2015 Recommended Components Miscellaneous

Miscellaneous Accessories

AI Technology ELGR-8501: $86.47/0.5oz.
AI Technology's ELG-8501 is thermal grease made of more than 80% silver. JM uses a light smear on the mating surfaces of wall-wiring connections to prevent oxidation. He warns: "Never use any kind of silver paste on audio connections such as RCA plugs or amplifier speaker terminals." (Vol.36 No.10 WWW)

Atlantic Technology WA-5030: $399
The WA-5030 wireless audio system comprises the WA-50-t, a transmitter module with USB and two-channel analog inputs; the WA-5030-r, a 30Wpc receiver with two-channel speaker terminals; a remote control; and miscellaneous connectors and power supplies. The only control on the transmitter permits the selection of one of three zones, allowing multiple WA-5030-r receivers to send signals to speaker pairs in different rooms. The WA-5030's success varied with the sensitivity of the speakers used, but produced a clean, balanced sound with decent bass extension when driving KR's small Paradigm Studio/20 surround speakers. Additional WA-5030-r receivers: $199 each. (Vol.35 No.11 WWW)

Audio Research Tube Damping Rings: $4 each ✩
Damping rings for all AR products are now available to the public at large. They're made of a proprietary polymer material that converts kinetic energy to heat, and their improvements are not subtle, exclaims BJR: tighter, cleaner, deeper, more dynamic bass; more coherent transient attacks; crisper, more extended highs; plus "improvements in the reproduction of subtle gradations of low-level dynamics." Give 'em a whirl—the cost is minimal. (Vol.23 No.2, Vol.26 No.8)

AudioEngine B1 Bluetooth receiver: $189
Like other low-cost Bluetooth receivers, the aptX-equipped Audioengine B1 is powered by a wall wart, and comes with an interconnect cable to take the line-level output from its RCA-jack outputs to the user's preamp or integrated amp. But the slightly-larger-than-average B1 adds an optical S/PDIF output, and boasts an effective range of up to 100'. Better still, as ST told it, the B1 offers considerably better-than-average sound, with its "natural harmonics, an extended top end, and crisp, clean transients. I have not yet heard a Bluetooth receiver that tops the B1. Consider this a rave." (Vol.37 No.12)

Audioengine W3: $149 ✩
Audioengine's W3 comprises two tiny modules, a transmitter and a receiver, each about half the size of a credit card and 1/4" thick, with a pigtail USB connector. Audio input to the transmitter and audio output from the receiver are via stereo mini-jacks. The modules reliably linked up with each other and were free from signal interruptions, audible network problems, and extraneous noise. Connected between the L/R inputs of Kal's Bryston 9B-SST power amp and the L/R outputs of his Anthem Statement D2 processor, the AW1 lacked high-frequency sparkle and midrange detail while sounding "surprisingly okay." The W3's sonic compromises were much less noticeable when it was used for the surround and/or bass channels. Actual model reviewed was the AW1, which could only transmit to one receiver; the otherwise identical W3 can transmit to up to three receivers. Current version redesigned to coexist better with other WiFi networks. (Vol.31 No.9 WWW)

AudioPrism Noise Sniffer RFI/EMI detector: $250 ✩
An "electronic detective in the campaign to eliminate noise," said Chief Barry Willis. "Simply plug it in and turn up the volume—its small built-in loudspeaker will reveal where your problem outlets are." Then you can turn to AudioPrism's QuietLine Parallel AC line filter for a cure. "A must-own product, period," says BD. "10-4," adds J-10. (Vol.21 No.12)

AudioQuest binding-post wrench: $12.95 ✩
A great idea improved—similar to the original Postman, but with a metal sleeve reinforcing the sockets. (Vol.20 No.9)

Ayre Acoustics Irrational But Efficacious System Enhancement CD: $19.99
Ayre's test CD includes five tracks of various white, pink, and brown noise, as well as two glide tones that sweep from 5Hz to 20kHz. The disc produced a less electronic sound in JM's system, while lowering the noise floor and improving microdynamics. "I am flabbergasted," said he. "Highly recommended."AD adds that this CD should be used "with caution, and with the understanding that, as with trying to measure a transformer with a DVM and unintentionally magnetizing the core, negative results may ensue and may take a few days to fade away." ST points out that "weird shit goes on in hi-fi. Don't dismiss it until you try it. I use this thing, too. Just don't play too loud." (Vol.33 No.12, Vol.34 No.2, Vol.36 No.10 WWW)

CAIG DeoxIT GOLD Wipes: $21.95/25ct; $39.95/50ct ✩
These small pads are made of a slightly abrasive textile that has been impregnated with Caig's DeoxIT Gold contact cleaner. JM uses them on the outside of RCA jacks and on the pins of RCA plugs to treat corrosion, oxidation, condensation, and general grime. JM: "A small but powerful stocking-stuffer...You'll feel like a pro!" (Vol.25 No.12, Vol.36 No.10 WWW)

ETI Bullet Plugs: $79 in copper (set of 4), $165 in silver (set of 4) ✩
Originally called the Eichmann Bullet, this RCA connector uses a clever design in which the hot signal is conducted by a hollow rather than a solid pin, and where a smaller, solid pin at the connector's periphery takes the place of an unnecessarily massive ground sleeve. AD heard "a more open and explicit sound" with a "deeper, more open, and more inviting" soundfield. Silver Bullet Plugs made the difference "clearer, more explicit, and even smoother." (Vol.27 No.12 WWW)

Focal Universal Wireless Receiver: $119.95
Measuring just 2.75" by 2.25" by 0.5", the Focal Universal Wireless Receiver is a Bluetooth receiver equipped with the aptX codec—which, according to Focal, allows a 4:1 compression ratio, for "near-CD-quality listening." The wall-wart–powered Universal plugs into any line-level input on your preamp or integrated amp; its captured RCA plugs are spaced 0.6" apart, to directly fit into any pair of RCA jacks so spaced—the alternative being to use the adapter cable (included). Either way, Focal claims a reception range of 10m/33feet. ST found it easy to pair all of his Bluetooth-equipped devices with the Focal Universal, and reported that "the sound was quite acceptable," but "not as dynamic, spacious, and extended on top as other, larger, more expensive Bluetooth receivers." (Vol.37 No.11)

