HRS M3X Isolation Base Experience Reports

This experience report was originally written several years ago and is on part of the old Audio Federation website that we are abandoning. Originally written around 2004, we are updating it and posting it here to make it more accessible and, hopefully, more useful for people who are interested in what the HRS M3 and M3X platforms can do..

CD Players, Transports, DACs

Audio Aero Capitole Mk II

The player’s sound was significantly improved with the isolation base under it, especially the quality of the bass and midrange articulation and timbre. This is a pretty typical result.

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Audio Aero Prestige

The player’s sound was significantly improved with the isolation base under it, especially the quality of the bass and midrange articulation and timbre. The radical improvement obtained by adding adding Nimbuses between the player and the Isolation Base is described below.

[Update] Audio Aero LaSource

The player’s sound was improved with the isolation base under it, especially the quality of the bass and midrange articulation and timbre. The radical improvement obtained by adding adding Nimbus / Couplers between the player and the Isolation Base, and making sure that the Black Diamond Racing cone feet that come with the player are suspended in air and not being used at all, is a critical requirement to make this player really live up to its significant potential, turning a kind of sweet yet muddy sound into a rich sound with lots and lots of resolution.

Audio Note U.K. 4.1x Balanced DAC

Similar to our experiences with the Lamm L2 preamp, we just do not have enough Isolation Bases to go round, and though this DAC has had a platform temporarily underneath it at various time – all I can remember is that there was a general nod in its direction that it improved things, but that the scarcity of platforms forced us to fairly soon thereafter move it to a higher profiles system for a series of demos. [Update 2014] We eventually got a boatload of the M3X Isolation Bases and, although never losing its harmonic richness and ‘rightness’, the bases always made sure that there was an evenness in resolution and detail across the frequency band. Similarly with the Audio Note DAC 5 Signature and Fifth Element DAC

EMM Labs DCC2 DAC

This component experienced the least improvement of any component we have tried on a HRS. We do use a damping plate on top, which has some positive effect. We hope to try Nimbuses between the DAC and the Isolation Base soon to see if this is what is required to get the usual significant delta in performance we experience with other components (often the feet that a component comes with seem to negate a lot of the effects of the HRS).

We’ll let you know!

[Update 2014] In general, as we saw with this DAC and as EMM Labs built more and robust [and heavier] components, well-built solid-state gear usually shows noticeably less improvement than does tube gear or transports. That said, there is still improvement, and in a system that tends toward brightness, putting a platform and Nimbus Couplers under even robust solid-state gear can and usually, in our experience, does make a world of difference and often eliminates the brightness [i.e. brightness and especially hardness is often caused by insufficient resolution, which the Isolation Bases always help with].

Preamplifiers

Lamm L2 Tube Preamplifier

OK, confession time. We cannot afford to buy all the Isolation Bases that we want… I mean need… in order to put them under all of our components. I know that at one time we did have an HRS underneath this component – but it has been awhile. I remember it working as expected – but I am 99% certain that one or another of the two pieces associated with this preamp (it has a separate power supply) were not on an HRS. So we look forward to both being on a platform – hopefully soon when we get our gloss black MXR rack here.

[Update 2014] Whew! That was a long time ago as we have had our MXR here for a long time, and an SXR, and… We almost never use the Lamm L2 without a platform: it is tube-based and the chassis is somewhat thin and resonant. A prime candidate for HRS racks and platforms. More dynamics and more resolution and tightens up the bass. This is pretty typical behavior – HRS does this for all components, to some degree, linearizing their response: in both resolution and dynamics across the frequency spectrum. This predictability of HRS in many different situations makes it an obvious choice compared to other solutions which are unpredictable and can sometimes even be deleterious in various systems and circumstances.

[Update 2014] Audio Note M9 and M10 pre-amplifiers

These preamps are capable of generating extremely powerful near-real-world dynamics. The M3X Isolation Bases increase and tighten these dynamics, making the whole experience a rush, while at the same time revealing their truly significant resolution which is otherwise somewhat hard to hear out of these puppies when they are sitting on top of your standard equipment rack.

[Update 2014] EMM Labs PRE2 preamplifier

Solid-state and robustly built, the improvements here are similar, but not jaw-dropping, compared to the improvement one sees for tube-based preamps.

Amplifiers

Edge Signature One monoblocks

A real but somewhat surreptitious improvement in clarity of the bass was observed.

Lamm ML1.1 Tube monoblocks

An amazing amount of clarity was added to the midrange and bass, making these amps sound much more controlled and even across the frequency spectrum.

Lamm ML2 Tube monoblocks

I am not sure we ever used these amps without the M3 Isolation Base – so the improvements over using another platform (the Acoustic Dreams is what we usually use – which is no slacker either and we’d put it up against any of the competition [at $350/platform]) we can only assume is the same significant increase we found with the Lamm ML1.1.

We did try putting different HRS feet, ones specifically for lighter weight components, on the front because the front of the Lamm is so much lighter than the rear. I personally did not hear much of a difference using these differently configured feet in the front, not to say there wasn’t any, but that it did not jump out at me.

When we put some Nimbuses between the amps and the Isolation Bases, however, it was one of those “now we’re talkin’” moments, which you can read more about [in the next post].

[Update 2014] Lamm ML3 monoblocks

This amps have so much to offer in terms of resolution, both harmonic and dynamic, that we have always used these on top of a M3X Isolation Base, and with Nimbus Couplers between the amps and the M3X. – just to milk as much performance as possible from them.

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[Update 2014] Audio Note Kegon, Audio Note Ongaku, Audio Note Kegon Balanced, Audio Note GakuOn [etc].

