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May 2003
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
Adverse Room Effects?
Argent's RoomLens To The Rescue!

Review by Rick Jensen
Click here to e-mail reviewer

 

Argent's RoomLens  The Argent RoomLens is an accessory guaranteed to generate skepticism, curiosity, a little admiration, and just maybe a few doubts about the sanity of the owner. The RoomLens is, according to the manufacturer, a "feedback-controlled modified broadband Helmholtz resonator that damps unwanted room resonances while positively reinforcing and focusing the true sound of the system and the room." Still - and this is not to make light of it at all - the RoomLens appears to be a slim five-foot tower of three plastic tubes connected at the top and the bottom. That is, it is not immediately clear that this is a device that, singly or in groups of three, as it is normally deployed, can affect the sound. However, it becomes clear that Ric Cummins, the clever and articulate designer of the RoomLens, has hit upon an interesting solution to room resonance problems.

 

First, I should underline the specific reasons for my obtaining the Room Lens. My dedicated listening room is small (1400 cu. ft.) and, in addition to stereo equipment and records, has three doors (two closets) and two windows. The doors and windows limit the potential placements for the usual room treatments, like Tube Traps and other wall panels. Mitigation of midbass resonance is a major challenge, and there aren't the usual free corners that would accept bass treatments. I could try to treat all the walls, but with the comings and goings of different equipment, permanent treatments might be limiting (not to mention aesthetically questionable). Thus, and having read other positive reports about the RoomLens, I decided to try the system, as it does have a great deal of flexibility.

As such, this review will not pretend to say whether the Room Lens will work in other situations, or whether other room treatments might have worked as well or better. Rather, it will point out that the Room Lens does indeed have an effect on the sound, and that that effect is both positive and controllable.

The typical Room Lens "package" is made up of three individual 'towers', each of which contains three PVC tubes of about two-and-a-half inches in diameter. They are, by the way, light in weight and easy to move around. The tubes are connected to a small base that sits on adjustable feet. At first glance one does not notice that the three tubes are not evenly spaced, which seems odd but is quite intentional. Two of them are just a bit closer together than the other two. Intuitively, since the Room Lens is supposed to disperse and refract sound, it seems to make sense that the gaps would vary, and allow for more varied refraction of the sound waves in the room.

 

Imaging

The three Room Lens towers are usually placed according to the diagram below (other more complex configurations are shown on their website, but the user is encouraged to experiment, as each room has a distinct sound. That is how I started. In my room, the effect of the default placement was immediately noticeable. The overall soundscape was narrowed slightly (maybe 10%) but became much more focused and defined. One had the sense that instruments and voices snapped into place with the RoomLens in place, where they had been pleasantly diffused without it. In addition, the center unit - whether because of its placement in between the speakers and a bit behind them or because of what it really is doing to the sound - concentrated the center image in a striking fashion. At the same time, that center image, though much better defined, did not shrink in size. Again, removing the center unit allowed the sound to wander around some, even though the image was still well-centered.

The wing units had an equally sharp influence on the soundscape. While the width of the imagined stage decreased when the wing units were directly beside the speakers and angled slightly to form an arc, I found that moving them away even by an inch or two widened the stage and retained the clarity of both image and tonal balance. In my room, the optimal placement seemed to be with the wing units about six inches off the front outside corners of the speaker bases (or about ten inches from the edge of the speaker cabinet). There the image still snapped sharply into place (and this obtained from a fairly wide listening window, not just one chair) but stayed pleasingly and realistically wide. There was no doubt that the illusion of a real stage was better than it had been without the Room Lens.

 

Tonal Balance

Still, the principal driver for any treatment of my room was to smooth out some of the midbass emphasis, most likely due to harmonics of room resonances, and its harmonic effects. While I was certainly accustomed to the sonic character of the room, it was still the case that certain over-EQ'd pop recordings "overloaded" the room at moderate volume.

Here, the RoomLens was very successful. First, the clarity brought to the imaging applied as well to tone - one is just better able to discriminate among the many components of a musical work. That manifests itself in less 'crowding' of the musical space - there is greater nuance and delicacy throughout the spectrum. While I won't list all the recordings on which this was made obvious, right now the Lucinda Williams album World Without Tears [Lost Highway 0881703551] is on the turntable. This recording has a significant amount of reverberation in the recorded space. Without the Room Lens, the echoes present (however intentional the effect is) tend to crowd the soundspace. The RoomLens makes the entire recording more accessible - again, in my room.

And happily, the wing units in particular seem to have a very positive effect on the prominence of the bass. Removing them from the room is a little like pushing the "MegaBass" button on a cheap boombox (okay, that's a little bit exaggerated, but it's the basic idea). The net result is that all recordings sound more smoothly balanced from top to bottom. And on electrified pop recordings, one can turn the volume up quite a bit more (although not all the way to 11) without being driven from the room.

 

Conclusion

The RoomLens has the potential to correct a significant percentage of adverse room effects; it did so in my room. That is not to say that the improvement will be equal in other rooms, but its very flexibility allows one to "work with it" to achieve results that in the aggregate are quite positive. There is a lot more happening with these oddly attractive tubes than meets the eye. What meets the ear is more important, and on that score, they are very successful. Bearing in mind the oft-stated maxim that the weakest link in a sound system is usually the listening room, for the price, the RoomLens might be one of the biggest improvements that one can make in one's system.

 

Tonality

88

Mid-bass (80 Hz - 200 Hz)

90

Midrange (200 Hz - 3,000 Hz)

85

High-frequencies (3,000 Hz on up)

85

Inner Resolution

90

Soundscape width front

85

Soundscape width rear

85

Imaging

93

Fit and Finish

88

Value for the Money

88

* Please note that that ratings following for the RoomLens are an abbreviated version of the usual categories. That is because the RoomLens has no sound of its own, properly speaking. Hence, I have tried to signal those areas where the RoomLens had an effect on the existing sound.

 

Specifications

Size:
Tubes - 61" total height x 2.5" diameter
Base -- 9" x 7" x 2"

Price:
Basic Set of three RoomLens units - $1,195
Additional single units - $400

 

Company Information

Argent/Rosinante
P.O. Box 612
602 Acorn
Eudora, KS 66025

Voice: (785) 542-3922
Fax: (785) 542-3998
Website: www.roomlens.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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