Littlite LED task lamp: $98
The latest generation of Littlite mixing-console lamps provides high-efficiency, long-life LED illumination; a rotary switch selects clear white or red light. JM finds the 18" version especially helpful near a turntable or CD player. (Vol.36 No.10 WWW)

Outlaw Audio BTR-100 Bluetooth receiver: $39.99
The unambiguously teensy Outlaw Audio BTR-100 Bluetooth receiver, which measures only 2.5" by 2.5" by 0.8" is dwarfed by the wall wart that powers it. The BTR-100 comes loaded with the current aptX codec and supports AAC, MP3, and other streaming codecs. Line-level analog output is via a 3.5mm jack; the BTR-100 is supplied with both 3.5mm-plug-to-3.5mm-plug and 3.5mm-plug-to-RCA-plug cables. Outlaw claims an effective range of 30'. Although the considerably more expensive Focal Universal Wireless Receiver impressed ST as offering "slightly more spacious, more extended sound" with "cleaner, clearer, crisper transients," he enjoyed the Outlaw BTR-100 and considered it a high-value product, with notably better sound than its even cheaper competitors: "This one's a steal." (Vol.37 No.11)

P.W.B. Electronics Cream Electret: £20 per 15ml jar
The active ingredient of this nontoxic, odorless balm was discovered by Peter W. Belt to improve the listening experience by relieving stress. AD heard slight increases in nuance and force when he spread the cream under the front edge of his preamp, but heard no change in the sound when he spread the cream on his speaker stands. "No one with an open mind, a sense of whimsy, and $40 in his pocket should fail to try this tweak, which is made my two of the most sincere people in the industry," sums up AD. Write to foil@pwbelectronics.co.uk for a free sample of Cream Electret. (Vol.35 No.5 WWW)

P.W.B. Electronics Rainbow Electret Foil: £20 for three 170 by 15mm strips
These small (170 by 15mm), prismatic stickers are meant to be cut into smaller strips and placed directly over the "33 1/3 on an LP label , or over the Compact Disc logo on the label side of a CD. With the strips properly applied, LPs sounded slightly stronger and more colorful, but CDs sounded less involving and immediate, said AD. Write to foil@pwbelectronics.co.uk for a free sample of Rainbow Electret Foil. (Vol.35 No.5 WWW)

Quantum Resonant Technology Qx4: $2699.99 ✩
Roughly the size of a cigar box, this surprisingly heavy aluminum block has a pair of AC outlets and an on/off switch. Quantum RT describes the Qx4 as a "scalar field generator" that's supposed to emit an energy wave, the beat of which is calculated to react in specific ways with stray electromagnetic radiation. So they say. Though AD was dismayed by the technological explanation for the Qx4's effects, he could not deny the positive influence it had on his system. With a Qx4 placed atop each of his Audio Note AN-E speakers, Art's system sounded richer, more dramatic, and more involving. A Qx4 placed between preamp and power strip, however, had no consistently discernible effect. (Vol.32 No.12, Vol.33 No.1 WWW)

Riedel Glas Microfiber Stemware Drying Cloth: $12
From an Austrian leader in the making of stemware comes a high-tech microfiber glass-drying cloth that JM has applied to an even higher calling: One evening, after washing and thoroughly rinsing a smudgy CD, he tried drying it with the Riedel cloth—radially, of course—and was "amazed at how it made the CD's data surface shine." Available online, the Riedel cloth may be, in JM's words, "the best CD-drying cloth ever." (Vol.37 No.6 WWW)

Sound Alignment Systems by American Recorder Technologies, SAS-1335, P-770 Pro laser alignment tool: $300 ✩
The ideal device for positioning speakers," RD said energetically, agreeing with LB that it should be "in the tool chest of every audiophile who wants to get the best sound from loudspeakers." It's easy to use—just turn it on, hold it against the speaker's front panel, then adjust the speaker's position until the "appropriate toe-in and vertical orientation are obtained"—and is much more effective than "eyeballing the speaker from the listening position." (Vol.21 Nos.1 & 11, Vol.24 No.8 WWW)

Stabilant 22 contact enhancer: $55/Service Kit, includes 5ml concentrate, 15ml mixing bottle, applicator, microbrush ✩
Available from www.posthorn.com. Meant to strengthen electrical contacts while minimizing corrosion and oxidation, Stabilant 22 is a complex, nonconductive, block-polymer liquid that, under the influence of electricity in a contact, becomes conductive. Shipped in concentrated form, Stabilant 22 must be diluted with 99%-pure alcohol prior to use. JM recommends using it on all signal-level connections. JM: "Furthermore, it does not cross-link to form sludge. Pretty nifty!" (Vol.25 No.12, Vol.36 No.10 WWW)

Room Acoustics Treatments

Acoustic Geometry Curve System ✩
Acoustic Geometry's Curve System comprises Diffusors, Absorbers, and Corner Traps, each 42" high and available in a number of fabric choices. Each model is built on a wooden frame with a wedge-shaped cleat for hanging the product from a matching piece attached to the wall. Diffusors include a Mass-Loaded-Vinyl (MLV) membrane and are intended to control low- and midbass frequencies; Absorbers are essentially the same design as the Diffusors, but have an acoustically transparent front and don't include the MLV membrane; Corner Traps are triangular wooden frames filled with recycled cotton. In EL's listening room, the Curve System created a wider soundstage and greater clarity. Diffusors: $372.98–$593.98, depending on width. Absorbers: $320.98–$395.98, depending on width. Corner Traps: $697.98. Prices based on Guilford fr701, Anchorage and Acoustic Suede. All other sizes and fabric options quoted on individual basis. (Vol.35 No.2 WWW)

