SUNY's FineArts Wing raises the bar for the Recording and Entertainment Industries.
Robert Barstow (SUNY Oneonta) recruits Audio Designer Michael Green to create the most advanced Music Wing in SUNY's history.
"It was my pleasure to work with Robert again. After designing and building the first round of studios at SUNY and then being invited to tune in the acoustics on some of their recordings I was tempted to move in and make SUNY my recording home away from home. Robert and staff are exciting to be around.
I hope they get many years of use out of the newer wing as well as the old studio. I'm looking forward to stopping in from time to time to see what artists are born from SUNY's music and acting programs."
SUNY Music Wing
Above picture credits: photo copyright, Gary Gold 2011 for Architecture+
Review of Michael Green Audio Revolution 6 Signature Loudspeakers
Michael Green Audio became well known in the late ‘80s for developing RoomTune acoustical products, and generally as a pioneer in the field of acoustically treating listening rooms for optimum sonic performance. Since that time, the company has also been producing loudspeakers and other devices such as equipment racks that can be tuned via various mechanical adjustments built into the designs. Michael Green’s loudspeaker designs are “free resonant” in that they are built so that the cabinet’s natural (but intentionally designed) vibration is an integral part of the speaker’s sound reproduction, just as a violin, piano or trumpet naturally produce their signature vibrations. In other words, MGA has always been building each of its speaker designs as a tunable musical instrument.
In 2017, after extensive research and testing of various cabinet construction materials and driver design modifications, MGA introduced a new monitor-sized speaker. While the conventional wisdom today among speaker designers is to use a cabinet as inert as possible and then damp it further, in order to limit the sound energy dispersion to only the drivers, the Rev6, like its MGA predecessors, employs the free resonant design and is also tunable using a mechanical device that allows the user to expand or contract the focus/soundstage produced by the speaker. This adjustment can be set-it-and-forget-it or can even be adjusted for each piece of music. It allows the listener to adjust the sound specifically for his listening preference, potentially superseding limitations of the room’s acoustical characteristics.
I’ve had these speakers in my listening room now for over 6 months and have gotten to know them quite well. The break in period was fairly fast. The first couple of weeks were rough as the drivers sounded a bit tizzy as they flexed their muscles, but after that they smoothed out and after a month the speakers sounded smooth and refined and eminently musical. I have known other monitor type speakers to take months to get to a solidly broken-in state. I was enjoying these Rev6’s fully after a couple of weeks and they only got better and are still getting better at this moment. MGA instructs that since they are a free resonant design, they will improve in their already substantial musicality and efficiency as they are played and age (like a good guitar). I’m looking forward to that.
The speaker dimensions are 11.75” x 7.75” x 6.0” (30cm x 18cm x 15.5cm) and they come in a variety of lacquered finishes. Mine are a lovely cherry with great matched veneers and add a refined look to my otherwise fairly plain looking system. They are lightweight speakers, weighing only 9 lbs. and placement on 28” hollow wood stands, also available through Michael Green Audio, is recommended. With respect to the MGA stands, they are designed to couple to the speakers such that the stands become an integral part of the speaker and extend the speaker’s frequency response and body in the bass region. The company provides an assortment of spikes with which the owner can experiment to find their preferred configuration. The front baffle on the Rev6 is made of instrument grade solid poplar wood (a little research revealed that poplar typically is used in the construction of drums and other percussion instruments such as vibraphones, stringed instruments such as guitars, violins, cellos and harps, and even some woodwind instruments such as flutes), and each driver is direct coupled to the baffle, eschewing the typical employment of a gasket. The remainder of the cabinet is constructed from a proprietary formula of treated compressed soft pulp wood source material. The internal tuning bar that serves as the mechanical tuning device is also made of poplar, and the solid brass tuning bolts on the outside of the speaker that adjust the tuning bar are the same ones used in other MGA tunable products such as Pressure Zone Controller acoustical devices and the MGA Tunable Room. Internal wiring in my pair consisted of MGA Type I speaker wire to the tweeter, and MGA Type II to the woofer. An upgrade of internal wiring to the new MGA White speaker wire is also now available. The speaker 5-way binding post assembly is a lightweight design, and direct connection of speaker cable, rather than spade or banana terminations, is recommended by MGA for best signal transfer.
Due to the free resonant tunable design, Michael Green Audio recommends that the speakers be placed facing straight forward, with no toe-in. In my experimentation with different positions, I found the straight forward approach to provide by far the best clarity and soundstaging. These guys do soundstage amazingly, and of course you can adjust the primary width of your soundstage by how far you place the speakers apart in the room. The Rev6’s naturally produce an expansive soundstage that goes outside the speakers, and that can also be tuned further using the speakers’ built-in tuning bars. Their efficiency is 91-93db (room dependent), so they don’t take much power to sound their best.
