First off, to produce such gear would be VERY expensive and lock all but the best healed among us from owning such pieces. For me it is a given that all gear needs to be placed on a solid stand/rack and use vibration management devices to minimize the effect of both exterior vibration and interior resonance.
I agree that many manufacturers could be doing more with their designs to minimize microphonic effects and indeed many already have. They have to be able to reach a certain price point which limits how much they can invest in that aspect of design. I would rather use my own carefully chosen means to manage the vibration/resonance/microphonic issue and have the designer employ better quality transformers, capacitors, resistors etc.
Finally, for me one of the most interesting parts of this hobby is tweaking the chassis to tune it to the sound that my ears desire. Have fun with it!
It’s an interesting question whether a non microphonic component is subject to external vibration, akin to the question whether solid state electronics need to be isolated from structural vibration just like tube electronics. And whether solid state amps that have chassis built out of solid billets of aluminum are immune from vibration. I suspect the answer to these question lie in the way that seismic type vibration manifest itself in listening rooms, how seismic vibrations are comprised of forces that act in six directions due to wavelike action on the building, moving the entire building and anything coupled to it.
Thus, an amp made from a solid billet of aluminum is forced to move in many directions, even if (especially if) it is mounted on a solid base or rack. The solid aluminum billet amplifier must be decoupled from the floor, from the building, to be free from structural vibration. As for tube electronics, we find even "non-microphonic" tubes respond very well to isolation and damping.
Isolation is key to great sound from cables,power cords,amps,preamp,turntable and cd player.In a high resolution system you can hear the difference more detail,better stage,quieter back-round etc.
@hifiman5 I'm not so sure. I think it's only expensive because we don't know exactly which items are causing the perceived issue. That's what science and engineering should be for.
I mean, what if it's all from the RCA jacks? or 90% there and 10% from resistors.....? Without this kind of science, we have no idea what and how all these isolating components allegedly work, and so remain snake-oil like. Even if some things work, I could sell something "new and different" claiming it better, when it doesn't do a thing.
Exhibit A - Vibraplane isolation stands have sold circa 10,000 units to audiophiles since their intro about 20 years ago. In addition, as I keep pointing out, LIGO the experiment to detect gravity waves, that finally detected gravity waves last year was forced to employ very exotic and extensive vibration isoaltion means, you know, in order to detect gravity waves that have an amplitude circa the diameter of a neutron. Hel-loo!
@geoffkait The first is evidence of a market, not efficacy, or need. That's kind of a strawman.
The second, the LIGO experiment, only proves that LIGO benefited from vibration isolation, not that audio would. That's like saying that the shocks in my car prove I should spend $20,000 to isolate my DAC. Car manufacturers, like Caltech, and also like turntable manufacturers, measure, refine and retest. That is, it's clear by measurement, experience and theory that turntables need vibration isolation. At least two of these proofs are missing for solid state equipment, not to mention cables. There is no measured evidence of vibration isolation, and no theory by which they could improve the sound.
The LIGO experiments are a perfect example. They required vibration control for MEASURED and predicted problems. There is no published, measured problem in a solid-state amplifier or preamp that requires vibration control. Going back to the LIGO, they didn't just throw some rubber under the lab equipment. They measured, tested, altered, and re-measured until they were sure they had captured the vibration problems and corrected for them. We don't have any of that in audiophile world for solid-state equipment, or if there is, no one is sharing.
More importantly, it's not explanatory.
Let's say I completely agree that my preamp needs an isolation platform to sound better. OK, well, why? What about the design is sensitive to vibration?
This is how we get from snake oil and wallet-bleeding technology to affordable solutions that are consistently employed by manufacturers.
Erik, I hate to judge before all the facts are in but it looks like you totally ignored my comment regarding the success of the Vibraplane iso platform. Do you think that customers of the Vibraplane were gullible unsuspecting victims of group hypnosis, hysteria, expectation bias or the placebo effect? I’m not even going to mention the host of other audiophile isolation products that have come after Vibraplane, you know, like Ginko, mag lev platforms, Stillpoints, springs, airsprings, suspensions, Halcyonics, Townshend iso platforms, bicycle inner tube DIY, roller bearing assemblies, Minus K, sandboxes, and air bladders from Bright Star, etc.
