Synergistic Research Black Box
The largest component in one’s system is the listening room yet it is the one component that is commonly overlooked and misunderstood. In my experience, you could spend ungodly amounts on speakers, amplifiers, front end components, and cables but without treating the room properly by addressing room distortions, you will never really hear what your system is capable of and you’ll never get closer to the essence of music. I must admit there are a multitude of room acoustic products in the marketplace and I’ve had an assortment of them in and out of my system along the way. Having my listening room and loudspeakers treated by the SR HFT, FEQ, and Atmosphere (review here, here) has greatly benefited my enjoyment of music and kept the wife happy at the same time. In this review I will report on a new SR room acoustic enhancement device which has been in development for over two years known as the “Black Box” and “synergistically” interacts with the aforementioned SR products in the treatment of one’s listening room. The SR Black Box is a passive low frequency resonator array which is designed to effectively cancel out low-frequency standing waves within one’s listening room.
I can attest to it’s design as a Resonator Array; in the process of installing and reinstalling The Black Box in my system the thing resonated like a tuning fork when the chassis frame made contact with my equipment rack. Coming at a size of 9.5″ W x 9.5″ D x 6″ H – 8″ H with Spikes) it doesn’t resemble anything like the massive bass traps I’ve seen at many High End Audio Shows and fellow audiophile systems yet it’s designed to perform the same function. The Black Box performs well between your loudspeakers at least 3″ from the front wall (SR recommends 1 to 1.5ft is optimum) but can be alternately placed at either corner along the front wall but directly behind one’s loudspeakers.
This was a simple component to review since it’s passive and requires no break-in. Because my two channel system is used for music and movies, I had to position The Black Box off center with respect to my loudspeakers with the SR The Black Box on one side of my equipment rack with the SR Atmosphere on the opposite side of my equipment rack. As you will later see, this configuration of The Black Box integrated well with my system. To speed the review process, I chose the two 24 bit /96k Hz hirez downloads, by Fourplay, Fourplay (Warner Brothers Records) and Neighborhoods by Olu Dara (Atlantic Records) as referenced in a prior review of the SR Atmosphere High Definition Grounding cables (here) which both possess their own unique styles of jazz and are noted as reference recordings.
In my system, the bass was clearly more tactile, faster and more extended when the SR Black Box was installed. Before I could hear distinct bass notes having exception pitch definition, but now I could now feel the bass waves move across my pant legs when it was present in the recording. This enhanced bass response was heard on many tracks found on the 24 bit /96k Hz hirez download of Fourplay, Fourplay. The bass response clearly better in all ways but the magic really occurred in the midrange and high frequencies when the SR Black Box was installed.
There was a newfound clarity in the midrange and high frequencies that translated to greater coherence across the entire frequency spectrum. This was readily apparent while listening to Olu Dara’s and Cassandra Wilson’s vocal on the ninth cut of the album Neighborhoods. Sans the SR Black Box, the vocals of both performers were reticent in comparison. With The Black Box, the vocals of both performers filled my entire listening room, had greater presence, depth and transparency and allowed me to better experience an emotional connection to the music. All frequencies were better interconnected as a result of the cancellation of low frequency standing waves with my listening room resulting in a true to life sound. I was particularly taken by how the various instruments on this and other recordings were now presented. I kept wanting to turn the volume up on my Ayon Audio Trition with the lower noise floor and signal compression.
The improvement in soundstage presented by my AZ Crescendo loudspeakers was undeniable with The Black Box doing its resonating thing. Each recording had a greater sense of depth … the music sounded liberated in a way. Holographic is a term redundant term used in many audio reviews but the improvement brought by the SR Black Box is the definition of holographic imaging. The guitar, piano, and electric keyboard on the eight cut, Bluebird and the tenth cut, Red Ant (Nature) never sounded better on the 24 bit /96k Hz hirez download of Neighborhoods by Olu Dara.
Percussion instruments also displayed a faster transient response with the reduction of low frequency standing waves. My system sounded very close how a jazz ensemble would sound in an intimate setting with the band playing right in front of you. With the SR Black Box installed, the start of each note was lightning fast and crisp with an abundance of microdynamic detail. Sans The Black Box, all improvements discussed above receded in comparison.
There is no other room acoustic enhancement device that I know of that can transform your listening room in the way that the SR Black Box can deliver. Once you hear The Black Box and how it can affect the music and the listener, you’ll be hard pressed to take it out of your system. “Synergistic” is one word I would use to describe the combination of SR HFTs, Atmosphere, FEQ and Black Box working together in my listening room to eliminate the negative impact of my listening room. The Black Box is a paradigm shift in room treatment device design and delivers on its promised performance. Can you say wife acceptance factor … Highly recommended.
Phone numbers: (800) 578-6489 within US and (949) 476-0000 outside the US
Black Box, $1995