In my listening, these speakers strike an incredible balance between musical ease, refinement, clarity, punch, and spot-on harmonic completeness and accuracy. Paradoxically, they are able to exhibit effortless control and a sense of unbounded energy at the same time. I understand that Michael Green treats the drivers with a proprietary reinforcing compound, so that may be what’s behind this remarkable quality. I’ve done many a double take when I think I hear an actual piano, saxophone or cymbal playing while I’m in the other room on the computer. The attack and decay envelopes produced by the Rev6’s are fully rendered and precisely reproduced. In fact, this characteristic may be the speaker’s most identifiable quality and at the core of what makes the speaker sound so natural and realistic. The speaker’s rendering of all forms of percussion, for example, is simply head-turning and serves to naturally connect the listener’s body and soul to the music. Audiophile friends that have listened to my system have made similar comments about these speakers.
I have never become fatigued listening to the Rev6’s. Indeed, for most speakers with careful listening their limitations become obvious and one learns to adjust to them. With the exception of the very low bass range (below 42 hz), I have yet to find anything that is lacking or irritating, though if I did I would certainly be willing to forgive it. I typically listen to jazz, classical, blues, Americana, blue grass, pop, and some rock. I don’t play loud rock or symphonic music very much, and at very loud levels the speakers can be mechanically adjusted to keep that refinement and openness, but they are a small speaker and thus have certain low end limitations. See below how MGA addresses this issue.
The speaker’s lower range extension is beyond what I would have expected, and with the exception of very low bass, these speakers maintain the qualities I’ve described across the frequency range. I estimate the bass energy starts to roll off quite audibly at 40-45 hz. I drive them together with a MGA subwoofer (also free resonant and tunable) that I have had for quite a while, and they paired seamlessly after adjustment of the sub’s kick-in frequency, phase and volume, which didn’t take all that much experimentation to arrive at. With the sub in the system I run the satellites and sub at the most open tuning positions, and the Rev6’s full range at all times (as recommended by Michael Green Audio). MGA also suggests that for those heavy rock and symphonic listeners the Rev Combo, which includes the Rev6’s and the MGA subwoofer designed to match the Rev6, can be configured to run either with the Rev 6’s running full range, or with them running through the MGA sub crossover first rather than full range. This latter alternative configuration allows adjustment of the extreme low end and avoids extra stress to the Rev6 woofers. I heard them that way not too long ago when I met Michael Green at the MGA home base in Las Vegas, appropriately called "TuneLand".
These speakers, even after months of listening, still amaze me with their unvaryingly believable and natural sounding reproduction of the source material. On solo piano pieces, you literally hear every sound that the piano makes from ppp to fff with incredible lifelike precision, including the acoustic in the recording venue. That said, these speakers have never sounded overly detailed to me. Rather, they are preternaturally balanced, so you hear whatever is on the recording completely in all of its harmonics but with a tremendous sense of effortlessness. Accordingly, the 6’s reproduce human voice performance so fully that you clearly hear things like a bit of spittle or a subtle breath as a perfectly natural part of the singing, and not as an accentuated artifact as one can hear with other speakers. Sometimes the emotions conveyed in a performance I’ve experienced on these speakers has given me the chills. I’ve found them to be uniformly clean sounding, but in no way sterile. And while the Rev6’s will accurately reproduce the sound quality of components further up the audio chain, they are forgiving and non-analytical. In fact, Michael Green says that you may even be able to some extent ameliorate issues that an upchain component has by how you tune this speaker.
A little more about the soundstage. These Rev6’s are soundstage monsters. They are very sensitive in this respect. You can create your desired width and depth of the soundstage by placement proximity to the room boundaries, and by where you sit in relation to the speakers. There is no theoretically ideal placement like with so many speakers that have some rule to follow that defines their optimal placement in order to sound good. These speakers easily disappear into a grand soundstage that extends beyond the boundaries of your room if you prefer to listen that way. Notably there is no loss of detail or accuracy with a big soundstage. And if you like a more directed-to-the-listening-spot sound you can tailor the speakers to that as well. The tunable, free resonant design approach I’ve found allows for a great deal of flexibility in using these speakers to create the kind of soundstage you like.
I drive these speakers with 50W/ch of tube power, but I suspect they would sound glorious driven even by 8-10W/ch of good single-ended tube amplification.
On MGA’s internet forum (http://tuneland.forumotion.com) Michael Green likes to work directly with MGA speaker owners in determining the optimal placement and tuning for MGA speakers, and additionally, with interested music lovers that want to investigate what kinds of tuning options may be available for their listening room and their system (this online service is encouraged and gratis).
