Improvements from isolation?

Tim F

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Jun 11, 2018
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Interested in your experience here. I've been playing around with many different types of isolation on my system, which consists of a tube pre, record deck and tube power amps. The power amps are very sensitive to vibration and hugely boom in the bass if placed directly on the floor.

I've tried many types of isolation devices, magnetic, sprung, ball bearing (stillpoints etc.) , spikes and platforms. After all of this I found that the single largest and most shocking improvement was changing the rack to a Quadraspire SVT2. I only got this to tidy up my system as I needed extra rack space and wasn't expecting the tremendous improvement it gave. All other isolation devices have made a small difference at best.

From my experience I would now recommend going for the best rack, rather than having a poorer rack and spending on isolation devices.

What are your findings in this regard?
 

stehno

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Jul 5, 2014
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I'd say you're definitely in the ballpark, Tim. It's actually a universal fundamental in that all electronic components including speakers and line conditioners are quite sensitive to unwanted energy-induced distortions. But yes some will seem even more sensitive. However, you should bear in mind that various types of shall we say inferior designs, construction, and materials will hinder some components' ability to respond to sufficient-or-better treatments more than others. As will inferior treatment methods. Funny enough, my little Jena Labs The Two line conditioners when mounted to the rack were significantly more responsive than my amps. Go figure.
 

fbs

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Apr 22, 2019
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I fully agree to your findings, that isolation is an important factor. I did some tests mainly focusing on my tube power amps with Akustik Manufaktur platforms. Picture shows a test platform, I‘m awaiting now the final handcrafted ones in high gloss white, the isolation technique is identical.

C68D78D4-47CD-40DA-A883-FEB38642B72E.jpeg

The improvents in soundstage, details in treble, mids and especially at the lower ends are impressive, music flows. Never thought that isolation is such important.

Enjoy your new platform.
 
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defride

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Mar 28, 2013
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My experience with Quadraspire was not the same, nothing particularly bad but nothing really positive to speak of either

I've tried all sorts of isolation/supports and damping over the years. My main observation - it's entirely suck and see. No matter what the equipment it's environment is always different. Irrespective of value introducing a change to the environment delivers a variable result that one may or may not appreciate and first impressions are often deceiving
 
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tima

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Mar 4, 2014
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From my experience I would now recommend going for the best rack, rather than having a poorer rack and spending on isolation devices.

What are your findings in this regard?

Hope may be lost to all ye who enter.

The combination possibilites are kinda all over the map and depend on the particular iso products you choose and for what equipment. Some folks go for modest racks with modest or spendy footers or platforms on the rack, etc. Some prefer a top-notch rack such as those from HRS, SRA, CMS, or Vintage Audio with no footers or whatever footers or even platforms.

While any thing you put a component on will change its sound, in my experience many audio racks are more often furniture to support equipment and lack serious isolation or vibration mitigation capability. Many give a hand-wavy nod to sonics with some 'feature' but don't really do much in that regard. That can lead to footers just like in your case footers led to a rack. Lot's of 'philes are considerate of looks and some of the audio furniture is very nice style/design wise. Then there are plenty of DIY efforts to varying effect.

The issue with many racks, footers and platforms is that they are one size fits all and results vary depending on what components are involved. It's hard to demo racks in one's room much less do an A/B/A and matching gear to racks (or vice versa) can be any where from expensive to a crap shoot. People get into 'tuning the rack' with footers, etc. Not dissimilar to equipment matching, etc.

It is usually the case that one will 'hear a difference' with a rack versus what they had been using. If there is perceived or believed improvement to one or more of the many 'audiophile properties' then the rack is assessed positively. Compared with other racks, assessment may be different.

If you're happy with whatever combination or non-combination you have, enjoy it! :)
 

Kingsrule

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Feb 3, 2011
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I find it amazing that most systems have all or most of the gear situated between or right next to the speakers.
Before any racks/ products to increase isolation, move your gear as far away from the speakers as u can!! That's fundamental isolation.

Then start trialing racks and footers, etc..........
 

Mike Lavigne

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Apr 25, 2010
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rack or shelf treatment?

for me, i've carried the solidity of my concrete floor another step forward by using solid high mass racks, then treating gear on top of the shelves. except my amplifiers, where the treatment goes directly on the floor, amps on top.

i use both passive, and active isolation. my whole signal path, preamps and amps (see below), except my digital, all sits on active isolation, and my speakers sit on decoupling footers to reduce feedback from them into the floor. two of my three turntables are on solid rack tops, one is on active isolation.

improvements from isolation are a combination of ease and further disconnecting the music from the drivers and the sense of reproduction. resonance feedback from the music and ground noise is a layer or 5 of distortion that masks musical truth and realism. reducing that distortion frees the music and especially as the musical energy increases with the volume allow the system to breathe.......and the degree of emotional involvement to really increase.

active.jpg
 
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microstrip

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(...) It's actually a universal fundamental in that all electronic components including speakers and line conditioners are quite sensitive to unwanted energy-induced distortions. (...)

