After I sent Grimani a scale drawing of my listening room, he specified a system with 16 diffusers, 10 absorbers (six on the walls, four on the ceiling), and four corner bass absorbers. That’s a $3,050 package — pretty reasonable considering my room measures almost 400 square feet.
The panels mount using simple sheet-metal brackets that attach to a wall with drywall screws. The brackets have spikes that “spear” into the panels when you push the panels into them. It’s a little tough to get the spearing action going, but once the brackets’ points penetrate the fiberglass, the panels are on the wall to stay. The hardest part is measuring the walls and figuring out where to put everything. It’s not critical for performance to get everything in exactly the right place, but it is critical if you want your room too look good.
Grimani alternated absorbers with groups of two or three diffusers on the side walls and back wall. Then he installed the four corner bass absorbers and the ceiling absorbers. On the front wall, around the screen and behind the speakers, he didn’t put anything.
“The amount of absorption and diffusion is calculated and tested,” Grimani pointed out, “so when you put these up, you end up with a decay time of about 0.25 seconds for a small room to 0.5 seconds for big rooms. A typical room should have a decay time of about 0.3 seconds.”
I designed my DIY acoustic treatments a little more for stereo listening, so my room typically has a more diffuse, spacious sound than a purpose-built home theater would. I’ve tried adding more absorption to better focus the sound, but the room ends up sounding too dead.
The Dimension4 Melody system gave me all the good things that my DIY treatments gave me — the spaciousness, the relatively even balance of midrange and treble — but gave me a lot more good stuff besides.
First and most noticeable was better focus, especially for the center channel. When I played Chapter 4 of Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones — a scene that’s mainly dialog spoken with all sorts of different timbres and accents — I found that the dialog seemed better tied to the speakers onscreen, with more precise sound placement and more of the sense that the sound was coming from an actual person than a speaker. This came at the slight expense of some ambience — I noticed when I played Stevie Wonder’s, “Heaven is 10 Zillion Light Years Away” (from Fulfillingness’ First Finale) that the voices panned hard into the left and right channels didn’t seem to come from quite as far to the left and right.
Yet the overall sound was still plenty ambient. Trilok Gurtu’s “Once I Wished a Tree Upside Down” (from Living Magic) features a bell tree that appears to circle around the listener. With a too-dead room (or a too-directional speaker), the bell tree seems to come from the front speakers only, but the Melody system allow the bell tree to fly all around and behind my head just as it’s supposed to.
Likewise, movies with lots of discrete effects in the surround speakers, such as Apocalypse Now, came through with plenty of ambience as well as a bit more focus and somewhat more specific images to the sides of the room.
My own treatments have a bit too much space between them, which does allow a touch of flutter echo at certain places in the room, but the Melody system completely eliminated every trace of flutter echo, no matter when I sat, and no matter where I clapped my hands.
Overall, the Dimension4 Melody system works extremely well. It doesn’t take up much space in a room, it’s pretty easy to install, and most important, it makes your room sound much better — something that, in my opinion, a lot of room treatment products don’t necessarily deliver.
Brent Butterworth and Geoff Morrison combine their years of gear testing and knowledge in one überblog of irreverence and techiness.
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