Recommended Components Addendum Power Accessories, Stands, Racks, etc

Power-Line Accessories

Acrolink 6N-NCT 30A Isolation Transformer: $27,500
The expensive dual-transformer 6N-NCT effectively isolates components from the outside world and can also isolate one component from another, allowing users to plug in both analog and digital devices. Adding the 6N-NCT to his suburban system, MF heard a "somewhat deeper, richer, and more solid" sound. A more profound difference might be heard in an urban apartment complex. (Vol.29 No.6)

APC AV S15: $1499 w/battery backup
The S15 is a comprehensive power source, conditioner, and controller that features extensible external power and isolated EMI/RFI filtration for each of its outlet banks. Voltage regulation is accomplished electronically and without the hysteresis or rebound problems of slower, motor-driven compensation. Protected even the heaviest of KR's loads while also eliminating gray colorations and intermittent chassis vibration. "The S15 made the bridged eVo6 into an even better power amplifier-a super amp." (Vol.28 No.9 Review)

Audience Adept Response aR12 AC power conditioner: $4100
The Adept Response provides power-factor correction, RF noise filtering, transient suppression, and 12 Hubbell high-conductivity power outlets. Each outlet is isolated from its input by one filter, and further isolated from the other outlets by a combination of two additional filters, allowing an entire audio system to be plugged into a single AR. BD noted a profound overall improvement in his system's performance, characterized by enhanced clarity, precision, low-level detail, image definition, soundstage size and depth, and tonal density. "A thoroughly thought out, well-designed, nicely executed manifestation of all that's currently known about power conditioning," said BD. (Vol.30 No.4 Review)

Audience powerChord: $509/6ft
"The wonderfully flexible powerChord, too, was a winner, significantly cleaning up the sound by lowering the noise floor, opening up the space between instruments, and significantly improving the system's resolution of low-level and inner detail." Though BD's reference, Synergistic Research's AC Master Coupler, offered better senses of space and ambience, the Audience was very nearly as good and much easier to use. (Vol.25 No.8 Review)

Ayre L-5xe power line filter: $1500
In an attempt to dissipate unwanted high-frequency energy riding on the AC line as heat, the L-5xe uses a coil of wire wrapped around a nonferrous core for each of its four AC jacks. "Its slight softening effect seemed to improve image palpability, three-dimensionality, and midband texture," said MF. However, the Ayre's "pleasing romanticism" lacked the believability of the faster and more detailed Shunyata Hydra 2, he felt. (Vol.30 No.7)

Belkin PureAV Home Theater Battery Backup AP30800fc-10-BLK: $400
Offers sinewave battery backup, surge protection, automatic voltage regulation, and surge-protection in/outs for three A/V coaxial lines, a phone line, and a network connector. Total capacity is 1200VA/640W with a backup time of up to 40 minutes, depending on load. KR: "Belkin's HTBB looks good, does the job, and, with a little Googling, can be found for less than its asking price." Emitted an audible hum, however, that became louder when on battery power. Current version has black finish. (Vol.28 No.9 Review)

Brick Wall PW8R15AUD surge protector: $259
This small, solid, black block is a series-mode surge protector rated for 15A loads and comes equipped with eight outlets in four filtered banks and a captive 14-gauge AC cord. Gave KR the sense that his equipment was safe from catastrophic insult without changing his system's performance whatsoever. (Vol.28 No.5 Review)

CablePro Noisetrapper NANA power strip: $350
Manufactured by Wavelength Audio Video and available at most Naim Audio dealers, the Noisetrapper NANA is an eight-outlet power strip featuring 12-gauge silver-plated OFC internal wiring, silver-soldered connections, and a hardwired, shielded power cord, all built into a nonmagnetic enclosure, and devoid of LEDs, MOVs, and filters which might corrupt performance. Plugging his entire system into this one strip, Art found "unambiguously good" performance: "My system was simply easier to listen to, and required less nervous energy on my part in order to convince myself I was hearing music." (Vol.29 No.3 Review)

Cardas Golden Reference AC cable: $628/5ft
One conductor group in the Golden Reference cord contains 119 high-purity copper strands, arranged in eight layers, and utilizing the golden-section ratio to cable design, ensuring that the mass of one strand in a bundle is precisely 1.618 times that of its nearest neighbor in order to dampen out-of-band information. AD: "Silences were silenter, sonic events were clearer, and the whole music-making shebang had an altogether more natural feel....Virtually essential." (Vol.29 Nos.1 & 3 Review)

