By all measures, Bob Hodas is a pretty nice guy. Known as the acoustician to many of the elite best recording studios, screening rooms and dedicated listening rooms in the world for clients ranging from Sony Music Tokyo, The Record Plant, Lucasfilm, Danny Elfman, Stevie Wonder and dozens upon dozens of other luminaries, audio/video professionals and music lovers - Bob sells a limited range of products including mostly RPG room treatments, Meyer Sound EQs and Focal speakers for some clients. But it's his professional "tuning" services where he has made his name while oddly scaring many hardened audiophiles.
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For enlightened clients, Bob travels the world measuring, tuning, EQ'ing, treating and bringing audio truth to rooms ranging from affordable to cost-no-object. He works a lot in Northern and Southern California but travels to any number of cities around the world to make things right in the world of audio. Bob is like a bald, vegetarian audio superman who used to mix the Doobie Brothers in the late 1970s. Are you still scared of him now?
Amazingly, in 2011 there are some who still are scared of Bob Hodas (and other top acousticians like him such as Keith Yates and Tony Grimani). The big question is - why? Here are some theories...
Theory No. 1: Fear of The Equalizer
From the very early days of audiophilia until well into the late 1980's - hardcore audiophiles attacked equalizers because they brought phase shift into the signal path. Conversely, equalizers also allow one to tailor the sound of a speaker system (and sub) to meet the specific needs of the room in ways that upgrading to the "preamp of the week" from the audiophile magazines can't deliver.
Moreover, every major recording we own has been made with EQ on every track of the mixing board, as well as mixed on speakers with room EQ. The mastering process likely adds mild levels of EQ to the product as well. Thanks to the rise in popularity of Audyessy and other room correction features in today's HDMI receivers, AV preamps and even as part of uber-high-end speaker systems like Wisdom Audio - EQ isn't the scary topic that it once was. For those of us who love music and want our systems to perform at their measured best, it's a necessary tool. Forget the hype about phase shift. Modern EQs are far better and the benefits outweigh the downside by many times.
Theory No. 2: Spending More On Equipment Gets Better Sound Than Treating Your Listening Room
The sad reality is that there are still some enthusiasts who think that you can get to audio heaven by investing solely in audiophile gear without ever fundamentally dealing with the basic acoustics of a listening room. This is simply not possible. While investing more and more into gear can get you more performance, more exotic gear and more audio jewelry - your number one audio asset is your listening room. Simple solutions can make a huge difference.
Bob Hodas absolutely hates with a passion coffee tables, as they reflect sound right in front of the listener. Simply removing one (free upgrade) from a room can clear up imaging issues. Treating the first order of reflections to the side and above a front speaker system is another affordable way to absorb audio energy that can open the width and height. Treating the corners of a high end listening room also helps a lot, as that is where bass becomes cluttered. A simple tube trap or other solution can make all the difference in the world at a cost that is a fraction of new speakers.
Theory No. 3: The Fun of Being An Audiophile Is The Journey, Not The End Game
In my days at Cello Music and Film working with Mr. Mark Levinson - there were some audiophiles who were scared of Cello much like others are scared of Hodas. They didn't want the audio journey to be over. They didn't mind losing 50 percent of their investment (pre-Audiogon era) if they were part of the audiophile club. They would spend and spend and spend; yet they couldn't use a program EQ to mildly remaster a bad sounding CD on their system.
They didn't spend on their room acoustics but they read about the latest and greatest and most esoteric audio components thinking they were some magical solutions, when in fact the solution to the question at hand is more mathematical than a lot of audio truth seekers are willing to admit. Gurus like Yeats, Grimani and Hodas can show you and get you to "flat" in your room and tune the final sound (including bass from one or more subwoofers) to your exact liking. You actually know that your audiophile investment is performing its best. Would you change out the sparkplugs in your Ferrari to see which one gave you the most horsepower or would you take your prancing horse to a Dyno and measure which one worked best for you.
In the end, knowing that your system is performing its best is something to be proud of. The studios that master and make the movies and music that you enjoy the most live up to this standard and at a certain point audiophiles and home theater enthusiasts should too. Possibly the most compelling reason to embrace room treatment and room tuning is the fact that it is the most cost effective solution money can buy today. With your room tuned - you can upgrade gear knowing that your room is solid. If you want to make changes to the tuning - that's always an option, but the increasingly expensive gear that you buy sounds even better in a well done room. Amazingly, you can get better overall performance from less expensive equipment when your room is in order.