Footers/Shelf Material

I am still on the shelf quest, trying Corian, Neuance and Maple Butchers Block (the latter is still to arrive, but is coming). The Neuance is still the best - the Corian less dynamic, slower and a little warmer. But I have also been trying lots of footers with these shelves, hoping for a magical combination. And I found one.. With hard shelves like Corian, glass, perspex, marble etc (including the Neuance) - (but definitely not for MDF), the best I have found is the E-A-R Large Isolation Feet, $3.25 each at the Parts Connection. With hard shelves all of the cones I have tried are way too peaky. Plain old hard rubber feet are muddy and smeered. Vynil feet in general are "zingy" and tend to hardness from the middle of the mid-range on up, and a bit smeered on down - and this includes Vibrapods. The Vibrapods are a bit too lively in the upper mids and not great with string tone, but are also not coherent from top to bottom (but are otherwise second-best to the E-A-R feet. But the E-A-R feet give you all the detail of the best of the other footers (cones, squishy feet etc) with NO peakiness, and fantastic solidity to images. They are an unfortunate shade of blue and look like a hard synthetic rubber, but do not have any of the fuzz and smeer that you get with hard rubber footers. More neutral overall than anything else, all the detail as you get with cones but with none of the peakiness, none of the smeer you get with rubber, vynil, or sorbothane. I like them. There are also small feet at $1 each, but my components are too heavy for them and they sound muddy and grey - but they might work with light components - they are used by Sonic Frontiers on all their better gear. Please note I do NOT recommend them if you use MDF shelves.
I've been fooling around with various material as well, I'm having a piece of granite made to size for use under my turntable, mostly because I already have a large piece of 1" thick granite when I had my kitchen re-done this past summer (chunk left over when they cut out the opening for my sink). My Oracle Delphi's three feet may make using footers a little difficult, but sounds like it's worth the effort. Have you tried marine-grade plywood? I found it made a noticable improvement under my CDP, softening the sound just a bit and making the digital "experience" a little more musical. Easy enough to paint to suit your tastes should you decide it makes any noticable improvements. On a related note, my local dealer gave me a Cambridge Audio isolation platform I haven't got around to trying yet, it's a metal platform (same box as they use for their outboard DAC I believe) and five round black balls that go under the platform. I intend on using this platform in my office system, under my Oracle Alexandria turntable. I'll play with this for a bit and leave a post as to the outcome.
Redkiwi: What is the URL of the Parts Connection? I am trying out the Mapleshade Surefoot brass cones with my various electronics (DAC, CD player, amp) and have yet to get a good sound out of them. I am using them in combination with platforms of MDF, Persimmon (the cabinet itself) and Maple (my good cutting board that I said that I would not donate to the system). I am using Vibrapods under the platforms and the Persimmon direct to the cones. So far I am loosing most of the LF bloom and they are tilting the HF's up and out of balance. I will contact Pierre at Mapleshade (after he gets a breather) and see if I am doing something wrong. I will also try them under my speakers. The Bel Canto DAC is so light and unbalanced (extremely light at the end without the power supply) that it may end up sounding better on a solid shelf after all, it has so far. I will also be receiving an SET amp next week and need to figure out something for it. Vibrapods do work well with tube gear and the E-A-R's would be intersting to try in between the Persimmon and the tube amp (without a platform).
Decay, When you talk to Pierre, ask him to send you some iso blocks to put under maple. My experience with mdf was not a positive one. I am getting excellent results with the brass feet under components with the brass feet sitting on the maple with isoblocks under maple. This will raise the height about 7" which may not work in close quarters.
Hi Brulee: I do not have clearence for the Mapleshade footers. However I did find out what was destroying the sound this morning in the daylight. The heavy power cord to my player/transport had wedged itself against the wall and was not hanging freely. I freed it up and am now getting a much better sound from the Persimmon/Vibrapod/Maple/Surefoot sandwich. As usual, I spoke too soon and will now play around with the Surefeet instead of writing them off so soon. This is another reason that I am considering the Mapleshade power cord as the chunky PC's seem to muck up my isolation components considerably in the close quarters setup that I have. I only have a 3" space behind the "loaded" (full of CD's, business papers, etc.) Tansu cabinet which is far too heavy (300 lbs at least) to move in and out from the wall. If I end up killing the SS amp in the living room I will then have 12" of vertical space to play with (inside the cabinet) in regard to the player and DAC as the SET will be placed on the top outside of the cabinet. My wife does not like the SS amp out in the open and neither do I to be honest. The tube amp is more interesting looking (even more so than the X amp that I have) and would look very nice on the 200 year old cabinet. Our place is really very casual and fun and not that "nice", I am just picky about it and find the look of most electronics in the living room to be too cold for my taste. Which model of the brass feet are you using, mine are the least expensive model and I have two sets so that I can check them out under the speakers as well. I would like to try the "things" that Redkiwi found under the DAC and the new tube amp as they are "dirt" cheap and I trust Red's judgement which I do not find to be predudiced by "cost", the same goes with Sam and Carl any many others at this site (you included) in regard to giving a straight evaluation of a product, unlike many pro reviews. Sorry for the rambling, I have been up most of the night.
