IsoAcoustics Gaia loudspeaker isolation feet Jim Austin October 2020

Jim Austin reviewed the Isoacoustics isolation feet in October 2020 (Vol.43 No.10):

Loudspeaker cabinets move in response to the motion of their dynamic drivers, especially heavy woofers—that's Newton's third law of motion. In principle at least, that motion can smear a loudspeaker's sound. The usual solution is to use spikes to couple loudspeakers rigidly to the floor—although those spikes must be carefully leveled and tightened to ensure rigidity; spikes that aren't sitting square on the floor are useless. A rigidly grounded cabinet has a large effective mass, so it will move very little, and smearing will be reduced. Sounds good, no? The problem is that when you rigidly couple a loudspeaker to the floor, its energy is shared with the floor, and that has consequences. Those consequences depend on the acoustic/vibrational properties of the floor, and anything it's coupled with. A suspended wooden floor has a different impact on a speaker's vibrations—hence, potentially, its sound—than, say, a concrete slab. As anyone who has ever put their ear to a solid surface can attest, surfaces themselves can radiate sound. They can also store vibrational energy and release it later.

Isolating a loudspeaker from the surface it sits on takes the floor's construction out of the equation. Designers have experimented with this. Magico offers M-Pods, designed for the company's M-series speakers; I've experienced their unambiguous effects when used with the company's M-2 loudspeakers. Q Acoustics uses stands with spring-loaded bases to decouple loudspeaker bodies from the floor. IsoAcoustics makes a wide variety of footers and stands aimed at reducing coupling between loudspeakers (and other components) and the surfaces they sit on, for both professional and domestic applications. Marten, the Swedish loudspeaker company, recently announced that their new Parker series—review forthcoming—will ship with IsoAcoustics "pucks."

These products are not interchangeable. They take distinct approaches and pursue different technical objectives. The Magico footers, for example, act as low-pass filters, coupling bass-range frequencies to the floor while isolating and damping higher-frequency vibrations.

Isolation, too, has downsides, at least potentially. A loudspeaker that's mechanically isolated from its surroundings will move more because there's nowhere else for the energy to go. As stated at the outset, that motion can smear sound. Heavier speakers—those whose cabinets weigh far more than their drivers—are affected less than lighter speakers. That's Newton III in action.

After witnessing an impressive demo at the 2019 High-End Munich show, I asked Dave Morrison, IsoAcoustics's proprietor, to send me some Gaias. He sent the GAIA-Titan Theis, made for loudspeakers weighing up to 320lb (footnote 1). I auditioned them with a pair of Revel Ultima Salon2s (footnote 2).

The Gaias altered the sound of my system unmistakably. The effect was more spatial than tonal. They reshaped my system's sonic space. A previously unnoticed soundstage curvature, wrapping around to the sides of my listening chair, went away or at least was dramatically reduced. What's more, while the soundstage already seemed untethered from the speaker enclosures, it became even less tethered: Center-fill increased, and the soundstage became more rectilinear, extending farther and straighter out to the sides.

I wrote above that moving drivers can smear the sound. Yet, I did not notice a reduction in transient smearing—no change in articulateness. Indeed, I noticed little change in, if you will, the sound of the sound. The changes I heard were spatial and they were not subtle.

It's worth considering that the designer of these speakers—the Revels I used to audition the IsoAcoustics footers—does not recommend isolation. I discussed my observations, by email, with Kevin Voecks, the designer of the Revel Salon2. He told me that in his experience, loudspeakers always benefit from rigid coupling to the floor. "Ideally, they would be glued to a concrete slab. ... All the evidence I have points to isolation as a negative, so I do not recommend it." In any case, the "Salon2s were voiced placed directly on wood floors, or on industrial carpeting glued to the floor."

But how would they sound on other surfaces? Would other surfaces alter the sound and possibly degrade it?

Voecks's view is certainly food for thought; many people would hesitate to modify a component in ways the designer disapproves of (although "modification" with the IsoAcoustics footers is, of course, completely reversible). Clearly though, Voecks's opinion is not shared by all loudspeaker designers: As previously stated, the designers at Magico, Marten, and Q Acoustics—and probably others I'm not thinking of right now—have embraced isolation in various forms.

I've been referring to the sonic effects of the IsoAcoustics footers with neutral language: "Altered" was the word I chose. So, was it an improvement? I thought it was an improvement overall, but both presentations—with and without—were valid.

I don't discount the opinions of skilled speaker designers, and I deeply admire Voecks's no-BS technical approach. Still, I liked what I heard.