Yes, most of us agree on it. However, most of what we generically call "isolators" do not improve the sound quality because they are working as isolators ... ;)

IMHO in order to analyze any experience we must first find if we are dealing with energy coming from the particular device itself or being transferred from the system to the device. We carry endless discussions on these systems, I personally would suggest listening to 96/24 recordings of the output of preamplifiers using the "isolation" systems and without them.

In the late 70's I have recorded with a cassette deck the sound of a cheap Technics DD turntable with the big KEF speakers on and off - the difference was amazing, I switched to a Thorens!
 

stehno

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Jul 5, 2014
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Hope may be lost to all ye who enter.

The combination possibilites are kinda all over the map and depend on the particular iso products you choose and for what equipment. Some folks go for modest racks with modest or spendy footers or platforms on the rack, etc. Some prefer a top-notch rack such as those from HRS, SRA, CMS, or Vintage Audio with no footers or whatever footers or even platforms.

While any thing you put a component on will change its sound, in my experience many audio racks are more often furniture to support equipment and lack serious isolation or vibration mitigation capability. Many give a hand-wavy nod to sonics with some 'feature' but don't really do much in that regard. That can lead to footers just like in your case footers led to a rack. Lot's of 'philes are considerate of looks and some of the audio furniture is very nice style/design wise. Then there are plenty of DIY efforts to varying effect.

The issue with many racks, footers and platforms is that they are one size fits all and results vary depending on what components are involved. It's hard to demo racks in one's room much less do an A/B/A and matching gear to racks (or vice versa) can be any where from expensive to a crap shoot. People get into 'tuning the rack' with footers, etc. Not dissimilar to equipment matching, etc.

It is usually the case that one will 'hear a difference' with a rack versus what they had been using. If there is perceived or believed improvement to one or more of the many 'audiophile properties' then the rack is assessed positively. Compared with other racks, assessment may be different.

If you're happy with whatever combination or non-combination you have, enjoy it!

Hi, TimA. Very insightful as I think you painted a pretty good overall picture of the vibration mgmt sector including implementation strategies, products, materials, combinations, size differences, and ensuing results being all over the map. Though you did forget to include the routinely contradictory nomenclature used as also being all over the map.

In light of this all-over-the-map scenario you portrayed of what should be perhaps the most simple sector of high-end audio, I'd like to ask you a question.

What do you suppose are the classic symptoms of most any subject matter when pursued with an insufficient understanding?
 

tima

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Mar 4, 2014
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Hi, TimA. Very insightful as I think you painted a pretty good overall picture of the vibration mgmt sector including implementation strategies, products, materials, combinations, size differences, and ensuing results being all over the map. Though you did forget to include the routinely contradictory nomenclature used as also being all over the map.

In light of this all-over-the-map scenario you portrayed of what should be perhaps the most simple sector of high-end audio, I'd like to ask you a question.

What do you suppose are the classic symptoms of most any subject matter when pursued with an insufficient understanding?

Hi stehno,

Thank you for your comments. Personally I find the topic of vibration control or improvements from isolation a pretty complex subject.

What you asked is an unusual question for me. And it's a question that seems very broad in scope. And the way it is written, I'm not sure what it means. Subject matters don't exhibit 'symptoms' - at least I don't view subject matters that way. I'm guesing you mean what symptoms does someone - a person - exhibit when they don't understand something. If that is incorrect, please say your question a different way.

I think we, or at least I, need to be cautious about gauging whether someone has 'an insufficient understanding' of some particular subject matter unless they freely say they are looking for help or suggest they are new to the subject and want to learn. Then, take them at their word. For those who don't recognize or accept that they actually do not have an understanding of a subject matter but behave as if they do .... well, sometimes you just have to bear with them. There are folks, some here, who have a need to sound authoratative regardless of understanding - like continental rationalists with knowledge gained logically independent of experience. heh.

With respect to things audiophile, I say everyone has the opportunity to trust their own ears regardless of a level of 'understanding.' Start there, over time our ears often train themselves.
 
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stehno

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Jul 5, 2014
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Hi stehno, Thank you for your comments. Personally I find the topic of vibration control or improvements from isolation a pretty complex subject.

...

Oh, I've no doubt that vibration mgmt is at least perceived as complex. But the question is why? And, does it need to be? And why would you suppose combinations and/or sizes, including sometimes footers and sometimes not matter?