Empower EM2100 surge protector/power conditioner: $1799
The Empower can be programmed to power up different components in sequence to meet specific needs. Having four outlets in each isolated bank, the user is able to efficiently organize various components, separating digital from analog and audio from video. In addition, KR found that the EM2100 lowered the quiescent noise level of his system by a small margin. "An extremely sophisticated and flexible power control center for a very large and complex system," he said. (Vol.28 No.5 Review)

Environmental Potentials EP-2450 Home Theater Power Supply: $1000
Environmental Potentials EP-2050 Waveform Correction Absorber: $750

The EP-2450, a lightweight, full-size chassis, has eight unisolated AC outlets that can pass 20 amperes of HF-filtered, ground-filtered, surge-protected AC, and comes equipped with a filtered and surge-protected coaxial line. KR used the EP-2450 to rid his system of noise generated from digital amps. "Reduced amp noise to effective inaudibility!" The E-2050 provides protection from AC-borne noise by means of a tracking filter, and uses a metal-oxide varistor to clamp and absorb surges. KR: "Examination of my house's line voltage on an oscilloscope revealed a smoother, cleaner 60Hz signal than before." (Vol.28 No.9 Review)

Furman IT-Reference 20i power conditioner: $3499
Furman Sound's top-of-the-line power conditioner provides four duplex outlets offering balanced and power-factor-corrected AC, as well as two duplex outlets offering unbalanced power for high-current-draw power amplifiers. JM: "The IT-Reference 20i is built like a tank, and worked flawlessly. It brought a slight lowering of the noise floor without any reduction in dynamics." (Vol.30 No.10 Review)

GutWire B-16: $99 $$$
Uses Schurter and Leviton connectors on multistranded, oxygen-free copper wire. With the B-16 in place, JM noted improved image focus and clarity. "A great value," he said. (Vol.31 No.10 Review)

HiFi-Tuning Silver/Gold fuses: $29.95-$44.95 each
These German fuses, distributed in the US by The Cable Company, have silver filaments, ceramic bodies, and gold-over-silver terminations. Mikey replaced the cheap fuses in his Musical Fidelity kWP preamplifier and was rewarded with a subtle but noticeable improvement in smoothness and coherence. The HiFi-Tuning fuses worked well with both the Onkyo A-9555 and PS Audio GCC-100, imparting a clearer, more dynamic sound, with crisper transients, said RD. Go figure! Available in various sizes. (Vol.30 Nos.2 & 9 Review)

JPS Labs Aluminata AC Cable: $3499
The Aluminata AC has three 8-gauge Kapton-insulated conductors and uses a Wattgate plug and IEC connector, both with gold-plated contacts. Along with the matching interconnects and speaker cables, the Aluminatas "brought a new measure of spaciousness, scale, smoothness, heretofore unimagined detail, and overall musical ease and naturalness to my music system," AD enthused. KR agrees with AD that the expensive Aluminata lowers his system's noise floor. (Vol.30 No.4 Review; also see CS's VTL review in Vol.25 No.11)

JPS Labs The Digital AC Cable: $349
Uses "very-high-purity" stranded copper conductors, insulated to a 300V rating and said to contain a special compound that absorbs and dissipates high-frequency energy. AD: "The Digital AC endowed the music with a better sense of flow and a smoother, more 'liquid' presentation....The sound was more open...with an easier, more natural sense of movement from note to note....The performance as a whole also seemed more dramatic and, in some spots, downright louder." He purchased The Digital AC to use with his Sony SACD player. (Vol.26 No.4 Review)

Kimber PowerKord 10: $20/ft, plus $130 for termination
ST uses Kimber Kords throughout his system, and noted tremendous differences with a Jadis Defy-7. But try before you buy, he warns. (NR)

Kubala-Sosna Emotion AC cable: $1100/m; $300/additional meter
A KR favorite. See "Loudspeaker Cables." Add $300 for each additional meter. (Vol.29 No.7 Review)

Panamax Max 2 Sub: $50
This tiny, "inexpensive and unobtrusive" surge protector plugs directly into an AC outlet, protects its own two outlets with a "protect or disconnect" function, and has two sets of similarly protected RCA input/output connections, as well as LEDs that indicate the AC status. KR: "Together with the Environmental Potentials EP-2050 whole-house protector and the APC S-15, the Max 2 Sub makes another small contribution to my peace of mind." (Vol.29 No.1 Review)

PS Audio Power Plant Premier: $2195
PS Audio's latest Power Plant uses a class-A/B amplifier with a high-efficiency tracking power supply to regenerate AC, and offers 1500W maximum output. It has a built-in harmonic-distortion meter and five pairs of nanocrystalline-isolated AC outlets distributed among three switchable zones. Noise is reduced by more than 80dB between 100kHz and 2MHz, and voltage is regulated between 105 and 135V. RD was thrilled by the results: "The music became more subtly detailed, the soundstage wider and deeper, the overall sound more natural, less electronic." (Vol.32 No.2 Review)

