Boost system performance via isolation?


I need help.

I found out last year just how important isolating devices can become. I've taken some steps in that direction but feel there may well be a better path than the inexpensive Vibra items. Which for the money surely are worthwhile devices.

In isolating components such as CD player, tubed preamp, and over a hundred pound SS amp. I have a rack from “HE..” (a bit south of Heaven, if that helps).

I do understand the rack itself, plays a big part but I’ve been unable to address that aspect as yet. So I’ve tinkered with it enough so the sound is pretty good now. Using homemade and mainstream products such as Vibra Pods. Currently Vibra-pod cones & pods, as well as doing some ‘layering’. Using a sandwich sort of configuration….

ON each shelf of the rack, from bottom up, I used a piece of ¾” MDF > CONES > ½” particle board (shelf) > Pods > component. Results aren’t bad but i would like to improve upon things, especially with the amp and preamp. Also a 400 disc carosel and a couple lightweight items too such as a DAC and DVD player.

I've done nothing with the amp... just CDP & preamp.

Anyone using something other than ‘Vibra-Pods’ & Vibra-cones, that have seen definite improvements in their system… I would sincerely appreciate hearing from you… and how it changed things… and naturally what those devices are.

I’m not looking to go off for tons of bucks here but would sincerely like to get an idea of who really does make effective isolation devices for components of varying weights andd function… eg., rotating, tubed, SS, etc….

Many thanks
I like Aurios Pro and Symposium Rollerblocks under my tubed gear. FIM makes a product along the same lines as the Aurios and Rollerblocks that looks like it might be worth a try. It's advertised in the listings.

Also, I like the Neuance platform from Greater Ranges under my digital source.

All of these can be purchased used for around $200/ea if you watch the listings (the Neuance platform is new at that price).
A few very inexpensive tweaks to experiment with that have yielded significant audible improvements for me are:
1) place small hardwood blocks between your Vibrapods and the equipment chassis. Experiment with various hardwoods - maple, teak, walnut, etc. although I've found Zebrawood to be the best for both tube and SS components. Use three wood block/Vibrapod combos per component. You should be able to get 1-2' of hardwood boards inexpensively at a local lumberyard or hardwood specialist that you can cut to size - about 1"x1"x2".
2) Attach Dynamat sound-deadening material under the under the particle board shelf. Also, sometimes called Dead-Mat can be found at auto parts stores and is used for deadening metal vibrations when installing speakers in cars. It is a sheet of tarry material backed with aluminum foil and works as a very effective, inexpensive constrained-layer damping material.
3) Put 3-5 lb weights on each component; I prefer brass but most anything will make a difference and reduce/change component resonance.
4) Finally, if you don't already have spikes on the bottom of your rack, consider adding some. Inexpensive brass cones are available from Parts Express in a variety of sizes.
If you can't get scrap hardwood blocks contact me and I'll send you a few extra I have at no cost.
thanks Tvad &g Jgiacalo, good stuff.

I've one thing that's been bugging me as I've not run across the "Why" of it...

"How come the use of 'three' gizmos instead of four like the feet of the device?"

...and then of course, Where? Leave the feet on the component? (I left the feet on and placed the Vibra thingy's underneath them... the CD however has the cones 90 degrees out from the pods, or like in between the pods and under the half inch particle board shelf).

I've tried both putting the pods right under the feet of the BAT preamps feet, and above the PBS & under the PBS... can't remember just where now as the whole thing is torn apart... (I'm putting in new receptacles onto the dedicated ckts... and I'm running out of bandaids too)

I can't spike this rack. I can and will fill the tubes with something though before the gear gets back onto it.

I'm trying to save space and add mass to the exsisting rack, by combining two metal racks into one... and I do need the space for sure.. ultimately I'll build one this winter.
I'll take a stab, although the info is regurgitated from the Symposium and Aurios websites, and I don't claim to have all the facts straight...

Three vs. four...
This has always been a major question for me as well. Essentially, it's easier to level three isolation devices than four, and three devices is one less through which vibration can travel.

Symposium recommends placing the three Rollerblock devices directly against the chassis, since this drains vibration more effectively. Arrange the devices so they essentially support the center of mass. In other words, you wouldn't place them in an equilateral triangle with the points centered unless the center of mass (generally dictated by the power supply's location) was in the center of the component. You want to shift the triangle so it favors where the weight is distributed...and the triangle does not have to be equilateral.