for those interested in granite platforms, you should check out scientific or high-tech industrial suppliers. 2-4" thick very flat granite platforms are frequntly used in air-suspension systems for various applications (e.g., precision measurement). a few years ago, i was able to find some of these slabs, aporox. 24"x30"x2" for about $30.00 each. they are very heavy and not polished to the degree you would expect in a kitchen counter. i have sold these since in favor of zoethecus stands. the sandwich materials in the z-slab shelves sound best with my equipment placed on black diamond racing cones. my equipment all is on the "heavy" side. the cd transport, for example, weighs about 50#. i've yet to find any pod-type products that work with such weighy stuff. at ces earlier this week, i saw some really neat-looking and sonically dead shelving material at the billy baggs booth. it is constructed of 3 layers of safety glass, each about 3/8" thick. the "middle" layer is shattered and then bonded to an unbroken plate on either side. the shattering is what gives the material its acuostically neutral property. they are rated to hold up to 500# when used on the metal stands for which they are designed. cool, but i would guess a virtually impossible diy project.
Dekay, "the parts connection" can be found at There are lots of goodies there, albeit not necessarily at the best price. Download their entire catalogue and have a look through it. The E-A-R feet are in there somewhere (page 76 in the version I downloaded last week), but you may find it interesting what else you can buy while you are at it. If the Vibrapods are tipping things up above the middle of the midrange, then I think you will really like the E-A-R feet. I found the E-A-R feet better than Vibrapods with my tube monoblocks, as well as with my front-end. Cornfedboy, four of the large E-A-R feet will hold up to 80lbs.
Hi Redkiwi, Just a bit curious.I've been keenly reading your findings and am noticing that you are now making some very fine and subtle observations on the various isomers,interfaces and 'footer' products.With the precision of your hunt ,is it possible that you are now voicing for a complimentary sound to match your particular specific source component? Have you tried other sources for comparison/reference and do you feel that your findings may be universally applicaple to most similar component/platform combinations? Thanks, Best, Ken
Redkiwi; interesting observation re E.A.R. feet. As I think you know, I use a Sonic Frontiers Line 2 pre-amp that I am fond of and that has the E.A.R. feet you mention. All of my equipment sits on a very heavy steel stand that is spiked and damped and has MDF shelves. Awhile ago I got two Townshend Seismic sinks for transport and DAC-- tremendous detail, but they sucked the life right out of the music, not good, not good. So I put a "sink" under my Line 2, and viola', music clarity increased significantly, and musicality if anything, improved. The "sink" has found a home. BTW, Madrigal equipment has a unique type of foot that I haven't been able to improve upon when on MDF. The feet are hollow, about an inch in dia. and are an accordian pleated, somewhat hard rubber of sorts. I Didn't know what to do with the other sink, so I put it under the Line 2 power supply-- could'nt hear any difference(s), but it looks good there:>). One more BTW, I've enjoyed and learned from all the above posts. Thanks. Craig
......should have mentioned that transport is Levinson 37, and DAC Levinson 360S-- strange looking feet. I'll have to contact them re: the foot design. I'm guessing that you are familiar with Levinsons feet-- not Marks', but the components.
Hi Caterhaml, I am beginning to think that all these materials and what ever feet, spikes or whatever can tailor the sound much like ICs and speaker cable. Granite gives a harder sound than maple. MDF was bland and gave the bass a rubbery sound. Glass was similar to granite but not as presice or incisive but was not as hard sounding. I am still experimenting but I keep coming back to spikeing amps to the concrete floor and maple for CD and granite for the preamp. Then you have all the different sounds that pucks, cone, spikes, ballbearings or whatever make. I am beginning to get snow blind. With the different sounds these materials produce, I can't help think that it will be very system dependant. What do you think?
