Review: Townshend Audio Speaker Podiums

we listen to acoustical vibrations (in air), but in pursuit of SOTA playback, one must work to minimize the mechanical ones which compromise ultimate fidelity; that’s why good speakers have stiffer cabinets, better electronics have stout chassis, and the use of vibration treatments (footers under components) is almost always audible in high resolution systems.

Vibration-killing footers are an area where great strides can be made in improving playback fidelity. Soft footers typically found installed beneath electronics are garbage, and anything used instead of them is an improvement. The first tweak most audiophiles use is spikes (aka cones, which is a spike with one fatter side)--- spikes are used on the premise that they act as a mechanical diode, allowing energy to ‘drain’ in one direction while resisting a reversal of the flow. And under electronics, they generally work –though in my experience they can be easily bettered by more advanced footers (like Stillpoints).

But what of speakers? Good speakers all use spikes. But, like under electronics, can spikes be bettered under loudspeakers?

I got into speaker feet (clearly I’m not married) when I bought Magico S7s. Sitting nearfield demands careful vertical alignment between tweeter height and ear height else a suckout is present, which was obvious when the 3” high moving wheels were installed in the S7s outriggers. Putting the speakers directly on the floor (not using factory supplied spikes) lowered the cabinet 3” and aligned the tweeter & ear, but caused a greater amplification of bass energy due to the boundary coupling effects of the front baffle with the carpeting; midrange clarity and PRAT was destroyed. Some elevation was required to break the coupling.  Installing the factory spikes failed to provide enough lift and the front baffle remained coupled with the carpet, leaving the bass thick and obtrusive. So I tried a cheap tweak and went to some children’s alphabet blocks under the Magicos, while raising my listening seat 2” to keep the tweeter-ear alignment in check. This was a huge improvement as I got the midrange clarity back along with HF extension.  But in further experiments, I found the wooden blocks were adding a tilt towards brightness in the midrange that was only corrected after I put Herbies DB neutralizers between the blocks and the S7s—the DB neutralizers brought a notable reduction in brightness, and this was a very big step up from where I started.

The audible difference from the start to finish in these various scenarios was substantial. And again, the only variable is speaker feet / height.

Worth noting: using the fingertip test, I could feel vibrations in the floor immediately surrounding the speakers, suggesting the transmission of mechanical energy from the inert S7 cabinets into my flooring. When my downstairs neighbor moved out (not due to my racket, but it didn’t help ;) I went into the vacant downstairs apartment to listen to where the noise from my stereo originated from, and sure enough it was localized to the speakers’ position where the mechanical energy found its way to ground! In a 2nd story apartment using carpet over suspended wood flooring, I thought the Speaker Podiums would kill 2 birds with one stone: reduce downstairs noise by killing mechanical coupling to ground (see the video demonstrations on Townshend’s website) allowing me to play louder without consequence, and also provide better sonics.

I’ll refer you to Townshend’s website for the what & how of the Speaker Podiums, but its basically the formula lots of old timers and SOTA vibration solutions employ: coupling (speaker to podium) and decoupling (podium to floor). So before sonic impressions, let me say this:

1)     If the Podium is in contact with the carpet, the Podium loses its effectiveness (see prior points on boundary coupling when front baffle is too close to the floor).

2)     Floor material will be an issue during implementation: hard floor (tile / wood) vs office-type carpet vs thick carpet – you may need risers (5# dumbbell plates work fine) or different feet from the factory to ensure clearance from the floor

3)     Work with the factory or a competent dealer to get the right grade springs (see their website). If in doubt, go heavier.

4)     Floor structure will no doubt impact effectiveness. I can envision situations where the Podiums are not so effective. For example, super heavy speakers sitting on a hard tile floor with a concrete slab beneath and electronics properly isolated is likely to see far less improvement that a rig like mine, where heavy speakers sit on a suspended wood floor with electronics close by.

5)     I cannot imagine there’s many things in audio more gut busting than install Magico S7s (300# in one assembly) on the speaker podiums. Maybe Rockports. That’s probably it. For most speakers, it’s a 2 person job, maybe 3 if you’re lucky like me (and I’d strongly recommend some $15 hand pump air wedges that you can get off Amazon to make it easy to raise & lower speakers in small increments—normally used to install windows / doors, they work great here). And get some furniture sliders to temporarily put under your speakers while on Podiums (if they’re cumbersome) as they’ll be very helpful in nailing the item’s center of gravity on the Podium (nothing slides well on the Podiums—a good thing, except during setup).

6)     The first 3 items really annoyed me as it necessitated several hours of rework with 300# speakers. These are not cables or cone footers: the setup is more akin to a turntable. As such, a more authoritative owner’s manual and setup instructions are necessary. Or, video instructions. There’s too much room for error to leave proper use of the Podium to chance.

Getting the Podiums dialed in right (proper oscillation in all directions, no diagonal wobble, tweeter alignment with ear, air gap between Podium and carpet) I picked up midrange resolution never heard before in my rig. The air blowing into a flute while its playing (if miked properly, both are audible). Hall ambiance & reverb—layers of it. The harmonics that come with a grand piano (getting this right has changed my relationship & understanding of Glenn Gould and his pedal-less X-ray type interpretations of Bach). Any residual brightness is now gone, and there is 0.0 listening fatigue after a full day using a digital-only system for the first time in my audiophile life.

The strangest thing: the Podiums have a unique way of making leading edge transients, particularly in the mids & treble, slightly softer but PRAT overall is better than before---the note to note articulation is better, but the incisiveness of the leading edge is less so. ---makes me think that some of what I thought was a leading edge was actually a distortion (ala older Wadia digital players), as its impossible to reconcile better PRAT and resolution with an attenuated leading edge.  Distortions are initially exciting but never satisfying. There’s less distortion with the Podiums in place.

As for the sound transmission downstairs: after installing the Podiums, I could no longer localize my speakers when listening in the downstairs neighbor’s apartment. While not dead silent, there was definitely a few db of attenuation (there’d be more if it weren’t suspended wood flooring), however the noise was now just indiscriminate. No buzzing in the ceiling and into the walls, no rattling via mechanical energy once the Podiums were in. And with a small attenuation of noise, playback with Podiums is easier to ignore for those who aren’t listening.

(For some , the Podiums might be unnecessary; try the Pods under your equipment rack in lieu of spikes for a cheap upgrade. Or the Bars, which operate similarly to the Podiums, but require using more evenly distributed loads than the front-heavy S7s. --As a former Wilson owner tired of the endless upgrade cycle, before I’d even think about upgrading speakers, I’d opt for the Seismic Bars in lieu of factory spikes and replacing the factory-supplied Caddock resistors with comparable rated resistors from Path Audio, an experiment I described in depth in Worlds Best forum. I guarantee you’ll have very different sounding speakers, and considerably improved ones, for very little money invested.)

Changing gear is fun, but there’s a lot of performance that sits wasted because of a lack of optimization on 3 factors: power, acoustic resonances and vibrations. The Podiums are unique at swallowing vibrations from speaker cabinets into the earth and are necessary to optimize your speakers in a way that spikes simply cannot.

@rhyno  Thanks for your well written, incredibly detailed, and super informative 'review' on speaker isolation and the Townshend Seismic Isolation Podiums.

I just put my speakers on them and need to work on optimizing the platforms and speakers, etc.
I bought a set of platforms for my speakers, but forgot to consider the outrigger feet, so I couldn't use them.
Thankfully, Townshend said they will work under my other equipment-providing they were in the proper weight range.
So, I put one under my Ayre KX-R and noticed a difference in clarity almost immediately.
Yup, I believe the work.