I want to re-iterate, I’m not questioning if vibration control matters. I’m questioning why there’s not more evidence for it in audio? Why isn’t there a scientific approach to finding effective tests for it, isolating the problem and then proposing the most cost-effective means for solving it.
I mean, how difficult is it to introduce vibration into an electronic system and measure it’s effects on the output of the device? It’s super easy. We do this for turntables, earthquakes and buildings, space experiments, etc. It’s a shame this is not being done here.
Ideally, there should be a UL listed or AES standard test for it. Soundstage or Stereophile should then be able to apply this test to any equipment that comes through, and voila. We now have cheaper, better sounding equipment.
@erik_squires I like the idea of an industry standard for measuring vibration effects on a component's signal output. We are all long aware of the standard measurements done to all tested gear to give us a basic indication of its successful design implementation.
The tested standard would almost force design changes favorable to vibration mitigation and would promote an awareness to all audiophiles that vibration is an issue not to be trifled with.
Hmmmm. Now, how to get that done...
One need only to look for a well thought out design that addresses the issue of vibration control as it's always been an issue. It's just that some makes actually care to do something about it.
My Marantz Reference integrated is so designed and negated the need for my Herbies Tenderfeet, which I've always needed. The Herbies actually muddied up the sound.
All the best,
I, too, would like some kind of accepted standard, but I doubt anyone could agree as to what that would be, as there are so many different kinds of vibration effects( Do we measure 1st, 2nd or 3rd order harmonics?, etc.).
Also, there must be a point of diminishing returns, where do we stop measuring?
Maybe NASA can fit us into their busy schedule. Or MIT or the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Might have to wait in line, though, since there aren’t even standards for polarity for the industry. Nor do I think there are standards for AC voltage, EMI/RFI, fuses, frequency response, dynamic range, distortion or noise.
@geoffkait There are plenty of standards for AC voltage. There may not be standards for dynamic range, distortion and noise but they are all measurable and comparable.
It doesn’t take NASA or MIT or NIST to start making progress. That’s what is so odd. Simple tests could be done with inexpensive equipment. For instance, cartridge and tonearms have measurable resonances, don’t they? It doesn’t take a top secret clean room to measure that.
Usually the way this works is some engineer sees a problem, or relationship, and they do a survey. That gets presented, "socialized" and, if accepted by at least some peers, is enhanced further. At some point, at least measurements get standardized, and if needed, actual standards are produced. That's not the same event. But still, I've never seen a single bit of academic or engineering work on the vibration of solid state audio gear.
Going back to that early phonograph stage, if I still had it, I’m sure it would be easy to measure the effects of external vibrations on it’s output. I could absolutely hear it, so could anyone else.
Here's a really simple example. Take a turntable, and put the needle in a groove. Do not turn on the motor. It would be really easy to measure how much it picks up from a speaker 1m away playing a 90 dB test tone.
And, I'm sure in this case it would show something! :-)
I'm just wondering, has anyone seen any academic work when it comes to solid state gear and music listening?
Erik, but we already know external vibration is an issue for everything. From the cartridge to the tonearm, to the platter to the cabling. We’ve known it for more than 20 years. And we know the reason those particular things are susceptible to low frequency structural vibration is because their resonant frequencies are below the acoustic frequencies in the room but in the range where they’re liable to be excited by low frequency seismic type vibrations circa 10-14 Hz. Ditto the laser assembly of CD players which is mounted on tiny springs that are liable to be excited by, you guessed it, low frequency structural vibration.
Clark Johnsen had it right when he said back in 2010 "
In truth, earth-born activity enormously affects analog playback.."
Yes mother earth herself is what we are isolating our gear from.http://www.positive-feedback.com/Issue50/vibraplane_clark.htm
Erik, there are ways to "see" the results of isolation. Watch the Townshend Audio videos (available for viewing on You Tube).
@geoffkait If we know vibration is an issue for everything, why isn't it measured? Where is that measurement? I have no evidence or access to any academic publishing that associates physical vibrations to sound in solid state electronics.
The key words here are "solid state" electronics. A cartridge and tonearm are not solid state since they rely on vibrations to operate. However, there's lots of measurements, discussions and categorization of vibration in cartridges and tonearms. There's also relatively easy ways to measure vibration and flexion in speaker cabinets, from scotch tape with accelerometers to laser interferometers.