PS Audio Quintet Power Center: $495
Like the active Power Plant Premier, the Quintet has five pairs of isolated receptacles, uses nanocrystalline technology for filtration, and offers surge and spike protection. But as a passive device, it cannot fix a clipped AC sinewave, compensate for varying voltage levels, or reduce harmonic distortion on the AC line. "While the Quintet provided a definite improvement over raw AC, with greater clarity and less noise," it sounded slightly mechanical when compared to the Premier, said RD. (Vol.32 No.2 Review)

PS Audio Power Port Classic AC receptacles: $50 each
Uses terminal screws made of silicon bronze and internal contacts made of "high-purity" brass plated with 15 coats of polished nickel. All of the AC receptacles in AD's home that feed hi-fi components have been upgraded to PSA Power Ports. He heard "stronger music and blacker silence, with a slight, overall improvement in listening ease." BJR agreed: "The system reproduced far more midrange inner detail and delicacy. The improved dynamic range of the system was staggering. The system's noise floor seemed to have been lowered significantly....High-level dynamic slam seemed effortless....The lower bass seemed extended by another half-octave." And JA: "The apparent lowering of the electrical noise floor [from clean AC] is addictive." (Vol.26 No.11, Vol.27 No.3)

Shunyata V-Ray Version 2 power distributor: $3995
With the Hydra V-Ray in MF's system, jet-black backgrounds were accompanied by "a musical transparency and transient purity" free from any filtery softness. Compared to the Shunyata Hydra 8, the V-Ray offered a slight improvement in low-level dynamic contrasts. (Vol.30 No.7)

Shunyata Hydra Model 8 Version 2: $2495
The Hydra Model 8 is an entirely passive device that has eight cryogenically treated, silver Shunyata Venom outlets-two digital-specific, two analog-specific-on the rear panel of its hermetically sealed, box-within-a-box aluminum case. Fe-Si-1002 noise-reduction compound fills the space between the two boxes and is said to absorb electromagnetic noise. With the Hydra 8 in his system, PB noted "quieter backgrounds and inter-transient silences, and a more relaxed and organized presentation." "The best I've heard!" adds MF, finding in his review of the Musical Fidelity kWP-kW combo that the Hydra 8 proved to be "the real key to musical satisfaction," smoothing out the highs, tightening the bass, and adding cohesion to the overall presentation. "An amazing product," he concluded, "mysteriously good." PB agrees, adding that he wouldn't be without his Hydra 8. (Vol.27 Nos.1 & 8 Review)

Shunyata Anaconda CX: $2000
The top models in Shunyata's PowerSnakes line, the Anaconda Alpha (7 gauge, 45A, now called CX) and the Anaconda VX (9 gauge, 35A, discontinued as of January 2009) use cryogenically treated CDA-101 copper, a patented winding geometry, and hand-braided conductors. The VX, intended for use with digital and visual electronics and recording equipment, fills the jacket with Fe-Si-1002 noise-reduction compound for the absorption of electromagnetic noise. "Vaporized" fine layers of haze and noise, thought PB, while providing greater dynamics and detail resolution. MF is also a big fan: connected to the Ayre MX-R monoblocks, the CX version of the Anacondas "noticeably blackened the backgrounds, created more silence between notes, removed a milkiness . . . and improved the MX-Rs' already superb purity of textures and timbres." (Vol.27 Nos.1 & 8, Vol.30 No.7 Review)

Torus Power RM20 AC power isolation unit: $3000
Torus Power's Power Isolation Units (PIUs) combine surge suppression with massive toroidal transformers to provide AC power conditioning and protection from voltage surges. The RM20 uses a single 2400VA toroidal transformer to supply 120V and 20 amperes to the 10 AC outlets on its rear panel. It has a 20A circuit breaker for its On/Off switch and uses a 14AWG detachable AC cord rated at 15A/125V. "The PIU greatly enhanced subtle details of tone, timbre, and imaging when dynamics were extreme or volume was loud," said LG. (Vol.31 No.1 Review) K
Furutech FP-20, e-TP80, and e-TP60.

