Component vibration isolation question


I understand the need to eliminate or dampen vibration on such things as speakers, CD players, turntables, and tube gear (especially phono stages). All these component have mechanical moving parts or are delicate (as in tube gear) and any source of unwanted vibration can affect the SQ. However, I don't understand how SS equipment, cables, etc benefit from isolation devices. I would think the various spikes, pucks, racks, etc that are marketed as essential to eliminate the effects of vibration are meaningless on SS equipment. What am I missing?

J.Chip
jchiappinelli
What you are missing is listening experience. Also it will help a lot to forget pretty much everything you hear on this subject as it is almost entirely all wrong. Not because vibration control isn't important. It is. Not because it doesn't work. It does. But because the reasons you will hear are all baloney.

Like take isolation. If isolation was the thing then it would sound better the instant you lift it up. But it doesn't. It sounds best sitting on cones of some sort or another. Not because of some theory. Because if you try this and listen you will actually hear it.

Speaker cables, and to a lesser extent interconnects and power cords, also sound better when held up off the floor. But this may be as much due to vibration as static charges, or even the dielectric effects of whatever is on the floor. Why it happens you can ask someone who cares. I do not care why. I only care if it sounds better. Getting cables up off the floor definitely sounds better. A lot better. I have demo'd, everyone easily hears the sound stage collapse when the Cable Elevators are removed.

Why? Who cares why? Just do it. Only way to know for sure.
Yes the vibrations matter. and not just stopping them, rather channeling the good vibrations into the gear.
Over the past month I have been adding heavy butcher blocks to all my equipment. The most bang for the buck has been adding a 18" by 19" by 3: Maple up on old tip toes for the several on the rug, for my amp, my two power conditioners. (I tries some pads, no good, the Tip Toes best) and then thin 1/8" ebony discs to the upper butcher block 17" by 14" 3" Walnut. With sandelwood points holding up the Bryston 4B-SST² amplifier. Added warmth and clarity BOTH. Second best was similar setup 22" by 19" by 1 3/4" Maple base up on 1/2 supplied cork and rubber pads (the shelf below is GLASS) same ebony discs to edge grain 19" by 16" by 3" Walnut block with my Kuzma directly on top. The phono (Audio Research SP-15) I use with the Kuzma is also up on a Walnut butcher block, and the power supply for it is on a Maple one. The Rega right next to the Kuzma I just tossed on the blocks, but it is not responding as well. I clearly need to do something for the Rega feet!I have 14 butcher blocks in use now, and three more to work with soon enough.
Aside from the actual blocks, the feet and supports matter a great deal. I tried a lot of sorbothane, not good fora lot of things. not terrible, just not the best. Wood points between block and equipment case is good. some still on OEM feet. And I still use some of my old favorite size ten butyl rubber bottle stoppers.
A lot to learn from experimenting. Altering the sound with just what is UNDER my equipment!I spent about $2000 on 17 butcher blocks. And that is about the same as two pair of interconnects for my setup. And about the same amount of improvement. If I had it to do over, I would buy larger blocks and skip the 17" by 14" ones. ... and more Walnut, even though they cost double what the Maple ones do. And yes I like the Maple/Walnut combos on the turntables and amp.
There are all sorts of things to fiddle with what is under your stuff. But I do not think I would be noticing as much if I had not upgraded a LOT last year. So your results may vary greatly.
Hello,
vibration control is very important and a must.
All these years i have tried most and everything, hard material, soft, wood, composite, metal, all with mixed results. Things that have worked nicely are Acoustic System footers ( a true high end product both in price and performance)-works everywhere, EAR feet-under phono stage, line stage, Herbie’s Iso cups-tuner, power supplies. Any component will react differently though.
Another good trick if you want to dig further is damping coat sheets in certain areas of component (bass improvement).
So far so good but i can assure you that investing on a good audio rack will bring out the most improvement as foundation is the most critical of all tweaks.Consider the rack as an equipment and depending on the rest of your system spend accordingly. You will be amazed at how unnatural most cones, blocks, extra feet, whatever... are. Sounds better and looks better. Speakers definitely need some sort of spiking (hard material) to the floor.

