Recommended Components: Fall 2020 Edition Miscellaneous Accessories

Miscellaneous Accessories

Audio Research Tube Damping Rings: $5 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)

AudioQuest binding-post wrench: $17.95
A great idea improved—similar to the original Postman, but with a metal sleeve reinforcing the sockets. (Vol.20 No.9)

AudioQuest JitterBug: $69.95 $$$
With its USB Type A jack at one end and USB Type A plug at the other, the AudioQuest JitterBug is scarcely larger than the memory stick it resembles, yet its internal multilayer circuit board is packed with tiny surface-mount resistors, capacitors, and what appeared to JA to be common-mode chokes. The purely passive JitterBug, which is claimed by AudioQuest to remove noise currents and parasitic resonances from both the data and power conductors in USB ports, is intended to go between the computer and the USB DAC of a computer-music system; a second JitterBug, plugged into an unused USB socket on the computer, is said by the manufacturer to confer additional benefits. After using the JitterBug with his Mac mini, JA wrote, "I wasn't expecting the degree of improvement the JitterBug wrought with the first recording I played." He reported that low frequencies gained authority, applause sounded more like hands clapping than generic noise, and that once-clangorous pianos sounded, in the same challenging passages, more natural and smooth. From his test bench JA wrote, resignedly, that his measurements "didn't reveal why using the JitterBug improved the sound—which it most certainly did." ML started down this road by plugging JitterBugs into four USB sockets in his computer-audio rig. Upon removing all four, he heard a subtle loss of clarity. Reintroducing the 'Bugs one at a time, ML noted the most dramatic improvement with one, and a lesser but still appreciable refinement with a second—but after that, the "very subtle sonic gains" weren't worth the extra money: "One JitterBug = good. Two JitterBugs = better." Just when we thought there was nothing more to say about the AudioQuest JitterBug, KR tried it and wrote that he could hear its positive effect on a USB DAC's analog output: "When I removed the JitterBug, I missed it." (Vol.38 Nos.9 & 11, Vol.39 No.1 WWW)

Ayre Acoustics Irrational But Efficacious System Enhancement CD: $20
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: $24.95/25ct, $44.95/50ct
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 Copper LINK (Bullet) Plugs: $119 (pack of 4) ETI Silver LINK: $249 (pack 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)

iFi Audio Intona USB 3.0 Galvanic Isolator & cable: $379
This small module fits between a source component's USB Type A port and a D/A processor's USB Type B port. When HR first used it with the HoloAudio May processor, he "jumped back," he wrote. "The sound changed more than I expected it would." When he removed the Intona, "the soundstage was drier, flatter, and smaller. Instruments sounded plain. Reverberation on the recording was noticeably reduced. Music was less intoxicating." JA found no measurable differences in the output resulting from inserting the Intona between a MacBook Pro and various D/A processors. (Vol.43 No.8 WWW)

iFi iPower (5V, 9V, 12V, 15V): $49
The iPower is an ostensibly perfectionist-quality wall wart, said by manufacturer iFi to produce very little noise. The buyer selects the iPower whose output most closely matches the playback gear in question, the choices being 5, 9, 12, and 15V; beyond that, this wart is virtually universal: the AC end accepts any of four AC plugs (supplied), so that the iPower can be used almost anywhere 100240VAC is available. Its DC cable is terminated in a 5.5 by 2.1mm DC connector—but again, iFi supplies adapters for an addition three sizes (3.5 by 1.35mm, 4.0 by 1.7mm, and 5.5 by 2.5mm), along with a polarity inverter for devices requiring a center-negative supply. Can a better wart make for better sound? According to KR, "recordings with open, ambient soundstages sounded cleaner, and both instrumental and vocal music was more distinct. This was no major change that struck me every time I listened, but it did make all of my listening much more relaxing." (Vol.39 No.3 WWW)

Littlite L-18-LED: $99.95
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)

Nordost 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)

SOtM tX-USBhubIn: $350
This horribly named accessory, which requires power from the SATA interface of the computer or computer-based server into which it is plugged (a SATA Y-connector may be required), is a USB repeater intended to preserve the integrity of the signal reaching an associated USB DAC. In KR's estimation, the tX-USBhubIn "made an easily audible improvement in the sound of a system that I'd already thought sounded entirely satisfying." (Vol.39 No.1 WWW)

