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Positive Feedback ISSUE 7
june/july 2003


The House that Ma Built: A Photo Essay, Part 1 - Design, Planning, and the Foundation
by Winston Ma and David W. Robinson

(Photographs by various photographers; image processing by Robinson)

A few issues ago, we described the extraordinary listening room that Winston Ma of First Impressing Music (FIM) & Lasting Impression Music (LIM) has built as his personal reference environment. At that time, I called it his "listening cathedral." (See Positive Feedback Online, Issue 3, at and

In this issue, we feature a photo essay by Winston, showing the design and construction phases of his room. This should give the PFO reader a sense of the enormous amount of thought, planning, and careful construction that went into Ma's room.

The investment was significant; the results speak for themselves.

Upper photo: An early planning meeting with industry experts and friends to define my requirements; this took place around 1987.

Lower photo: Identification of constraints and limitations (available space, location of the site, and direction relative to the sun and surrounding conditions) with an architect. Architectural planning began in 1991.

Further debate about room layout; on the far side facing the camera is Scott Frankland and George Cardas.

Here I am meeting with an expert in color and psychological acoustics to decide the colors in the sun room and the garden next to the listening room.

Sample calculation of proper room dimensions…getting the proportions right is not as simple as you might think! I ended up choosing a width of 17', a length of 27.506', a front (speaker end) height of 10.51', and a rear (listener end) height of 16.81'.

The frequency response and modes were carefully modeled to avoid unpleasant acoustical anomalies.

AcoustaCADD ™ was used to do further modeling of the room.

Once the plans were correct, construction could proceed. Great care was taken in the execution of the master plan! The foundation was separated from the rim walls by a soft wood-based panel, hence the whole floor was isolated from mother earth, yet it was also extremely solid, non-resonant, without being acoustically "dead."

The foundation was constructed in the following way: 8" reinforced concrete rim with the following 5 layers of material in the platform:

  • Gravels

  • Round sand

  • Fine sand

  • Special 2" foam

  • 8" of concrete

Pouring more concrete; my neighbors must have found this to be most curious!

A worker smoothing another layer of sand.

Putting the final 8" layer of concrete into place.