In my 30 years as an audiophile, these Rev6’s, coupled with my MGA sub, are the best speakers I have owned. I can’t imagine wanting to change. Unless, perhaps, MGA someday comes out with a full-range floor standing Revolution speaker again.
Associated equipment include Audolici A25M integrated amplifier, Magnavox 2100 CD player with MGA tuning modifications, MGA Bare Essence Type 2 speaker cable, MGA RoomTune CornerTunes and RT Squares.
MGA Revolution 6 Signature Loudspeakers: $1650.00/pr
MGA Brazilian Pine Stands: $590.00/pr
MGA Matching 12” Subwoofer: $1850.00
Review period fall 2017-summer 2018
The Chameleon loudspeakers, by Michael Green, are difficult speakers to review because it's difficult finding the "audiophile" words to describe the outstanding sonic characteristics of these speakers and (not quite as) difficult to describe their design principles. First, I'd like to get the design controversy of these speakers out of the way so that I can devote more time to it's performance. As probably most of you know, all of Michael Green's tunable speakers are designed in a manner which is contrary to every other dynamic speaker (that I know of) on the market today. Dynamic speaker design basically falls into two categories or camps. There are those manufacturers who believe that the way to design the perfect speaker is to reduce the resonance of every part of the speaker enclosure (and crossover board) to a minimum, with the use of dampening materials, rigid enclosures and dampened drivers. Michael Green, on the contrary, believes in using the cabinet enclosure (and crossover board) resonance, in a synergistic way, to compliment the resonance of the drivers. You can agree or disagree with either approach, but it's really the result of the final performance of the speaker which counts and both designs can produce credible results. In a word, the performance of the Chameleons is superlative.
As I said, because of the difficulty to find words in today's "audio vocabulary" to describe the sonic characteristics of these speakers, I will first describe some of the design aspects of the speaker which lend to their "indescribable" sonic nature. First the speakers are designed from aged cherry wood and consist of four outer component parts -- the two tower enclosures with the mounted drivers and two outboard crossover racks, one for each of the towers, made of solid cherry hardwood. Speaker connections are made via metal screw terminals on the rear of the outboard crossover boards (no bi-amping nor bi-wiring -- Michael Green feels this is not the way to design a speaker and is an unnecessary cost to consumers). All edges around the speaker consist of hardwood. Umbilical cord solid core wires from the crossover racks then connect to the drivers inside the towers. The speaker consists of two drivers -- a silk soft dome tweeter and a "tuned" Kevlar 8" driver. The overall dimensions of the speaker cabinet towers are 41"H x 17"D x 11 ½"W, resting on all solid hardwood bases which are 13 ½"W x 18 ½"D. On the outer side surfaces of each tower are four "tuning" bolts (two per side) whose functions I will describe later. "Inside" the cabinet there are two additional "tuning" bolts, again, whose functions I will describe when I talk about the speakers performance. Implementation in design of these speakers is consistent in all component parts -- not only do the cabinets have no damping materials, but any damping materials are also removed from the drivers (except for the surrounds). The outboard hardwood crossover racks consist of two boards per rack with four support steel rods -- they look like miniature Michael Green Designs JustaRacks (electronics are on the lower board only), but the base hardwood boards are thin. The overall height of the crossover racks is approximately 8" off the floor and have large brass cone MTD resonance tuning devices for feet, steel rods and brass caps on the top board. The crossover racks can be "tuned" also by the tightening or lossening of the support bolts on the crossover boards, but you do not want them too loose. The electronics are mounted on the lower crossover board and no hot glue (or dampening) is used, just like the design of the tower cabinet enclosures.
The finish on my Chameleons is Natural Cherry. The fine satin finish (on both the cabinets and the crossover boards) is not overdone to the point where the wood is sealed totally from exposure to outside air in order to allow the cabinet to "breathe" and "age" properly. But, the cabinets are finished inside as well as outside. It's an interesting phenomenon to watch your speakers get more beautiful month after month, as the wood ages, and the grain comes through the wood more and more. This aging process adds not only beauty to the wood, but also the harmonics, which the cabinets are capable of producing, increase with the aging process. Therefore the sonic performance capabilities of the speakers increase over time. Initial break-in is about two to three months to the point where the user can begin "tuning" the cabinets with the tuning bolts, but the speakers do not fully come into their own for a period of five years. In other words, this is one speaker which gets better with time. The "claim" to making their speakers like fine musical instruments is not just "words", but fact. I've owned a pair of their Studio 5's now for six years and I can attest to the fact that they sound better today than when I first purchased them -- they sound richer and more musical as time goes by.