ASC StudioTrap: $499 ✩
Adjustable tripod-mounted room-tuning device that represents the "latest in TrapThink from ASC," according to J-10, who uses an array of StudioTraps to great effect in his Manhattan loft. The front half is treble-reflective for a brighter sound, while the back side is treble-absorptive for a drier acoustic. He highly recommended the Traps for "anyone whose family will allow them to populate the listening room with gobos." (Gobos are "sound-absorbing panels used to surround performers in recording studios.") Stereophile's "Accessory of 1999." (Vol.21 No.12 WWW)

ASC SubTrap: $469–$586 ✩
This "big, chunky black box" sits under a subwoofer to attack acoustic problems caused by the interactions of a subwoofer's output and the room's modes. Improvements in room acoustics were immediate, thought KR, even with the subwoofer disconnected: "There was less apparent energy from clapping, loud conversation, or just stomping around." With the system turned on, there was "less apparent bass energy from all widerange signals." With a Paradigm Servo-15 sub sitting atop a SubTrap, bass was deeper and more detailed: "Ah, yes—glorious bass without the boom!" Available in three sizes: 15", 18", and the 22" square model reviewed. (Vol.27 No.9 WWW)

ASC TowerTrap: $411–$1096 ✩
Originally called the Cube Tower, the TowerTrap is a "smaller, more cosmetically acceptable, more affordable version of the classic TubeTrap," writes BJR. "Very effective at taming mid- and upper-bass room anomalies. Looks like an attractive Vandersteen speaker sitting there in the corner." (NR)

ASC TubeTraps: $380–$1046 ✩
Relatively inexpensive but remarkably effective room-acoustics treatment. Tube Traps soak up low-to-high bass standing-wave resonances like sponges. WP agrees, using Traps to optimize the acoustics of his room for MartinLogan SL3 electrostatics, while BD used 'em to optimize his room while auditioning the Thiel CS7.2s. Using the Music Articulation Test Tone (MATT) from Stereophile's Test CD 2 (STPH004-2), he first positioned them for smoothest overall response and articulation, then "dialed-in depth, dimensionality, and ambience." A chart recorder graphically showed the changes. In the end, "The sound was fantastic," quoth BD, who recommends them unconditionally. (Vol.9 No.3, Vol.15 No.2, Vol.16 No.12, Vol.19 No.1, Vol.20 No.5, Vol.23 No.2 WWW)

Auralex SubDude II: $59.99 ✩
An MDF platform 23" long by 15" wide, covered with a carpet of thick felt and supported by two risers of high-density isolation pad, the SubDude has a rated load capacity of 300 lbs. KR found that the SubDude significantly isolated his Paradigm Servo-15 subwoofer from the live wooden floor, and made the sound "tighter and fuller, but, conversely, less obtrusive." When used under full-range speakers, the SubDudes offered similar bass results while affecting high-frequency performance. Current SubDude II has a lower profile than the original sample reviewed. (Vol.27 No.12 WWW)

Bag End E-Trap: $1758 ✩
Uses active electronics to control an acoustic device that acts directly on room acoustics rather than imposing anything on the electronic signal path. With its 10" driver, controls, and power amplifier in a box measuring 18" H by 13" W by 9.5" D, the E-Trap looks like a small subwoofer without input terminals. "While the appearance of the E-Trap is generally not noted, its effect on room acoustics is substantial," praised KR. It canceled out the superimposition of room modes, providing tight, clean bass while reducing the effects of ambient noise. (Vol.31 No.7 WWW)

Cathedral Sound Acoustic Panels: $199.95/pair
These relatively unobtrusive damping panels from Nucore measure 11" by 16" by 2", weigh only 4 lbs, and are designed to be installed in the corners of your listening room, 6–8" from the ceiling or floor. They are covered in a black or white fabric that can be painted to match the room décor. With the panels installed as directed, RD noted a definite improvement in bass clarity. (Vol.32 No.7 WWW)

Delta H Design Acoustics Zero Reflection Micro Panels: $299 each
See JM's review in this issue.

MSR Acoustics Dimension4 SpringTrap: $709
Meant to be placed in a corner and available in custom colors, the solidly built Dimension4 SpringTrap stands 46" tall and extends 18" along each sidewall. The front of the cabinet is a diaphragm of nine-layer plywood suspended by six precision metal springs and sealed around its perimeter by a rubber surround. Inside the cabinet are three tuned and coupled enclosures that convert the mechanical energy of low-frequency soundwaves into heat. A pair of SpringTraps resulted in significantly cleaner, tighter bass in KR's room: "The SpringTrap's effect on sub-100Hz room modes was immediately apparent and positive." After extended listening with the Dimension4 SpringTrap bass absorbers in place, KR concluded: "The SpringTraps have made more of an impact on my room/system acoustics than any other passive acoustic product I have tried." (Vol.35 Nos.9 & 11 WWW)

Ready Acoustics Chameleon Super Sub Bass Traps: $259.99
The Chameleon Super Sub Bass Trap measures 48" high by 24" wide by 6" thick, and is available in eight fabric covers and four frame colors, allowing it to be employed without dominating the view. Assembly and installation were simple. The Chameleons were "audibly and measurably more effective" than KR's Echo Busters corner traps, and produced "undeniable" improvements in the midbass and bass. (Vol.32 No.9 WWW)

RealTraps: $110–$600, depending on size ✩
With these fiberglass panels set up across the junction of room boundaries and in corners, KR heard major improvements in imaging, detail, and soundstage width: "Every sound in the room, real or reproduced, is more defined in character and location." While KR was greatly satisfied with the results, he admitted that the panels were visually imposing: "The stand-mounted HF MiniTraps are in the way all the time." MiniTrap, $200; HF MiniTrap, $200; MondoTraps, $300; stands, $80. (Vol.28 No.1, Vol.29 No.11, Vol.33 No.2 WWW)

