Review: herbie's Audio Lab Iso Cup footers Tweak

Category: Accessories

Herbie’s Audio Labs Iso cups, and assorted footers.

......Or what is this nonsense about after market Feet, Footers Space age and plain good old Wood?

OK, OK, I get it now. Everything matters. Some things more than others, but OK, everything matters… even the little supports that rise up the components we buy so regularly. Every maker fits legs under their designs. Lifting them up for ventilation, safety, and/or isolation and damping of vibrations.

Coming to understand such things can take time. More importantly, it takes experience (s). One has to find out for themselves just what actually does matter through a process of repeated trials and tests.. My contempt prior to investigation reigns high within me due to my past life experiences. Having been an electronics tech in the Navy. A commercial & industrial constructiomn electrician following the service. Later, a salesman and winding up owning and operating my own businesses. I was hard pressed to take electronic advice from another. Nor was I too amenable to advice itself, for that matter.

Trying to tell me things like wires, signal cables, power cables and speaker cables could completely change and or improve the sound of my stereo was difficult, if not impossible. But OK. Finally I tried some out in my home, on my gear and saw for myself at the very least, things did change.

Power conditioning and filtering were still more difficult obstacles for me to buy into. Active, or passive? Maker A or maker B? This design or that one? How do you know if you even need one when it all sounds pretty good all by itself, already? And just exactly what do you mean when you say, “You’ll hear less of what you aren’t hearing now!”

One merely has but to find out for themselves…. And until one does, ignorance is truly ‘bliss’…. and cheaper. Although now and then, not addressing such things or going about it improperly can be very frustrating and quite expensive.

My return to the audio hobby some decade and more ago ended up in a very aggressive, analytical, yet forcefully presented audio system. It wasn’t the components themselves, but rather the mix of them, and the fact most of, if not all of the accessories and peripherals were discounted entirely as ‘un-necessary’ or arbitrary. In a word, I ‘ignored’ everything else.

I had not attended to even investigating cabling. Power filtration or power supplies. Did not even think to determine if a ground loop was properly alleviated or not. I had crap for racks, and likewise so was the wiring comprising the gears signal path and power introduction. As the result of my pre-ordained, prior to, contemptuous perspectives I lost affair amount of money ridding myself of those pieces, all the while thinking it was nothing more than the pieces themselves.

There is more to a fine audio system than just great components. I think that’s why it is called a system.

In the rise and fall of high end designs, components, and consequent costs, there are those who have found innovative, cost cutting alternatives or just alternative choices for some of the incidents and issues we as hobbyists try to overcome, or need to overcome in putting together an exemplary sounding audio system.

Vibration, damping, and isolation, are all present in some form or fashion within each and every system. Controling, diminishing, adding to or subtracting it altogether, are integral measures the enthusiast in the know will take to raise the performance bar of their equipment.

Which school of thought, wether it be contained, or conducted away, that the audio nut follows the results speak quickly for themselves in no uncertain terms when ever these isolation, damping, etc., footer replacements are used.

Cones, dots, cups, pods or simple looking blocks of wood are only a smattering of your available picks . you might too come up with some innovation of your own! The idea is of course to free the audio signal from inherent onboard or external resonances so as to maintain it’s purity and integrity as it is handed off from one piece to another on its way to the loudspeakers, and ultimately to your brain.

Even non rotating components present a particular resonance of their own. Buildings, have resonance. I know of at least one person who was employed to measure just such things! Measure a building’s vibrations? Whoa! If it’s on this spinning earth, it rattles, rocks, swings, buzzes, or vibrates. Somehow at some level, even if it appears completely static, like solid state amps and preamps.

A wealth of information on the various methods and techniques one can employ to address vibrations & resonances are easily found on the Audiogon web pages and across the web itself. Enough white papers abound to confuse or delight any serious audio or video enthusiast. You have but to Google or seek out and use your fav search engine for them.

It stands to reason if you look even briefly, the OEM footers supplied with your brand new and probably quite expensive appliance has as its supports, the cheapest little pieces of uh, kit that can be attached in many cases. Some makers of modern gear actually do go out of their way to address these afore mentioned bug a boos to good sounds by adding pretty good supports to their items. Removing, replacing, or affixing some other after market supports to these devices will indeed alter the sound, or the sound field itself. Quite often improving it.

The Herbie’s Audio Labs iso cups are just one of my fav footers. I use them under rotating gear if the piece’s weight is not extreme. Less than 50 lbs, let’s say. I use 3 of these gizmos to rest the component onto.

Using only 3 of these ‘footers’ seems intuitive enough, stable enough, and cheap enough at roughly $20 to $25 a copy. Fancier yet similar items cost as much as ten times that for a complete set. At $60 to $100 per set, I’ll give ‘whatever’ a shot. See? There’s my contempt rearing it’s head once again… How come you won’t try the still more pricy ones which run $250 or more?

Beats me. Money maybe. …and what IF I like them? Then what am I going to do? $300 for each component? Sweet jumpin’ jellyfish! That’s a lot of do-re-mi!

Oh, and there’s that ignorance equating to bliss, business too.

Placement isn’t always as intuitive however. A perfect triangle is not the prescribed best seating position… albeit it’s as good as any other place to begin with. I don’t always take off the existing OEM legs either. Sometimes the OEM attached feet are just glued instead of screwed, onto the item. I’d as soon not slice those off.