Brulee: I think that it really does depend on the individual piece of gear and many other obvious factors as well (the platform, the footers, the cabinet and how it meets the floor and the floor itself). The one thing that I find has the most impact on any of the isolation combinations that I am currently experimenting with is the "power cord" and how the weight of it drags or pulls on the component. The weight and pull of a heavy power cord is actually working against all that I am trying to achieve with isolation components. To see the difference that the PC can make, just reposition it as the source is playing and you will hear that the balance of the system changes drastically just as if you had changed something in the isolation component sandwich. I have noticed this both on my 18lb CAL player and my light weight Bel Canto DAC. The change in sound is more prominent with the lighter DAC, but is very noticeable on both components. I am now experimenting with the Mapleshade Surefoot cones and am getting some nice results on the source gear. I currently have 3/4" Persimmon (the cabinet shelf)/Vibrapods (4)/3 quarter inch Maple/Surefoot (3)/CD player. I now need to try weighting the top of the player at this point, but have run out of vertical space until I reconfigure the cabinet. I have lost some of the woolly bass sound with this setup (which I kind of like to some extent) but the mids and highs are the best that I have yet achieved. I notice with this setup that some passages seem to be a little "hot" sounding in regard to the HF's, bur have come to the conclusion that I am just hearing what the recording tech did to those certain notes or beats. Otherwise strings and brass on a whole would not sound so good, which they do. I am now hearing small stringed instruments in a much more life like manner than before and for example can distinctly hear the stiff flat pick used on a mandolin. It makes a clicking noise when you play one yourself. I am also hearing "fingers on the strings" in a much more realistic manner as well and if I close my eyes it sounds like the acoustic instruments are in the room, and this is on a pair of $800.00 Reynaud speakers. Vocals with this setup are scary in that I am getting goosebumps more often, they also sound more 3D. I have supported the PC feeding the player with an old wooden clothespin (placed 3" back from the IEC and being supported by the cabinet shelf, not the platform) as to take some of its weight off of the player. I have tried porcelain ramekins, marble and other wood for this support, but the clothespin seems to work best. The DAC is suspended 1" MDF shelf/Surefoot cones (3)/Bel Canto DAC. The PC on the DAC is also supported with a wooden clothespin that is then supported by the MDF shelf. This is also the best sound so far that I have achieved with the DAC. I realize that I should try running the clothespin off of the Maple platform itself for the player, but the maple shelf is not deep enough to allow me this option. What I have decided to do after proving (to myself) how much the heavy PC's are mucking up the sound is to replace the PC's on my source components with very light weight cords. I will order the Mapleshade PC ($150.00) and give it a try on both components. I will also check into the Silver Audio PC and see how massive it is. Are there any other light weight PC's that are not expensive that I should look into? Even if these are not the "best" sounding PC's that are around, I suspect that their reduced mass will do wonders for the front end gear and assist the isolation components in doing their job. My Musical Fidelity X amp's sound is not as drastically changed by isolation components, the separate power supply seems to be more finicky than the amp itself. I am using Persimmon/dried sea sponge on the power supply and Pods/MDF on the amp unit which seems to sound better than the complex sandwiches do. Anyway, what I would like to try now is a thicker Maple platform (perhaps 1 1/2") and a weight on top of both the player and the DAC. Any takers on the PC (and it's mass) theory?
PS: I downloaded the Parts Connection catalog, but am out of paper and cannot read it on screen. It would be cheaper paper and ink wise to just order the catalog for $5.00. I may give then a call and see if I can just order over the phone in regard to the E.A.R. pods.
Hi Dekay, I know just what you are talking about concerning the PCs. The PCs I use now are so stiff they don't move once formed. I am now playing with the Mapleshade sure feet and triplepoint feet. I am still experimenting with them. I also have the Tophats and I like what they are doing so far. When I get a better feel for these new toys, I will let you know how there working in this system. I am torn between the sound of what the components sit on. I like the articulation of granite and it's sharper focus. I like the richer sound of maple and it also seems to have less tension or a more relaxed sound than granite. I would like to combine the strengths of both. I will let you know more as I learn what this stuff is doing or not doing in my system. These are times I wished I had tiny, light weight components.
I think Brulee's response to Caterham1 pretty well sums up my experiences messing around with vibration control too. It's fun to try different things though-- just don't know if I've made any progress.
