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TWEAK REPORT with pics and other maggie news
Posted by Peter Gunn on March 30, 2004 at 09:11:24:
I'd like to relate the further escapades of a friend of mine, and then some observations of my own. You may remember a post of mine last year when we treated his rear wall with panels made from ply, batting and colored pleather. It did a great job both helping the room and tightening and deepening the maggies bass. He owns an old pair of I's, but they have new panels and have had the full crossover and wiring tweaks plus gold binding posts. So they're old I's but sound as good as is possible.
He was happy, so he stopped there, despite my protestations. The problem is his room is a perfect 13 foot cube (with 8 foot ceilings). I wanted him to treat the other walls more, do the ceilings and the ceiling corners. He didn't.
For a year now I have heard him complain about the sound he's getting, he's tried other speakers, amps etc.. and it had gotten so bad it was actually putting me off of maggies. He was about to try another pair of speakers when I finally went ballistic on him and forced some tweaks. I told him until the room was as good as it could be, he couldn't take anything for granted and should not be swapping gear so much. He had finally become that desperate and relented. (He's an odd breed of audiophile. He wants great gear and sound but at no work, or even thinking on his part. He knows very little about the hobby and cares less, he just wants the best sound in the world, that's all : )
As he is cheap as well it meant we had to make the tweaks, not buy them. While it wasn't my first choice, it was easiest, so I had him do the ceiling corners first. He said he had a sheet of styrene at his boses warehouse they didn't need, so we got that and then went to get fabric. It is the saddest thing in the world to be at a fabric store on a saturday night with another guy and have the girl at the counter say "How are YOU guys doin tonight?" I supressed the urge to yell "We're not gay, we're audiophiles! Not that there's anything wrong with that."
I decided to make the panels 2 foot a side. They need to be equilateral (60 degrees a side) so I laid out a 2 foot line, and used a large compass from each end to scribe the other point and connected them. (I have one, I'm a period cabinetmaker) You probably don't, so the easiest way is to lay out the first line, then tie 2 pencils on a string so their ends touch the ends on that line when stretched. You can then use them to find the third point arcing a line from each end.
I wanted to bevel the cut 45 degrees so I cut it out on my large 3' Oliver bandsaw which you also probably don't have. I found the material did not want to cut lets say "predictably" with a razor knife, so be careful if you use that. The fabric was then stapled on. Yes, the staples come out easily if pulled straight out, but under tension they held fine for this purpose.
Total costs were $10 (for the fabric) the styrene was free. A panel large enough at a home center would be about $7. Look where the plywood and insulating boards are. It's basically an inch thick styrofoam board used for insulating. The fabric we used was excellent, with alternating raised ribs much like you'd find on a commercial product. We adhered them in place in the corners with double sided tape which was fine as they weigh almost nothing. The finished product looked like this:
From a distance
All 4 corners were done. This shows the wall treatment as well.
Yes, it's very Space 1999. Sounds that way too.
We decided to put them up with the gap for the trim at the top instead of allowing for it, because we thought that a completely sealed corner might become it's own problem and "boom". Allowing the gap prevents them from becoming drums in the corners and the slot probably catches it's share of bad waves as well. He has round paper lamps from IKEA in the corners at floor level doing the same job.
We also finally re-drilled his maggies bases and put new, longer screws in. They are now rock solid. I also had him hang quilts on 2 walls. We did not get to the ceiling at this time and as I was expecting that to be what this room needed I was dumbstruck at how much the room changed. The maggies finally focused, like an old man who finds his prescription lenses. The lack of width is still unfortunate and hurts slightly of course, but the room has never sounded better. Problem solved, the maggies stay.
Most notably, he had a problem anywhere out of the sweet spot. The sound literally vanished if you stood up before. I could stand in the doorway and barely even hear them play. That is now gone. They are still best in the spot of course but sound very good anywhere in the room now.
The gear in question is: Conrad Johnson PV-8, Ah! 4000 with upsampler and Siemens tubes, Pass Labs X250, Signal Cable power cords and interconnects and Zu speaker cable.
We tried to do the ceiling with egg crate foam this weekened, but it did virtually nothing, which is good because we couldn't get it to stay put. I'm thinking because the room is a small square and not a rectangle, and because the maggies beam and not radiate, the short distance of the room does not allow for the ceiling to become a problem. So if you find yourself in this fix with a similar room, my suggestion would be to do the corners and damp the walls first. It was easy, cost almost nothing, and it looks good as well. It also performed well beyond our expectations.
Now for my input. I was planning to turn my attic into a room last year but the project got delayed to this year. My purchase in the meantime of a Hovland HP 100 threw a towel in my works. I love maggies, but his didn't do they detail this thing can manage thru full range monitors. I did a lot of listening last year (you may remember my notorious RM-40 post) but it became a nut I couldn't solve. His room sucking wasn't helping matters.
But after this fix, I inserted the Hovland for a day. Previously, I could not even tell it apart from his PV-8 on his rig, which in fact sounded better (which pissed me off to no end). That has now ended. I listened to both for a few hours in this more ideal setup. The inability of the room to accomodate the soundstage the Hovland was trying to throw was it's only flaw, and one belonging to the room, not the Hovland. Some aspects of some recordings suffered a "suck out", as you could hear a ghost of where things were supposed to be, and they sounded distant and muffled. That didn't happen when the PV-8 was in. It threw a slightly forward, but very 2 dimensional soundstage. It had width and height,but no depth. At first this did sound more appealing when it replaced the Hovland. But only a few tracks in, I realized the Hovland sounded much better and I missed it being in. The PV-8 is a fine peice for the money used, and without the comparison one could be quite happy with it. My worry had been, if I go back to maggies will I lose the delicious things the Hovland does. Apparently not, which has eased my mind.
What's more, I discovered that when the Hovland came back home to the cabinet jobs I have to use now, they did indeed impart a lot more detail, but God, I HATED the sound. Maybe the maggies did roll some things over a bit, maybe the N'th degree wasn't there, but what was there sounded SO DAMNED GOOD I didn't care. The naturalness, the air, the lack of "edge" (not resolving everything is actually a blessing) made it a joy, and my monitors a rude wake up call.
I will probably go hear a few more things as a lark, but I will most likely settle on the 1.6's this year. To quote George Constanza, "I'm back baby, I'm back!". I can hardly wait to join the club again, I've been away too long.
If you got this far I hope you found something of use in it
It's all about the music...