There's ZERO for solid state equipment. Why is this particular area so neglected in terms of understanding?
Hard disks for instance (the moving kind) have legions of scientists dedicated to understanding vibrations and minimizing the effects cost effectively.
Where's the scientists and engineers actually measuring the effects of vibrations on a ss preamp?
I mean, when you think about car design, there's a ton of measurements, and simulations and testing htat goes into designing a suspension system. Formula 1 cars produce this information in terabytes per race. We have zero for solid state audio gear, but we have some very expensive solutions.
So what I'm really asking is, am I wrong to think there is no such information? Perhaps I'm completely wrong.
Mind you, I do not attempt to argue vibrations don't cause problems. That's a different argument than I'm asking about.
What I'm looking for is a theory and testing as well.
I'm not so sure your claim that nobody measures vibration is true. I see a lot of folks say, "I've looked everywhere and don't find anything" about a lot of things. Obviously the experiment LIGO measured vibration. Whether a reviewer ever measured vibration in the context of a review of Vibraplane or any other iso device, you might be right. But I'm not sure you're right. For one thing vibration is different for different geographical locations and for different audio systems. One can make some sense of the rather simple equations for isolation effectiveness and resonant frequency of the iso system.
LOok at it this way. What if a few rubber grommets would be as effective as milling a case out of aluminum billet. Without the measurements and active scientific development all we have is a hole to throw money into.
@geoffkait That's out of context. I'm asking about vibration measurements in solid state devices such as a preamp or DAC.
LIGO did have to minimize vibration, but is more like a phonograph than it is a preamp, and it was done scientifically. It wasn't just an open budget that they launched into space, and then hoped they had fixed the possible issues.
You are right that no one thing is the same, but no one road is the same, but car makers constantly measure, simulate and refine the suspension systems.
It is very possible I've not looked in the right places as well. :)
@geoffkait That’s out of context. I’m asking about vibration measurements in solid state devices such as a preamp or DAC.
What good would it do? As I just said the amplitudes and frequencies of seismic type vibration are different for everyone, and depend on time of year, time of day, location, urban or non-urban environment, loudness of audio system at time of test (you are assuming the system is playing when the measurements are made, I trust), proximity to subways, buses, ocean wave action, wind for high rise buildings. There are too many variables to worry about. Measurements are irrelevant or would not be sufficiently conclusive.
The law of maximization: no matter how much you have in the end you would have had even more if you had started out with more in the beginning.
no goats no glory
I'm telling you Max Townshend HAS measured seismic vibration and isolation to combat it. Is it so hard to go to You Tube?!
You can see the seismic vibration in a glass of water placed on top of the preamp or whatever. You can see the ripples on the surface of the water. You can also see the lack of ripples on the surface of the water when the preamp is isolated from the seismic vibration. That is one way to measure the vibration. You can estimate the frequency and amplitude of the vibration. If you're clever you can even set up a kind of mini LIGO using a laser pointer in a dark room and "measure" the amplitude and frequency of vibration by watching the reflection of the laser pointer off the surface of the water on the wall behind the glass of water.
Too much isolation and dampening can kill dynamics and warmth. Only do what is needed to achieve desired results.
@geoffkait Thanks for that example! I see now the problem. I apologize if I wasn't clear.
OK, I believe that isolation devices reduce vibrations on any items with mass placed on top of them.
What I have no evidence for is that the physical vibrations the preamp suffers has any bearing on the output signal.
@falconquest Great links! :)
The protection for the equipment is for reliability though. No one is claiming the vibration control changes the performance of the device, or if it has no one has measured it.
And we know tubes are microphonic, as are phonograph cartridges. That's easy to prove. :)
I mean, you can literally tap many tubes and hear it in the speaker. ;-)
Erik_Squires wrote earlier,
"Ideally, there should be a UL listed or AES standard test for it. Soundstage or Stereophile should then be able to apply this test to any equipment that comes through, and voila. We now have cheaper, better sounding equipment."
