The Argent Room Lens Acoustic Room Treatment
|Truth Is Sometimes Stranger than Fiction|
|11 May 1999|
Price: $1195/Set (Three) or $395/ea
Company: Argent Cable, Inc Address:
P.O Box 161
69 Truesdale Road
Tioga Center, NY 13845
My L-shaped listening room measures 13 feet by 16 feet, with an 8-foot ceiling. I reckon you guess this to be a problem. Got that right. Poor low frequency support, slap echo, and an ever-shifting soundstage. I’ve tried to remedy this by investing large bundles of cash into Echo Busters, Double Busters, Corner Traps and the smaller, slimmer (and more expensive) ASC Room Treatments. The sound improved and I sing high praises to Mike Kochman’s Echo Buster products. I sat cool on my heels, left well enough alone and went on with my life. Eventually, however, I purchased the Z-Systems RDP-1 digital equalizer after hearing this incredible device at HiFi ’97. It took the sound of my room and speakers to greater heights of musical truth. (I am having fits as I write attempting to settle down with the sophisticated Tact Digital Room Corrector). So, I guess you’re wondering, what’s left to do. I mean, besides moving into a larger house (which I’m in the middle of doing). Well, as the saying goes, "What a difference a day makes." I’ve spent the last three months living with The Argent Room Lens and……
"Damn, this guy’s got to be kidding. Pipes next to his speakers do all that?" "Yeah, right."
Take ’em to Church, Clem!
Sometime before attending the Winter ’99 CES Show, I came across Doug Blackburn’s review of the Room Lens surfing the web. After reading it, I think I said, "Damn, this guy’s got to be kidding. Pipes next to his speakers do all that?" "Yeah, right." I shut down my PC and packed for the CES. "Yeah right" came back to haunt me as the very first room I stopped in to visit was using the Room Lens, which I can’t help describing as "Church Organ Pipes." I only managed to hear slight improvements, and thought, as I’m sure a lot of us think when boasting about our elaborate home electronics, "Not even close to my old Maggies, much less my reference KR/VR/Bidat/HT combination." (For the uninitiated, that’s the KR Enterprise VT800SE amps, the Von Schweikert VR-6 loudspeakers, Ed Meitner’s updated D-to-A converter, and Harmonic Tech’s cables.) But as fate would have it, guess whom I ran into as I was leaving the room? Todd Lauderman, Room Lens’ ‘used to be a customer, but now I’m the…’ President. (Had to throw that in -- too much TV.) I stumbled over my words a bit, introduced myself, and worked on him to advertise in planethifi. We agreed. But, upon my return home, developments at PHF required me to resign from my post as publisher. My colleagues and I talked at length and decided to continue bringing the best reviews to the web at some place new, refreshing and most of all, better than everything in and out of the universe! In the meantime, the Room Lens arrived. I phoned Todd and informed him of the (un)fortunate circumstances, and why the review would have to be put on hold. I recall him saying something like, "Just more time to listen Clem, before you launch your new webzine."
"What the Room Lens does essentially is dampen unwanted room resonance while positively reinforcing imaging and focus"
The Voodoo They Do
In discussing the way the Room Lens "Church Organ Pipes" work, Todd Lauderman states, "the Room Lens are free standing, feedback-controlled, modified broadband resonators. Designed by my partner Ric Cummins, (the unsung hero behind Rosinante’s ‘Dark Matter’). We’ve first demonstrated them at the 97’CES and have visited virtually every major show, demonstrating their affects with great success, ever since. What the Room Lens does essentially is damp unwanted room resonances while positively reinforcing imaging and focus?" All I could muster was a "Is that right? And you state they tune the room as well? How?" "Clem, by deploying the Room Lens system, it’s possible to construct a room-specific complimentary soundstage optimized to enhance the unique acoustic characteristics of any listening space. This is achieved by combining the two key performance characteristics of the Room Lens: sound resonance, and sound dispersion. Sound resonance is accomplished via the "Cummins Resonator" trio of asymmetrical tubes that produce a passive resonance across the listening frequency spectrum. Sound dispersion caused as sound passes through the Room Lens tube set is broken up into multiple, smaller, but identical images of itself. Therefore, the proper placement of multiple Room Lens units in your room relative to your system can create a fully controllable sonic "sweet spot".
"Complex stuff, Todd," I exclaimed, "about a product that looks quite simple, isn’t it?" "Yes, Clement, it is, but tell me whether it works in your room."
