Speaker Spike Philosophy


This is a learning exercise for me.

I am a mechanics practitioner by training and by occupation, so I understand Newton’s Laws and structural mechanics and have a fairly effective BS-detector.

THE FOLLOWING THINGS PUZZLE ME, and I would be glad to hear from those who believe they understand so long as the responses are based on your actual experience or on sound mechanical arguments (or are labeled as conjecture). These are independent questions/musings, so feel free to weigh in on whichever ones you want, but please list the number(s) to which you are responding:

  1. Everything I have read recently ("Ask Richard" (Vandersteen) from 15 Feb, 2020, for instance) seems to indicate that the reason for speaker spikes is to hold the speaker fixed against movement induced by the drivers. I have seen in the past other explanations, most employing some use of the term "isolation" implying that they decouple the speaker (from what?) Evidently the "what?" is a floor that is fixed and not moving (let’s assume concrete slab foundation). So to decouple the speaker from the floor, which is fixed, is to . . . allow it to move (or not) as it wishes, (presumably in response to its drivers). These two objectives, "fixity" and "isolation" appear to me to be diametrically opposed to one another. Is the supposed function of spikes to couple the speaker to "fixed ground" so they don’t move, or is it to provide mechanical isolation so that they can move (which I do not think spikes actually do)? Or, is it to somehow provide some sort of "acoustic isolation" having to do with having some free space under the speaker? Regarding the mechanical isolation idea, I saw a treatment of this here: https://ledgernote.com/blog/q-and-a/speaker-spikes/ that seemed plausible until I got to the sentence, "The tip of a sphere or cone is so tiny that no vibration with a long waveform and high amplitude can pass through it." If you have a spike that is dug into a floor, I believe it will be capable of passing exactly this type of waveform. I also was skeptical of the author’s distinction between *speaker stand* spikes (meant to couple) and *speaker* spikes (meant to isolate/decouple, flying in the face of Richard Vandersteen’s explanation). Perhaps I am missing something, but my BS-detector was starting to resonate.
  2. Spikes on the bottoms of stands that support bookshelf speakers. The spikes may keep the the base of the stand quite still, but the primary mode of motion of such speakers in the plane of driver motion will be to rock forward and backward, pivoting about the base of the stand, and the spikes will do nothing about this that is not already done by the stand base without spikes. I have a hard time seeing these spikes as providing any value other than, if used on carpet, to get down to the floor beneath and add real stability to an otherwise unstable arrangement. (This is not a sound quality issue, but a serviceability and safety issue, especially if little ones are about.)
  3. I have a hard time believing that massive floor standers made of thick MDF/HDF/etc. and heavy magnets can be pushed around a meaningful amount by any speaker driver, spikes or no. (Only Rigid-body modes are in view here--I am not talking about cabinet flexing modes, which spikes will do nothing about) "It’s a simple question of weight (mass) ratios." (a la Holy Grail) "An 8-ounce speaker cone cannot push around a 100/200-lb speaker" (by a meaningful amount, and yes, I know that the air pressure loading on the cone comes into play as well; I stand by my skepticism). And I am skeptical that the amount of pushing around that does occur will be affected meaningfully by spikes or lack thereof. Furthermore, for tower speakers, there are overturning modes of motion (rocking) created by the driver forces that are not at all affected by the presence of spikes (similar to Item 1 above).
  4. Let’s assume I am wrong (happens all the time), and the speaker does need to be held in place. The use of feet that protect hardwood floors from spikes (Linn Skeets, etc.) seems counterproductive toward this end. If the point of spikes is to anchor the speaker laterally (they certainly do not do so vertically), then putting something under the spikes that keep the spikes from digging in (i.e., doing their supposed job) appears to defeat the whole value proposition of spikes in the first place. I have been told how much easier it is to position speakers on hardwood floors with the Skeets in place, because the speakers can be moved much more easily. I was thinking to myself, "yes, this is self-evident, and you have just taken away any benefit of the spikes unless you remove the Skeets once the speakers are located."
  5. I am making new, thick, hard-rock maple bases for my AV 5140s (lovely speakers in every sense), and I will probably bolt them to the bottom of the speakers using the female threaded inserts already provided on the bottoms of the speakers, and I will probably put threaded inserts into the bottom of my bases so they can be used with the Linn-provided spikes, and I have already ordered Skeets (they were a not even a blip on the radar compared to the Akurate Exaktbox-i and Akurate Hub that were part of the same order), and I will end up doing whatever sounds best to me. Still, I am curious about the mechanics of it all...Interested to hear informed, reasoned, and reasonable responses.
linnvolk
I've tried a lot of different spikes and cones over the years and was using BDR Cones as the best for a very long time. This was under my turntable, and speakers, and everything else. When I tried springs it wasn't even close, they were better in every way. There is much less glare, greater clarity, and a lower noise floor. Peak dynamics aren't better in the sense of having more volume but dynamics do improve because the noise floor is so much lower. Imaging improved probably for the same reason.  

