[SoundStage!]The Traveler
Back Issue Article

January 2005

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes


Moving in winter -- not one of my best ideas.

In December 2002 my life changed. After 38 years of off-and-on single life, I got married. My wedding day was certainly a happy one, but it was also a day that marked a strikingly different path for what appears to be the rest of my life. Despite what anyone says, when you get married things do change.

First on the list of things to change were the keepsakes at my apartment. I lived in my apartment for eight years prior to getting married, and I had been through more than a few relationships. As a result, although none of the girlfriends in those eight years stayed, many things besides memories did.

When you’re single, though, you tend not to throw things out. Instead, you tuck them into a corner or find other places to stow them away. It’s the sort of thing that comes with being a guy and not cleaning up after yourself properly. And although I’m not someone who believes in covering up the past, I am a person who is sensitive to others’ feelings, and I know full well that while certain things from past relationships might be pleasant memories for me, they may not foster the same type of feelings for my wife.

Therefore, I had to search through those corners and hiding placing because certain things had to go. As I told my friends, "After this many years of being single, letting my wife roam free in my apartment is like Jeffrey Dahmer letting a Beagle run free in his. It’s going to be sooner rather than later before something's dug up."

So, before my wife moved in, I spent two full weeks scouring every corner of my apartment and either throwing out now-meaningless mementos or archiving still-sentimental material in boxes. It was a long, cumbersome, and somewhat surprising task -- some of the things I found alarmed even me. But after two weeks or cleaning up, and three final searches through the apartment and having nothing more turn up, I deemed the operation a success.

Mostly.

Women have the instinct to find things; my wife hadn’t lived in my apartment for half an hour before I heard the first in what I hoped wouldn't be a long series of similar questions. It was startlingly simple, but so telling: "What are you doing in this picture with this woman?"

My first thought was, "Oh no, which one did I miss?" I turned, looked at the picture, realized immediately which one it was, wished I hadn’t missed it, and then said, "Let me explain that one later." And I meant it. I would have explained it, but she never asked me to. I think she forgot -- maybe.

Archiving all my keepsakes was the first change. But it didn’t take me much longer than it took my wife to find that one missed picture to discover the second change, and one that would affect me even more: my apartment was too small for the two of us.

Admittedly, this was a hard pill to swallow. I loved my apartment. It was big and spacious, it had hardwood floors and concrete walls, and it sat on the very top of my very large building. Marc Mickelson called it "a bunker" because it was seemingly soundproof, mainly due to the concrete construction and the fact that 80% of the people in my building were over 60 and their hearing was not too good. When they guys from Nordost were here doing cable demos, they were shocked at how loud I could crank my system up and nobody would complain. I used to play movies until 2:00am and I never had one person come banging at the door or phone the superintendent. That's amazing for any apartment complex. As a result, my apartment was a paradise for a single audio reviewer. What's more, it was within walking distance of two great coffee shops and one of the best art-house theaters in Canada.

But, all those good things aside, it was no longer big enough for the both of us, particularly because I work at home. I considered renting a second apartment in the same building, but for a variety of reasons that never took flight.

The solution? A house.

Still, I didn’t want just any ol’ house. I wanted a good house, and one that would serve me as a reviewer as well as my apartment did. It took time to find such a house -- I eked out two years in my apartment before we finally had to move. But after two years of casual looking, we found it -- our house -- and last month we moved in.

I won’t bore you with the details of the house or my move, but I will tell you about my new listening room. That’s where all of my future reviews will take place, and it’s relevant for what will be happening on SoundStage! as well as our new site, SoundStageAV.com.


The new room from one end...


...and the other.


Song Kim of Song Audio quickly moves in...


...and lays claim to setting up the first system in my new room.

First, I’m no longer confined to being mostly a small-speaker guy, although I will still write about minimonitors just as vigorously. I became the SoundStage! minimonitor man as much out of necessity as out of interest. Despite the fact that my apartment was quite spacious, it was still limited in size; I’m not one of those people who tries to jam a big a speaker into a small room. The speaker must work with the room, and that means matching each to each, size for size. Smaller speakers work better in smaller rooms -- simple as that.

In my new house I have small rooms, and one heck of a gigantic new listening room. This new room isn’t quite a rectangle -- it juts out to one side on the end where the door is -- but it measures over 35' long by 19' wide. It’s laid out in such a way that I can ideally support three different systems -- yes three! A large music system can be set up at one end, a home-theater system at the other, and along one wall a small system -- likely two-way-minimonitor-based so I keep true to my roots.

The first thing I did when I bought the house was test the room’s "sound" by walking around, talking, yelling, and clapping. Luckily for both me and my wallet, it was 90% ready. But two things did have to change: the hard-surface floor was going to need something soft, like a rug, to help tame reflections, and I wanted some high-power, dedicated outlets to ensure equipment used in my system would be as immune to the other things in my house as possible. This would be a big advantage over my apartment where I was affected by everyone -- and their appliances -- to the sides and below.

For the flooring I went to Discount Carpet and bought an enormous, custom-made "throw rug." It’s 31' long by about 15' wide. It’s doesn’t cover the entire floor, but it does cover most of it, and now the room has a good overall balance -- not too reflective, and not too absorptive. In fact, it sounds quite "normal," which is just what you want when reviewing components that will be used in everyday rooms.

For the power, I had to get some electricians in my house anyway to upgrade certain aspects of the wiring, so I told them to put two 20A receptacles in that room -- which they did, and which work quite nicely.

Now I’m ready to go and continue work on my minimonitor reviews, as well as a whole new class of components that I couldn’t accommodate well in my apartment. In fact, the affable Song Kim of Song Audio -- maker of some fine tube electronics and Canadian distributor of Loth-X speakers -- dropped off a complete system just a day after the new rug was installed. He set it up himself and after just a few minutes of listening declared it ideal for the room. I quickly listened, and I think he's right. More on Song's stuff in the months to come.

So while the recent changes in my life sent me off in some new directions, I do have to say it's all for the better -- bigger and better. Welcome to my new room, a place you'll read about often in future SoundStage! and SoundStageAV.com articles.

...Doug Schneider
das@soundstage.com

 

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