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)

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 $399 for a Frontier Series amp stand and rise to $7299 for a Dakota Collection LP storage unit. Custom items are also available. (Vol.32 No.2 Review)

Audio Points by Star Sound Technologies: $55.49–$119.49/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: $125/4
Now in a more reactive formulation in bright blue, these feet are the best means of isolating components from vibration. (NR)

Aurios Classic MIB component supports: $199/3
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, $199
Boltz LP shelves: $609 for a three-shelf unit; each additional shelf: $169 Surfing the Net (Review.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. (Vol.22 No.11, Vol.24 No.1)

Box Furniture Co. Equipment Rack S3S: $2300
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 ($2300). Beautiful and sturdy, he said, and equipment stacked atop it sounded good. Model reviewed was: single width 3-shelf rack in Quartered Sapele. (Vol.32 No.2 Review)

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 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, 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 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)

Critical Mass Systems Grand Master: $2395
The Grand Master is an attractive, rosewood-veneered isolation platform standing 6" tall and weighing about 60 lbs. Though it appears to be a single, solid slab, Critical Mass Systems claims that each Grand Master is a sequential arrangement of filters representing different frequency bandwidths. Various interface blocks are used to maximize the relationship between the platform and the audio component it supports. The Grand Master was most effective at filtering footfalls when used with AD's Thorens TD-124 Mk.II turntable, and provided compelling, lifelike performances overall. Length and width are made to order, with no extra charge up to 23" by 23". A high-gloss finish adds $350. (Vol.31 No.6 Review)

Finite-Elemente Pagode HD03 equipment rack: $6675
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 HD03 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 HD03 increased overall performance throughout. Cera component feet: Ceraball, $135/4; Cerapuc, $450/4. (Vol.29 No.2 Review)

Gingko Audio Cloud 11 isolation stand: $449
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, $120/set of 3; Jumbo Cones, $90/set of 3; Large, $60/set of 3; Medium, $50/set of 3; Small, $30/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: $1650-$6625
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 $3950; 4-shelf system, $5250; 5-shelf system, $6625; base module, $2500; short or tall module, $1650; amplifier stand, $1650; Formula Shelf Carbon-fiber/Kevlar composite shelf, $1100. (Vol.24 No.7, amp stand; Vol.25 No.12 Review)

Halcyonics Micro 40 Active Vibration Isolation System: $9500
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)

Harmonic Resolution Systems SXR component rack: $10,575, 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)

Music Direct record rack: $350 (2 shelf-version)צ$499; add $125–$225 for additional shelves
Sturdy, attractive racks with modular shelves of ¾" 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 cherry with black uprights. MF: "Designed by vinyl enthusiasts for vinyl enthusiasts." (Vol.27 No.6)

S.A.P. Audio Relaxa magnetic levitation platform Model 4: $595
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)

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 Energy Absorption Platform: $659
Symposium Ultra Isolation Platform: $659

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)

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: $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: $395/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 ($525) includes three large cones, five discs, and four 1" discs. (Vol.20 No.5, Vol.21 No.11) K
Bright Star IsoNodes, Composite Products CF-1000-5 equipment stand, Composite Products amp stands.

Digital Data Interconnects

Analysis Plus Digital Oval: $190/1m
Replacing his older digital interconnects with the Analysis Plus Digital Oval resulted in improved dynamics, and more low-level detail, said ST. Current version fitted with RCA, XLR, or BNC connectors. (Vol.31 No.10)

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 from Kimber. Also available for the same price in a 75 ohm version for S/PDIF applications, using Canare's true 75 ohm RCAs. (NR)

Canare DigiFlex Gold model RCAPOO3F: approx. $15.02/3ft $$$
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: $695/1m
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: $775/m, $210/additional meter
A KR favorite. See "Loudspeaker Cables." (Vol.29 No.7 Review) K
AudioQuest Optilink-5, Audience Au24, DH Labs Silver Sonic D-110.

Books & Computer Software

Channel D Pure Vinyl LP ripping software: $229
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. (Vol.32 No.3)

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: $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 Review)

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 Review)

Feickert Adjust+ computerized tonearm alignment program: &#euro;249
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. (Vol.31 No.10)

RPG Diffusor Systems Room Optimizer Software: $99.99
When MF moved to a new home with bare, reflective walls, he was faced with the problem 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)

XTZ Room Analyzer: $256
Includes a USB-connected microphone, a heavy mike base with a USB-powered signal generator, cables, software, and illustrated manuals in English and Swedish. Installation and use were intuitive. Kal enjoyed using the XTZ Room Analyzer for quick and easy identification of room modes and EQ adjustment. Along with measurement (and display) of modes and corrections, XTZ includes a competent RTA. Available directly from www.xtz.se. (Vol.31 No.11 Review)
K
FuzzMeasure Pro, SignalScope, and SignalSuite for Mac OSX, TrueAudio spectrum analyzer for Windows.

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