Extension, the improvement in extension with springs is highly dependent on tuning them to the load. If the load is too light the top end is too prominent. Likewise if the load is too great the bottom end is bloated and top end extension rolled off. Get it right though and springs are significantly better than any cone, or spike, or anything else. Period. Been tried too extensively now to be anything but beyond doubt. 

That is the situation with plain springs. They beat all comers. Except they have no damping. So the one weakness of springs is the aforementioned tuning requirement. Even then though without damping there is a problem with resonance. I noticed this with springs under my turntable and figured the same had to be happening everywhere else. 

This is really what led me to try Townshend. I knew Max had figured out a way to accomplish damping, and engineered and tested to use the right amount.  

The results are easy to hear. Every instrument has so much more of its correct natural tone signature and timbre it is immediately obvious. It makes all your recordings come alive as never before. This all happens without ever drawing attention to anything. It never sounds like any one frequency is being accentuated or hyped or anything. Quite the opposite That is what happens with spikes- the ringing accentuates a part of the audio band that we associate with detail. It is not really detail. It is etch and ringing masquerading as detail. It is no exaggeration to say the sound on Podiums is a revelation. 

I don't know that I would recommend $2500 Podiums to a guy with $250 speakers. But my $4k Moabs? They for sure sound way better than $10k Ulfberht, and for $4k less. So for me they are a deal, and while not a deal for everyone they sure are for a lot more than have them now.
Hey MC- my speakers are not $250, but were $3000 list. I got a huge close out discount which makes the Townshend speaker platforms much more expensive than the speakers.

it is interesting you have to admit, that no floor standing speaker is designed with springs or pods or their ilk, and several turntables are. I am not familiar with Magicos, Wilson’s or other astronomically priced speakers, but are ANY delivered with springs? I know many come with spikes.
Everyone seems to think the post that follows is some kind of personal message. I pulled $250 out of my you know what as an extreme example. Oh well.  

I didn't admit anything. Because, for one thing, what you said is false. Some company name of Credo ripped off Townshend's design and builds and delivers their floor standing speakers on springs. Here it is! https://www.credo-audio.ch/ev-reference-one-eng.html 

Made their own tediously wordy video ripping off all Max's same ideas too https://www.credo-audio.ch/loudspeaker-isolation-en.html    

As for Magico, et al, this is the same faulty logic used to discredit aftermarket power cords.  

Fact of the matter is manufacturers of all kinds of things make choices that often times have nothing to do with performance and everything to do with the fact customers vary widely in their skills and abilities. It is a whole lot easier to plop a Wilson down than to crank one up onto a Podium, adjust and level. 

But, funny thing, we had one do just that and you know what? Said it was totally worth it! Worth the trouble, worth the money. I must admit. 

Also, very few are as open minded, innovative, logical and eager to change for the sake of improvement as yours truly. For example, it has been known now for a solid two decades that the solution to SOTA bass is a distributed bass array. Yet where are the speaker manufacturers? You have confused popular with true. Many things that are true are not popular. In a lot of cases probably never will be. So?  

Then too there is this thing called the fallacy of the sunk cost. You might find this interesting. The idea is once having spent some money on something you factor that into all decisions forevermore. The money is spent, the cost is sunk, it is a fallacy to even think about it any more. But it happens all the time. 

In your case what the speaker retailed for or how big the discount or what you paid is a done deal and could not possibly matter less. For proof, imagine someone gave you the best brand new Wilson speakers for free. Imagine you know they will be a whole lot better on Podiums. (They will.) But you are not going to put speakers that cost zero on a $2500 platform. Right. See? 
Anyone for a spin of ’Brain Salad Surgery‘?

Interesting MC....I just can’t believe how the Wilsons of the world wouldn’t want to improve their speakers sound on new models. Adding a couple grand to $50K speakers  be worth it if the improvement is as significant as I experienced with my platform on my turntable.

You made a good argument about sunk costs.Are you a lawyer in your spare time? I guess the more relevant comparison is how much you’ve spent on your entire system versus just the speakers, in which case $2500 is significant, but if the difference is as big as I got from my turntable platform, perhaps justifiable.

How big a difference do you hear from the platform versus high quality spikes/discs under speakers? Compared to using it with a turntable?

I wonder how the Credos sound.....if the difference is as large as you have experienced with the platform,  it should give them a big edge over their competition. I never heard of them before you mentioned them.