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Underwood HiFi / Emerald Physics Room 1017, 1030

*Wyred 4 Sound is not currently a sponsor, but was covered in Room 1030 with Emerald Physics (Underwood HiFi).




Room 1030 Equipment List
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Room 1017 Equipment List
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Plants and curtains were used for treatment in room 1030. No treatment was used in room 1017.


Joe's Impressions

I will start with room 1030. I really like the design of the cabinets - they have very unique contouring and the finish was very well done. Vocals image dead center with a very deep soundstage. Male and female vocals sounded very open and natural and vocal dynamics were excellent - there were a couple of tracks that really showed the system's range with huge dynamic swings. I specifically remember one track that had a very deep bass voice - it just sounded so natural and throaty! Then, the Melody Gardot track came on and just sounded soooooo smooth.

Instrument separation was easy to hear and the detail was fantastic. The piano stood out for me especially with a very smooth sound and audible key strikes as well as the banjo in the Mumford and Sons track - it is just so much fun to hear the pluck and resulting vibrations. Low end impact was pretty good - but the midrange really stuck out here. There were a couple tracks that contained a block being struck - and each time, you could just hear that crisp 'thwack' - heady stuff!

Overall, I really loved this system - it really excelled in the areas I personally look for - open, natural vocals, amazing detail, and crisp, tight midrange. Well done gents!

Room 1017 was next up - the cabinets had a very similar design to the previous room, but what stood out for me on these was the finish. It was a rich, deep color that really accentuated the drivers. Vocals for the most part imaged dead center - there was one Melody Gardot track where lower octaves seems to image to the lower left. I did notice this on a few other speakers so I am certain this was how it was recorded, but it was odd to hear it in just a few rooms. I am looking forward to using this track in the upcoming speaker evaluation to see if it happens in Sonnie's room - more to come on that. The soundstage was very wide and deep - it really had a live show feel with the speakers disappearing very well. The same track with the deep bass voice was played in this room, and I was impressed with the low level sweep - it had really good impact.

Instrument separation and detail in this system was very similar to the system in 1030 - again, the piano and banjo stood out, but there was also a sequence in The Wall track that really showed off the guitar detail too. Midrange was also extremely crisp and detailed - there was a track that sounded like a marching band that had a sequence with rolling snare drums that just sounded amazing.

Again, an excellent system - not quite the level of detail as in room 1030, but so, so close that you had to really be listening for a difference. Again, very well done!

Wayne's Impressions

The Emerald Physics CS3 MK2 and CS2.3 MK2 models really got my attention as controlled-directivity point-source designs. Here is everything you need in one package to create a great soundstage and stellar imaging, coupled with DSPeaker Anti-Mode 2.0ual Core used as the system preamplifier, room correction, and active crossover. The Emerald Physics concentric driver, a 15-inch woofer/midrange with a rear-mounted tweeter projecting through an acoustically-transparent center dome, handles frequencies down to 75 Hz, where the electronic crossover hands off the lowest frequencies to subwoofers.

Starting with the CS3 MK2's, which were set up in a symmetrical configuration relative to the deep room, I found myself enjoying the broad, natural soundstage and nicely-balanced tonality. The bass was deep and tight. The sweet spot for listening was right where the two driver axes crossed, as expected, although I did plenty of crawling and moving about to verify this.

The imaging eluded me somewhat, however. It would be immaculate, very tight, for a few seconds, and then a tone or an aspect of a sound at a certain frequency would smear or pull away from the image center. All of the above was the case in the room down the hall with the CS2.3 MK2's (situated asymmetrically within a wider room), also, stellar tonality and soundstage with solid imaging until - bloop! - a blob of sound - I couldn't help but think of a 60's light show "color blob" on the loose - would shoot off to the side. Melody Gardot's Baby I'm A Fool is a jazz vocal track that often causes fits for speakers when her voice enters the lower registers where it is recorded with just enough resonance to catch low-mid frequency response peaks. Unable to play the track on the CS3's, it was available on the playlist for the CS2.3's. When she hit those lower notes, the imaging - otherwise fairly tight for most of that track - shot down and to the left for an instant. I had a fellow listener verify the effect to be sure I was not imagining it.

A result of room tuning or EQ? Non-ideal placement? Rear-wave resonance or reflection? All will be the subject of investigation during an upcoming Home Theater Shack speaker evaluation event, time allowing.

