners, and either an Echo Buster or heavy tapestry at the two side wall first order reflection points. For photos, go here.
Upstairs Second System:
Genesis I-60 Integrated amp
Von Schweikert VR-4jr. speakers
Proton 26" non-HD anything but flat decidedly undigital TV
Basic Pioneer DVD player
A first generation CD player too awful to play
Assortment of WireWorld Gold Eclipse 5, Harmonic Tech Magic One, and Nordost Valhalla and Tyr cabling; Elrod EPS-2 Signature and AudioPrism SuperNatural S2 power cables
Apple iMac G5
Benchmark DAC-1 USB
ExactPower EP15A equipped with outlets from Sound Applications and other mods
Audio Engine 5 self-powered speakers
Nordost Valhalla Power cabling
Harmonic Tech Magic One interconnect
High-Wire speaker cable
Ganymede Ball Bearing supports