If the chosen method is deemed the superior performer or even the only game in town, then shouldn't that method's basic principles be followed consistantly at every turn? Considering these and other potential inconsistencies, might it be that the chosen method's basic principles themselves are also all over the map? If so, then are they even principles? Or might such principles essentially be -existent? After perhaps a 30-year presence in the industry I would hope that's not the case.

Also, among other things you said earlier that the combination and size possibilites are all over the map including sometimes footers and sometimes not, etc. Just how much R&D, education, and coin do you suppose might be necessary to isolate objects or to severe an energy conduit so unwanted energy can no longer travel?

For example. If I wanted to ensure my table lamp never illuminated again, I could take a pair of scissors and severe its electrical cord and instantaneously my lightbulb is now isolated from unwanted energy. No burn-in time, no settling-in time, no need to use a calculator to determine if the scissors are sufficient for the gauge of wire, etc. Can the act of isolating unwanted energy at least philosophically be more simple? If so, at what point do you suppose the complexity enters in?

BTW, Tim, I'm not trying to single you out nor put you on the spot as a subject matter expert. I just happen to think you did a pretty good job portraying vibration mgmt's current state of affairs.
 

tima

Industry Expert
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For example. If I wanted to ensure my table lamp never illuminated again, I could take a pair of scissors and severe its electrical cord and instantaneously my lightbulb is now isolated from unwanted energy. No burn-in time, no settling-in time, no need to use a calculator to determine if the scissors are sufficient for the gauge of wire, etc. Can the act of isolating unwanted energy at least philosophically be more simple? If so, at what point do you suppose the complexity enters in?

I have experience with, but don't claim expertise in, vibration mitigation or isolation. In your lightbulb example, relatively fixed frequency electrical energy arrives into the bulb via a known and relatively simple path.

In the case of an audio component there are multiple sources of mechanical energy and multiple paths it can take. The various parts of a component can generate vibration and be effected in multiple ways and multiple frequencies by it. The resonance frequency of a component changes depending upon what it rests upon. Multiple sources of floor-born energy can arrive at the component and those multiple sources themselves have multiple sources. Air-born energy - simply playing your stereo - can cause a component and its parts to vibrate. Electrical energy itself and the component's power cord are sources of vibration. So yes, compared to an electrical cord, this is complexity.

Just how much R&D, education, and coin do you suppose might be necessary to isolate objects or to sever[e] an energy conduit so unwanted energy can no longer travel?

Vacuum works pretty well.

Wrt combinations, I was mostly describing what people choose to do.
 

MtnHam

Industry Expert
Jan 13, 2014
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As was mentioned in a previous post, its not just external vibrations we are concerned about; some components generate vibration, particularly transformers which are found in almost every piece of our gear. Stillpoints are designed to absorb and convert this energy into heat, thus quieting the component itself as well as not transferring it on. There are a great many believers amongst us!
 

stehno

Well-Known Member
Jul 5, 2014
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Salem, OR
I have experience with, but don't claim expertise in, vibration mitigation or isolation. In your lightbulb example, relatively fixed frequency electrical energy arrives into the bulb via a known and relatively simple path.

Yes, the example was chosen to illustrate my point on the simplicity of severing an energy conduit to cease the travels of an unwanted energy. IOW, no complexity. Fixed or variable frequencies shouldn't matter. If frequencies matter, how many of these different frequencies are they telling us we ought to address?

In the case of an audio component there are multiple sources of mechanical energy and multiple paths it can take. The various parts of a component can generate vibration and be effected in multiple ways and multiple frequencies by it. The resonance frequency of a component changes depending upon what it rests upon. Multiple sources of floor-born energy can arrive at the component and those multiple sources themselves have multiple sources. Air-born energy - simply playing your stereo - can cause a component and its parts to vibrate. Electrical energy itself and the component's power cord are sources of vibration. So yes, compared to an electrical cord, this is complexity.

Yes, there are multiple sources of vibrations and resonating at potentially different frequencies and intervals. But that shouldn't change anything when considering a method's principles. Unless of course the principles are all over the map when dealing with frequencies. After all, vibrations are everywhere or omni-present and are constant or constantly vibrating and at different frequencies.

Not sure why but most only seem concerned with floor-borne vibrations because they're convinced this source is far and away the most harmful. This seems to me quite illogical but on its face it probably makes all the sense in the world.

BTW, I'd like to suggest floor-borne vibrations as a single source of vibrations just as we generally do with air-borne and internally-generated. IOW, 3 general sources.

Vacuum works pretty well.

Wrt combinations, I was mostly describing what people choose to do.

Understood. I actually couldn't zero in on which you were thinking of or both. But you seemed to cover things pretty well. But it really doesn't matter because it seems all over the map from perhaps any perspective. You don't suppose this all-over-the-map, the vagueness, and the complexity actually contributes to more product, more variety, and more and higher-priced sales, do ya? If so, I seriously doubt it's done so at the conscious level.
 
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