Finally, Syposium Rollerblocks come with stainless steel plates that are placed between the balls the the component's chassis bottom. Symposium suggests placing the plates so they come into contact with chassis screws, if possible. The theory being the chassis screws are focused sources of transmitted vibration. Believe It...Or Not...
I'll second Tvad: 3 vs 4 for stability; contact directly with the chassis - placing under the actual component feet will have negligible effect; ignore the component feet - removing didn't make a difference in my experiments.
Fill the rack with lead rather than sand - seems to work better. You can get lead shot #8, e.g. for about $15/25lbs at a gun shop. Although I've read that powdered iron works best although I have no idea where to get it.
Have fun.
To get a quick idea of how inexpensive isolation devices can be very beneficial, website shows a fine range of items at low prices. Actually, a dizzying array of choices.
His products are able to be used under a variety of components without too much brooding about component weight or position in the signal chain.
My biggest surprise from "Herbie" has been the performance of the "Big Fat Black Dot" (hold the laughter) in three's under heavy speakers, and flat bottom surface of amplifiers, generally helping as much as my beloved Aurios MIB's.
Another winning low cost idea is using Cardas Myrtlewood Cuboids both beneath and on top of component boxes.
There are sound changes to be heard with every different idea already mentioned in this discussion, so I am just mentioning the lowest cost choices which impressed me, among many ideas I use. Incidentally, Herbies Audio Lab has a ninety day trial period, the longest I have ever encountered.
i recommend soft devices such as furniture foam and the sound fusion sound boosters. soft devices tend to reduce treble energy.
Well. Again, thanks.

reckon three instead of four is cheaper too. Hmmmm. Now which to try. ...but first the wood on top of the pods seems the, or 'a', way to go.

I truly thought living in a hunters paradise, shot would be most available. It ain't. Well not for cheap anyhow. About a buck a pound. If you can find it. Most gun shops don't sell it, not even the bigger ones. Trap & Skeet clubs do though... at a buck a pound or so... Needing some for my current speakers, looks as though I'll be adding to the shot inventory soon enough..

Is there anything substantial to the notion of rings or caps for tubes? With ten tubes in my pre, which ever path proves both less expensive and better would be one I'd probably follow.

Ever stop and think what folks that ain't into audio may think when or if they were to hear all this stuff? My friends think I'm card carrying certifiable when I tell them about a recent addition to the system... they may be right.
Herbies tube dampers make a significant improvement in clarity in tube preamps and Amps. However, try contacting Cesar Moreira [] for some very inexpensive heat-resistant tube rings which are almost as good and certainly worth a try for 10-12 dampers for $15. Not sure if they are still available since I haven't seen his listing on A'Gon for a while, but worth contacting him to see if they ar available. I am currently using them on my Mac equipment.
Most of my friends think I'm wacko regarding resonance control. Except for one who has seen significant improvement with his $150/pair Sony speakers, CDP and receiver. Makes me wonder if I would have been as compulsive on the upgrade bandwagon if I'd tried resonance managment on my previous modest systems.
By the way, let me know if you'd like me to send yoou some wood blocks.
One other very cheap and effective resonance control device is the V-Pad. Essentially a ribbed-rubber/cork/rubber 'sandwhich' measuring about 3"x3" and avaliable at heating and airconditioning suppliers for about $2. apiece. The same as the IsoBlocks offered by Mapleshade but lots cheaper.
well, now we're talking... Thanks for the Herbie update. I had forgotten all about that one.

I've seen the changes that come from using 'spongy' iso devices first hand. I tried some styrofoam under some lightwieght itmes like mass fi DVD players and cable boxes... there are some advantages there... as it sofftens things up a bit in the upper ranges... also lowers/lessens the bottom end punch too. But it sure opens up the Sound scape. It's currently the 'thing' for the cable box and 400 carosel, (which really needed some attenuation in the treble and was a big help in that regard). 2 inchs thick insulating styrofoam. Maybe a tad thicker but less than three inches

I've also seen the advantages of wood.. different sorts should wel be able to introduce different characteristics... having a 'thin metal' rack, using the MDF was a help but using spruce was better. Other sorts depending upon their, I suppose, 'densities', should change things accordingly. I do suspect it is the density that allows for the differences, as density relates directly to resonance transmission/reduction.

I "E'd" Peter, at Symposium today. I'm going to get with him about trying some of his product (s) pretty soon.

My main concern is losing the richness and warmth my main system provides currently. As related above in the "I should have done..." department by another poster, I've had others and they were quite dynamic, articulate, and bright... very clean and clear and for rock, not bad at all. I've changed up a bit now and am looking to gain a touch more resolution as I think it and myself, can take it... Adding some new power cords and another passive conditioner presently, is helping me towards that end... so isolating things some with warmth and sweetness still in mind does interest me a good deal. Cleaning up the sound a mite also shouldn't hurt, though it's uncleanliness isn't audible to me. I liken it to power line conditioning though... I didn't hear the junk on the line till I plugged in a conditioner. Same, same I guess.