UpTone Audio USB Regen: $175
UpTone Audio's USB Regen is a wall-wartpowered accessory designed to regenerate both a USB datastream and the USB bus's 5VDC before either makes its way to the DAC in a computer-audio setup. Intended to be installed between the user's computer and DAC—UpTone advises siting the Regen as close as possible to the latter, and includes a solid male-to-male adapter to enable this—the Regen is built into a sturdy aluminum case just slightly larger than a Fig Newton. (The Regen's wall wart is about three times the size of the Regen itself, and is of higher-than-average quality.) As for the Regen's audible effect on a computer-audio system, ML said, "Wow: not subtle," and described the Regen as the most effective such accessory he'd tried. Commenting on the effects of the UpTone Regen on one of his multichannel systems, KR wrote, "all hints of the abiding brightness were eliminated and, as a result, the frequency balance was smooth and unaccented." In a Follow-Up, and JA found that the Regen made no measureable difference in the output signal of an associated USB DAC. He also discovered that installing the Regen without first deselecting the associated DAC as an output device and twice relaunching the file-playing software—once before adding the Regen, and again after installing it and reselecting the DAC—served to prevent his system from playing high-resolution files at anything higher than 16-bit/44.1kHz. Whee! (Vol.38 No.11 WWW)

Deletions
AI Technology ELGR-8501, Audioprism Noise Sniffer, Playback Designs USB-XIII Audio Interface, Stabilant 22 contact enhancer, no longer available. GoldenSound GS cones replaced by a newer model not yet reviewed.

Room Acoustics Treatment

Acoustic Geometry Small Curve: $399.99 ★
Medium Curve: $449.99 ★
Deluxe Curve, Walnut Frame: $549.99 ★
Deluxe Curve, Red Oak, Stained Black Frame: $549.99 ★

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: $339.98–$639.98, 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: $589
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: $659-$839
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 wide range 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: $459–$1046
Relatively inexpensive but remarkably effective room-acoustics treatment. TubeTraps 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 them 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: $70.99 ★
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 300lb. 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: $1760 ★
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)

DHDI ZR Micro Twin V3.0: $888 ★
ZR Sample Rate 8 Bit: $383 ★

Delta H Design, Inc., or DHDI, is an acoustics and architecture firm in Los Angeles County that manufactures room-treatment products for the professional and domestic markets. Two of the latter are from DHDI's Zero Reflection line: the ZR Micro Micro Twin], which measures 24" by 48" x 1.25" and is covered with fabric, is intended for placement directly behind one's speakers, while the curiously and clunkily named ZR Sample Rate 8 Bit ($383) is a 20" by 40" by 0.75" sheet of MDF into which has been CNC-carved an intricate pattern of ridges. After treating his room with two ZR Micros and three ZR Sample Rate 8 Bits, JM noted an appreciable improvement in sound: "I loved it. Indeed, I was taken aback at how much of an improvement I heard." (Vol.38 No.4 WWW)

MSR Acoustics Dimension4 SpringTrap: $930 ★
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)

PSI AVAA C20 electronic bass trap: $2580 each ★
In a field dominated by DSP products, the AVAA C20 stands out: this response-correction device uses pure analog technology. Inside the AVAA C20—its name stands for Active Velocity Acoustic Absorber—is a microphone, a perforated membrane, a velocity transducer, and an amplifier with feedforward and feedback. In principle, the C20 converts incoming pressure waves into velocity waves, thus absorbing them. It is said to work on pressure waves between 15 and 150Hz without affecting other frequencies—and more than one C20 can be used in a given room. In a guest review for Stereophile, acclaimed mastering engineer Bob Katz described the AVAA effect as more of polishing than "fixing" per se, and praised the active C20 for working well in tandem with his more traditional (and sizable) passive trapping products. (Vol.39 No.6 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 MondoTrap: $320 ★ Corner MondoTrap: $370 ★
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: $130–$600, depending on size and type ★
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)

Stillpoints Aperture II acoustic panel: $800 (any color)
A refinement of the original Stillpoints Aperture—a 22" square wall-mounted room-treatment panel said to act as a diffuser, an absorber, and a resonator—the Aperture II is lighter in weight and easier to mount. According to MF, it's also better looking—and even more effective: "The illusion of my room's sidewall boundaries disappearing became even more convincing." (Vol.42 No.6)

Synergistic Research HFT 5 pack: $299 HFT 10 pack: $499
FEQ X4: $995
Atmosphere Infinity with Red ATM: $3495