RealTraps MondoTrap: $300 ✩
Corner MondoTrap: $350 ✩

The MondoTrap is a large (57" H by 24" W by 4.25" D) acoustic absorber built from "double-density" rigid fiberglass and covered in a sound-transparent fabric. In addition to imparting to bass instruments a "fuller, clearer, more palpable" sound, the MondoTraps seemed to reduce a "glaze," allowing Jim Austin to hear deeper into the music. "Far from deadening the room," he said, "the MondoTraps made the music more involving." "I really liked what the Mondo Traps did in my room," adds KR, "although I have to agree with Jim (and my wife) that their appearance better suits a studio or dedicated audio room than a regular person's lifestyle." Adding four MondoTraps to WP's small listening room resulted in punchier, more coherent bass. Corner MondoTrap, designed to fit unobtrusively into a corner of a room, costs $350. (Vol.30 No.8, Vol.33 No.2 WWW)

RealTraps Tri-Corner Trap: $250 each
These small equilateral triangles, 32" on a side, were the perfect fit for the lower rear corners of KR's weekend room, and increased bass response dramatically. "What a great idea! Completely inconspicuous bass trapping that made a noticeable and measureable improvement in my already well-treated room." A notable product for those with spousal and decorative restraints, he decided. (Vol.29 No.11 WWW)

Sensible Sound Solutions Fabric-Wrapped 2" Acoustic Panels: $70 w/standard edge ✩
Neat and effective sound absorbent panels, according to KR. Wall-mounted or constructed into corner/soffit bass traps, these come in a variety of GOM fabrics for high WAF. Other sizes and configurations are available. Custom edge details cost $5/panel. (Vol.29 No.7 WWW)

Stillpoints Aperture room panel: $650
Aperture room-treatment products from Stillpoints LLC, reportedly designed by the same acoustician who invented Sonex panels, are 22" by 22" wall panels that weigh 14 lbs and are just over 3" thick. They can be hung on the wall in the manner of great works of art or, as in MF's room, placed on a ledge—or even stacked one atop the other. The results, chez F? "Despite the fact that my room had already been well treated with Synergistic's HFT and FEQ devices, the Stillpoints made the boundary seem to disappear, greatly enhancing center-image stability, solidity, and focus—areas where I'd thought no improvements were possible." (Vol.38 No.2)

Synergistic Research FEQ, HFT
A concept that Synergistic Research refers to as its Uniform Energy Field (UEF) technology has found expression in three different system-tuning products: High Frequency Transducers, or HFTs ($299/five), resemble tiny, cylindrical horns; used as directed—ie, affixed with putty to strategically chosen points on a listening room's walls and ceiling—they are claimed to replace inharmonious with musically sympathetic resonances. With HFTs installed in his room, MF heard a "more open, spacious sound: there was less room in the room." Finally, MF quotes Synergistic's Ted Denney in describing the Active FEQ as a product that "generates ultra-low-frequency radio-frequency (RF) pulses that act as low-frequency dither to overpower a listening room's ambient fields of RF and electromagnetic interference (RFI and EMI) produced by a WiFi network, fluorescent and LED lights, etc." MF reported that a pair of FEQs added to his system a measure of depth, ambience retrieval, and transparency. (Vol.38 No.2)

Totem Acoustic Beak: $125/pair ✩
The Beak is a precision-machined, bullet-shaped device, about 2" high by 1.5" in diameter, that's intended to be placed atop a speaker to control parasitic resonances. When the Beaks were used with the GoldenEar Triton Two loudspeakers, highs gained clarity and extension, percussion instruments had greater presence, and voices became more tightly focused, said RD. "The improvement wrought by the Beaks was such that I wouldn't want to be without them," he said. See also EL's Totem Forest review in Vol.33 No.1. (Vol.35 No.2 WWW)

Stands, Spikes, Feet, & Racks

Art Vinyl Play & Display Flip Frame: $52.50
The attractive, sturdy Flip Frame is made of heavy-gauge plastic with a black or white matte finish and a clear Plexiglas window. The frame is hinged along one edge so that LPs can be quickly and easily inserted and removed without removing the frame from the wall. "The Play & Display Flip Frame makes a nice addition to any man cave," said MF. Pack of three Flip Frames: $139.95. (Vol.34 No.12)

Audio Elegance Furniture ✩
Audio Elegance's "aesthetically simple, sturdy designs" are available in three lines; in the upper two, Dakota and James River, only select hardwoods, softwoods, and multidirectional plywoods are used. Biscuit joinery is featured throughout, and finishes include catalyzed lacquers and hand-rubbed oils. Prices start at $319 for a Frontier Series amp stand and rise to $3959 for a Dakota Collection LP storage unit. Custom items are also available. (Vol.32 No.2 WWW)

Audio Points by Star Sound Technologies: $67.49–$149.49/set of 3
Highly polished point of solid milled brass, claimed to have been developed along the theories of Coulomb Friction, transfer resonant energy through the virtual point away from the component. 28 sizes and thread combinations available. (NR)

AudioQuest SorboGel Q-Feet: $99/4
Each cute, Q-shaped SorboGel Q Foot measures approximately 3" in diameter and stands about 1" tall in its PVC holding tray. Like Bright Star Audio's IsoNodes, Q-Feet are black, slightly squishy, and somewhat sticky, and are designed to absorb resonances and isolate components from external vibrations. Each Q Foot is rated to support 6.5 lbs. Because of their larger size and slick, rounded trays, the Q-Feet were far easier than the IsoNodes to properly place under the Music Hall USB-1 turntable. Atop the Q-Feet, the turntable seemed more stable and less susceptible to shifts, found SM. (Vol.34 No.9 WWW)

Ayre Myrtle Blocks: $8.50 each ✩
Designed and made by Cardas Audio, each Myrtle Block measures 0.618" by 1" by 1.618", in accordance with the golden-section ratio. Myrtle Blocks are meant to be placed beneath the actual structure of a component in groups of three. AD heard "subtle but unambiguously nice things" when he placed them under most components. Beneath speakers, however, "they robbed the music of so much of its emotional wallop that it was downright creepy." "In a properly run universe, these wouldn't work at all," sez WP. "In this one—and assuming every other sonic hiccough is attended to—they do help," though he refuses to speculate why. (Vol.29 Nos.1 & 3 WWW)

BDR Sound Enhancement Pyramid Cones: $20 each ✩
Expensive, but very effective," according to J-10. WP and JA, who generally use these whenever they need to support electronic components, agree. (Vol.21 No.6)