I've also heard Walker makes some iso pucks... but I've not heard any first hand thoughts about them.

lastly is there myth or magic to setting cones on top of tube gear? I suppose on top of the cover just above the tubes...???
Mass loading (putting some weight on top) components is supposed to reduce external vibration. It's worth a try. I sometimes put a 5# weight on top of my CD player. Can't say if I notice a difference, but intellectually I think it should be beneficial.
thanks, Tvad. I'll bear that in mind. Intellectually speaking, of course. I have seen folks mention those mini slabs or rocks that sit atop rotating sources... I can't see any other reason for them save their damping effect... and Lord, the prices! ...for rocks! It is gonna be a while before I get into that arena... that's the one where I'd have more dollars than sense.

Looks like with the 'adding of weight' or reducing of pods I'll need another set to account for the poundages... or maybe not I think I got the ones that range from 10-15 lbs... certainly, I'll give these I have, a shot first. Thanks.
Blindjim, Try the Herbie's Grungebuster 2 CD mat for the silly low price of $12.50, and be prepared for wonderful synergy with any other system helping tricks. (Even if you end up choosing somebody elses's footer ideas.)
There is a ninety day home trial period, and it shouldn't take more than a few days to be impressed with greater resolving of recording details (more reality) without any loss of your preferred warmth and sweetness.
Although it is not really the subject of your original question, it is just too easy to try for so little money. One can say it acts to isolate the spinning CD from effects of vibrating CD player mechanism.

listener57 ...thanks.

I'm inclined to try several of the above notions in isolating system devices... which one, however,is another matter entirely.... tube rings are for sure... Symposium roller blocks are likely too... and those platforms from nuance are also on the list of candidates. Perhaps even those wood blocks that were mentioned.

As I've torn down the rig's rack and am reassembling it to redistribute and consolidate I've already seen the advantages of going with three 'pucks' vs. four.. as I put them into play on the HT system components. Marvelously open and with far less fuzz about things... again, a subtractive measure that until tried, isn't really noticed much, if at all. But I was impressed. those iso pucks were the pods and cones I was using from Vibrapod. They'll stay in the HT rig... as it's the 'trickle' donw system... that gains it's improvements as the main system improves...

Thanks for the mention and reminder of the mat too. I did forget all about it concentrating on the tube gizmos... it's now on the list too.
Lastly... to either dispell or confirm... is there indeed truth in the notion a 'good' rack is in no need of ancilliary iso devices?

...or will all racks allow performance boosts from the incorporation of pucks and/or platforms?

My thinking here is that if, (and I likely will), go the route of pucks and/or shelfs that'll run upwards of 700.00 - 800.00 or so... looking at both enhancements and esthetics, would the additional expense be the bhetter route, and just buy a decent rack, say like adona or the like for around $1200?

Thanks much
I use a Salamander Synergy cabinet, and use isolation devices with it...Neuance shelf, Aurios and Rollerblocks. One great thing about Ken Lyons is that he will custom make a Neuance shelf to exact dimensions. He made one to replace a Salamander stock shelf. When I received the Neuance, it was 1/8" error, not Ken's. He gladly resized the shelf 1/8" smaller, and it's a perfect fit.

The Salamander systems are not designed with isolation in mind, but I find that mine is quite sturdy, and I could absolutely not live without the rolling casters.

I have looked at the Adona products, and they appear very good for the money.
I've used rollerblocks and did not like the sound. No one wanted to buy them from me so I guess they are not a popular item.
I like ceramic foot sanding stones. Only a couple of bucks and these provided the best sound unless you want to "tweak" the sound with more bass, more treble, etc.

06-26-06: Cdc
I've used rollerblocks and did not like the sound. No one wanted to buy them from me so I guess they are not a popular item.
Should have emailed me. :)

You might have experienced a lack of interest depending on when you tried to sell them. Now is not a good time. In any case, don't assume that because you did not sell yours that they are not a popular item. I've seen periods where several sets have sold within a few weeks of being listed.
Symposium Rollerblocks and Isis rack - it's simply the best (cue Tina Turner)

Jim Ricketts/tmh audio
I should explain. While rollerblocks are directly coupled to the shelf unlike isolation devices like sorbothane, pneumatic, or magnetic levitation; they are still undamped in the horizontal plane.
Undamped IMHO, means the CDP rings and adds strange harmonic content. There was more detail perhaps due to the metallic feet tipped up the FR. Damping out the feet with stainless steel instead of aluminum material, rubber or cork pads between the metal roller surface and CDP case lessened but did not eliminate the problem.
Maybe some folks would prefer what the rolling effect does to the sound, as I did initially; in the long run I did not think the sound was natural.
06-26-06: Cdc
I should explain. While rollerblocks are directly coupled to the shelf unlike isolation devices like sorbothane, pneumatic, or magnetic levitation; they are still undamped in the horizontal plane.
Undamped IMHO, means the CDP rings and adds strange harmonic content.
Thanks for clarifying, and I should do the same. I use the Rollerblocks under my tubed preamp. I prefer a Neuance isolation platform under my CD player.

