Recommended Components Addendum

FM Antenna

Editor's Note: No indoor antenna can compete with a good roof or mast-mounted outdoor antenna, but because apartment dwellers often don't have a choice, we list the following indoor models that we have found to work well: AudioPrism 8500 ($499.99, Vol.14 No.6), AudioPrism 7500 ($299.99, Vol.12 No.5), Magnum Dynalab 205 FM Booster ($399, Vol.10 No.6), RadioShack amplified indoor FM antenna ($31.99, Vol.19 No.11), RadioShack 15-2163 FM antenna (Vol.27 No.7), and Fanfare FM-2G ($99, Vol.20 No.12). Outdoor antennae we have reviewed and recommended are the Antenna Performance Specialties Sniper ($595) and Antenna Performance Specialties APS-13 FM ($199), the original versions of which were reviewed in Vol.19 No.3.

Stands, Spikes, Feet, & Racks

Good Speaker Stands: There are too many possibilities, but, briefly, a good stand has the following characteristics: good rigidity; spikes on which to rest the speaker, or some secure clamping mechanism; the availability of spikes at the base for use on wooden floors; if the stand is steel, provision to keep speaker cables away from the stand to avoid magnetic interaction; and the correct height when combined with your particular speakers (correct height can be anything from what you like best to the manufacturer's design height for best drive-unit integration). Though Stereophile hasn't reviewed speaker stands, it's not because we think they're unimportant—for speakers that need stands, every dollar spent on good stands is worth $5 when it comes to sound quality. Brands we have found to offer excellent performance are Arcici Rigid Riser, Merrill (see Vol.18 No.1, p.39), Sound Anchor, Sanus Systems Steel and Reference, and Linn. (Sound Anchor also makes an excellent turntable stand, reports TJN.) Interface material between the speaker and the stand top plate is critical: Inexpensive Blu-Tack seems to reduce the amplitude of cabinet resonances the most (see Vol.15 No.9, p.162 reprinted here)

Audio Points by Star Sound Technologies: $49.99–$99.99/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: $125/4
Now in a more reactive formulation in bright blue, these feet are the best means of isolating components from vibration. (NR)

Aurios MIB component supports: $215/3
RD highly recommends these footers. Of the latest 1.2 version, he writes, "Do everything the originals did, but leveling is much less critical." (Vol.24 No.5)

Ayre Myrtle Blocks: $5 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 Review)

Black Diamond Racing 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, $169
Boltz LP shelves: $529 for a three-shelf unit; each additional shelf: $149
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 $149 each, and you can stack 'em to the ceiling! "Really well-made and incredibly sturdy," reported The Analog One. Free shipping. (Vol.22 No.11, Vol.24 No.1)

Bright Star Air Mass 3: $199
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 Rack of Gibraltar 1 equipment stand: $2150
Bright Star Audio Big Rock 1: $279
Bright Star Audio Little Rock 1 Isolation Pod: $179
Bright Star Mini-Rock F VPI isolation base: $199

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. WP, 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. (Vol.16 No.5; Vol.18 No.11, Mini-Rock F; Vol.20 No.4, TNT Big 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 Review)

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)

Finite-Elemente Pagode equipment rack: $6195
This stylish, well-built, four-shelf audio equipment rack with integral vibration damping uses high-strength aluminum uprights, shelves and supports of Canadian maple, and stainless-steel hardware. Placing components atop the HD07 resulted in "slightly but consistently improved" focus, resolution, and dynamic precision. Installing a set of Finite-Elemente's Cera feet beneath a component, however, resulted in "huge, jaw-dropping" improvements in the same areas of sonic performance. Adding a set of Cerabases ($795/4) to the HD07 increased overall performance throughout. Cera component feet: Ceraball, $135/4; Cerapuc, $450/4. (Vol.29 No.2 Review)

Gingko Audio Cloud 11 isolation stand: $419
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, $100/set of 3; Jumbo Cones, $70/set of 3; Large, $50/set of 3; Medium, $40/set of 3; Small, $20/set of 3. Squares, $30/set of 3, $40 set of 4; Super Pads, $250 (19" by 17" by ½" thick); Golden Sound Pads, $150 (12½" by 17½ by ½" thick); Acoustic Discs, $120/set of 12. (Vol.20 Nos.11 & 12, Vol.24 No.5)