Earlier, I mentioned the Magico M-Pods: Those Revels were replaced in my listening room by the Magico M2s, including the 'Pods. When he visited to help with their installation, Magico's Peter Mackay demonstrated the efficacy—Magic—of the M-Pods with a before-and-after demo, playing a high-quality bass-heavy passage of my choosing before and after the pins were pulled to engage the M-Pods' isolating and dampening materials. So, what did I hear? I'll tell you when I write my Follow-Up review on the M2.—Jim Austin


Footnote 1: $899 for a set of four. Robert Deutsch wrote about the IsoAcoustics Gaia-Titan Theis in the October 2017 issue of Stereophile. IsoAcoustics Inc., 39 Main St. North, Unit 5, Markham, ON, Canada L3P 1X3. Tel: (905)294-4672. Web: isoacoustics.com.

Footnote 2: See Larry Greenhill's review here and also my follow-up review here.

COMPANY INFO
IsoAcoustics Inc.
4981 HWY 7 East, Unit 12A, Suite 160
Markham ON
Canada L3R 1N1
(905) 294-4672
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
Glotz's picture

Loved them both.

PS- you forgot to take the tracing paper off of the floor once the footers were installed, lol..

Robert Deutsch's picture

Thanks! But I left the tape marking the position of the speakers in the photo on purpose. It was to show that, in doing a comparison between the original and the aftermarket footers, it's important to mark the position of the speakers. Also, I have another review of a floorstandin speaker coming up, which will involve moving the Monitor Audios from their present position, and then moving them back to the same position--and that has to be marked.

BradleyP's picture

I'm a huge IsoAcoustics fan, using a pair of the monitor stands to great effect. I'm glad to hear that the speaker feet are similarly effective. Cleaning up cabinet resonances that often aren't even obvious until they are gone reveals lower lows, focuses and improves the image, and adds delicacy and clarity everywhere in the audio band. It's not a subtle improvement. On a $15k pair of speakers like the Monitor Audio in this review, $1100 is a modest upcharge for the magnitude of the improvement, despite the expense in absolute terms for the actual materials involved.

If a grand is just too steep to justify for speakers that sell for a third or less of the Platinums, there are less expensive IsoAcoustics speaker stands that can be used for floorstanders that will deliver similar results. In general, a few hundred dollars of IsoAcoustics for your existing speakers will sound better than spending many hundreds more for speakers in the next tier without IsoAcoustics.

blang11's picture

Thanks for covering this product. How hard/easy is it to slide your speakers around after installing the Gaia's...say you change your mind about the ideal position after a while? Did you have any concerns about the added height of the speaker? Thanks!

Robert Deutsch's picture

Sliding the speakers around after the Gaias are installed is not that easy: they tend to stick to the floor. It's best to have help from a friend. I have not moved the speakers around from the position I initially determined: the improvement with the Gaias was so clear that I had no inclination to fiddle with the positioning. Compared to my previous setup, which involved using spikes and floor-protector disks, the speakers are about 3/4" higher. I don't see this as a significant issue. If anything, I think the additional height is a positive factor, producing a higher soundstage, which I like.

audiodoctornj's picture

Too many Audiophiles are going to read this review and think nah this can't be that effective. We received our first demo from the nice importers, we were demoing a set of ATC SCM 19 a heavy well damped cabinet on a set of sand filled stands.

We just used a set of their inexpensive absorbers which are $60 for a set of three, and we just lifted the speakers up and laid these absorbers on the stands. So you would need to only spend $120 for a set of speakers if you were to go this route.

The difference were immediately audible, the sound stage was more focused, and the bass was tighter, and the micro dynamics were cleaner with everything have more snap.

The footers when placed under a great set of speakers increase the focus dramatically, and again the bass tightens up with a greater sense of definition.

The footers cost $ 300 for a set of footers for 75lb speakers
$ 600 for a set of footers for 125lb speakers
$1,200 for a set of footers for 200lb speakers

when you consider just how large of an improvement that these footers actually make and how reasonable they are priced it is surprising that more people didn't know about these little wonders.

Mr. Deutsch you have done a great review and you have nailed this product perfectly. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Dave Lain, Audio Doctor NJ

Robert Deutsch's picture

Glad you found the review helpful.
Bob

romath's picture

Spikes engage the floor mechanically, which undermines sound. See Jim Smith's writing (including an article he did in Copper mag about this recently). At a much lower pricepoint, Herbie's Audio Lab has a couple of options: the Giant Cone/Spike Decouplers, which take the spikes or, better yet, their Giant Fat Gliders, that allow spikes to be removed. Both are likely at least as effective as the Gaia's, allow speakers to be moved easily if necessary, and go for a fraction of the cost ($263, $183 respectively for your speakers). The latter giant gliders did wonders for my 70 lb speakers, vs. spikes (into carpet). OTOH, I've found IsoAcoustics' small isolation stands, used under my desktop speakers (on top of wood blocks), to be a very cost-effective solution.

