I’ve been frustrated with acoustic treatment products since 1995, the year I first read F. Alton Everest’s Master Handbook of Acoustics.
As the Handbook explains, the efficacy of acoustic treatments is dictated by their thickness. The thicker they are, the wider and lower the range of frequencies at which they’re effective. The 2-inch-thick foam panels I was using did a great job of absorbing treble frequencies, but they left the midrange largely intact, resulting in a sound I described as “shouty.” I switched to 4-inch-thick panels and the sound radically improved.
Yet to this day, most acoustic treatment products are still too thin to work properly at lower frequencies — a point recently reinforced by Dr. Floyd Toole’s book Sound Reproduction: The Acoustics and Psychoacoustics of Loudspeakers and Rooms. After reading the book, I spent a lot of time fabricating new acoustic treatments for my listening room, because I couldn’t find affordable, ready-made products that fit Dr. Toole’s prescriptions.
Of course, most enthusiasts lack the desire (and perhaps the skills) to build — or the space to accommodate — the 5-inch-thick foam panels and 12-inch-thick diffusers I built.
Finally, though, someone has actually addressed all of these problems — and then some.
MSR Acoustics is the creation of two renowned audio professionals. One is Tony Grimani, who worked at Dolby and THX before starting his own acoustics consulting firm, Performance Media Industries, in 1999. Since then, he’s done the acoustics for more than 400 listening rooms and home theaters. MSR’s other principal is Keith Olsen, a well-known producer and engineer with six Grammys and more than 125 albums to his credit.
I assumed from a brief glance at MSR’s products that the company was making the same mistake most others do, because most of its wall panels are just a couple of inches thick. However, a recent chat with Grimani showed me that not only was he aware of the issue, he’d actually found ways to solve it through innovative design work and materials. I was impressed enough to ask him to loan me his least expensive system, the Dimension4 Melody, so I could find out if his rather radical ideas really work.
While you can have one of MSR’s dealers install a Melody system, it’s also designed so you can do the job yourself if you like. The panels are available in gray, tan, or blue. Four different packages, intended for different room sizes, are available, at prices ranging from $1,500 to $6,050.
Brent Butterworth and Geoff Morrison combine their years of gear testing and knowledge in one überblog of irreverence and techiness.
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