The iso cups I have bought from Steve are comprised of a compliant small cup of sorts, and came with little balls, made of quite different materials. Each provides quite different attributes to the sonic presentation. I prefer the ebony balls over the polymer ones. In fact I like what ebony does overall for the sound of any piece of equipment. Well, either ebony or Mahogany. Ebony comes off sounding very straight forward and solid. Firm but not hard or brittle. Mahogany introduces some sweetness to the sound, while keeping the audio well represented and controlled. Cocobola for example, eases off the leading edge of notes somewhat, providing a smoother form to the sounds being generated. Zebra wood and Teak are similar in that they are more inclined to expose the sonic scenery with immediacy and without excuse.

It might be as simple a thing as the appliances (footers) specific gravity, or density. Each of the previously specified woods have differing weights, given the same dimensions. Those possessing the higher weights had the more forceful impact upon the sound, during my trials. More compliant materials could actually dull the resultant sound were they too soft.

The Ebony balls in the compliant cups strengthened the imaging noticeably. Placing more firmly each image in the audio tapestry. Greater definition to each item was clearly presented gaining every object within the sound scape more presence and position.

Overall the audio itself was less fuzzy. Sorry. My thesaurus hung up. More articulated. Exacting. Throughout the band width.

One precautionary note in placement of footers is just this… Once you have decided to give this practice a go, Move them around! Try them in one configuration, and then another. Don’t just try one predetermined array and quit if the results aren’t your cup of tea. Rearrange them again. Move them in and out, in various triangle arrays. Dependant upon where you place them the souhnd can be completely changed. Bottom end can be almost completely ameliorated. The stage can be brought forward or reset away from the listening position. Each array however will define the sound uniquely, so do move them about to find that condition which bests adds to your own preferences while improving the performance level of the system itself.

For a long time now, some after market outfitters have claimed Myrtle wood blocks are genuine step ups in sound then why not other woods? Why not other materials? Why then not combinations of both?

Myrtle wood is but one avenue. There are many other woods to select, and many other materials to examine…. And we should as well.

Different items, systems, rack and shelf configurations might be more adept at some other wood or materials. Perhaps brass, stainless steel, or some fast frozen extruded aluminum cup filled with some polymer substance and a small tungsten ball atop it/them. I don’t know the answer you might need, but I do know offers of these possible answers abound!

I do feel now, the only way to actually limit your system’s sonic incrase, is to NOT TRY ANYTHING.

Emulating these appliances isn’t too terribly difficult. Neither is finding an upscale furniture making outlet, or cabinent maker, even a hobby shop, for that matter will be a source of supply for all types of footer materials. Odd length cut offs from projects now over with, can be a great source of footer material, and often they are free!

I’ve not yet found a solid wood block, regardless the type, that does what the herbie’s Iso cups do. Neither vibra pods or vibra cones do it. Bright Star Nodes come close yet they excel in other areas with non rotating equipment.

The ISO cups with the Ebony balls refine the sound, reduce the fuzz, and open the stage up a bit more. They don’t reduce the bass impact, nor brighten up the top end. They merely unveil the music.

For the $$$ I’ll take em everytime, or until something better comes along. Or until I can get past my CPTI precepts, and self imposed financial constraints and step on into the further upscale solutions for damping, isolation, and vibration control.

Associated gear
Click to view my Virtual System

Similar products
Vibra pods, Myrtle, Asst. Wood, DIY footers, Sorbathane, etc.
Thanks for the finely written review Blindjim. I agree with many of your opinions. And highly respect your listening & hearing skills. Regards.
Yep, thanks, I use 'em under my vintage integrated and tenderfeet under my TT.

Thanks folks... really.

As tough a thing as it is to hear, and seldom ever the desired solution, nearly every answer to any question on the 'Gon, should be, you'll have to see for yourself.

The Herbie's Audio Lab items, as gimicky as they may seem to be, do in fact provide a low cost and effective alternative solution for system peripherals.

The things herein which truly amazed me were the wood blocks another member sent me a few years ago.... they really opened my eyes to how much footers, shelves, supports, damping, etc., actually mattered.
Steve makes some other balls for the iso cups that I think work even better than the balls you have tried.
The lampblack balls are a great allround material.
Better yet are the ruby gyro's.
But my favorite are the brass gyro's.
I use the lampblacks, and the brass gyro's and love them !
I've not tried 'em all. That's for sure.

I don't think he even makes these balls, rather, he finds them in certain things or places instead.

So far, in wood, I like the effects of Ebony and mahogany best of all.... having tried Teak, Cocobolo, Zebra, Oak, Pine, Spruce, Apple, Myrtle, and Maple.
Have tried the wood footers. Not a fan. For my Meridian CD the old large Audio Quest Sorbathane footers works best. For my McIntosh MC206 amp-I use nothing. Preamp the Herbie Rubber footers work best. For my Thiels spikes rounded off for tile floor. My JL Ausio subwoofer works best with nothing. Experiment. Dynamat Extreme applied to the Meridian cases botton and to the internal metal cases of the McIntosh gear tightens up base

Given waht I've heard from the pieces you own, waht you are using and where they are being used, makes enormous sense to me.

Tubes are different animals than SS and each camp benefits from different approaches.

I'd want to use compliant or sorbathane pieces myself to ease up and refine the sound from the Meridian, and mac. you might try a platform beneath the sub too. that one near no cost plywood DIY bit aided mine a good deal.