Boltz CD 600 storage rack: $279; expansion kits, $199
Boltz LP shelves: $609 for a three-shelf unit; each additional shelf: $169 ✩

Surfing the Net (www.boltz-usa.com), MF found these do-it-yourself racks: each is 48" high, 24" wide, just 6" deep, and holds 600 CDs! You can double or triple the capacity with the expansion kits, and the racks are now available pre-assembled. Now available as equipment racks, TV stands, and LP shelves. MF bought the LP rack, which consists of a heavy base and three shelves; additional shelves (3' wide by 10" deep) run $169 each, and you can stack 'em to the ceiling! "Really well-made and incredibly sturdy," reported The Analog One. Free shipping. Surcharge for signature "Clear Coat" finish costs $40 for the rack and $20 for the expansion kit. Anthracite Metallic or Black Matte Texture finishes are included in the base pricing. (Vol.22 No.11, Vol.24 No.1)

Box Furniture Co. Equipment Rack S3S: $2550 ✩
Box Furniture Co. racks have premium hardwood frames and plywood shelves. All joints are mortise-and-tenon, and catalyzed finishes are applied to all surfaces. Art used a single-width, three-shelf rack finished in Quartered Sapele. Beautiful and sturdy, he said, and equipment stacked atop it sounded good. (Vol.32 No.2 WWW)

Bright Star Air Mass 3: $218 ✩
Ingenious, inexpensive, and effective air-bladder product that damps out floor and air-borne vibrations, MF said. WP agrees. Originally called Air Mass 1. (Vol.20 No.2)

Bright Star Audio IsoNode feet, Extra Large feet: $49.99/set of 4, Large feet: $24.99/set of 4; Small feet: $14.99/set of 4
These small (1.25" W by 0.75" H by 1.25" D), squishy, somewhat sticky half-spheres of polymer are designed to be placed between a component and its shelf, where they absorb harmful vibrations. The IsoNodes effectively isolated the Music Hall USB-1 turntable from footfalls, and while they were easy to knock out of place when used beneath that turntable's pivoted feet, the IsoNodes were stable when used with other components, found SM. (Vol.34 No.6 WWW)

Bright Star Audio Rack of Gibraltar 1 equipment stand: $2150 ✩
Bright Star Audio Big Rock 1.1: $299 ✩
Bright Star Audio Little Rock 1 Isolation Pod: $179 ✩
Bright Star Mini-Rock F VPI isolation base: $199 ✩
Bright Star IsoRock 6.3S: $388

A very effective isolation system for control of unwanted vibrational energy. Individual components float on a sand bed for energy dissipation, and are weighted down with the Little Rock to minimize spurious vibrations. The payoff is enhanced resolution of the music's nuances, says DO. RN adds that this system consistently tightens the bass, increases sonic transparency, and smooths treble hash and grain. The Bright Star TNT Big Rock is a $275 sand table specially sized to support the TNT. MF, BD, and BJR all use one under their VPIs, as they provide a stable surface and offer such sonic benefits as a lower noise floor and increased bass. The Mini-Rock F is specially sized for use under the TNT's flywheel. KR placed each of his Bel Canto e.One amplifiers atop an IsoRock and encased it within a Little Rock for a belt-and-suspenders setup that had the amps almost glued to the floor, creating as optimal an environment as possible. "If you are concerned about RF and other nasties thrown off by digital amps," he notes, "these little guys will let you rest easy." (Vol.16 No.5; Vol.18 No.11, Mini-Rock F; Vol.20 No.4, TNT Big Rock; Vol.29 No.11 WWW IsoRock, Little Rock.)

Bright Star Rack of Gibraltar 2 equipment stand: $2650 ✩
Rigid, super-stable platform for audio equipment, and the "carrier" for the Ultimate Isolation System: air-base (Air Mass) and sand-filled damping platform (Big Rock) makes a "sandwich" of sorts. The Gibraltar 2, with its two-wide, three-high, widely spaced, large shelves, isn't quite ready for MoMA and boasts no neon lights, but "in its simplicity and quality it's attractive, even elegant," said BD. He recalled Louis Henri Sullivan, who immortalized the phrase "form ever follows function." Suitable for turntables, superbly built, and the best BD has ever used. (Vol.23 No.5 WWW)

Bright Star Ultimate TNT Isolation System: $2397 ✩
Simple, affordable, effective isolation system for the VPI TNT that combines a static pneumatic isolation mount with mass loading. WP noted that "high frequencies seemed clearer, less smeared—harmonics leapt off strings and floated independent of the fundamental...Bass sounded more deep and taut, especially sustained notes or anything in the bottom two octaves of the piano." BD agrees, finding that the Isolation System lowers the TNT's (already low) background noise, resulting in subtle but noticeable improvements in image dimensionality, ambience, and inner detail. (Vol.20 No.7)

Gingko Audio Cloud 11 isolation stand: $499 ✩
The Cloud 11 uses up to ten rubber-like balls strategically placed between two slabs of acrylic. Mikey's sample was configured for use with the VPI Scoutmaster turntable. MF: "Putting the Cloud under the Scoutmaster resulted in a dramatic lowering of the noise floor and an improvement in the 'blackness' of the background. Images stood out in clarified relief, bass tightened, transients sounded sharper and more natural. The differences were not at all subtle." (Vol.27 No.11)

Golden Sound DH Cones, Squares, and Pads ✩
With the Cones alone, J-10 "noted a lift in overall transparency, with a slightly tighter focus." Using the Squares alone, "the sound was softer than the Cone/Square combo...but nevertheless got high marks for a sweet and pleasant presentation." And in combination? "The highs and upper midrange were beautiful and open, the midrange had just the right amount of juice, the lower midrange wasn't boomy at all, and the bass extension was excellent." ST is also a fan, particularly of the Pads, which "wrought quite an improvement in sound under my Cary SE300Bs." Super Cones, $190/set of 3; Jumbo Cones, $140/set of 3; Large, $90/set of 3; Medium, $80/set of 3; Small, $50/set of 3. Squares, $36/set of 3, $48 set of 4; Super Pads, $270 (19" by 17" by 1/2" thick); Golden Sound Pads, $170 (121/2" by 171/2 by 1/2" thick); Acoustic Discs, $140/set of 12. (Vol.20 Nos.11 & 12, Vol.24 No.5)