It’s much better to assume vibration is bad for the electrical audio signal anywhere in the system than to assume it’s not. As far as the best methods go, remember what my old NASA boss said. Never get behind anyone 100%.
I agree with @millercarbon that the "why" of damping or isolating your equipment from vibration and resonance doesn't matter. The truth is in the listening.  The results of using a variety of damping materials are predictable!  Use hard materials like Black Diamond Racing cones and the sound will be brighter and harder.  Using a very soft, compliant material like sorbothane will reduce the treble and upper midrange and render a softer attack on bass notes.  I have, after trying the aforementioned materials and others, found Herbie's Audio Labs Tenderfeet to provide the most linear response.  If your system is well balanced by virtue of your equipment, then the Tenderfeet will enable you to maintain those qualities while providing a smoother, cleaner sound quality.  The soundstage will expand in height, width and depth with instruments occupying a specific place in space.
The responses thus far have not addressed my question. They fall into the category of 1) vibration control is important, 2) vibration control efforts work, and 3) things sound better so don't worry why they do. Maybe I wasn't clear in my question. I'm looking for an explanation on how vibration control can improve things that have no mechanical or moving parts. I'll even accept that they do but can anyone provide a scientific reason as to why?
I would think the answer is similar to microphonics in tubes. The vibrations affect the transistor junctions the same way. modulating the signal because the parts are vibrating.. Probably also affest capacitors in some way?
For there to be a 'scientific' anything, someone has to be interested in the problem, have the funding to do the research. And no one is interested nor is there any money to be made from such trivial areas of research. Although there may be some out there, but companies do not publish general data .. they call then trade secrets.. NASA may have some relevant data.. but then you have to sift through millions of government documents. Say pay some guy $20 an hour for five years.. you might find something meaningful. Maybe not.I am sure NASA was interested in the fact the rockets vibrate a lot, and how that affected the electronics. Some Big City libraries have mountains of government documents. I mean millions of hard copy documents stashed away. Most of the NASA are on microfiche..I would guess my local big library has at least 2 million NASA documents on microfiche. And plenty on DVD data discs. Quit your day job. Go do the search.. Humanity awaits. Here is a starter Gov Doc number: NAS 1.15:2019-220162 Good luck. (notice that is the 220162 consecutive document published in 2019, and you got what...  since the 1950's???)
You’re a nosy fella, kitty cat, huh? You know what happens to nosy fellas? Huh? No? Wanna guess? Huh? No? Okay. They lose their noses. 🙀

One suspects the high end audio industry is very far behind the power curve. Observe the way amp and CD player manufacturers bolt the transformers directly to the chassis AND bolt the printed circuit boards directly to the chassis. I mean, come on, guys. As for CD players, isolating the player and damping the transport mechanism are good ideas, however the CD will still vibrate and flutter as it spins, not a good situation for the sound.

The question is a perfectly valid one. My approach would be to experiment with damping, suspension and isolation applications and work backwards to find a reasonable theory why an electronic signal is affected by vibration, assuming you hear a difference.
I am not a scientist by far, but I know one thing for sure : all things separed in an audio system, are linked through resonance phenomena and they form a unity for the better or the worse, it depends of the sum of resonant frequencies of all this interlocked parts variying + or- in a variable and complexly coupled and decoupled parts systems ...Correct me if am wrong , and I apologize for my lack of precision...But that is the thing I know of...All parts via acoustic and mechanical vibrations and electricity moves in resonant fashion affecting each other one directly or not...The science of that phenomenon is very complex...
Maybe I wasn't clear in my question. I'm looking for an explanation on how vibration control can improve things that have no mechanical or moving parts. I'll even accept that they do but can anyone provide a scientific reason as to why?


