In our last episode, subtitled Jason’s Happiness Hinges on Controlling Bass Booming Madness, I discussed the challenge of perfectly positioning loudspeakers when they rest on unstable ball-bearing supports. My last words of that blog – not my famous last words, despite what some may wish – were that I might have to go out and get some Cerapucs to put under my speakers.
Manufactured by Finite Elemente (http://www.finite-elemente.de/en/products/cerapuc), Cerapucs use direct coupling to achieve effective transfer of sound-interfering resonance. Inside the Cerapuc is an extreme hard, high-tech ceramic ball that helps achieve correct damping. Cerapucs claim to create no resonance build, no overdamping, and no loss of deflection. I finally gave in. Try and try as I might, I could not precisely position my speakers. Nor could I level them, given that the floor itself was not level, and the Ganymedes are not height-adjustable. Cerapucs are not only infinitely more stable than ball-bearing Ganymede supports, but they also accommodate adjustable spikes, which enables you to level speakers on uneven or sloped floors.
Of course, you can also level speakers simply by using spikes. But given that vibration readily carries through my house, which seems to act as a bass resonator of sorts, spikes do not provide sufficient isolation from vibration. Hence the need for a more sophisticated (and stable!) decoupling system.
Eventually, I called Cerapucs distributor Allen Perkins at Immedia in Berkeley. Allen looked around, and discovered that he had eight of these expensive babies available for loan. An hour or so later, I was driving to Berkeley to pick them up.Later that afternoon, with the help of a neighbor and some leveling devices, I had for the first time properly positioned and leveled the Eggleston Works the Nines. To say that I was excited to hear what difference my efforts might make is an understatement. I was of course hoping for sonic improvements, which I could then discuss in my forthcoming review of the speakers.
Thank goodness, I was blown away by what I heard. Not only did I hear more control and clarity than ever before, but I also heard a richer sound than my system had been yielding of late. It was as though an extra layer of natural color had been added to the presentation. I was delighted.
The next day, three folks from Reference Recordings came by to scope out my system and discuss set-up for the first-ever public demonstration of RR’s HRx high-resolution CD-Rs. Although it would have been nice to have had speakers with deeper bass than a single 8″ woofer can provide, the RR folks concluded that my set-up will work just fine for the demo. After all was said and done, the system passed. — Earlier in the week, I attended San Francisco Opera’s first San Francisco in-theater showing of its new digital cinema opera presentations (http://www.thebiggerpicture.us/opera/). The venue was the Castro Theater, one of the few remaining movie palaces from the 1920s still in operation. It is also the only movie theater in town that San Francisco Opera was able to secure for these movie showings. Which is somewhat of a paradox, since 120 other sites across the country had signed on before SFO was able to secure a single venue in its hometown.
The opera was Puccini’s La Rondine. Starring soprano Angela Gheorghiu and tenor Mischa Didyk, it played to deservedly sold out houses in San Francisco last fall, and inspired this glowing review by yours truly. (http://www.ebar.com/arts/art_article.php?sec=music&article=416). The movie was shown in highest quality digital format, having been filmed and edited in the state-of-the-art Koret-Taube Media Suite, the first permanent high-definition, broadcast-standard media production facility installed in any American opera house.
The picture quality was stunning. Captured at close range, so vivid were the singers that it was possible to understand just how hard some of them were working to produce their sound. You could see the shaping of every vowel, the preparation for every phrase – the ease of some, and the intense concentration of others. Gheorghiu was literally trembling with excitement, unable to remain still through the entire first act. And Didyk was all ardor and passion, with huge amounts of force behind his sound. The experience was a revelation. You could even see the tremendous amount of effort that SFO devoted to the production. Every detail was complete – faux marble pillars, fixtures, you name it – everything had a ring of authenticity about it.
The sound system also had a ring, and not an authentic one. There was an unacceptable level of distortion that added an objectionable edge to the sound. Gheorghiu, whose voice is mostly smooth rather than pointed, fared best, while Didyk and the orchestra really suffered. By the final act, my ears had reached saturation levels. I survived by gentle placing my fingers in my ear canals – just enough to soften the sound without obscuring too much detail.
I am hoping that the problem lies in the Castro Theater sound system, and not with the technology. The picture quality is so stunning that it demands state-of-the-art sound. For the first time, I’m tempted to do what the majority of Secrets readers have done – buy myself an HDTV and Blu-ray player, and watch a mini-version of what I saw on the big screen in the privacy of my own home. But, given my income, there won’t be anything left over for speakers, let alone the Cerapucs that my main sound system needs. So, for the time being, I continue to watch operas at the Castro, and save my shekels for other things.