Hi Ken and all. To answer your question Ken, I am trying the various shelves and footers with three different systems and am trying to progress by following the path that sounds good with all three systems. This way, I am hoping I don't go down some blind alleys. Without listing the three systems fully, the sources are (1) Theta Data III and Theta Gen Va; (2) Meridian 500 and Meridian 566-24; and (3) Sonic Frontiers SFCD1. Today I received two pieces of Maple Butchers Block (kindly supplied by Brulee - thanks, I will email you separately Bruce). I was ready for them to sound bad, because I had tried some similar blocks made from local timbers (NZ timbers are unlike much else as our growing conditions are almost unique) and they all sounded "nice" but slow. But I have to say the Maple sounds great - overall better than Corian - the Corian sounding pinched and thickened in the upper treble by comparison. I will need to play around some more, but the Maple definitely has a "sound" and I imagine that used everywhere in a system it may sound too much, and possibly just a tad "slow" - but so far I like what I hear with two shelves in place (out of five shelves in my main system). I am heading towards Neuance shelves under my front end, and Maple under my monoblocks (which are too heavy for the Neuance shelf) - everything sitting on E-A-R feet. Footers are a vexing area. They all seem to be band-aids in one way or another. Most of the "audiophile" footers accentuate the outlines of sound (sounding more exciting or detailed) in some way. But I have eventually settled on the E-A-R feet because they give you the detail without losing any of the body of the sound, and I find they do this over a wide range of components. Garfish - Sonic Frontiers stuff is about the most immune to vibration I have come across - its sound changes the least through tweaking - because they make the boxes right in the first place. Brulee is right that there is a degree to which you can use this stuff to voice a system, but you can also use it to improve a system's transparency. The same is true of all system components. This problem of knowing when we are merely changing the sound rather than improving it is always with us. I look for simple pointers like "naturalness" (where cones and sorbothane fail), "speed" (where sinks fail) and "even-handedness" (where Vibrapods and cones fail).
To add to my previous point - ie. improving versus merely changing the sound. I perceive a problem in this vibration control area in that most of the products on the market are designed to the wrong criteria. Instead of trying to be heard less, they are trying to be heard more. One can understand this because people will want to hear a significant change in the sound when they invest in a footer. But what this leads to is footers that hype some part of the sound. This can obviously lead to the symptoms Garfish and Brulee refer to. Yet products like the E-A-R feet would be hard to sell for $50 each because they do so little to the sound.
Redkiwi, I have been following this thread for a while now and this is a most excellent discussion. So if I understand you correctly you have your front end on EAR feet sitting on top of a Neuance shelf and the monoblocks on butcher block with out the EARs? - Dan
Dan2112 - I am only just getting to grips with the Butchers Block and perceive some small problems, but they are small. I have stated above that the E-A-R feet are great with hard shelves and still hold to that. But I don't call the Butchers Block or MDF hard. With these softer shelves I tend to prefer cones. With softer shelves I also like supporting them with up-turned spikes (like most steel shelves have), but with hard shelves a thin piece of hard synthetic rubber between rack and shelf seems best (Note that Mana racks do not hold to this last rule - always use spikes). So far the Neuance seems to work more like a hard shelf and the Butchers Block more like a soft shelf. So it is E-A-Rs between components and the Neuance and cones between components and the Butchers Block (I think). So far with the Butchers Block the sound is wonderfully open, detailed, extended at the extremes, dynamic and with a realistically large soundstage - but just a tad slow (only very slightly) and there is a very fine grain (that I am working on reducing). Hope this clarifies. I have ordered more Neuance shelves and will probably only really know how good they are when I have more than just the one - but it is very very fast, with no significant resonant peaks.
I hate it when I speak too soon. I am probably doing it again but want to correct my last post. I have gone back to the E-A-R feet between the monoblocks and the Maple Butchers Block, but am supporting the Maple with Mana sound frames - thick rigid steel, spiked up and down. And it sounds good. The cones didn't quite work on more extended listening. I will probably shut up now until I have tried this out for longer as well as in the other systems I am using.
Dekay Kimber Powerkord is very light and has been recommended for front end components. I have one and I need to make a decision for where to install it either the preamp or the digital source unfortunately I have to hard wire it in place my first impression is to go with the digital, what do you think?