It’s likely the industry S it were is actually not aware there is a problem. Like wire directionality, aftermarket power cords, aftermarket fuses, RFI, vibration in electronics is not something that is being addressed, nor has it ever been. NASAof course tests for vibration and shock for components that have to be launched on satellites, but they do not test for her effect of vibration on sound quality. However, subjective test are performed for many vibration control and I ration isoaltion devices, I.e., listening tests. As I mentioned already there is not much one can do to a component to decouple it from the Earth’s vibration, it requires an external stand or platform. Rockport is a rare example of a turntable with an integrated seismic isolatin system.
There are obviously things that can be done inside or on the outside of the component for resonance control but I have a feeling most companies actually don’t actually do much resonance control either because it’s an extra cost or because the solution looks a little tacky. Electron tube dampers, chassis damping material, CD transport damping material, fuse damping, damping for capacitors, damping or isolating cables and wires, damping for RCA connectors. Where does it all end? The whole room is microphonic or verges on being microphonic.
So the question on the table is whether the signal, the electromagnetic wave, is liable to be affected, distorted by vibration. I think I can say without fear of contradiction, like it’s sibling the acoustic signal in the room, yes, it is. Finally, as I already pointed out, every location and every room is different with respect to seismic type vibration so any standard that attempts to correlate seismic vibration and sound quality would be rather awkward.
I’m not sure this answers any of your questions, Erik, but aren’t there accelerometers or other devices that measure movement in different planes that could be attached to the internals of a piece of gear, an external force of predetermined velocity/mass applied and the impact measured as a physical matter? Assuming that’s all readily available technology that may already be in use (centrifuge or other military/scientific instrument immunity to vibration?), how would you correlate it with sound?
Re tube microphonics, isn’t some of the problem "self-noise," i.e. modulation generated by the tube itself? How would providing mechanical isolation of the chassis or even the tube socket totally eliminate this? I raise this in part based on experience- my Allnic phono stage has gel tube sockets but some of the small tubes still sang sympathetically- you couldn’t hear it through the system, but you could hear it as a mechanical resonance if you were near the unit, had music going through it and muted the output downstream. Simple solution was to replace the tube- Mr. Park, from Allnic, told me the tubes would eventually burn in anyway- they weren’t common small tubes, but ones used for radio transmitting/telephony switching, as I recall.
I had a hell of a time when I used an ARC SP-10 mk ii years ago as my main preamp. The thing was microphonic as hell. I used to go through bags of 6dj8s to find quiet ones- I even had ARC modify the tube sockets at one point to try damped sockets- I forget who made them- it was a third party product similar in concept to the gel socket from Allnic. Didn’t really help, and I had ARC remove the fancy sockets and replace them with their standard parts.
On the bigger subject of "isolation," I also wonder whether using external devices sometimes robs the piece of equipment of its "life."
I’ve certainly messed with various forms of isolation, for different reasons- all of them change the sound to some degree. But, I think your question is directed less to "tweaking" for sonic shadings and more to solving problems like noise that result from unwanted vibration.
@dave_b "Too much isolation and dampening can kill dynamics and warmth."
Well maybe the dampening as you would be adding moisture to your component's environment. Bad for electronics! If the presence of vibration and microphonics alters the sound in a way that you find pleasing then have at it. IMHO I have Never heard vibration and microphonics provide a more musically pleasing/accurate listening experience. As has been said many times before...vibration and microphonics are always enemies of accurate sonic reproduction.
@whart What i mean about measurements is measurements of the microphonic pick-up effect. As described in the Wikipedia article, the idea is that an external vibration causes a change in the voltage in the outputs. I don't know of anyone who has published data on this.
Measuring the reduction in physical vibration is also quite easy, but not the point. :) I'm OK with my preamp shaking if the sound in the speakers is not affected.
Unfortunately, tubes are very microphonic but that's a good example. :) There could easily be testing on a tube preamp to measure just how microphonic it is, what frequencies, etc. and compare tube preamps to each other in this regard,
I'm not going to get into the measurements or the science of measuring. That topic will spin forever in this hobby as it always has even though the measuring has been available for many years. However let me inject this into the conversation. Audio itself is vibration. Every part in your system functions by vibrating. The energy picked up by the microphones is vibration. The energy given off from our speakers is vibration. The energy we hear is vibration. Even the signal traveling inside of our brain is vibration. What I'm adding here is a fact. Dampening vibrations in this hobby is only a set tuning. It's one variable among billions. Whereas this hobby keeps returning to it's problem. Your conversation will never end because until this hobby understands that every recording is variable, and every part of the system is vibrating, there is one and only one conclusion to making accurate sound. That answer is, accurate sound is created as we tune the vibrations through the audio chain from beginning to end. It's all very simple, but the systems we need to deliver the music we love have not yet been made available. It's been designed, just not excepted in high end audio's mainstream.