A technology that Synergistic Research calls Uniform Energy Field (UEF) has found its expression in various system-tuning products: the High-Frequency Transducer (HFT), sold in packs of five or 10, resembles a tiny, cylindrical horn; used as directed—ie, adhered with putty to strategically chosen points on one's listening-room walls and ceiling—it's claimed to replace inharmonious resonances with musically sympathetic ones. With HFTs installed in his room, MF heard a "more open, spacious sound: there was less room in the room." MF quotes Synergistic's Ted Denney in describing the company's 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's sound a measure each of depth, ambience retrieval, and transparency. Finally, Synergistic's Atmosphere results from Denney's observation that playback systems sound best late at night, and his theory that human-generated and solar RF might be the culprits; the 39"-tall, electrically powered Atmosphere generates very-low-frequency waves to counter those ill effects, and is adjustable in order to optimize the sound of the user's listening environment. MF said the Atmosphere worked as advertised, but "in subtle ways that I found hardly profound." (Vol.38 Nos.2 & 12)

Totem Acoustic Beak: $130/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 & Racks

Audio Elegance Furniture : $319–$4759
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 $4759 for a Dakota Collection LP storage unit. Custom items are also available. (Vol.32 No.2 WWW)

Audio Points by Star Sound Technologies: $89.99–$179.99/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: $129.95/4
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 6.5lb. 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: $299
expansion kits: $219
LP shelves: $679/three-shelf unit
Each additional shelf: $189

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 $189 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: $2850
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: $599
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)

Grand Prix Audio Monaco equipment stands: $3150–$13,500
Despite their stylish, lightweight design, a four-shelf Monaco stand can carry up to 150lb per shelf, for a maximum total load of 500lb. 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 $7500; 4-shelf system, $10,000; 5-shelf system, $13,500; base module, $5500; short or tall module, $2995; amplifier stand, $3150; Formula Shelf Carbon-fiber/Kevlar composite shelfc$2620. (Vol.24 No.7, amp stand; Vol.25 No.12 WWW)

Grand Prix Audio Monza: $19,000 for 4-tier rack with bamboo stands and Apex feet
All models in Grand Prix Audio's Monza series of four-column modular equipment stands offer polymer-filled stainless steel legs and carbon-fiber support platforms; bamboo shelves rest atop the latter, isolated by Sorbothane donuts, and the lot is supported by Grand Prix Apex footers, which use rigid balls of different types as isolation devices. (Apex footers are available separately.) In the experience of JVS, use of Monza isolation products in various combinations resulted in notably increased soundstage depth (and distance from the listener), weightier and more substantial images, increased clarity, and other gains—and he found the Monza products to be superior to their predecessors in the Grand Prix line, the Monaco series. In Jason's system, "Monza benefits are profound. I would never want to go back." (Vol.42 No.11 WWW)

Harmonic Resolution Systems SXR Audio Stand: $21,450 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)

IsoAcoustics Gaia loudspeaker isolation feet: $599.99/set of 4 IsoAcoustics Orea audio equipment isolators: "Indigo" $59.99 each, "Bordeaux" $79.99 each
Gaia and Orea isolation feet are both intended to isolate the products they support from their environment, and both are offered in different sizes/compliances, to suit various component weights. Gaias, intended to replace the spikes/feet of floorstanding speakers, are topped with threaded rods (plus adaptors) and come in sets of four; Oreas are sold singly, their smooth tops suitable for supporting amps/CD players/etc. After using a Gaia I set ($1199.98 for two sets of four) with his Monitor Audio loudspeakers, RD reported hearing "an across-the-board improvement in the sound," and he noticed a similar if less marked improvement after putting Oreas under his PS Audio monoblocks. AD put a set of four Gaia IIIs ($199.99) under the heavy wooden plinth of his Garrard 301 turntable and wrote, "the difference I heard was beyond my expectations." For the better, he meant. (Vol.40 No.10, Vol.41 No.2. Vol.42 No.6, Vol.43 No.10 WWW)

Magico QPOD3: $1310/set of 3 Magico QPOD4: $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)

Mapleshade Maple Platform: $75–$690
KM liked what this basic a 2"-thick board of solid, "ready-to-be-finished" maple did for the Music Hall MMF-7.3 turntable (Vol.39 No.9). Salamander S40 Core Module Rack: $1325.50 as reviewed
In search of a rack that would hold his growing collection of gear and provide easy access for swapping review samples in and out, KR hit on a double-width Salamander Synergy S40 rack, which he custom-ordered with two pull-out shelves and six Salamander Robot Feet. The finished product stands 44" high yet is "impressively stiff and rigid." KR concluded: "[I]t looks good, holds everything, and can accommodate visiting review samples." (Vol.38 No.9 WWW)

Skylan Speaker Stands: $325–$675/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 75lb. 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)

