The Atmosphere, the HFT-2, and Room Acoustics for Audio
It is difficult to believe that ten metal cylinders half the size of a fingernail tacked to the walls of a large listening space could have any effect on the acoustics. Synergistic Research calls them HFT-2—and they work.
So it wasn’t much of a stretch to try the new Atmosphere, a black tower the size of a small speaker, not connected to any audio equipment and controlled using blue tooth from an iPad. After all, when the folks at the Cable Company recommend a product and they are willing to lend it out on a test basis with no obligation to buy, why not try it and see what it does?
The listening room has some issues that cannot be solved easily without lining walls with acoustic panels and installing draperies. Bookshelves and rugs would help too. Unfortunately, none of this is possible.
The Atmosphere solved the acoustic problem in a difficult listening space without having to do any of these things. The Atmosphere has an added advantage as well. Although subtle, the sound in the listening space can be manipulated.
The device is based on the premise that the radio frequency (the rate of oscillation in the range of 3kHz to 300 GHz) of the listening environment had a profound effect on the sound of the music. According to Synergistic Research, higher frequency ambient RF, which is common during the daytime hours, negatively impacts the sound quality of music systems.
Atmosphere began when our lead designer Ted Denney started to think about how his system sounded during the day, but better at night and of course we’ve all experienced how our systems can sound different from one day to the next with some days sounding much better (or worse) than others.
The resulting device, which stands on the floor at approximately 40 inches tall, is a dual channel Ultra Low Frequency/Low Frequency RF generator. The Atmosphere purports to not only combat the higher frequencies generated by cell phones, Wi-Fi, radio, and natural solar activity, but also allow the user to tweak all aspects of sound.
The Atmosphere relies on Bluetooth technology to communicate directly with an iPad app and allows the user to select from a variety of different “scenes” intended to compliment the type of music, such as Intimate Acoustic, Holographic and Grand Canyon. As described by Synergistic Research:
Let’s say you’re listening to a closely miked acoustic guitar or vocalist in a small acoustic venue. Atmosphere offers a “scene” that enables your system to more accurately portray the sense that you are actually listening to a live performance in your listening room.
Or let’s say you like hard driving rock and roll. There’s a scene called ‘Amplified Performance’ that not only makes your system sound more like a live rockin event, but also empowers you to select from ‘stadium’ and ‘club’ so you can better match your recreated sense of scale to the actual recorded venue.
The Atmosphere comes with three standard scenes. Through the use of a separately purchased Atmosphere Tuning Module (ATM), users can add four additional scenes with advanced settings that allow the user to further customize the listening experience.
While some have questioned whether the novel device lives up to the hype, many reviewers have found that the Atmosphere significantly enhanced the sound of their systems, with Audiostream.com calling it “one of the most innovative and enjoyable new products to be offered to the audiophile market.”
StereoTimes.com also had good things to say. “Once you hear the Atmosphere and how it can affect the music and the listener, you’ll be hard pressed to take it out of your system,” the website’s reviewer wrote.
Synergistic Research recommends that users have at least two sets of high frequency transducers (HFTs) prior to using the Atmosphere. The base price for the Atmosphere is $2495; the ATM costs an additional $495. The HFT-2’s come in boxes of five for about $299 /box. All of this might be expensive for an “acoustic treatment”, but it works!