Well okay since you are so determined, here goes. Its all based on the physics of alternating electric currents. I'm going to keep it simple and limited to solid facts you can check and confirm yourself on-line. DYODD.

Electric current moving through a wire generates a magnetic field. This magnetic field rises and falls in intensity, and switches polarity, right along with whatever electric signal is moving through the wire. 

While at the same time, a magnetic field moving across a wire will generate an electric current in that wire. 

This is how electricity is generated. Water, steam, or whatever, is used to turn a coil of wire so that it moves within a magnetic field, thus generating an electric current in the wire. A moving coil cartridge is a very tiny example of this. A moving magnet cartridge is the exact same thing, only reversed. Because it does not matter which is moving, the wire or the magnet, either one will generate a current.

Or even if neither one is moving. Merely alternating the current and amplitude in one wire will cause the corresponding magnetic field to fluctuate which will in turn generate a fluctuating electric current in another nearby wire.

So far, so good. Its not just fields and currents however. These things generate physical, mechanical forces as well. Magnets attract and repel. 

This is why transformers vibrate and hum. A transformer is just a lot of wire wrapped round and round some iron and placed right next to another great big coil of wire. The coils concentrate the magnetic fields and wires together, and the ratio of coils on one side to the other determines the electrical properties of the transformer. Its hard to tell with small transformers, but when they get big enough its pretty easy to hear or feel them vibrating with the alternating current going through them.

Okay, so now you got a few basics. Which in case you ever hear someone tell you about the decline of public education you might want to remember this story and that the guy who told it learned all this stuff doing Boy Scout experiments when he was like 9 or 10. Yeah the situation is that bad.

So now you can see the scientific evidence why the minute you start running an alternating music signal through a component the whole thing instantly starts vibrating like crazy. Why all these vibrations are inextricably tied in with the alternating currents. And why the one feeds into the other.

This even makes sense of what hifiman said, that the vibration characteristics of whatever you use around your component tend to transfer those same characteristics into the signal, ie music. This is the point however where we go from hard science to art. Which is where we want to be- or at least so I like to think.
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We can usually see why things vibrate. What’s difficult sometimes is seeing why vibration hurts the sound. 
Well, I just go two more Walnut butcher blocks.Placed 19" by 16" by 1 3/4" Walnut  under the DVD-A player I am using as a transport. Took of the sorbothane from the DVD-A player and put in under the corners under the butcher block. 
Slightly fuller mids... but kept all the detail. 
I have two more on the way, then I think that is it. I want to rearrange the main rack to best use the butcher blocks... Complicated since I have so many bits of kit doubled up.. But I think I can get it to a better arrangement.
I am sure that your walnut butcher block has good effect....But too pricey for my purse...Then I create a sandwiche of different coupling-decoupling and damping properties by a variation in the materials...Quartz feet, on top of it granite plate, in between sorbothane, another granite plate, cork plate, on top of it bamboo butcher plate, on top sorbothane under the speakers(duro 70) and concrete on top of the speakers(60 pounds) and sorbothane around drivers... Not pricey,almost cheap,except for sorbothane… Results: no detectable bad effects, natural timbre, no too much transmission of vibrations (all my gear are on the same desk....I recommend that because of ratio quality/price...I call that a sorbothane sandwiche...
I tried the IKEA bamboo butcher blocks. Not anything positive to say about them. And between Maple and Walnut, I will take the twice the price Walnut for what it adds to the sound. I did not get the butcher blocks to ISOLATE. I got them to TUNE. 
That the butcher blocks also isolate from the glass shelves of the racks I use.. a positive. but not the main reason for buying them.
My sandwiche not only isolate but also tune, the different densities properties of these materials compensate each other action, at the end they tuned the sound to a more natural timbre...I dont doubt that each one separately affect negatively more than positively the sound perceived...Together they give a completely different result...It is my experience  and impression...The cost is under 50 bucks or 60, for my 2 speakers, dac, and amplifier and power conditioner...At this price smiling and listening at the same time is possible...
I also have added some of my long time footer gizmos to the huge picture window. Stuck the size ten butyl rubber bottle stoppers.(ten of them with a museum type BluTack gunk to hold them on.). to the window. They also seem to help the tonal balance a little (damping the window primary resonance.) If I like them, I may stick them on with something more permanent? As they are now I figure they will start falling off in a few weeks to a month or so.
I don’t understand how SS equipment, cables, etc benefit from isolation devices.