I am fairly certain that no product will sound the same in all systems, which is why experimentation is so important...and fun.
Hello Blindjim,

I do not know if you have looked into the isolation system I posted under my systems. I go through the products and reasoning for each. I have also attempted to discuss the philosophy that I have put behind my isolation. This is the culmination of ten years of experimenting with as many ideas as I could find.

I hope you take the time to read this, my isolation system and feel free to to contact me if you have questions. I also suggest you read free tweak... and winter lessons and tweaks and how my system disappeared. This should give you plenty to ponder. I have spent the past eight years on this site focused on cables and isolation. There is a lot of information out there, and this is just my opinions, so...

Good luck, it ALL makes a difference!!!

Thanks... I read all the items you posted... Apparently you didn't get my email following up on things. But things are fine since i've rebuilt & reconfigured, the $100 rack… which now is maybe $200… given the additional materials employed to dampen and/or isolate.

Actually, i've learned a number of things over the past few weeks. Probably most importantly is you don't have to spend lots of money on a rack to get good sound. I do think it helps, but it's not the only way to go about it.

Wether you're containing, draining, coupling, decoupling, etc... The 'isolation' needs of the system are dependant upon the components, and whole of it. I found myself compensating for my compensations on occasion. That's what happens if you do a thing and it's not quite right and you must do another thing to that move, to make it better, right? Well, IMHO, I think it is… and I can see where a person would want to do that having laid out a fair amount of money for the previous tweeks… and true, maybe more than one tweek is necessary at times.

What amazes me is how much positive change can be had for so little in expense… but quite a bit more in time and effort though.

I added hospital grade outlets to all the dedicated ckts… finally. Deoxited everything, even me. I filled the hollow tubes supporting the rack with fine sand, removed the amp from the rack and made a ‘DIY amp stand from two x fours.
Spruce and pressure treated (one pair for each ch.). Rescaled the number of items on the rack. Centered them all. Removed the vibra things almost completely. Kept the MDF... given the advice in this thread about spikes – I did some homemade 'spike' treatments to the preamp and cdp. Using a 'particle board shelf or two, i robbed from an old roll around stand, i used the PB as platforms for the CDP & preamp. Drilled three #10 x 1 inch zinc wood screws into the mdf. Set the pb platform onto them and the cd & pre on top of their PB shelves. I’m still playing with this last thing.. in terms of location of the screws but that part alone, (using 3 screws), immensely improved things in terms of imaging and SS development.

I also used the Vibra cones under the BAT amp… that was a bad move. It ameliorated the bass. I went back and removed the cones (4 of them), and added some pressure treated 2 x 4 to the current pair of Spruce 2 x 4’s, for the amp’s base/stand…. Connecting them with some 2 inch wood screws. That way is better. The bass returned and with more tightness than before. I’ll attribute that too the pressure treated… and I’ll be going to a three inch maple block soon . . I found a more than reasonable source for Maple as well…. Above inch and a half, their laminated, which may well be best given the heat of my amp… This source was far more inexpensive than is the price I got from timnbernation for the same thing….

Isolating everything… via lifting it or decoupling it, from the rack gave a tremendous enhancement to the upper mids and above… but lessened the lower register almost entirely. Apparently some devices work best ‘coupled’. With all these ‘tweaks’ I got way more focus and improved SS width and depth. Far clearer tonal balance and dynamics improved easily 40 – 50%... total cost? Several hours of my time, and about $20, for the sand, screws, and the dismembered roll around stands which cost $20 each a year or two ago.

Now all I’m saying is using the items I did was solely based upon finding out if all these thoughts about spikes, isolation, and dampening are on the right track …. And/or which ones that will serve me best. Instead of spending hundreds to do so…. OK I agree. There is definitely something to it. It is also remarkable how little money needs be spent to gain solid improvements.

I’ll now move up to another level with some other goodies shortly…. Herbies and Neuance are on the list…. Perhaps the materials I’ve used aren’t the best… and perhaps I’ve been quite lucky in that not too awful much was really needed in my instance. I’ve also confirmed a couple things… “You don’t have to spend tons to do better by your system’s rack or isolating components.’ …and As was said, “Everything matters’…. I’ll add, “Every change regardless the cost changes things too, and just because it costs a lot doesn’t make it better.”

What was most surprising was how long the system took to get back on track after being down for only a couple weeks…. I freaked on that part but it’s better now… and different. Not nearly as dark but still very musical and sweet… and I’m still repositioning screws and their relationship to one another… and yep, they don’t have to be in a equilateral triangle. I think ‘rooting’ the screws into the ‘boards’ instead of simply setting them under or on top is also better, and trust me here, If a person who can barely see can do it, anyone can. I wonder if they make brass screws?