CATHEDRAL SOUND ROOM DAMPENING PANELS
|Addressing the Room|
In the past, I believed I could obtain the best sonics possible by purchasing the best components and cables my money could buy. With that mindset, I spent more than ten years purchasing what I felt were some very prestigious components. Despite this, I was not satisfied in my pursuit of musical excellence. It seemed as though something was missing and I was not getting what I was listening for: music in its purest form.
In order to somehow reach that elusive target, I began using a plethora of cables, upgrading components, modifying system components, adding as many tweaks as possible. If I were to list them all in this review, it would take up another page or two. With each change came increased improvement to sonics, transparency, imaging and detail. However, the synergy was missing; the music was garbled and very fatiguing at times. In other words, musical paradise was still nowhere in the neighborhood. Frustration was beginning to become an issue as I began questioning myself: “What was I missing? What am I doing wrong? Where is the nirvana I hear some audiophiles talk about?”
In a desperate attempt to solve my problem I began some painstaking intensive research. Being a research engineer by trade, I decided to call upon what I do best in order to alleviate my frustrations and solve my dilemma. I introduced myself to different on-line forums that dealt with problematic audio issues such as mine and quickly learned I was not alone. I also learned that one answer to my problem was something I never even considered before; room acoustics. I thought to myself. “My room could be considered a potential cause of the unsatisfying sound I was experiencing? How can this be?! It’s just a room!” Well, ignorance is bliss, as they say, but reality sure slapped me right in the face.
I began another extensive internet search, however this time I focused on becoming better educated on the causes and effects of room acoustics. I learned about room treatments and dimensions, furniture placement, even the criticality of proper seating position and speaker position. To my surprise there was a lot of information out there addressing this very subject. I had to be patient though, because some articles were way out in left field.
Eventually, I learned that over time all these items can have a profound affect on an entire audio system. The greatest of all these issues being the absence of room treatment needed to correct the anomalies present in a system environment. I began more research on what would work for a 13’ x 17’ x 8’ listening room inundated with, in my opinion, “world class audio equipment.”
I was introduced to a handful of well known and respected acoustic products. However, most were not to my liking. Some were too large, unattractive and very cumbersome. Despite the fact that they worked, they definitely did not own a high WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor). End of story. Other products required a general contractor to install, and many others just appeared to be gimmicks that would not produce a positive affect on my room’s acoustics.
Enter the Cathedral Sound Room Dampening Panels offered through UltraSystems, Inc. Upon recommendation from another audiophile, I did some extensive research on these panels in order to better familiarize myself with what they do and how much they cost.
One set includes two 11” x 16” x 2” panels which claim to tame frequency response below 200Hz and virtually eliminates bass boom. These were attributes that I was very interested in for my room. A set of panels also comes with the very reasonable price tag of just $179 per pair.
At this point, and upon a recommendation from Clement Perry (who always seems to know what products work best), I decided to contact Mr. Robert Stein at UltraSystems, Inc. hoping for an opportunity to try out a couple of sets of the Cathedral Sound Room Dampening Panels and write a review with my findings. After a brief conversation with Mr. Stein, and to my delight, he most graciously accepted my proposal. Two sets of the panels arrived within a week’s time. The first thing I must report on is that the panels were very well packed. This may be a small detail to some but it tells me a lot about the quality of the company. My next thought was how small the panels seemed compared to previous acoustic products I’ve owned. Examining each one very carefully for quality, I could tell that they were very well built. Each panel weighed approximately four pounds and was constructed using a heavy-duty wooden frame and some very thick dampening material covered with cloth neatly draped over it. Each panel looks to have been built through a meticulous quality process. I could tell from experience they were not just thrown together. I could also tell the company more than likely has an adept quality assurance process.
The panels can be purchased in either black or off-white. I chose the off-white. Another brownie point was that the installation was ever-so-easy. No fuss or heavy lifting. Each panel installation is a one person task, though you may need a stepping stool or ladder depending how high your ceiling is, and a hammer. Simply nail the provided hardware into the wall, mount the panel, balance it, and you are done.