1-assume that everything in the room is ’singing’ along with the music. the influence of the sound pressure waves from the speakers are adding noise to every circuit in the signal path.
2-assume that everything in the room is subject to ground noise. it comes from the ground into the rack and is added to the music feedback resonance.

maybe that is hard to imagine.

but.....it is easy to hear it when it is eliminated....and actual music (and not music feedback and ground-noise resonance caused noise) is a greater part of what you hear than before.

read this;

https://www.herzan.com/resources/tutorials.html

scroll down.

this how science and industry view eliminating resonance. so this is not hifi mumbo-jumbo, this is science.


@ jchiapinelli, I don’t believe you’re missing anything.

Sure there are many vested interests who’d want to to sell you innumerable so-called isolation devices, but like yourself, in cases where there are no moving parts to isolate I don’t see any reason to listen to them.

The benefits of isolating SS gear, if there are any, are most likely to be purely hypothetical. Still, it’s hardly going to break the bank to use sorbothane or the old inflateable inner tube if it gives some additional peace of mind.

A friend once quipped that when it came to maintaining Hi-Fi, "One mustn’t forget the protractor/ alignment gauge, lens cleaner, demagnetiser, and of course the bicycle pump."



Interesting the use of "hypothetical" as to what could be accomplished. When the main hypothetical is your conclusion: " no moving parts to isolate I don’t see any reason to listen to them."
Just pointing that out.
On the other hand, after my own actual experiments with various footer devices, Butyl rubber, wood cones, metal cones. brass tipped wood, wood saucers, roller blocks of steel, glass, wood, sorbothane 30 duro domes, pucks, 70 duro dome pucks on OEM feet ,bypassing OEM feet, Bamboo butcher blocks (IKEA) Maple butcher blocks in various sizes and two thicknesses, Walnut butcher blocks in two thicknesses and various sizes.
My conclusions? PLENTY to experiment with. And some good results to be had with a little effort playing with various devices under your gear.
I mentioned before, I had about the cost of a pair of (my current level) of interconnects in added butcher blocks. And, interestingly the improvements from the butcher blocks are on par with upgrading IC. Dollar for dollar.. (actually with the additional Walnut butcher blocks I have recently acquired, my current spent on butcher blocks is about twice my current IC pair cost. But the improvements are like replacing two $100 IC with two $1000 IC... so it still works out. It is subtle, and if you can’t hear the difference in IC, I doubt you would hear the differences in supports. (also like going from common tubes to really good tubes.. Some folks can hear it right off ,Others just don’t.)
It all pretty much boils down to a few questions, just like the wire directionality thread currently in play.

1. What is the audio signal in wires? Is it the musical waveform or something else? We know it can’t be the musical waveform in power cords and fuses. Those are pretty obvious.

2. Is the signal in wires, e.g., power cords, cables, fuses, etc. subject to change or distortion by vibration? If it’s not the music waveform how can that be?