Grand Prix Audio Monaco equipment stands: $1950–$8400 ✩
Despite their stylish, lightweight design, a four-shelf Monaco stand can carry up to 150 lbs per shelf, for a maximum total load of 500 lbs. PB: "More than anything else, the Monaco brought a sense of focus and a difficult-to-explain sense of calm" to the sound of everything he placed on them. Loading the hollow stainless-steel columns with lead shot produced another increment of improvement: "Backgrounds became quieter, low-level detail retrieval improved markedly, and dynamic contrasts took on greater subtlety and sharper contrasts." Using separate isolation footers under components only "muddled things," providing evidence of the "fundamental soundness of the GPA approach to vibration control." The amp stand is expensive but "works as promised and looks cool too," decided MF. A 3-shelf system costs $4850; 4-shelf system, $6450; 5-shelf system, $8400; base module, $3100; short or tall module, $1950; amplifier stand, $1950; Formula Shelf Carbon-fiber/Kevlar composite shelf, $2100–$2450. (Vol.24 No.7, amp stand; Vol.25 No.12 WWW)

Harmonic Resolution Systems SXR Audio Stand: $15,275 as reviewed ✩
The SXR frame system comprises solid, heavy aluminum struts and rigid shelves of cross-braced aluminum. Each joint is damped with a thick donut of polymer. Circular holes in each of the cross-brace's four corners accept the base's feet, which support its weight with an elastomer suspension that isolates in both the vertical and horizontal planes; each foot of a component whose weight is unevenly distributed can have a base with an elastomer of different compliance. "Adding the HRS SXR improved my system's focus and low-level resolution, and lowered its level of background noise," said MF. (Vol.32 No.2)

Magico QPods: $1310/set of 3; $1680/set of 4
Comprising a complex sandwich of CNC-turned stainless steel, oxygen-free copper, black-anodized aluminum, and a blue elastomer damping material, Magico's beautifully made, luxuriously packaged QPod footers are designed to convert vibrational energy into heat. With three QPods supporting his Ypsilon VPS-100 phono preamp, MF noted smoother vocal sibilants, improved soundstage depth, and better-controlled bass. "Now I don't think I can do without the stupid things." (Vol.35 No.6)

Skylan Speaker Stands: $285–$600/pair
Made by Noel Nolan in Alberta, Canada, Skylan stands use PVC posts with top and bottom plates of vinyl-covered MDF rather than resonant steel. ST uses the 20"-high, four-post SKY-P4 20 with his Harbeth Compact 7 ES-3s and Triangle Comete Anniversaires, filling the columns with kitty litter. Prices vary depending on height and number of posts. Four-post SKY-P4 20 (20" high): $531/pair. Twin post model for Harbeth P3ESR: $285/pair. Four-post stands for big speakers: $600/pair. Add shipping. (Vol.35 No.5)

SQ Products (Sound Quest) Isol-Pads: $25/4 ✩
Each 2"-square-by-7/8"-thick pad consists of two slabs of ribbed rubber sandwiching a layer of isolation cork, and is said to support 75 lbs. ST is in the process of putting them under everything. "I'm no tweaker, but they did clean up the sound wherever I used them." (Vol.28 No.12)

Symposium Rollerblock Series 2+: $399/set of 3, $499/set of 4 ✩
For improved resolution from your CD player (or any other digital equipment), ST recommended these precision-machined items, which consist of a block with a ball bearing set in a hemispherical depression. Once they're in place, he said, the sound "just tightens up, cleans up, clears up. I hear more low-level information. Imaging improves. Timing, too...Transients are crisper. I hear improvement in just about every respect." The only drawback (outside of cost) is that the player might "roll around a little" when you load a disc or hit Play. SD concurs with ST's enthusiasm; MF became a believer in the "high-roller" phenomenon when he put his Virgos on the similar Yamamura speaker bearings. (Vol.22 No.4)

Symposium Super Plus Platform: $699 ✩
Symposium Ultra Isolation Platform: $699 ✩

The top and bottom of the Ultra platform are aluminum, while the middle is made up of several unequal-thickness layers of vibration-damping material designed primarily to drain vibrational energy away from your component, rather than to provide isolation from external vibrations or footfalls. It succeeded at lowering noise and enhancing resolution, while bringing "an entirely subjective sense of ease" to listening, said JM. The less-expensive platform jazzed MF with the "top-to-bottom authority, focus, and slam" that his system gained when the platform was installed under his turntable. Prices are for 19" by 14" size; 19" by 21" costs slightly more. (Vol.20 No.5. Vol.26 No.3 WWW)

Vibrapods: $25/4 pack ✩
KR: "Placed under CD players/transports, DACs and preamps, the small (1"x3" diameter), formed Vibrapods isolate and enhance performance. Five different models rated for loads of 2–28 lbs; match the quantity to the component. I keep a box of them around so that no component goes without." A KR favorite. (NR)

Walker Valid Points: $450/set of 3 large cones and 5 discs; other sizes available ✩
Heavy brass-alloy-and-lead cones, with points that rest atop large, brass-ringed, lead-filled "tuning discs." "Definitely worth checking out," said MF, "and Walker will refund your money if you're not satisfied. (You must return the set within 30 days in the original condition.)" MF adds that "not only do I like them a lot, they're well worth the price—as I clearly found when I put a set under the Ayre K-1 and added a few of the discs on top." Combined height may be too tall for some racks. Super Tuning Kit ($625) includes three large cones, five discs, and four 1" discs. (Vol.20 No.5, Vol.21 No.11)

