Argent Room Lens 3 units in Black
Pick up only, I live in Southeast Michigan.
There are some scratches and imperfections, but basically they look pretty good. I will try to post pictures in the next few days.
I have included a few of the reviews for this item below.
Argent Room Lens
This equipment review is a bit unusual. It is not my ‘final impression’ of the product. This particular product is brand new. There are no other products like it. The manufacturer and designer are still learning about how to get the most out of it. I am still learning about how to get the most out of it in my listening room. However, I have now used it long enough and done enough experimenting with it to be able to present what I think is an 80% complete picture of the capabilities of the product. That 80% is significant enough that even if there are no further revelations or improvements, the product is noteworthy and is completely successful in its goal of improving the sound of your system. You may hear more from me later about the Room Lenses if, as I suspect, there is more performance to be had.
I have had plenty of exposure to room tuning over the years having tried do-it-yourself (DIY) treatment of various types, sometimes mimicking commercial products. I’ve tried commercial products and heard the results of commercial products used by others in their rooms. I even tuned my room with some popular products aimed at high-end enthusiasts and achieved a nice improvement in sound quality. But none of this prepared me for the Argent Room Lens.
Todd Laudeman (Argent Cable, Inc., manufacturer) and Ric Cummins (Rosinante, acoustic designer) delivered the Room Lenses on a brisk, late winter Sunday. They spent about 90 minutes placing 3 Room Lenses in my room and headed out to leave the fine tuning and bigger experiments to me. Right away I noticed a big improvement in the reality of the depth and width. There was no more width or depth than before, it was just a lot more real. I didn’t hear too much else at that early stage. Before they left, Ric and Todd had me listen to one section of The Chieftans Long Black Veil CD. We started the track a 2nd time and Ric rotated the center Room Lens 90 degrees. The effect on the soundstage was dramatic… it completely collapsed on itself, becoming much narrower, less deep and far less enjoyable to listen to. Hearing a component that you do not plug into the wall make that large of a change in the sound of a system was a first for me.
Over the next few weeks, I became more and more familiar with the capabilities of the Room Lenses. Yes, they have beneficial effects on soundstage presentation, but that was not all they did. Bass improved. Vocals moved into that elusive "spooky-real" zone that you don’t often hear from audio systems. Highs got… hmmmmm, less obscured is probably as close as I can get to it. The sounds were easier to hear and purer because they were not being masked to the extent they had been prior to the Room Lenses. The highs were not louder and they were not "better" in the sense that the source components still controlled the overall quality of the highs.
Then I got really serious about fathoming the "level of goodness" of the Room Lenses. I removed the Room Lenses from the room and listened to familiar music again. After 45 minutes or so of listening to the "bare" room, it was obvious that the Room Lenses were a significant improvement but I didn’t yet know how to quantify the improvement. A 3rd point of reference was needed. I brought the 4 popular room tuning devices I had been happily using and enjoying back into the room and listened to about 30 minutes of the same music. The other commercial room tuning products (OK, I know you are screaming to know what they are… Deluxe Room Tunes, the ubiquitous off-white obelisks you see at many dealers and shows) did, in fact improve the sound quality of the room. I arbitrarily gave the Deluxe Room Tunes a "+3" over the bare room. I decided to bring the Room Lenses into the room with the Room Tunes. That was even better, a "+6" on my arbitrary rating scale. Next I removed the Deluxe Room Tunes and kept the Argent Room Lenses in the room alone. YIKES!! A "+10"! That means the Deluxe Room Tunes made the room sound worse when the Room Lenses were being used. A startling and unexpected result.
So… how much is this going to cost me?
I wish I could tell you they were cheap. But they aren’t. Neither are they far out. For most rooms you will need 3 of them, $990/3 or $395 each. Seems like a lot for something you don’t plug in, but there are plenty of examples of high end products that are much more expensive and much less beneficial to the overall sound of your system. At $990 the price-to-benefit ratio of the Room Lenses is very good.
Where do you put them?
In the illustration you can see the most typical arrangement for 3 Room Lenses in a rectangular listening room.
Argent has some recommendations available for different room shapes and arrangements, including setups on room diagonals. The 3 Room Lenses are represented by the groups of 3 black dots. The center Room Lens needs to be moved forward and back in relation to the wall, but it should remain behind the speakers. The right and left Room Lenses should be moved closer and farther to the side walls and to the speaker. The angle they are turned towards the listening position should also be adjusted for best effect. So the best positions will change depending on room size, speakers, distance from the listener, etc.
So how do you make a Room Lens?