In my listening room I placed one panel approximately one inch from the ceiling and one inch from the adjoining wall corner. This process took me every bit of 15 minutes, if that long. With their small size and eye pleasing decorum, I was very pleased with how they blended with my wall color and did not create an eyesore to say the least. Absolutely a major improvement over previous acoustic products I’ve tried.
Although their pleasing looks, easy installation, and excellent build quality, I had to remind myself that decorating improvement was not the main reason I was using these panels. How they would help improve my room’s acoustics was still to be answered.
Ok, so now I am ready to do some damage control. I conjured up some home remedy testing. Although not scientifically or technically proven, I felt these test were more in line with common sense. My testing practices led me to conduct one particular experiment using a simple Radio Shack SPL meter. I used the meter along with a test tone CD divided into many different frequencies below 200Hz. I initially began playing frequencies in the range of 25Hz up to 100 Hz, while positioning the SPL meter approximately varying 2-5 feet from each corner to obtain pressure level readings. With the test tones playing through my Esoteric P70/D70 matched with a pair of Von Schweikert VR5SE speakers and one JL Audio F112 subwoofer, I recorded test results before and after placement of each panel.
To my satisfaction, with panels installed, the readings showed an average of one to two decibel decrease for each corner, the same was also evident at the listeners’ position, I never touched the volume controls on my preamp during testing. I next sat down to do some critical listening in order to get the full effect of what I experienced from testing results. I am a believer that meter readings are for technicians and analysis, not audiophiles. The most accurate test will be what my ears tell me about what the Cathedral Sound Room Dampening Panels are capable of?
For this review, I chose to listen to recordings with loud and deep bass, perhaps something with a good jazz tone to it. The CD that fit this description was saxophonist Andre Ward’s, Crystal City[Orpheus]. I began my session listening to track one, “They Keep Calling Me.” This track, with its synthesized bass, will blow the roof off the house if you’re not careful with the volume level. I played the CD at a moderate listening level (88-95dB), however, after a few hours of critical listening, I could report that these panels are amazing, especially for their size, the Cathedral Sound Room Dampening Panels provided more obvious improvements than any other acoustic treatment I have tried, even the ones ten times their size and triple their cost. The Panels handled the majority of the mid to low bass with relative ease, the music sounding purer and smoother, not punchy or bloated. I can honestly report that I heard no boominess in my listening room. The best part of all, I had no problems relaxing and enjoying the entire CD. The Cathedral Sound Room Dampening Panels allowed the highs emitting from the VR5SEs to breathe by quieting and smoothing out heavy mid bass passages; therefore, I was better equipped to hear more micro details coming from the high and mid-range range frequencies.
I consider myself a jazz and gospel music enthusiast, so with me, very deep bass is not a big issue. However, for me, the mid bass to high frequencies are most essential and must be controlled, especially when vocals are included within the music.
I became very concerned with my initial tests due to a component change in the midst of my review. I decided to add another JL Audio F112 and operate in stereo configuration. In order to counteract this added component, I decided to add an additional four Cathedral Sound Room Dampening Panels thinking they would be needed with the extra 12-inch woofer now present. However, much to my surprise, I really didn’t need the additional panels. By installing one panel adjacent to the original four panels the results were subtle at best. So I decided to experiment by placing the other four in each corner on the floor. Overall, I could now definitely hear a significant improvement as the bass smoothed out even more. I feel four Cathedral Sound Room Panels will admirably do the job without the need for additions, especially in an average sized room.
In conclusion, the Cathedral Sound Room Dampening Panels get my highest recommendation. They’re inexpensive, easy to install, and very well constructed. They’ll fit into your listening room without bringing attention to themselves, but most importantly, they just flat out work. This was something I could not claim for many of the previous acoustic products I had tried. If you are concerned about getting the most music out of your system budget or are interested in proven room acoustical treatment products without decorating your listening room for combat, then the Cathedral Sound Room Dampening Panels could definitely be the way to go. Or to paraphrase Dennis Green, “They did, what I thought they’d do!”
Dimensions: 11” x 16” x 2” (280mm x 406mm x 51mm)
Weight: 4 lbs each
Colors: Off White & Black
$179.95 per pair
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