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Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
Source: 1TB iMac running OSX 10.6.5 with PureMusic 1.74 in hybrid memory play with pre-allocated RAM and AIFF files up to 24/192, Weiss DAC2, Burson Audio HA160D as DAC
Preamp/Integrated: Esoteric C-03, ModWright LS100, Bent Audio Tap X
Amplifier: FirstWatt F5, FirstWatt J2, ModWright KWA100SE
Speakers: Mark+Daniel Fantasia S
Cables: Complete loom of ASI LiveLine, Zu Audio Event, Crystal Cable Ultra, Entreq USB and Firewire cables
Stands: 2 x ASI HeartSong 3-tier, 2 x ASI HeartSong amp stand
Powerline conditioning: 1 x GigaWatt PF2, 1 x Furutech RTP-6
Sundry accessories: Extensive use of Acoustic System Resonators, noise filters and phase inverters
Room size: 5m x 11.5m W x D, 2.6m ceiling with exposed wooden cross beams every 60cm, plaster over brick walls, suspended wood floor with Tatami-type throw rugs. The listening space opens into the second storey via a staircase and the kitchen/dining room are behind the main listening chair. The latter is thus positioned in the middle of this open floor plan without the usual nearby back wall.
Review component retail Breakdown: $2.995 as reviewed

Warning. What follows is subversive. Proceed at own risk!
Clayton Shaw's $2.995 Spatial software package is an amalgamation of Pure Music's core platform in a custom OEM version; various 3rd-party software like FuzzMeasure for test-tone generation and processing; plug-ins like FabFilter Pro-Q for digital equalization specific for each channel; and proprietary routing code. It includes a measurement microphone, USB microphone preamp, USB DAC and a full suite of near/farfield measurements taken on your speakers in your room to create customized speaker/room correction via remote access session/s to your music computer. It also includes maintenance to upload/reconfigure new software as it becomes available.

Spatial was originally created to upgrade the Behringer digital crossover/processor as intrinsic part of Clayton's Emerald Physics open-baffle loudspeakers. Because those speakers require bi-amping with digital filtering and gain matching, Spatial's core feature set includes signal routing for active bi/tri amplification plus one or two subwoofers. On the hardware side this means multi-channel converters up to 8 channels which include a microphone preamp to facilitate data acquisition of how the speaker interfaces with your room.

Focusing by necessity on pro-arena multi-channel units like the above top-class Prism Orpheus where Firewire rather than USB has been the standard to connect with recording studio computer work stations, Spatial's ground work has revolved around Apple computers for their native iTunes platform and Firewire ports. The idea was to run a MacMini, MacBook or iMac on iTunes whilst very comprehensive digital correction would take place invisibly in the background. This would convert an affordable computer front-end into a state-of-the-art music machine. Final sound quality would be linked to the DAC/processor of the client's choosing. Spatial's present hardware option menu includes units from TC Konnekt, Apogee and Prism.

Obviously room/speaker correction—directly on the digital music files prior to D/A conversion—is important also to owners of non Emerald Physics speakers who run with PCs and USB converters rather than Macs and Firewire DACs. Additionally not everyone will be willing to part with their present two-channel hifi preamp should that be a truly superior unit which they're deeply invested into. As long as speakers didn't require active bi-amping, Spatial wanted to become scaleable to their needs without multi-channel studio processors. Therein lies today's tale.

Clayton hinted at one of the original challenges for this expansion: "I just received the first and only measurement-grade USB microphone preamp. This device allows us to sidestep one of the routing issue for data acquisition with consumer audio converters. It's a portable bus-powered design and can accept any standard measurement microphone. I tested it and it works flawlessly. Now we should be in business for USB DACs. I already tested 3 models over the weekend without issues. We will take a cautious attitude about them and build up a database as we encounter various models on the market. We plan to go ahead and purchase popular models like the Benchmark, Ayre etc. I will ship you one of these mic preamps for the Fantasia S calibration session. This will eliminate the TC Konnekt and clone the exact process a customer in your shoes would experience."
After my review of the Spatial/Emerald Physics system, I wanted to revisit Spatial by running correction on one of my reference speakers. Emerald Physics' CS2.3 after all couldn't be run without Spatial. I thus couldn't defeat the software to isolate its contributions. With my new Mark+Daniel Fantasia S speakers I meant to change only one item - corrected vs raw response. Prior to signing off on the new USB mic pre, Clayton had suggested that I hold on to his TC Konnekt loaner from the prior review. This €1.000 studio processor includes a built-in mic preamp as does all its kind. I'd just use it for the setup session. Once Clayton had built the correction curves inside the FabFilter Pro Q plug-in, the TC Konnekt would exit the scene. For playback its base functionality of D/A conversion and volume control would be replaced by any of my in-house stereo DACs and preamps. With the Centrance the TC Konnekt would no longer be required. Or so we thought.

Final correction curve for Emerald Physics CS2.3 loaners in my room (from my review)

For customers with single-amp speakers not interested in replacing their current preamp with a professional DAC/processor/preamp, Spatial would henceforth have to include the USB mic preamp. That and the microphone and single XLR lead between them looked to be all the hardware necessary to accompany what otherwise remains a package of software and remote consultation. The latter interfaces your computer with Clayton's cloud computer to download and install Spatial by remote session using the TeamViewer freeware to bypass your router's fire wall. Clayton then takes discrete left/right measurements in the nearfield (microphone at 1m from your speakers) and farfield (microphone at your listening seat) whilst building the compensation curves for you. Your contribution to the process is purely manual. You fire up the system, make sure your music computer is online and move the microphone when and as instructed. Post calibration Clayton calls in by phone to answer any questions you might have. Then you're off to the races playing music in iTunes as any non-Spatial user would. No need to learn Esperanto or Computerese.