The best that has been done so far, is stripping each component down to the point where the mass is able to be tuned effectively by external tuning devices. You can see this done on the TuneLand forum. This has been going on for over 30 years now, but because this means a complete redesign of components, the industry has not been willing to change course, yet. It will happen just not until high end audio as we know it hits the wall of no return as it is. Until then you will have a million systems all sounding different from each other trying to judge recordings all with a different recorded code.
Until the audio egos get to the place where they realize tuning an electronic audio component is no different than tuning an acoustical instrument the questions and debates over theory will remain.
Ok, let's make it simple then. You can put your isolation gear in place, one item at a time. Listen. Repeat till done. If at any point you believe it doesn't sound realistic or true to the source, then stop. The key is the reference...music you know well and have heard under various conditions and systems. Simply adopting something based on theory and good intentions does not gaurantee accurate sound reproduction.
@dave_b I'm wiht you on using your own ears to determine what's "good."
However, no good speaker maker, or car suspension designer, goes without measurements and some working framework. Of course, the sound, and the ride (in the car) matter most. The same is true of room acoustics and amplifier design.
Without this science, there's little to help make things better and cheaper.
I mean, what if we could measure brands of resistors? WHat if for instance the famous Vishay naked resistors were really just less microphonic than others? Maybe we can take cheap resistors and pot them. :)
The theoretical is of no use to the end user. I buy stereo. I hook it up with what I believe to be the best wires I can afford and place it in the best environment possible under real world constraints. After that, I experiment with reasonable accessories and reject those that add no value to my listening experience.
The theoretical is the only reason anyone can build a stereo at all. :)
It's how engineering happens. Whether the design ends up being something you personally like is another story.
Yes! Did I not say End User? My perspective is from that of the non-engineer...in other words, the majority of audiophiles/ listeners. Kinda like Obama's speech at the UN today...high ideals and well structured but worthless from the perspective of accomplishing anything. I don't have to know how a microwave oven works to appreciate its expeditious way with heating my food:))
@dave_b Agreed. As they say, "the proof of the pudding is in the eating."
Right on hifiman. I do apply damping materials to some things in my Hi-Fi, but dampening I use only on my lawn :-).
As for "too much" isolation killing dynamics and warmth, why would anyone want to allow externally generated vibration to enter the components that are retrieving and amplifying one's source material, thereby adding artificial (phony) "dynamics and warmth" to the music contained therein? That certainly fits the definition of distortion. There is no such thing as too much isolation, imo. I don't want ANY external (or internal) vibration added to my reproduced music. What an un-Hi-Fi notion!
bdp24, sorry for the incorrect spelling. As for your obsessive predilection toward component isolation and your exact position on the Autism spectrum, you have my sympathy!
Don't forget hifiman Dave! It's not the different spelling, it's that damping and dampening are two very different things. I'm actually not obsessed with isolation, but when it is said that too much of it is a bad thing, I feel compelled to offer an alternate view.
You are excessively literal bdp24...relax and let the weight of your daily concerns be lifted away! Sometimes a little oscillation is just what the doctor ordered. Of course keeping things rigid can have its benefits...that's what SHE said;)
+ 1 bdp24 Vibration/resonance IS a great enemy of the enjoyment of great music.
It’s so difficult sometimes to generalize and draw conclusions about isolation and damping, especially given almost all isolation methods employ some amount of internal damping. However there is some penalty in terms of isolation effectiveness for employing too much damping. Even the trusty rubber airspring is internally damped by virtue of the rubber material. Sometimes steel springs are in a bath of viscous oil for damping; as I’ve preached on many occasions the top plate of any iso platform should be damped to suppress any residual vibrations that might have found their way onto it. The only good vibration is a dead vibration. And I can certainly understand some people's reluctance to employ damping as many so called damping materials suck.