Dekay and group how have you set up your power cords. Are they elevated from the floor? How do you do this? I had overlooked the effect of the weight of the PC on the components interesting detail, could you comment further on this. Thanks
Hi Sol: I have always had the PC's hanging in the air from the power conditioner to the component. My gear is placed in (and now on top of as well) an old Tansu cabinet and all of the components are at least 5' off the floor. I never upgraded the PC to my integrated Musical Fidelity SS amp (which has a seperate power supply and either captive cords or ones with odd plugs) so I have do not have experience with upgrading PC's on preamps. Most of the feedback seems to say that more improvement will be had upgrading digital front ends though. I just received a new tube amp that accepts replacement cords and in this case I am not too worried about the weight of the PC (within reason) because of the sheer mass of the amp and its overall balance (weight distribution). I also do not plan on placing the amp on cones (way too precarious) due to earthquakes and the fragile nature and expense of the tubes (300b's). For this reason I do not place my mini moniters on cones either (though they really did sound better when placed on sets of Mapleshade cones). My main gripe is using heavy PC's on DAC's and player/transports that are placed on cones. Any of the methods that I have used to "support" the PC's on the digital components so far seem to change the sound (each method of support sounds different from the other) and this is why I suspect that they are mucking up the isolation components. I am also asuming that a free and hanging PC would be the way to go (this seems to be the case with speaker cable), but again this is only a guess. If I end up liking the overall sound of a lighter PC (such as the Mapleshade PC) on the DAC, it will still not prove much. The only thing that I am certain of is that the position and "drag" of a PC changes the sound of my digital front end. I also just cleared more vertical height to play with and will next try top weighting the DAC and transport to see if it will stabilize the sound a little more, regardless of PC placement. Too much top weighting can sound dead though, IMO.
Redkiwi, I've followed your progress on shelf material with great intrest. I know that finding maple was an issue for you and you are reviewing it now. I'm interested in following up your experiments with different thicknesses of maple, mahogany, pear and anything else anyone might suggest. In order for me to first relate my study to your previose findings I was going to start with a similiar board. Thus the question, what size all three measurements are you using now, and is it a built-up (butcherblock) or a single board. Thank-you for your research and following information. J.D.
Jadem6, I have two boards of 454mm * 354mm * 57mm (or approx 18.5" by 14.5" by 2.25" for the metrically challenged). To my knowledge they were cut from a large piece of Maple Butchers Block and are made up of glued pieces of Maple, not a solid block of Maple. I find it to be good, but not as good as the Neuance shelves. However the Neuance shelves cannot support the weight of my monoblock amps and so that is where I use the Maple. I really need more time to be more definitive, but I would recommend you look into the Neuance shelves as they seem to me to be a better idea, being faster, more transparent and less colored. The Beta version of the Neuance is able to support my Theta gear which are around 40lbs each, so it is really only large amps that cannot be accommodated. If you do try them then you should be aware that they need about a day to settle. When you first put the Neuance in place the sound will be warm and mushy, and then over the next two days all will clear up. You get the best of everything with the Neuance; neutral without peakiness, speed and extension, fine detail without smearing. Iswear I can almost identify the brand of guitar strings there is so much clean detail and natural color.
Mark> Greetings! Just discovered this thread, after posting at length on your older "Neuance" thread, so I refer you there. I read your comments on the EAR footers with interest, and am curious as to what Ken thinks about their use instead of the
metal spikes he likes...Ernie
Hi Ernie - I have just finished posting to the one you refer to - I must be following you around. My reference to the E-A-R footers was for between Neuance shelf and component, whereas Ken's was for between rack and shelf - I believe. In fact I have found that if you use the Neuance shelf correctly (ie. on a welded steel shelf, spiked up and down, no sand-filling etc) then the sound is just great with a component's standard feet. Where the E-A-R feet come in is this - once you have used the Neuance properly, then all fancy footers sound gross, the only thing that I have found that sounds OK is the E-A-R. The E-A-R adds warmth, bloom and a very liquid smoothness without upsetting PRAT and resolution noticeably. Probably ideal for taming the highs you have been trying to do for a while. But too many E-A-R in the system can take away immediacy and openness. For example, in one system we preferred to use a fair number of E-A-R feet under the components, but when we swapped out the Siltech cable for the Coincident cable or the Wireworld cable, we preferred to take all of the E-A-R feet out. So I found the E-A-R feet did not undo the effect of the Neuance and was a reasonably successful way of getting the right balance of openness and immediacy with warmth and liquidity.