When it was behaving, the imaging was what one would expect from a point source design with the the advantage of controlled directivity - delightfully tight, localized in a broad, deep, cohesive soundstage, very easy to engage and enjoy. Intuition, and some frustrating experience with speaker placement and tuning issues, tell me that the design is sound, if not superb, and that the imaging issues experienced are solvable with proper attention to detail, a luxury in short supply to exhibitors at an event such as this.

All in all, I like the concepts, design, and sound of the Emerald Physics speakers, a fine example of truly out-of-the-box speaker science come to fruition.
 

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Quite interesting reading about the CS2P's performance in the $2,500 speaker evaluation. Noting that the DSP was not used in the evaluation one wonders if the speakers were designed to be used with this digital processor to help with the imaging issues noted. I can't say that I am a fan of speakers which require specific signal processing (outside of a well designed crossover module). I can't help make a relation to the Bose 901 speakers however I am fully aware that the Emerald Physics speakers are in another league.
 

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Reading Wayne's description of the image shift it appears to be a frequency specific room reflection.. I have heard that a couple of times in really hi-end show rooms where they have sound treatments on the walls. "Most" reflections are dampened but in a linear fashion but the room is not symmetrical so certain frequency bands "stand out". And since the room is not symmetric the effect appears to pull the image to one side. Discussed it with a dealer in Houston once and he knew the effect I was talking about and showed me his sound room which had all the walls covered in sound foam then upholstered in velour. He claimed that it had an "even attenuation at a decreasing rate equal to the frequency decline".
 

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Walter is ever the salesman, and a bit of a bass head. It was cool seeing some of the new Emerald Physic's line and how they have progressed over the years. They cost more than they used to, but look much more professional as well. Still one of my favorite "fun" speakers, even if they're not one of the most accurate.

I personally thought the larger room that Wyred4Sound was using lent itself a bit more to the Emerald's, keeping bass more in check and showing off how well they can do at non-bombastic levels. That said, its always fun to go by Underwood's room well Walter is showing them off, just be prepared to have your face beet in a bit with the bass (in the best possible way).
 

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Would have loved to listen to this system especially for the instrument separation. Years ago I was in a room and the vocals and music came to life. I can't remember where it was or what system but I am sure the system was nowhere near this one. I can only imagine just how superb this one is!
 

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Reading Wayne's description of the image shift it appears to be a frequency specific room reflection.. I have heard that a couple of times in really hi-end show rooms where they have sound treatments on the walls. "Most" reflections are dampened but in a linear fashion but the room is not symmetrical so certain frequency bands "stand out". And since the room is not symmetric the effect appears to pull the image to one side. Discussed it with a dealer in Houston once and he knew the effect I was talking about and showed me his sound room which had all the walls covered in sound foam then upholstered in velour. He claimed that it had an "even attenuation at a decreasing rate equal to the frequency decline".
This is an intriguing notion, and quite possibly the explanation, or part of it. The "frequency-dependent" part of it does not quite satisfy, based on the experience. The band would have to be mighty narrow to explain what we heard (not just me, Joe heard it, too).

Of course, dipoles are peculiar animals in the speaker world, and those rearward reflections need special attention. Working with some Martin Logan ESL's recently, it became clear that the ones that show up as big spikes on the impulse diagram do mess up the imaging, but do not pull it to the side (even if they come from the side, and I worked with examples that clearly did so) but rather just make the imaging less crisp and clear in general. This is where the precedence effect seems to kick into gear, as I understand it, so the reflection may mess with the image but does not have much effect on the image's direction, or did not in the examples that I tracked down (not to say that it can't, but it seems the amplitude has to be BBIIGG for that to happen). Admittedly, this is far from a definitive answer, more like a couple of data points if that.

The impression I had was more along the line of lobing or diffraction of some kind, but that might not be so - it was just an impression.

Thanks for the input, always good to get a new perspective.
 

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So what was the music server like? OSX or Windows based? Sound quality?

Looking at setting up a music server gives me a headache, so a plug and play solution is appealing (though $$$$$$$). Hoping someone comes up with an affordable, simple to use one soon. :hissyfit:

Of course, I do get in a cardio workout just getting up off the couch, so maybe I shouldn't be getting things more automated. Hmmm...
 
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