You start out with Ric Cummins’ resonator design. This incorporates 3 vertical tubes, each almost 6’ long. These attach to a based made from Rosinante’s proprietary "Dark Matter" material, a combination of different materials, each with different resonant properties all held together with a polymer. The base has 3 holes all the way through it to accept the 3 tubes. The open tops of the 3 tubes are joined together with a bracket. There is a mesh material on the bottom of the base covering the 3 tube holes. The whole thing is painted black, not too shiny, not too dull. 4 adjustable feet allow for setting the height of the Room Lenses from the floor. Set the feet for maximum clearance over carpet, and experiment with lower settings for hard floors. When setting up the Room Lenses, do take time to insure that they are vertical (plumb) in both directions. The base does not take up too much floor space, just a little more than a six pack of beer. The Room Lenses look easy to tip over, but the base is heavy and does make the Room Lenses fairly stable. Though a frisky retriever or 3-year-old will have no trouble knocking them over. Of course those of you with those kinds of concerns already own the necessary tethering hardware.
What about the appearance of the Room Lens?
There is always a concern that things you need in your listening room just won’t cut the mustard with the interior decorator. The Room Lenses were well received here. The symmetrical appearance of the 3 tubes, even though their spacing is slightly non-symmetrical on purpose, has so far tended to strike people as being rather cool looking. They do tend to attract dust but a quick wipe down every month or two with Static Guard on a dust rag keeps dust well in check.
How the heck do 3 six-foot tubes change the sound of the room?
The Room Lens is a type of Helmholtz Resonator. These devices rely on the "spring" characteristics of air to do their work. The tubes are open at the top and bottom. Somewhere inside the tubes is some "stuffing" that has to have the correct top-to-bottom position inside each tube and has to have the ideal density and uniformity. If you do this correctly -- and this is one of the major tricks to designing this type of Helmholtz Resonator -- you get a device that, put in appropriate locations within the room, can have a significant impact on the sound you get at the listening position.
But how much improvement is there… really?
Once you have the Room Lenses in your room and correctly positioned, you go though the typical honeymoon period where everything sounds fresh and wonderful. You pull out all your favorite recordings to hear the "new sound" then in days or weeks, you settle back in to your normal listening patterns and pretty much forget about them. After a while you may even begin to think that they aren’t really doing anything worthwhile. This has happened to me a couple of times. There is a quick way to reconfirm your initial impression… take them out of the room again and listen to some of your favorite recordings. Eeeeeeewwwww, it’s awful. Put ‘em back. Put ‘em back! I’m not fooling around here either. I have a listening room that does a lot of things a lot better than more typical rooms because I was lucky enough to be able to have it built specially to be a listening room. If there was going to be a room where the Room Lenses were not going to be a big help, this would be the room. They actually ticked me off a bit in the beginning… how dare 9 black tubes show me how inadequate my special room sounds without them. If you tried other room treatments and were unimpressed, give the Room Lenses a try. They may be just what your room needs. If you are already using other room treatments, don’t assume these can’t do better! I almost blew off Todd Laudeman at the beginning because I was so sure that my special room was as good as it was going to get with my existing room treatment.
OK, we get the message… they work. But tell us more about what they do for the sound…
In my room, the most noticeable improvement is in how much more real the space in the soundstage seems. There’s no more width or depth than before, but now it is simply more real. You’ve perhaps heard people talk about soundstages that seem so real you think you can get up and walk around between the musicians… that’s what I got using the Room Lenses. After you get over the initial goose bumps and giggles this wonderful soundstage provides, you begin to notice other things. That little lumpy area in the bass? It isn’t lumpy any more. That recording where the harp just kind of sits there… now you hear small inflections in the playing and the full measure of the harp’s shimmer. Those cool drums? Whoa! Now there’s an actual vibrating head/skin on the drum and you hear it very clearly after the initial whack. Even on recordings where I could already hear the drum head/skin after the whack, the improvement in tonality whas such that the tuning and tautness of the head/skin were evident. No matter how great you think your system is at making realistic "space", you won’t hear how good it really is till you get 3 Room Lenses in your room and position them correctly.
The Argent Room Lens is a unique room tuning device. The cost, while not inexpensive, is typical for effective high end products. The prices of some other room tuning systems could easily exceed the price of the 3 Room Lenses recommended for most rooms. You can expect the Room Lenses to deliver in any listening room, though results can vary from room to room and positioning correctly is important. Your room influences the sound of your system more then you realize. The Room Lenses are the most effective devices I’ve encountered so far to improve the sound of a system by making the room sound/work better. I think you’ll like them a lot. Excuse me now, please. I'm going to go figure out what I have to sell to keep the Room Lenses,if I have anything left to sell. Maybe Todd will forget he loaned them to me (as if that ever happens!).