Stillpoints ESS rack: $8140+
Intended to both dissipate vibrational energies occurring within playback gear and isolate that gear from external energies, the Stillpoints ESS rack is available in three widths and three heights, with various shelf options. Pre-tensioned steel cables isolate the acrylic shelves from one another, and various of Stillpoints' accessory feet also play a role in the somewhat modular design. Praising its contribution to "blacker" backgrounds and more precise transients in the sound of his system, MF described the ESS rack as an "ingenious and, I think, extremely attractive package." (Vol.38 No.12)

Symposium Rollerblock Series 2+: $499/set of 3, $649/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: $6 each
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 228lb; 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)

Software

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: $379
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; Ver.5, Vol.43 No.11 WWW)

JRiver Media Center: $59.98 (single platform)
KR wrote in the January 2018 Stereophile: "If your [JRiver Media Center] setup is working to your satisfaction, there's no need for you to download every new build." Really. No need at all. But, having said that . . . the 64-bit Windows version of Music Center became available in September 2017, and KR reported that it's better, stronger, and faster than the 32-bit version: "Since installing the 64-bit version of JRiver Music Center 23, I have heard not a single burp." (Vol.41 No.1 WWW)

Roon v.1.7: $120/year, $699/lifetime
From the people who created Sooloos comes Roon, a cloud-based music-playback application that can be downloaded to the user's desktop or handheld computer, as well as to dedicated file players from such manufacturers as Auralic, dCS, Linn, and others. Described by JI as "a tour de force of programming, design, and metadata mining," Roon offers a graphically sophisticated user interface that, he says, looks good and feels natural. When first installed, Roon scans and incorporates the user's existing music collection, and continues, over time, to "groom" that collection, taking into account new additions to that collection and to Roon Labs' ever-growing library of metadata. JI's conclusion: "If you're thinking of putting together your first computer audio system, start with Roon and don't look back." V.1.3, released in early 2017, supports DSD and multichannel, both to the delight of KR, who wrote that "multichannel worked beautifully for attached and networked sources and outputs." That said, he expressed discomfort (shared by AD) with Roon's horizontal scanning of album art. Now up to v1.7. (Vol.38 No.10, Vol.40 No.7, Vol.41 No.8 WWW)

Deletions
XTZ Room Analyzer II Pro: very old software in a rapidly changing area, version discounted online,

COMMENTS
partain's picture

I can't stand it !
Please review the new & improved KEF LS50s.
The things I've read are titillating , to say the least.

John Atkinson's picture
partain wrote:
Please review the new & improved KEF LS50s.

There is a pair of the new KEF LS50 Meta on its way to me.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

Link's picture

Awesome, looking forward to the review. Wireless or passive? Just curious what to expect. Thanks.

John Atkinson's picture
Link wrote:
Awesome, looking forward to the review. Wireless or passive?

Passive.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

rk11's picture

Auditioned the KEF R3s, Polk Legend L200s and the KEF LS 50 Metas a few days ago with 5 tracks of my choosing and thus far my rank ordering of these speakers is as noted. Personally, I found the Metas a bit bright and their bass response was the most lacking - not surprising given the size of the speaker cabinet. Never been a fan of the Polk speakers till the Legend series. The 200s were every bit as good as the R3s EXCEPT in the vocals. I am sure that JA's review will be under a much better controlled environment.

Shangri-La's picture

In the written review, the Ares II was preferred over the Chord Qutest. Yet the Qutest is rated Class A and Ares II is Class B. Interesting...

LinearTracker's picture

BD gave the Duo an “A” rating and deservedly so, but I am listening to the new Duo with the linear power supply and believe it to be a game changer.
I hope to see an update soon.

Link's picture

I have been able to compare the BRXs to a true class A speaker in my system, and I do now agree with the class B rating. Thanks again for the great reviews.

Glotz's picture

with explanation...

Link's picture

Comparisons having been done, the BRXs are nothing to shake a 1M interconnect at. Although they are not quite up there in terms of transparency, detail, and air - they sure do get the timbre, neutrality, and imaging right.

thyname's picture

You butchered the name of T+A MP 3100 HV. Please fix it. There is no such thing as “ T+A MD 3001 HD SACD/CD player: $21,000”

Robin Landseadel's picture

The "A" rated Sennheiser HD 650 headphones have been reissued at a lower price [with a couple of changes that don't affect the sound] as the Drop HD 6XX. Drop is an online only operation, sells for $220 + shipping & tax. It's one of the cheapskate audio high points of the season along with Topping Headphone amps and DACS.

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