"I’ve tweaked my system over the years, and nothing should just change it so dramatically. Right? Wrong! The sound had in fact changed so radically that denial kicked in, preventing me to comprehend what had just occurred."
Set It, Then Forget It!
The Room Lens arrived in three tall boxes. I couldn’t wait to see what they’d do, but first I had to see what they looked like, so I got right on the case. Three asymmetrically spaced tubes measuring about 5 ft tall, and finished in black gloss. I found them attractive in my listening room. The feet are adjustable and if you have carpeting, then you better get these a least one-inch off the floor. Done. I put one set as recommended on the outside of my Von Schweikert VR-6 loudspeakers. Because I have a Toshiba Widescreen television (TWF40) between the speakers, a third lens on the front wall is impractical. Another placement option is behind the listening seat. Easy enough. Impressions? Okay sounding. Nothing comparable to what Blackburn experienced. The experience was different, and I did hear improvements with respect to soundstaging and image stability. I was impressed all right, but not all that much. Understand, I’ve tweaked my system over the years, and nothing should just change it so dramatically. Right? Wrong!
The sound had in fact changed so radically that denial kicked in, preventing me to comprehend what had just occurred. This denial caused me to react as if my system always produced this level of performance. I refer to the phenomenon in third person as Uncle Denial. He visits whenever a new piece of equipment surprises me. Keeping an open mind, I’m finding that it’s not as easy as it seems when products such as the Room Lens make such amazing changes to ones system and sensibilities, especially when what I thought I was hearing prior was really top notch! How did I know Uncle Denial had appeared? By taking the Room Lens out of the room and listening again. I couldn’t believe my room sounded as it did without the Room Lens in place. "No way" is all I said the rest of the night. For maybe the next four hours I put them in and took them out, back and forth, with the same result. Room Lens in, the sound is warmer, with oodles of detail that simply was not portrayed in this manner before inserting these devices. Soundstage and focus also improved considerably. Depth and imaging became greatly enhanced. So much in fact, that for the first time in my listening experience, soundstage scale and width emanated from the outside of the speakers laterally, literally all the time.
Abracadabra, Then There Were Five!
Remember now, I made all of these evaluations with a single Room Lens behind the listening seat, which I later found not the best choice. On a hunch, I put it directly behind the Toshiba, on the front wall. The improvement was such that I called Todd once again, told him things are going okay and to look for the review shortly, and very cool like, slipped in, "I need some more of those Room Lens. Only, of course, if you’ve any to spare." Within a week I had two more, placed them on the sides of the Toshiba, then pulled out a few of my reference recordings, including Gonzalo Rubalcaba’s Discovery (Blue Note CDP795478), Reference Recordings Exotic Dances, (RR71CD), Branford Marsalis’ Trio Jeepy, and the Quality of Silence, by Steve Davis. The sound of the room improved significantly with the addition of these two Room Lens. A further increase in clarity and an enormous sense of balance was apparent. Earlier, when I listened to the RR Exotic Dances, different areas in the frequency range suffered varying degrees of confusion, implying, the coherency in this recording at the very rear of the stage was somewhat lost nearing the end of the disc’s loud passages. With the Room Lens placed strategically in the room however, this is not the case. I hear the greatest benefit of the Room Lens occurring from the upper bass on down. Plucked upright basses are better focused, the pluck more discernible.
I called Bill "Brass Ear" Brassington and told him to get on down here as fast as he could because something was going on I couldn’t comprehend. He arrived the following weekend. First words out of his mouth, "Oh my God, what did you go and do now? This is out of this world…! Woof!" He ordered his Room Lens and the results are even more dramatic in his listening room. Both Lou "Left Channel" Lanese and I went up to Bill’s last weekend and we shook our heads at the differences. I really am convinced that there’s more to these tubes than any one of us knows, including designer Ric Cummins. They are mystical in the way they work [in] my listening room.
The Brass Ear Comments
Bill "The Brass Ear" Brassington
Packages, cables, tons of equipment have come into my room over the past 30 years from hi-end manufacturers. After days and days of listening, some other audio journalists, and I, along with Perry, have come to conclude that The Argent Room Lens should be, without question, the first and most important piece of hi-end equipment to start off with. Believe me, the journey toward audio Nirvana in your own home can be much shorter if you buy these first. They’re simply the most significant, well-designed room treatment I’ve heard, and I’ve heard them all. After five minutes you’ll know that this is a serious and innovative contribution to the quest for harmonic truth.
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