I have a soft spot in my heart for audio tweaks. It can’t be helped, it seems. Even though I’m a dyed-in-the-wool empiricist, a sort-of seeing-is-believing wannabe, I still can’t seem to resist trying out this and that “just to see”. So far, I’ve managed to resist the various little “acoustic resonators” from Synergistic or whomever — you know, those little bells and cups you distribute randomly, err, specifically around your listening room that cause all manner of audio goodness to emerge. I’ve instead opted for a full suite of acoustic panels from GIK — my listening room looks like a periwinkle rubber room. More on them another time. 😉
I last wrote about my new Battle Rock Studios myrtle wood platforms. I love these things. Did I mention they’re gorgeous yet? Well, they are — don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll repeat that several more times so hang in there.
I got a full set of the little myrtle footers from Waipuna Sound for the same reason I went ahead and got the platforms from Battle Rock. My Samson rack from Mapleshade is about as undamped/unsuspended/un-isolated as you can get. Every component that sits on that rack enjoys the vibrations that every other component chooses to give off. Pierre Sprey, the Mapleshade Guy, insists that this isn’t exactly what happens — that the maple shelves actually absorb the vibrational frequencies in a natural, sonically pleasing way — but it turns out he’s wrong. Or, partly wrong. I think the rack would have been just fine if there was some way to isolate each shelf from every other shelf, so that the “acoustical grounding” was localized to the shelf and had no way of going from one to the other (the shelves are clamped together with brass nuts, to a steel pole). Which would mean “floating” each shelf in some way. Then, the component could feel free to vibrate it’s little heart out into that natural medium, have it dissipate, and have nothing left over to travel anywhere. Sadly, this isn’t how the Samson was designed, and it’s the primary reason why I think buyers should look elsewhere — and given the DIY aesthetic of the Samson, it stands to reason that one might be able to do a better job by actually DIY’ing it. Just be sure to decouple each shelf from the rack in some way, and you should be good to go.
Assuming that “vibrational energy” is a real thing that needs to be addressed (or can be addressed), the solution would then be to couple that component to a drain in some way. Pierre — and many others, to be fair — feel that the “best” material for this is brass. I am a bit agnostic about this, and Synergistic Research dealer Jeff Fox over at Command Performance has become convinced that Synergistic’s new Mechanical Interface Grounding (aka, MIG) is the best thing since sliced bread. Unfortunately, the MIGs are $150 a set, so it’ll be a while before I go there. Maybe he’ll hook me up with some demos so I can get the skinny — you reading this, Jeff?
Okay, so I had a couple of options. One, I could try and figure out a way to decouple the shelves on the Samson. This is harder than it seems, but what I managed for the custom-made Terrastone shelf I had made was to cut some thick felt pads out so that the brass nuts that clamp it in place actually clamp them instead. Yes, this is a bit heretical as the brass is supposed to provide some acoustical draining goodness themselves, but as I explained above, this is stupid. The acoustical drain is the shelf — and the shelves need to be de-coupled, not coupled together. Hence the felt pads. I tried sorbothane and some Isodamp, but all those materials were soft and squishy — torquing the nuts down onto them caused them to bunch up, twist and tear. FWIW, felt works like a charm.
That was option one. Option two was to add a layer to the shelves. I could get new plinths made and simply stack them on top of the existing shelves and slip between the shelf and the plinth one layer of Stillpoints ERS Cloth and another of Isodamp. This seemed (to me at least) the best solution — a large plinth would provide a large drain and laying it on top of the existing rigid shelf with those intervening layers would not only provide total isolation but give me some EMI/RFI shielding to boot. Needless to say, this is the most expensive option possible, and unfortunately for me, I don’t have enough space in the rack to lose another 10″ to more shelving. So option #2 was out.
On to Option #3 — footers! This is the budget choice, to be sure, and the value of that cannot be overstated. Of course, you can go totally nuts in the footer department, which would totally blow out all considerations of fiscal responsibility.
These little gems from Marigo are called “Mystery Feet“, and I’m told that the name isn’t a tongue-in-cheek reference to their bewildering $800/set price tag. At RMAF this year, Roy Johnson of Green Mountain Audio extolled the virtues of these little “marvels” at serious length. Personally, I’m baffled. $800 for footers? Are you stoned? I admit, I’d ruled these out categorically. Given that the audible benefits of any tweak is going to be subtle at best, I can’t see spending this much on footers. EVER.
Luckily (for my sanity, as well as my wallet), in conversations over the last year with my personal power consultant, Alan Maher, I learned about Myrtlefeet. Made by Waipuna Sound, these little dudes are just what the doctor ordered. They’re made from myrtle, obviously, and the version I got comes with a mounted brass bearing for coupling to the component. You can order your footers in sets of 3 ($34) or 4 ($46) and they ship with an optional felt pad (de-coupling!) to slip under the footer. They’re cylinders measuring 1.5″h x 2.5″w.
There’s an option for an upgraded aesthetic (higher grade wood, with more “radical grain”) for an additional charge ($45 and $62, respectively). I got the “standard”, because, really, they’re just footers and they look really nice.
In my mind, there’s still an open question about the value of aftermarket footers, or more strongly, any tweak at all. When I posted about the Battle Rock platforms, I indulged in a rant (Rant #458 in The Great Catalog of Audio Rants) about the potential efficacy of things like footers and power cords. In short, I think that if they mattered a great deal, they’d have been included in the product in the first place if for no other reason than to standardize the customer experience. That isn’t to say that tweaks are worthless, but it’s generally a good idea to stop and take a deep breath and look askance at the claims any tweak maker offers about their products. If someone tells you that some tweak “revolutionizes” performance, or that any tweak will “blow you away”, they’re full of shit. Generally, you’ll be the very rare person to even be able to detect any difference at all. Seriously.
That said, no, I haven’t noticed any difference in the performance of my system because of something I’ve done to my rack, including trying out footers on components. But my system these days is rather breathtaking, so perhaps I’ve got some kind of cumulative effect working for me …. Or not. As always, YMMV.
FWIW, the Myrtlefeet folks were very fast and easy to deal with. They product shipped immediately and I had my footers in less than a week. I even screwed up my order! But they were extremely responsive and had everything sorted out same-day. Very satisfactory!
I’m done! All the components that “needed” coupling and/or de-coupling are now covered. More importantly, my rack looks great. 😉