Complete Audio Systems

Bluesound Vault, Powernode, Node, Pulse, Duo: $449–$999
"Bluesound is a new line of whole-house sound products from the Lenbrook Group, owners of NAD and PSB. The Bluesound Vault ($999), which requires an Ethernet connection to the Internet, is an 11.5" W by 9.3" H by 8.1" D box containing an optical drive, a 24-bit/192kHz Cirrus-Logic sigma-delta DAC, and 1TB of storage. Inputs are Ethernet, WiFi, USB Type A, and, by means of an optional dongle, Bluetooth. Outputs include an analog RCA pair and digital TosLink capable of passing up to 24/192 data to an external DAC. The Bluesound Powernode ($699), which looks identical to the Vault but is slightly smaller, is a network player with a 24/192 DAC. The Powernode has the same complement of inputs as the Vault, while its outputs are a subwoofer-out jack (RCA) and two pairs of binding posts for speakers. The Powernode can operate with or without the Vault; in the latter case, the Powernode will access music files from the user's NAS. The Bluesound Node ($449) is—get ready for it—rather like the Powernode, but without (output) power. The Bluestone Duo ($899) is, in the words of ML, "a straightforward satellite-and-(self-powered)-subwoofer loudspeaker system designed by Paul Barton of PSB Speakers [and] meant to be powered by the Powernode." And the Bluesound Pulse ($699) is a 13.4-lb "network-ready boom box" that runs on AC wall current. With Bluesound products scattered throughout his home and with the system as a whole accessing files on his QNAP NAS, ML found the sound of the Bluesound "ecology" to be pleasantly rich and full, if, in some instances, a bit dark; with regard to the latter quality, inclusion of the Auralic Vega DAC restored the missing sparkle. "I enjoyed my time with the Bluesound components," ML stated, noting that the Pulse was perhaps the pleasantest surprise of the lot. (Vol.37 No.7 WWW)

Books & Computer Software

Amarra software: $89.99 ✩
The luxurious-sounding Amarra program (Mac only and in v2.2.3 at the time of the review) offers memory play, user-adjustable equalization, full compatibility with native FLAC files, a handy switch for comparing Amarra playback with iTunes, and a Playlist Mode that lets users bypass the iTunes interface altogether. Amarra had a naturally detailed and consistently involving sound with clean, extended trebles and a deep, wide soundstage, said AD. A free, 14-day trial version can be downloaded from www.amarraaudio.com. Amarra HiFi Music Player (the replacement for Junior) costs $49.99 and is an entry-level music player for use with iTunes. (Vol.34 No.7 WWW)

DeRemote: $4.99
Available from the Apple Store, this iPhone/iPad App provides remote control of LAN-connected Denon and Marantz A/V receivers. Versatile screen menus allow the user to see and control zones, inputs, channels, and various audio, video, and Audyssey options. A navigation menu offers management of external sources, such as USB- and Ethernet-streamed files, and displays associated cover art. "Anyone who has a compatible Marantz or Denon device and an iPad or iPhone should also have DeRemote," said KR. (Vol.36 No.7 WWW)

Channel D Pure Music software: $129 ✩
Pure Music (Mac only) can play sampling rates of up to twice the 192kHz limit of Amarra and Decibel. Like those programs, Pure Music (Mac only) offers memory play, automatic sampling-rate changes, and full compatibility with native FLAC files and in its latest version, DSD files. Going from iTunes to Pure Music, the sonic improvement was modest but worthwhile, with cleaner trebles and improved pitch certainty. Compared with the less expensive Decibel, however, Pure Music lacked some openness and clarity, decided AD. Using Pure Music in its Memory Play and "Hog Mode" settings for optimal sound quality resulted in a wider soundstage and greater sense of ease, said JA. A free, 15-day trial version can be downloaded from www.channel-d.com. Included with Channel D's Pure Vinyl Version 3.0. (Vol.33 No.8; Vol.34 Nos.7 & 9 WWW)

Channel D Pure Vinyl LP ripping software: $299 ✩
Used with a microphone preamp or non-RIAA phono preamp, Channel D's Pure Vinyl digitizes vinyl LPs at 24-bit/192kHz resolution and applies the RIAA or other EQ curves in the digital domain, where there's no interchannel phase shift, capacitor distortion, additional noise, or component variability. Record mode allows the user to apply over 50 EQ curves or create custom EQ settings; Editor mode allows the user to insert track breaks or remove surface noise. CDs made with Pure Vinyl sounded "much better" than those made with the Alesis Masterlink, said MF. Compared to the original LPs, the digitized versions lacked a touch of body but sounded "very analog-like." Compatible only with Apple Macintosh computers. Version 3.0 includes Channel D's Pure Music front-end program for iTunes. "Pure Vinyl will change the musical lives of collectors with large collections of pre-1954 discs," said MF. (Vol.32 No.3; Ver. 3.0, Vol.33 No.8 WWW)

Decibel software: $33 $$$ ✩
Unlike Pure Music and Amarra, Decibel (Mac only and in v1.2.4 at the time of the review) can be used without launching iTunes at all. Memory play and other options are selectable via pull-down menus, FLAC files are decoded natively, and sampling-rate changes are handled automatically. Its graphical user interface is plain and simple, and its playback engine accessed the music files in AD's iTunes library without a problem. Decibel removed haze and artifice from the highest treble range, and cleaned up the sound overall, making pitches and timbral colors clearer and more distinct. Compared to Pure Music, Decibel sounded clearer and more open. "The best $33 I ever spent," decided AD. A free, limited-time demo can be downloaded from www.sbooth.org. Requires Mac OS10.6. (Vol.34 Nos.7 & 9 WWW)

Digital Recordings Audio-CD Hearing Test: $49.95 ✩
This system permits useful evaluation of hearing thresholds with only a CD player and a pair of headphones. KR reported that it reveals any significant gaps in your hearing. (His own results were "close to ideal, especially considering my age and usual haunts." Whew.) "Ever wonder why others don't hear what you do? This simple test will tell you, even though you may not like the answer." Such a card. (Vol.23 No.1 WWW)