Wanted to add I solved the problem with my Rega P-5 sound. I used steel ball bearings in the OEM feet. the OEM Rega feet are hollow. So the steel balls fit up against the cup well, staying in place. The balls resting on the Maple butcher block. (actually resting on sheets from paper Post it Notes to do the final leveling.
The sound is much better tighter, good balance.
(you never know what might be the right solution...)
Heres another SQ imprudent that makes no sense. Spikes added to components (such as speakers) are intended to couple them to the supporting surface to drain away vibration and tighten bass. This I can buy. But spikes are often offered with discs meant to be placed below the point of the spike to "protect" the surface they are resting on. This totally defeats the purpose of the spike which is meant to concentrate the weight being supported to a single point to increase the coupling to the supporting surface. When the point is placed on a disc, the force being applied is distributed equally across the surface of the disc essentially defeating the intended purpose of the spike. Physics is physics.
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The spike is STILL A SPIKE. IT does not care if there is a disc between it and the surface. Physics IS (repeat is still) Physics. The tip of the spike is doing the exact same thing to surface or to protector disc. So you think the 30,000 PSI (or whatever) at the tip of the spike somehow vanishes when you stick a disc under it???
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And saying "Your missing everything dude" tells us WHAT exactly?That you are high as a kite and we all are just not a part of your experience?  
or  what.. exactly. Not much to go on there.
@ jchiappinelli, "Spikes added to components (such as speakers) are intended to couple them to the supporting surface to drain away vibration and tighten bass."

I also used to follow this line of reasoning until I read that accelerometer tests had revealed that loudspeaker baffles resonated hundreds of time more with spikes than with even simple pieces of rubber.

I think it was the British reviewer Keith Howard who first published this surprising finding which casts great doubt over the vibrations draining theory.

Surprising because for decades we were told that spikes were the way to go. Now we may even be heading back towards the use of rubber feet as was found on many vintage speakers such as the BBC LS3/5 etc.


Very interesting remark cd318...Thanks...

The internal resonance of speakers is better treated then by adding multiple densities layers of different materials than with spikes... My solution with a sandwiche of quartz, granite,sorbothane,cork plate, bamboo plate is surely not ideal mais certainly better...

The primary reason to isolate speakers, you know, with springs, is to prevent mechanical feedback.

Springs are extremely effective for frequencies above 20 Hz since the system resonant frequency  Fn is much, much lower, circa 3 Hz. So, by the time the frequency gets to 20 Hz, which still lower than most speakers' lowest frequency, the isolation effectiveness is greater than 99.9% The secondary reason for springs is to reduce cabinet resonance and its deleterious effect on the drivers, crossover and speaker connectors. Now, having said that, anyone into the whole crystal thing will find that placing a few large size crystals inside cabinet is of great value.

Elizabeth,

With all due respect, the spike concentrates the force from the weight of the mass it's supporting to a point on the floor to achieve the desired coupling. When this point is concentrated to disc sitting on the floor, the point force is equally distributed across the disc. Those distributed forces are what's now coupled to the floor reducing the intended purpose and effect of the point source. It essentially becomes the same broad support foot you are trying to eliminate. With a disc in place, the concentrated point source coupling takes place between the spike and the disc rather than the spike and the floor. 
I have no interest in discussing spike vs disc. I really could care less and have zero interest and investment in what the situation actually is. Good for you glad you have something to believe in. Now moving on.....   
...............           For the spike vs absorption and the baffle vibrating more or less.. I would think a tremendous amount of what is happening.. depends on the speaker construction. I agree some speakers would vibrate more.. But the better constructed one probably (guessing since I did not do tests) less. And did the ’testing’ include all types of speaker boxes? or just typical British speaker? Bit difference between a baffle made of one layer of MFD (medium density fiberboard) and one machined for two inches of unobtanium. Also there are OTHER reasons to use spike, such as not wanting vibrations to enter floor to go through the floor etc. And finally I would think the owner could hear the difference. Is the speaker bass tighter? or not? Is the floor no longer vibrating? Listening and hearing are what matter. not some test done on unknown speakers.
(I would say I do not ’buy’ into some guy doing some unknown test, then claining xyz is wrong. Takes more than one Guru to stir my pot.)Even though I would guess the test is right abut cheap speakers... LOL
Let’s suppose the disc was a wood disc. And the floor was also wood. Any Difference? Answer at 11. Hint - does the spike know it’s sitting on a disc instead of the floor? 😳 Another hint - will the floor bend the same amount if there’s a disc compared to no disc?
What about what type of metal? or wood?, is the spike? and the disc below. How well does the under disc conform to the surface below it? is the tightly coupled? is it warped in relation to the surface below? How large is the under disc? small? tiny? big? and how heavy is the speaker? Are either the spike or the underdisc PADDED? is the spike screwed in the speaker. ir just resting under it how is the spike coupled? IS that padded? with what? is it stick goo stuck on? or just gravity? 
Are there three spikes? or FOUR? IF FOUR, are they totally weight and pressure balanced? because most floors are not even, and then two spike carry full weight, and two are half carrying the weight and able to vibrate. (which is a real problem. and moving the speaker, even a fraction of an inch, may end up the spikes again are out of wack for even pressure.. PITA for real.) But with under pads for spikes makes it way easier to adjust to get equal pressure.. I used bits of paper under each pad. How hard to pull the paper was my test to get equal with metal spikes you could use metal strips.. (to get at least reasonably equal) pressure on each spike. But them I could not move the speakers. or it was same problem all over again... Back when I had B&W 805S on spiked stands... no spikes for me now..
If LIGO used spikes, cones, damping or discs instead of spring systems they never would have gotten the Nobel prize for observing gravity waves. The same thing is true in audio. You will never see the Promised Land 🤗 without the use of springs. You can forget about all the arguments regarding spikes, cones and discs. Don’t be a cube, rube, go ape! 🦍