The Chameleons, just like all of the MGD speakers, are voiced by ear ONLY from recorded music and are manufactured on a custom basis for each customer. As a matter of fact, if you supply details about your room (building materials like wood, sheet rock, gypsum, concrete, etc.) and system, the speakers can be custom built to the sonic preferences that you describe to Michael and company. And at this price, I would recommend anyone interested in a pair of Chameleons to spend the time with the hotline discussing your listening preferences and providing details of your room/system. My Chameleons were also custom installed by MGD. Although I happen to have a fully tunable (racks, components, acoustical products and speakers) system designed by MGD, it is not necessary for anyone to also have a fully tunable system to appreciate these speakers or think that they may not perform well in a system which is not fully tunable -- quite the contrary, because of the "tunabilty" which is built in. The speakers are very efficient and are easily be driven by my 100 wpc Monarchy Audio SE-100 Delux monoblock amps with ease (I currently use 200 wpc Marantz MA-700 monoblocks).
During the initial break-in period, it is always best to break in any of the MGD speakers with the tuning bolts in the "open" (fully counterclockwise) position. This will allow the cabinet walls to "flex" and break in faster (and properly). You will know when it's time for fine tuning with the tuning bolts. Basically, the top most tuning bolts adjust the mid and upper frequencies and the lower tuning bolts adjust the lower bass frequencies. The two tuning bolts "inside" the cabinet actually reside inside a mass loading chamber, which may be mass loaded with five to eight pounds of lead shot or sand (I prefer lead shot because I think lead shot sounds better when used for mass loading, but that is a personal preference on my part and I am using NO mass loading to date because I think they sound much better without the mass loading). By adjusting these two bolts "inside" the cabinet, it allows you to adjust the mid bass (you can actually change the "pitch" like you would by tightening the skins on a drum) without adversely affecting the lower bass or the midrange. Even after break-in, if it is necessary to adjust any of the tuning bolts, the tightening should be more on the "snug" side, at the most, versus "tight". Severely over tightening the tuning bolts can yield a "deadening" (shortening of the decay time on notes) of the sound because you would be restricting the cabinet from resonating, which is one of the necessary principles of operation which make for this speaker's outstanding performance.
I truly am at a loss for words in describing these speakers' performance because they do not develop harmonic structures like any other speaker that I've ever heard. I hate to use terms like "perfect" (I know there is no "perfect" speaker), but that's what imaging, soundstaging, harmonic structures and overall coherence of sound appear to be. The sound of these speakers is as close to live as I have ever heard from a home reproduction system.
Recently, I was in the high end piano department of a music store and although the sign said "Ask the salesman for assistance", I was tempted to strike a few notes. Upon striking a few notes on a $40,000 piano, what I noticed was the same quality of "sparkle", richness of harmonics, proper decay of notes, development of the individual note that I was hearing on my Chameleons. I also tried this same test on as many instruments as possible -- same result. This is why I said it's difficult to come up with words to describe these speakers. Since the age of 5 where I first learned to play the piano and had my first solo concert at the age of 6, I have been formally trained in four musical instruments, played in the orchestra throughout my youth only (regrettably today) to give it up because I wanted to play baseball, basketball and football more. But, every instrument in recordings (including commercial ones for the most part) is reproduced by the Chameleons in the same way that notes develop when you hear them live (or as close as can be reproduced today in a home system environment). The harmonic structures are all in tact, the layering of instruments (as well as their individual ability to construct their different note structures) during complex musical passages is unsurpassed by anything I've heard in a speaker to date. But, let me add that I am not in the music nor audio industry, so I have not heard all the conventional speakers out there and I know there are many fine conventional speakers on the market and fine conventional playback systems. I think testimonies, in forums like this and others on the Internet, from everyday users can attest to just how far speaker technology has come and that there are many fine conventional speakers from many different manufacturers on the market. Whether the Chameleons are for you will be a personal choice. The Chameleon speakers will reproduce cymbals, bells or other high frequency notes, that will send chills through you, with the sparkling harmonics that are reproduced. The midrange (voices and other instruments) is reproduced with naturalness and no mid bass influence. The deep bass, especially plucked or using a bow, is rich (and tight at the same time), sonorous and so easy to follow. The speaker is capable of going down into the mid to low 20 Hz region. All I can say is that if you get an opportunity, have the funds and are looking for a top notch speaker that you will not have to "trade-up" for many years to come (if at all), I'd consider the Chameleons as a solid choice for the best of audio systems available, regardless of price. This speaker has my highest recommendation and, if anything, I've probably shortchanged it on any praise I've given it.