Stands, Racks, Furniture, Room Treatment

The Synergistic Research ACOUSTIC ART Real-Time Analogue Room Treatment

ARTICLE INDEX

Options and Prices

If you want to save some money, you can use a Gravitron satellite in place of the Vibratron. A minimal Acoustic ART setup, which costs under $1100, consists of the Gravitron satellite ($295) and a single BAAS Station ($750). By itself, it should make a dramatic improvement over an untreated room. An additional Vibratron, which not only reacts in real time to the music, but also affects all the other satellites, costs $1495. Two additional Magnetron side satellites cost $295 each. Even with the full monty which is a little over $3000 – typically, two bass stations don’t sound as good as one –that’s extremely affordable for treating a room. You easily could put another zero behind that figure with Rives Audio and not necessarily get better results."

The Sound

When Ted and I looked for good non-classical tracks to use in the demo, we settled upon Patricia Barber’s “Silent Partner” from the Mobile Fidelity SACD/DSD reissue of Modern Cool. Something about the sparse musical arrangement and array of percussion made for revelations on my reference system.

First Ted played the music with the entire ART system in place. Then he simply removed the two Magnetron satellites. Virtually everyone in the room noticed the loss of focus and clarity. We experienced an even greater difference when Ted first removed the entire ART system, then put it back in place. (Note: If you turn a resonator bowl over, so that the opening faces downward on a hard surface, it no longer affects the sound in the room).

Additional changes in sound were noted when the small magnets that perch atop the Vibratron were removed, and then slowly replaced, one-by-one. After experiencing the full transition, one attendee noted, “When you were taking the magnets on and off the Vibratron, it affected the midrange so dramatically. Yet I found that with the magnets off, for me it was a little less veiled in the midrange.”

Ted replied, “It’s not a question of veiling; it’s a question of tonal balance. You’ll actually find through long-term listening that you’re not losing any information with more magnets; it’s about balance. The experience is kind of like when you change the setting on your plasma TV, and you can’t decide which is more real.”

Ted next removed some of the magnets from the Vibratron and played the first five or six minutes of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra’s spectacular SACD of Richard Strauss’ Alpine Symphony. Strauss calls for a huge orchestra, wind machine, cowbells, you name it. The opening is an extreme test for woofers.

After listening, another attendee commented, “Here’s a very crude analogy. If you have a boom box with a lot of listening options, you can add ambience, which takes it out of phase. Some people like the change, but I think it cheapens the sound. Here, you get more ambience, but there’s no cheapening effect. Adding more magnets makes the music come alive. This was most apparent in this recording of Strauss. There may have been more intimacy before, but the added magnets really made it come alive.”

Ted then further clarified the issue. “Sometimes, when information is removed, music seems sharper in focus because there’s less information to process. Eventually one learns to process all the additional information that you can hear clearly as a result of ART.” Ted even claimed that, on highly resolving systems, you can actually hear miking patterns on recordings with ART in place.

Throughout both demos, which included a few tracks that attendees had brought along, I kept noticing how much more bass control, midrange clarity, and acuteness of focus I was experiencing with ART. After Ted left and I restored my entire reference system, I became firmly convinced of the huge difference that ART makes. All I had to do was remove the two first reflection point Magnetrons to discover how much newfound clarity of image, tonal definition, and three-dimensionality I lost without them.

My only criticism of the sound of the ART system is that, with my Nordost cabling back in the system, and the Magnetrons exactly positioned at first reflection points, the system sometimes sounded too bright and piercing. Moving the Magnetrons a few inches from their optimal positions totally rectified the situation.

System Comparison

It was not possible for me to directly compare the Synergistic Research ART system with Frank Cheng’s Acoustic Resonators. While ART comes in just a few configurations, mine being the maximum, Cheng sells a host of resonators at widely different price points. At home, I only have five of the lower priced Acoustic Resonators; they do not give a complete picture of what a system tuned with more resonators, including the far more expensive silver, gold and platinum varieties, can sound like.

What I can say with certainty is that a full ART system, even with a second Bass Station, costs far, far less than a complete Acoustic Resonator set-up that uses the higher priced resonators. ART resonators are far easier to position correctly and maintain in place than the Acoustic Resonators. Cheng’s little pointed bowls are hard to get just right. Sometimes just when you’re trying to tap the resonator slightly to get it at the angle you want, it falls off its perch, and you need to start all over again. In addition, in my house, at least one of my resonators has been known to fall off its perch when the front door is slammed shut.