“The only good vibration is a dead vibration.” - Shannon Dickson, author of Bad Vibes, Stereophile 1995. Read the entire article here,

https://www.stereophile.com/reference/52/index.html
Every speaker I've ever owned came with 4 screw in metal furniture pads for feet.. I always wondered why the manufacturer chose to use 4 feet instead of 3 since 3 points are inherently stable while 4 must be adjusted to account for surface irregularities. That said, adjusting the threaded pads was all that was required to obtain a solid footing although its a PITA.. No shimming was ever needed nor recommended.

The speakers also came with threaded spike footers that could replace the metal pads. These are intended to improve the contact with the floor by concentrating the force of the mass being supported and/or puncture through rugs to the floor should they exist. It's the contact with the solid surface that you're trying to improve. Spikes concentrate the force for contact, pads distribute the force. Though effective, spikes will damage a wooden floor so discs are offered to protect the floor. However, physics tells me that spikes on discs (to protect the floor) are no different than having threaded-in pads. We can beat this to death or just agree to disagree peacefully.

Thanks for the link to the Shannon Dickson article, Geoff. I don’t remember it, though I must have read it at the time of it’s publication. I was into it only two paragraphs when Shannon revealed his wisdom on the subject of vibration control:

"Knowledge can also help one avoid falling prey to the "Tweak-Of-The-Month" mentality characterized by mistaking tonal manipulation for improved resolution." Maple platform, anyone? ;-) For the price of one 3" thick 19" x 16" maple plank, a 4’ x 8’ sheet of 3/4" thick, 13-ply Baltic Birch can be bought, cut into enough pieces for many platforms, each comprised of two pieces of the BB with constrained layer damping between them (Green Glue, ASC Wall Damp, EAR Isodamp). Far stiffer than solid maple, with a higher resonant frequency, lower in magnitude and better damped. No "tuning" required.

I chit chatted with Shannon at CES in 1997 when I had my big iso stand Nimbus in room with Mapleshade. It was Shannon who contributed the idea for a large auxiliary air canister to the Nimbus design. The aux air canister makes the relative small volume airspring think it’s a much larger airspring, but preserves its small surface area. The ideal geometry for an airspring is a large volume with small surface area. The opposite of say, an inner tube.
Yes the spike knows which different material it rests upon..as do all other materials and shapes that come incontact with each other..either mechanically or acoustically. Tom
Thank goodness for small miracles. For a second I was afraid we were going to get a good tongue-lashing from theaudiotweak about shear forces, shear waves, particle migration or whatever. If LIGO doesn’t address shear waves, I’m not interested.