Jack L's picture

Hi romath,

May I ask how stand on spikes "undermines" the sound of the loudspeaker????

My 2-way KEF bookshelf loudspeakers are mounted on sand/lead shot-filled tripod on spikes on wall-to-wall carpeted concrete floor of my house basement.

They sound superb in terms of transient response, transparency, live-like soundstaging & precise imaging. Well balanced highs & lows.

In fact, ALL the components of my audio rig are seated on up-pointing steel spikes or acoustical cones, including my 2 tube power amps & 2 turntables since day one many many years back. NO kidding !

I always want to get the closest possible to original live performance of the music coming out of the loudspeakers as I attend live concerts frequently. This is how I judge any audio equipment - how livelike it sounds !

I can tell you, with the steel spikes (which I got them dirt CHEAP from hardware stores) & acoustic cones supporting all the audio components on my hardwood audio stand & loudspeakers on spiked steel tripod, I almost get there with some good recordings!

When the music is on, my loudspeakers sonically "disappear" & I can visualize the whole performance behind the back walls way way behind my rig !!!

For one of my CDs (cheapie $4.50 a piece!) of Beethoven Violin Concerto in D Major, I can visually see the violin soloist playing some 7 ft in front of me at left channel, with the full Slovenia Philharmonic Orchestra way behind by the back wall. WOW !

So my experience told me the dirt cheap steel spikes supporting ALL my audio components only bring the original live performance of my music back home. NO way they ever "UNDERMINE" the sound.

No need expensive brand name isolators, pals.

Knowledge is the power to achieve affordably.

Jack L.
Canada

romath's picture

I missed the comparison you did between spikes and, say, one of the the inexpensive alternatives, such as the SVS isolators.

How wonderful is the bliss of ignorance. Happy listening...

Jack L's picture

..... the inexpensive alternatives, such as the SVS isolators." quoted romath.

Never too late to switch over considering these hardware store spikes, being dirt cheap, & done the job right!

Being a die-hard DIYer, last thing I want to do is to pay big bugs to finance those exotic brandname vendors. I always manage to get around to get alternatives to save big bucks as I know technically enough this audio business. FYI, I am an electrical engineer with over 20 years engagement in the power engineering industries. I design/build audio equipment for decades.

Swear to God, these steel spikes work for my music big big times !

Yesterday, I picked up a used vinyl LP from a neighborhood thrift store for a buck: Mozart Flute & Harp Concerto, a 1963 Ace Of Diamonds stereo label.

WOW, it sounds so good like a live performance in front of me, with the harp visually playing at the right front of the soundstage & the flute playing at the dead centre. So airy with live ambience all over the place.

Thanks to the spikes which supported by the LP turntable, the tube power amp & the KEF stand loudspeakers.

Knowledge is the power to achieve affordably !

Jack L.

BDP24's picture

Now the question is, which are more effective---the IsoAcoustic GAIA or the Townshend Audio Seismic Pod?

Richard D. George's picture

Saw (and more importantly, heard) the demo at RMAF 2016 and RMAF 2017. Very compelling.

Don123's picture

Based on your previous review I purchased the PL300 II speakers and will now buy the Gaia's. Thanks for the excellent writing and advice. I love the speakers.

len on the hifi's picture

Thanks for the review. I just got the GAIA 2. For my Bowers n Wilkins 804 S2. The M6 bolts fit perfectly.
It does make an amazing improvement to the soundstage. These speakers are great and well worn in.
And they sound even greater now. Recommended buy b

Gnib's picture

I`m not a big fan of tweaks but this actually works.
Only the bolds are a bit too long for the Monitor Audio`s Platinums

972lior's picture

does it have the same effect on marble flooring?

Oldguyzer's picture

I have marble tiles (actual marble) and yes, they make a big difference. I don't think the nature of the solid surface matters as much as the isolation the Gaias offer.

Oldguyzer's picture

I've used the Gaias under my speakers (ProAc Response 4s in one room and Martin-Logan Monoliths in another), for over two years now, and compared them to spikes, cones, and other support gizmos (on wood floors, carpet, and tile surfaces). The sound with the Gaias is better in every instance, and while these are not inexpensive, they offer far more value-for-money than most of the optimization tweaks I've tried. I recommend the Gaias for any speaker system, but the effect they have on expensive speakers seems like excellent return-on-investment to me!

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