A Brief Survey of Isolation Devices
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unquestioned that vibration and resonance alter the sound of
our playback systems. How to deal with the problem though,
is a topic of unusual complexity. A myriad of variables
combine and interact to make the equation particularly
convoluted. Influences include: source of vibration
(structure-borne or air-borne), equipment support (nature of
rack or stand), and sensitivity of the components to the
vibrations present and the ability of the listener to
perceive the effects of these variables. Include the most
important and subjective, ones own personal preference, and
we have an equation with no universal solution.
disparity among systems, environments and listening
preferences, how can a comprehensive, tell-all review be
written? It canít. Thatís why this treatise is labeled a
survey, rather than a review. The information offered here is
but general overview and should be considered a starting point
rather than an endpoint.
Most of you
have experimented with isolation; be it cones, spikes,
bearings, isolation platforms and bases or one of the many
viscoelastic feet, they all change the sound. Which one is
best, depends on the variables weíve discussed previously, as
well as (and certainly the most important constituent) our own
personal preferences. An example: device ďAĒ offers a slightly
warmer flavor while device ďBĒ results in a faster or brighter
sound. Which is right will depend on your inclination and how
your system is tuned. Now, Iím not saying that all isolation
devices affect tonality, but the same analogy would apply to
other characteristics of the device(s) employed (detail,
leading edge transients, ambience retrieval, etc.).
variables not withstanding, Iíve found that most all devices
have a general thumbprint, a basic character apparent in
nearly all systems. Many fine points will vary, of course, but
Iíve had enough experience with the offerings (both in my
systems and feedback from countless clients) to feel
neither disputing nor endorsing the concepts or theories
behind any of the products. I have no training as a mechanical
engineer or physicist; Iím simply a careful listener. I do
know there are as many questions as answers in this arena,
each manufacturer asserting the validity of their particular
designs. So, like with any other product in audio, let your
ears be the judge. Iíll offer another caveat. While I have
evaluated all the products listed here, I cannot say that I am
familiar with every offering in every the line. Further, there
may have been changes or additions since my last experience.
Again, use this not as an absolute reference, but as an
overview to familiarize yourself with available offerings.
Always consult a knowledgeable dealer for specific
recommendations that suit your system and preferences.
provided in tabular form for easy cross referencing. To keep
the survey brief, Iíll offer a basic thumbnail sketch of each
product (though I could write pages on each describing
intricacies Iíve experienced, most of that knowledge is
specific to my system and may not manifest itself in yours).
Next, Iíll grade each product on several scales. Iím trying to
stay very objective with these, using mainly feedback that
Iíve received from the field.
performance field note than some products are tagged with a
plus or minus symbol. The ď+Ē indicates a product works well
in most systems, ď-ď means the item is system dependant,
either because of strongly variable performance or mechanical
considerations (e.g. too tall to fit in most racks).
been divided into five categories, describing their approach:
Viscoelastic (soft resilient feet), Rigid
(usually cones of various materials), Roller Ball
(devices utilizing ball bearings in some way) technology and
Bases (platforms of any sort) and Other (either
using multiple technologies or not fitting into any category
listed above). Products are assessed using a scale of 1 Ė 10.
All items are listed in alphabetical
order and not in any sort of preferential ranking.