One last temptation... you can probably imagine that launching a new high end product isn't easy. You need some dealers and sales in order to get product moving. During this startup phase, Argent has a special offer for customers who do not have local dealers (and believe me Todd knows exactly who and where all his dealers are). Direct order customers can get 25% off the $990 list price ($742.50) for 3 Room Lenses. Direct orders will have a 30 day return/money back guarantee so you can try them risk free. Tell Todd that SoundStage! sent you. This special discount is only good during the time this review is "live" on SoundStage! (4 to 6 weeks total). Once this review is moved to the Talkin' Shop Archive, the special price will end.
If you aren't sure about the direct sale thing consider this... the Room Lenses aren't electronic components. They won't need service or upgrading, they won't break, they won't become obsolete and they won't ever wear out. These are truely a "safe" buy whether Argent remains in business for 6 months, 6 years or 60 years. They will always make your room sound better. To be perfectly honest... these Room Lenses are very cool. If you think you might want them, do not wait around. Get them now. The price is right and procrastinators could lose the opportunity to ever get them if there aren't enough orders to make it worthwhile for Todd to keep building them. I hope Room Lenses are around for a long time, but there are no guarantees. I would never urge you this strongly to go out on a limb for a speaker, amp, preamp or other electronic component. You really need to have those kinds of products from companies that are going to be around for the long haul. Something like the Room Lens is a completely different sort of product. It works, works convincingly and once built, it lasts as long or longer than you do. You don't have to be an acoustics expert to use the Room Lenses effectively, follow the guidelines in the owners literature for placement and you'll find the right locations within a couple of days. I don't want to hear any excuses. You can put the Room Lenses to work in your room without much effort. The results will make you very happy indeed.
Room acoustics - the final frontier. These are the voyages of the aural starship 6moons. Its ongoing mission? To seek out new room treatments and a better understanding of room acoustics; to boldly go where no audiophile has gone before. Or, "Damn it Jim! I'm an audiophile, not an acoustician."
I first read about the Argent RoomLens a few years ago in Stereophile, in a review penned by Jonathan Scull. I recall skimming through J-10's piece in a magazine shop. I scoffed and chuckled at his observations - and when I saw the price of $1,195, I laughed out loud, put the magazine down and left the shop shaking my head in disbelief. Fast forward to today. Yours truly has arrived at similar conclusions to Mr. Scull. There's nothing quite like eating a little humble pie. Mmm.
My initial encounter with the RoomLens occurred at the home of its Canadian distributor, Song Kim of Song Audio. I was there primarily to investigate Song's SA-34 SB integrated amp when he suggested that we also try the RoomLens. I reluctantly agreed. I was more interested in the amp than those over-priced plastic pipes with dubious claims. As we listened to the last movement of Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony [Naxos 8.555714], Song moved the RoomLens into position, left them there for a minute or two, then removed them again. The effect of this shifting about was easily noticeable. When the RoomLenses were properly situated, the orchestra became more layered and focused. Brass and percussion shifted further back into the depth of the stage and woodwinds were more defined. Big timpani whacks were tauter and went lower. The soundstage was also slightly wider and airier, with more space around instruments. A slight bit of hash on the upper registry of massed stringed instruments was removed to make them fuller and rounder in tone. With great chagrin, I requested a set for an extended in-home audition.
According to Argent's website, "the Argent RoomLens is a feedback-controlled modified broadband Helmholtz resonator that damps unwanted room resonance while positively reinforcing and focusing the true sound of the system and the room. Properly aligned, a set of RoomLenses is capable of transforming even a marginal room into a warm and sonically pleasing listening space, allowing you the fullest enjoyment of your system." A little Web surfing plus a phone call to Argent's Ric Cummins shed more light on the background of these devices. The RoomLens was born out of Ric's frustration with poor room acoustics handicapping equipment demos at audio shows such as CES. Everyone who has been to at least one of these events knows LRS or 'lousy room sound'.