Practically everyone should know by now that the lower the resonant frequency of the iso device and the more directions of motion it addresses the more effective the device will be all things being equal. As for damping I’d have to agree with Acoustic Revive the clever little Japanese maker of all manner of audiophile goodies, including those cool little crystals for walls and the venerable Schumann Frequency Generator, that opined in English, "damping can have very positive benefits but one should be careful not to over dump."
Sorry, I need to laugh at you guys just a little bit. Please don’t take this as me picking on you, but re-read this thread and see if it makes sense. Here you guys are trying to put to end the very thing that music is and your making no sense at all.
I think you guys sometimes need to grab someone off the street and have them read what you are saying.
Let me ask you guys a simple question. If you record a space that is 40’ x 70’ and your playback system is producing maybe 12’ x 8’, why are you not reproducing the real size of the recorded energy?
Don’t get all audiophile-ish before you think about this.
Second question. Go into a room with a live cello. Now go back into that room with a dampened speaker and play the same thing the cello just did. Why is the live cello 3 times as dynamic? Again don’t get defensive before you do this.
High end audio has been sitting still for 30 some years now and as you guys have admitted on other threads here, is dead compared to what it was. Why do you think that is?
"Vibration/resonance IS a great enemy of the enjoyment of great music"
hifiman, do you really believe this? really? That cello is 3 times more dynamic for two reasons. First it is vibrating, second it is In-Tune.
Gentlemen, take that same cello and room and music, and de-tune the cello. The dynamics disappear. Take that same cello and put it back In-Tune and the dynamics come back. My friends Music Is Vibration. It’s either vibration In-Tune or Out-Of-Tune.
One last question. If your system was In-Tune and you were playing back that 40’ x 70’ recording how big will your soundstage be?
Sorry guys but all you are doing here is talking, while the listeners who have figured this out are listening to that 40’ x 70’ soundstage in their listening rooms at this very moment.
come join the walk, leave behind the talk
Now go back and look at this
"Too much isolation and dampening can kill dynamics and warmth. Only do what is needed to achieve desired results.".
This my friends is a sensible statement.
Isolation and damping are two different things. Dampening is a third ;-). Damping is, I will admit, fraught will peril. Used in moderation in specific applications (as in the Townshend Rock turntable, the Well Tempered Arm, and many other high-performance pickup arms---SME, Graham, Triplanar), it has been found to have a very positive benefit. Some reviewers have commented that the Rock may be found to have less "bloom" than other tables. I, personally, don’t want a table exhibiting "bloom". I want to hear whatever bloom the instruments in the recording produce, not that of the equipment used to reproduce those recordings.
Michael, I understand that your theory of letting things vibrate/resonate and tuning that resonance is the rational for your designs and business. As a drummer who has a collection of vintage (from the mid 1920’s to the early 70’s) and modern drums and cymbals, I (and others) have made a study of how differently designed and built drums and cymbals differ in terms of resonance, sustain and decay, projection, timbre, and other sound characteristics. Instruments are supposed to vibrate---that’s how they produce sound. To conflate that with the pieces of equipment used to reproduce the sound of instruments also needing to be free to resonate is not a notion I subscribe to. I found that hypothesis flawed when I first heard you propose it in the 90’s Michael, and I still do. Feel free to attempt to change my mind!
As for isolation, I can’t imagine why one would want ANY amount of vibration to enter and contaminate the sensitive measuring device that is a turntable/arm/cartridge, or the electronic circuits (tubes the most sensitive, right?) amplifying the signal entering them. How would allowing THAT provide higher fidelity than preventing it? And how does allowing a loudspeaker cabinet (or it’s drivers) to vibrate and resonate enable that loudspeaker to better reproduce the signal sent it? What you DON’T want it the speaker adding it’s own sound. I mean, how more basic a Hi-Fi tenet is there?! There is NO correlation between a musical instrument needing to vibrate to make sound, and Hi-Fi equipment needing to be free to resonate to reproduce music. None.
Michael Green wrote,
"Now go back and look at this
"Too much isolation and dampening can kill dynamics and warmth. Only do what is needed to achieve desired results.".
This my friends is a sensible statement."
Right. And people often believe that too much chocolate ice cream is bad, too. At least you seem to be in agreement with the proposition that some isolation and some damping is a good idea. Looks like we're making some headway.