Grand Prix Audio Monaco equipment stands: $1499–$5999
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 $3284; 4-shelf system, $4750; 5-shelf system, $5999; base module, $2250; short or tall module, $1499; amplifier stand, $1499; Formula Shelf Carbon-fiber/Kevlar composite shelf, $950. (Vol.24 No.7, amp stand; Vol.25 No.12 Review)

Halcyonics Micro 40 Active Vibration Isolation System: $7990
The laboratory-grade Micro 40 uses eight coaxial piezoelectric acceleration sensors and electrodynamic actuators to provide more than 40dB of isolation at 10Hz and above, and more than 25dB of isolation to as low as 5Hz. It can support up to 220 lbs, automatically adjusts to its load, and, with a platform 16" W by 17.5" D, is ideal for use with a small-footprint turntable. MF found that the Micro 40 made a dramatic improvement in the soundstaging and imaging capabilities of suspensionless turntables. Expensive. (Vol.29 No.6)

Music Direct record rack: $299–$450; add $100–$150 for additional shelves
Sturdy, attractive racks with modular shelves of 3/4" MDF in lengths of 31" and 59". Steel backsplashes keep records lined up evenly, while a series of hidden support rods make sure they never fall over or bend, even when the rack is only partially filled. Available in maple with silver uprights or cherry with black uprights. Add $100 for each additional shelf. MF: "Designed by vinyl enthusiasts for vinyl enthusiasts." (Vol.27 No.6)

S.A.P. Audio Relaxa magnetic levitation platform: $795
Uses pairs of opposing magnets in each of four feet that are stabilized using a bearing/shaft mechanism designed to minimize mechanical contact. MF: "The Thorens 850's sonic charms only improved with the better isolation provided by the Relaxa. Image focus, and the subtlety and clarity of musical transients, seemed to be rendered more cleanly." Compared to the Gingko Audio Cloud 11, the Relaxa demonstrated less effective attenuation overall, but did a much better job of dispensing with motor noise. (Vol.27 Nos.2 & 11)

Sound Anchors Cone Coasters: $16 each
These discs, machined from a sandwich of stainless steel, Kevlar, and polyester, are designed to prevent speaker spikes from ruining your floors and to prevent vibrations from being transmitted through wooden floors. BJR found that using them with his Al;aon Vs resulted in greater perceived detail and "faster" bass. (NR)

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 Energy Absorption Platform: $599
Symposium Ultra Isolation Platform: $599

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 Review)

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)

Vibrapods: $6 each; available packs of 4
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: $325/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 ($425) includes three large cones, five discs, and four 1" discs. (Vol.20 No.5, Vol.21 No.11)

Zoethecus audio stands: $569–$1900, e.Shelves, $34 each; z.Pods, $140 each; z.Slabs, $200 each
Attractive frames carry e.Shelves (aluminum-topped, medium-density fiberboard), z.Pods (nine-layer, constrained-layer-damped), and/or solid z.Slabs, which rest on phenolic corner crossbraces dotted with Isodiscs to "isolate the shelves from floor- and airborne vibration." e.Shelves are best for mechanical devices like turntables and transports, z.Pods for electronic ones. According to MF, "the isolation part works extremely well...the energy-draining shelves seem to work as well," though he now says they "can impart a slightly 'squooshy' sound to some components." (Vol.22 No.7)

K
Bright Star IsoNodes, String Suspension Concepts feet.

