6moons industryfeatures: Richard Bird of Rives Audio

Washingtonian Jacob Heilbrunn works as celebrated political observer, was the former Editor for The New Republic and is a current member of the L.A. Times Editorial board. He also writes columns and book reviews. Leaning recently on one of his high-ranking anonymous sources inside the Kremlin -- to obtain feedback on Russian popular perception of US foreign policy in Iraq -- his source countered evasively with a terse "nyet". Though Jacob doesn't speak Russian, he knows shorthand for no way, no how when he hears it. Switching into his rubber-suited audiophile alter ego, with the ubiquitous laser alignment gun in his super hero belt, he next rang his deep throat at Rives Audio, president Richard Bird. Could he park his massive Magnepan 20.1 full-range dipole panels in a room 13' x 21' x 8' and expect good sound? Yes way and here's how were the happy replies of his little bird, replete with the faxed-over blueprints below.

They demonstrate that -- while satisfactory results in our self-inflected Iraq mess might remain elusive but will, no matter what, consume billions to address -- audiophile satisfaction in the ubiquitous chaos of compromised room acoustics no longer remains elusive; nor need it cost an arm and a leg.

Which now ties neatly to our strange title header acronym. Many well-off audiophiles with expensive systems secretly or openly complain about how their platinum systems suck. As audio systems become more expensive, expectations on what they ought to deliver naturally rise into the stratosphere like the best Hawaiian dope. When a serving of Class-A rated components fails to reap the magic implied by rave reviews, exclusivity and associated cost, customary audiophile MO is what? To replace components and commence the endless hit'n'miss journey of hardware substitutions. What few grasp? That salvation from this hamster wheel spells substitution, once and for all, of the small 'suck' (of apparent synergy absence) for the capital-letter S.U.C.K. of Set Up Consulting Knowledge. Today's Primordial S.U.C.K. goes straight to the heart of the matter. It addresses, comprehensively and conclusively, the bane of good sound: Inferior room acoustics. Or, to borrow from Rives Audio's prospectus, "You've got the sound system to die for but a listening room that's killing you". Incidentally, that clever phrase was penned by Rives Audio's director of marketing, Anne Schulte.

To learn what would be involved in the wholesale transformation of a real-world sized room from bad to optimized acoustics, Richard Bird of Rives Audio suggested that I interview him in the home of one of his clients who had built a basement listening room according to detailed specifications by Chris Huston, Rives Audio's senior acoustical engineer. Jacob Heilbrunn's three-story, red brick 1910 Victorian residence in Washington's NW corridor houses the very space blueprinted above. What follows then is a pictorial tour of Jacob's room, some reviewer commentary and a candid dialogue with the proprietor of Rives Audio who, in a past life of just a few years ago, worked with medical imaging systems and startup companies. His wife holds the chair of the University of Iowa City's radiology department.

Adjacent to the main space and hidden behind a door was the equipment bunker room, holding two equipment racks that housed a VPI HR/X with JMW 12.6 arm and Van denHul Colibri cartridge; Manley Steelhead phono preamp; Philips SACD 1000 Meitner-modified transport; EMM Labs DAC6e; EMM Labs Switchman; Shunyata Research Hydra-8 and Anaconda VX; Hovland Music Groove 2 phono interconnect; and a smattering of Harmonic Tech and NordOst Valhalla cables, the latter which exited this space to connect to the amplifiers between the Magnepan 20.1 full-range panels.