Furthermore, as most audiophiles can attest to, modern living room designs are, for the most part, acoustically challenged. The RoomLens was the result of several trial and error experiments with the clear objective to offer a relatively inexpensive and portable system to maximize audio system performance by improving room acoustics. About the historical precedents upon which the RoomLens was modeled, we learn:
The original Helmholtz resonator was defined by 19th-century German physicist, Hermann von Helmholtz to analyze harmonic components of complex tones. A Helmholtz resonator is a hollow cavity enclosing air, with an open hole or port to allow sympathetic resonance with the air in the room or hall in which it is placed. Air around the port vibrates due to the springiness of the trapped air volume inside the container. Take an empty bottle for example. The air inside the bottle will get excited as you blow over the open top. As any kid can tell you, a loud sound will result. Helmholtz resonators such as the subject of today's review are widely used in recording studios and concert halls where they tune the acoustical space by altering its resonance characteristics over a specific range of frequencies. The next time you're in a concert hall, look around. I'm sure you will spot such devices along the walls. However, they are usually well camouflaged. Point your browser to our editor's industry features piece on Rives Audio for further information and photos about an exceptionally smart-looking custom Helmholtz resonator.
According to Ric, the ancient Greeks knew all about controlling and enhancing resonance several centuries before our friend Herr Helmholtz appeared on the scene. They certainly knew more about acoustics than the bozos who designed one or two of Toronto's concert spaces. The Greeks placed circular pots of varying sizes around the stages of their public areas to control resonance and disperse sound more evenly, thus allowing speech and unamplified musical instruments to be heard more clearly. If your audiophile BS detector buzzes loudly when exposed to claims such as those stated on Argent's web site, I can assure you that in this instance, there's real science and experience behind the product.
The RoomLens is usually offered in sets of three. Each unit consists of three 58" long, 2.5" diameter plastic tubes mounted in a base. Each pipe is filled with varying amounts of fiberglass stuffing. All three tuned pipes are attached at the base and by a top bracket and together act as a single broadband resonator. If you look closely, you'll notice how one of the three tubes is spaced slightly farther apart from the center pipe than the other. According to Ric, the round surface of the tubes and the variable spacing aid in diffracting sound waves, thus helping to eliminate the image and tonal distorting effects of nearby wall reflections, especially at the first reflection points.
Set up is relatively easy as the RoomLens come with detailed instructions and diagrams for proper placement. Each module can be schlepped around with little effort. Initial placement should be just forward and to the outermost side of each speaker and slightly angled in. The third should be placed between the loudspeakers and set further back. While I noticed the effect right away, I found that shifting the RoomLens an inch or two here and there over a period of several days provided maximum results.
At first, I was somewhat intimidated by their dominating appearance in my modestly sized listening room, but I eventually warmed up to them. My wife on the other hand seemed strangely copasetic with having these black monoliths malingering in our house. Visitors as well were taken with their appearance, mostly thinking them modern pieces of Art. To me, their imposing presence resembled a similarly shiny black object made famous by Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. It was not uncommon for me to mutter on occasion "Open the pod bay doors, Hal", or "Daisy, Daisy, I'm half crazy".
What do the RoomLenses do? Think of them as corrective eye wear for your room. The effect of placing and removing the RoomLens was analogous to putting on and removing prescription eye glasses. With the RoomLenses in place, images sharpened, fuzzy details were snapped into bolder relief and depth perception was enhanced. Instruments and voices were more clearly focused and the soundstage became wider and deeper. Lower frequencies were also tauter. It appears that my room was responsible for a previously undetected slight boominess, no doubt due to some excited room nodes. Stringed instruments too became richer and fuller. How could these black pipes manage that feat? When I told Ric of my impressions and asked what was going on, he chuckled and replied that he was still discovering sonic benefits with his invention.
He freely admitted to not having all the answers. He suggested that the tonal changes noticed were a result of the placement of the RoomLens near the speakers and the effect of their round tubular surfaces. Ric contends that this will eliminate the negative sonic effects of nearby walls. It did not matter what genre of music I played; the effects were real and definitely contributed to increased musical enjoyment.
If your listening room's currently afflicted with LRS, the Argent RoomLenses will indeed be a balm to your suffering ears. They are lightweight, easy to move about, and yes, even attractive. At $1,195 for a trio, my only issue with these surprisingly effective devices is their price. I can appreciate the R&D expenses incurred in creating them and accept that retail prices should reflect the degree of performance on tap. But to this frugal 'phile, $1,200 for what appears to be mundane materials is a tough sell. The fact that these devices are some of the most imitated audio products by DIYers suggests that I am not alone with this reaction. Ric concedes that many of these DIY designs will have positive effects but that his products, having the benefit of more advanced engineering and testing behind them, would handily beat all comers. On the other hand, are you a well-heeled audiophile who doesn't so much as blink when dropping a grand on a set of the latest speaker cables?
Suddenly the RoomLens is transformed into an outright bargain. Therefore, aside from my penny-pinching concerns, the Argent RoomLens is an excellent product that does exactly what its maker claims and more. If you can get past the price, you will find them nigh well impossible to live without. I know I will.
Please pick uo only, I do not have the original boxes.