ELAC Technische Software CARA REL 2.2 Plus program: $74.95 ✩
To use CARA, one must create a full three-dimensional model of the listening room, using the program's CARACAD module. KR: "By 'full,' I mean that all room dimensions and surfaces are defined: doors, windows, furniture, soffits, bays, etc." Kal found it time-effective to reduce the complexity of the model (eg, remove smaller objects) and the order of reflections (3–4) for the early iterations, at which point the number of possible speaker and user positions is large—an 800MHz Pentium III can take 48 hours or more to run even that modest a set of variables. "Several simplified runs will tell you which arrangements deserve more investigation. After that, you can limit the range of positions for speakers and listener while progressively increasing the number of reflections and adding more feature details, as a confirmation of the optimum arrangement." Checking predictions against the results with ETF or with TacT RCS measurements confirmed CARA's conclusions to an amazing degree. KR: "Wouldn't you like to know how well a speaker might work in your room before you buy it? I would." Runs under Windows. Version reviewed was 2.0; 2009 version is 2.2. Web: www.cara.de. (Vol.24 No.9 WWW)

Feickert Adjust+ computerized tonearm alignment program: $350 ✩
The Adjust+ software, sold direct from Germany, is Windows-compatible (Feickert recommends a 2GHz Intel Premium 4 or AMD Athlon 2000+ processor) and requires a soundcard capable of 24-bit/96kHz analog-to-digital conversion or an outboard USB box. Though Mikey had trouble with its instruction manual, he used Adjust+ to set his tonearm's azimuth, calculate his 'table's speed accuracy, measure wow and flutter, and determine the frequency response of his cartridge. "It's a powerful tool in the analog-setup arsenal, and when its manual has been rewritten in clear English, I'll be able to highly recommend it," he concluded. Only available from the manufacturer's website in Germany. Pro version with more features is available for $750; standard version can be upgraded. (Vol.31 No.10)

XTZ Room Analyzer II Pro: $360
The XTZ Room Analyzer II Pro comes as a kit in a nice aluminum case that includes a microphone, stand, and tripod adjusters; a USB preamp with XLR connections; two 20' XLR cables; a tabletop tripod; and a USB memory stick. The II Pro software includes everything from the original Room Analyzer and adds a sophisticated SPL meter, a delay alignment function, and frequency and room-analysis functions. Hardware improvements include a dedicated USB preamplifier and a more accurate microphone. "XTZ remains the least expensive, easiest-to-use package of software and hardware for acoustical analysis of a room and system," said KR, adding that "with higher resolution and more features than its predecessors, it has supplanted them as my Go-To acoustic measurement set." (Vol.35 No.5 WWW; earlier version was reviewed in Vol.31 No.11 and Vol.32 No.11 WWW)


Audirvana, JRiver Media Center 20, Vinyl Studio, FuzzMeasure Pro, SignalScope, and SignalSuite for Mac OSX, Studio Six AudioTools app for iPhone/iPad, TrueAudio spectrum analyzer for Windows.

dalethorn's picture

Interesting that Digital Processors and Signal Processors are separate categories, given that I encounter the term 'DSP' (Digital Signal Processor) so often. Maybe it's a hardware-software thing.

corrective_unconscious's picture

The digital processors are DACs or things to route digital sound somewhere. There is some overlap if there's a CD player with inputs to its DAC, and some overlap with preamp/DACs, some of which of those might have some additional, secondary digital EQ functions.

The signal processors are mostly about varieties of digital EQ, with again a few hybrid products having some secondary functions.

The separation seems clear enough to me. It is the whole universe of modern audio which seems complex, i.e., the products themselves.

John Atkinson's picture
dalethorn wrote:
Interesting that Digital Processors and Signal Processors are separate categories, given that I encounter the term 'DSP' (Digital Signal Processor) so often.

The Digital Processors category is almost exclusively digital/analog converters. The Signal Processors category is reserved for things that do something to the signal and includes analog-domain processors, such as the BSG Q0L.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

dalethorn's picture

I'm going to profess a bit of ignorance here, so .... one of the places where DSP or some variant shows up in my world is related to music players such as built into the Pono device, or in computer software such as Foobar2000 etc. The great thing about EQ included in these players (or as plug-in software) is that the digital data gets EQ'd before it hits the DAC, so that whatever DAC or amp is used, the EQ remains constant in playback. Ignoring any negative impact on the EQ due to which peripherals are used, I've always assumed that EQ pre-applied to the digital data as described will reduce the resolution of the playback. If that's true, are there common analog EQ solutions that would provide better sound?

tdixon's picture

Does this mean there are no plans for an app being released like there were in previous years?

John Atkinson's picture
tdixon wrote:
Does this mean there are no plans for an app being released like there were in previous years?

Unfortunately, that's correct. No plans. However, this website reprint replaces the standalone free app.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Dushyant's picture

From your comments prefacing the Recommended Loudspeakers 2015, I understand that category A (Full Range) has LF extension down to 20Hz. What about B (Full Range) and C (Full Range)? Do they also need to have LF extension down to 20Hz? If not, what is the LF extension for inclusion? For the restricted LF I assume that LF extension is to 40Hz for all categories. Clarification will be helpful and appreciated.


leesure's picture

Despite there being 25 Class A preamps, there are only 2 Class B preamplifiers (both from the same company) and NO class C Preamps? There are 18 Class A Power Amps and Zero Class C or D Power Amps? I thought, "Perhaps there are just no products that fit those categories any more. No more Adcom's. No more B&K's." But then I looked around and found that there ARE musically satisfying budget electronics.

So I am left to wonder...do they no longer submit their products for review or is Stereophile no longer interested in reviewing them?

I began reading Stereophile in my 20's when there was no way I could even consider a $10,000 amplifier. I aspired to a system like that, but also loved reading about gear that I could stretch to afford. I loved building a musically satisfying SYSTEM for well under $10,000. Had I only been able to read about the gear that was so far out of reach, I would likely have dropped the hobby altogether. Without the bridge, I would never have been able to get across to the ultimate destination. That bridge is being taken away from the next generation of Audiophiles.

I think that's a real shame.

Christopher Mankiewicz's picture

Kal, Please let me know. Thanks, Chris