Digital Data Interconnects

Apogee Electronics Wyde-Eye: $59.95/0.5m; $69.95/1m; $79.95/2m; $89.95/3m; $99.95/5m; $109.95/10m $$$
"If you haven't heard this 110 ohm balanced data cable, you're missing out!" crows LL, adding that it's "more transparent, more musically honest than any I've heard—and it's ridiculously cheap!" JA is also impressed, and uses 50' lengths for his Stereophile recording sessions. KR, however, while agreeing that Wyde-Eye is an excellent value, notes that it is less transparent-sounding than the (much more expensive) Illuminations (Kimber). Also available for the same price in a 75 ohm version for S/PDIF applications, using Canare's true 75 ohm RCAs. (NR)

AudioQuest OptiLink Pro 2: $350/1m, with AT&T-ST termination
Expensive ST datalink that JA and JE recommend highly. Excellent bass performance, with power, clarity, and dynamic contrast, says JE. Rich sound. ST terminations can be fragile, adds JA. (Vol.16 No.11)

Canare DigiFlex Gold model RCAPOO3F: approx. $11.12/3ft $$$
Before you try any of the expensive coaxial links, CG advises trying this inexpensive, true 75 ohm cable with Canare crimp RCA connectors. He rates it as his first choice in a digital cable at any price, even preferring it to the Kimber AGDL. JA uses the 110-ohm version in various lengths for CD mastering. (Vol.16 No.7)

Kimber Orchid: $580/1m
Expensive, but the best AES/EBU link JA has used. J-10 loved the Orchid's midrange liquidity and detail, but preferred Illumination's S/PDIF cable overall. SD (almost) doesn't equivocate: "Probably the best out there for now....A stunner!" RH and RD are also fans. New lower price usefully brings this cable in reach of more music lovers. (Vol.19 No.5)

Kubala-Sosna Expression: $925/m, $200/additional meter
A KR favorite. See "Loudspeaker Cables." (Vol.29 No.7 Review)

Stereovox HDXV2: $150/m
"Chris Sommovigo does it again with another and better and cheaper digital coax!" cries KR. This BNC-BNC S/PDIF cable comes with RCA adapters and is sturdy enough for a reviewer's constant reconnecting and neutral enough to reveal the subtleties of the connected equipment. "$100? I cannot imagine spending more!" decides Dr. Kal. JA

K
AudioQuest Optilink-5, Audience Au24, DH Labs Silver Sonic D-110.

Books & Computer Software

David Moulton's Playback Platinum Test CDs: $44.95 each if purchased separately, $159.80 for the set of 4
Four-volume lecture series that covers the fundamentals of audio from a popular-music production standpoint: Vol.1, Loudness, Compression, Distortion; Vol.2, Stereo Miking; Vol.3, Equalization; Vol.4, Digital Audio: Sensory Listening Tests. Each volume is on a separate CD, which comes in a hardbound, textbook-sized book that includes about 50 pages of additional text keyed to each track of each lecture. JM: "I'm impressed with how Moulton & Co. take material that has the potential to be dauntingly dry, and make it enjoyable and memorable by adopting at times a 'radio drama' approach." (Vol.26 No.5 Review)

Digital Recordings Audio-CD Hearing Test: $39.95
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 Review)

ELAC Technische Software CARA REL 2.1 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. Web: www.cara.de. (Vol.24 No.9 Review)

RPG Diffusor Systems Room Optimizer Software: $99
When MF moved to a new home with bare, reflective walls, he was faced wit the question of where to plunk the speakers? RPG Diffusor Systems' Room Optimizer Software—available from, among others, Audio Advisor—to the rescue. Plug in the room's dimensions (they must be rectangular) and the program will output the location where the modal response is flattest and the speaker-boundary interference is minimized. It'll also tell you where to sit! (Vol.22 No.11)

Visual Ears: $89, plus $3 S&H
Inexpensive but excellent computer program for PCs and Macs. Available from KB Acoustics, P.O. Box 50206, Eugene, OR 97405. Tel: (541) 935-7022. Allows an audiophile to move simulated loudspeakers and a simulated listening seat around a simulation of his or her room (in three dimensions) to find the position that gives optimal performance below 200Hz or so. (Vol.13 No.12, DOS; see "Industry Update" in Vol.19 No.4 and "Fine Tunes" in Vol.21 No.8, Windows.)

K
FuzzMeasure Pro, SignalScope, and SignalSuite for Mac OSX, TrueAudio spectrum analyzer for Windows.

Deletions
ETF 5.x room response software replaced by new version not yet tried.

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