In general, the behavior of the Isolation Bases under Audio Note amplifiers is about the same as for that under Lamm amplifiers, but perhaps only about 75% the overall impact, specially as you move up the line into the heavier components. With the 55lb Kegons, the impact is similar to that of the ML2 [i.e. massive]. The midrange and bass both tighten up significantly resulting in much more resolution at those frequencies. With the 80lb Ongaku, less so – same kind of improvement but at only 80% or so as important as putting one of these under a lighter amp.

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Turntables

Brinkmann Balance turntable

HRS makes a custom platform for the Brinkmann Balance turntable.

Before the Brinkmann we used the Acapella Fondato Silenzio platform. After using this platform under both the Walker Proscenium Gold Signature and the Brinkmann, both times on the top shelf of a maple Rix Rax Grand Hoodoo – we have found that the Fondato is not the best thing for turntables (it works quite well under CDs and tube DACs and preamps) and the turntable sounds better directly on the Rix Rax shelf.

When we put the custom HRS M3 Isolation Base underneath the Brinkmann, we finally started hearing what the table could do. Before it had sounded a little thin and tizzy, and we changed cartridges a few times trying to find an solution. But it turned out to be a vibration problems. After adding the HRS the turntable sounded rich and more controlled, with more continuousness and PRaT.

Considering the comparatively high price of the turntable, getting the HRS platform for it is a no brainer.

[Update 2014] Hopefully after all this you can look at your own components: solid-state or tube, thick heavy chassis or thin metal chassis, normal feet or feet with some kind of contrived technology [in our experience, component manufacturers who try and make vibration controlling feet fail miserably - but this is perhaps more a discussion on the Nimbus Coupler experience reports].

You can now predict with some degree of confidence the impact the HRS M3X will have on the sound of your component.

This is unique, in our experience, for equipment racks and platforms that claim to help with vibrations. Predictability. And no harmful side-effects.

Unless you really prefer your sound to be dense and syrupy, which, you know, some audiophiles do, these platforms and their couplers are a must have.

 

 

Stealing the secret to Bose’s success

I was reading this year-old article a few months ago about Dr. Bose dying, by Mike Fremer

Dr. Amar Bose dead at 83

The article itself is kind of illuminating from a historical, and people getting their knickers in a twist and keeping them twisted for decades, and yet another tale of abuse of the Capitalistic system kind of way. But when I ran across a comment by ‘iyke’:

“Bose success is largely based on the fact that their marketing allowed People to feel like audiophiles without actually being one. They tapped into the laziness in all of us; here, you too can be an audiophile, just buy one rectangular box and you will have the world’s most sophisticated sound system in your…who wouldn’t fall for that? There’s one born every minute….”

This rang true for me.

Being an audiophile is hard – there is so much to learn.

What all the specs mean, and what specs are important [none of them :-)]. Cables and racks – many being just more opportunities to screw up the sound. All the made-up techo-speak – is anything real?

How easy it is to get something that sounds awful [just walk in the door of most any dealership - they will be happy to (unwittingly) demonstrate this every day]. Prices going up by 10% to 30% per year for most of the gear for no observable reason [well, I guess we know the reasons :-(].

You have to be really fracking serious about wanting great sound.

Or you can just buy a Bose. And you’re done.

The point being… if we want the general public to spend their money on high-end audio, we have to make it easy for them – much easier than it is now. The old-fashioned dealers were supposed to help with this, but most now just push boxes. But we don’t just need dealers to present this message, the entire industry: manufacturers to the press, need to get on board a little here.

A message like:

“Oh! Look how easy it is to get really awesome great sound with this inexpensive Audio Note setup. Or this Odyssey Audio setup. Or by hooking up these Zu Audio speakers to Peachtree electronics.”

It is fun and geeky to make all this really complicated – but it is more profitable to make it simple. [I know, we all want to just have fun and be geeky! :-)]

So maybe it is not so much as ‘stealing’ Bose’s secret as permanently borrowing…

 

 

Awesome system sightings: statement Kondo electronics on statement Dynaudio speakers

This system look like it would be fun to listen to. Not so happy with the speakers pointing at the gear, but what gear! The new Kondo Kagura amps on what looks like Dynaudio Evidence Platinum speakers with new dCS front end.

Someone who still likes CDs. Yay! [but tell me it doesn't look a little weird to see all those CDs these days...]

The full AudioTechnique review of this system (in English) off Dynaudio’s site (pdf file, slow to load…)

Our reviewers here in the States could learn a thing or two here about what the appropriate caliber of associated components should be when test high performance speakers. Or to test high performance anything, for that matter. Even the most famous reviewers act surprised that their solid-state amps that seemed to sound OK on speakers that have a lot of their own sound [covering up the sound of the amp] sound bright and edgy on higher quality speakers that are more neutral and revealing [I am referring to a recent review which shall-not-be-named, and the speakers weren't all that revealing, in point of fact, it is just that the amps they used are really THAT bright and edgy].

Here we have the Dynaudio Evidence Platinum speakers, fairly revealing and perhaps overly neutral, paired with the Kagura amps, very rich and emotional. And on the front end we have dCS digital, fairly high resolution and perhaps overly neutral, paired with the Kondo M1000 mkII preamp, again rich and involving an another good match.

I would call this a well-designed system, and one could use the choice of what cables to use to tune the sound for the room, and for the listener’s preferences in terms of dynamics, overall resolution, etc..

Not sure what the turntable is, but the racks are Finite Elemente. They have multiple layers of unfamiliar vibration platforms and tweaks under various components [ one platform starts with what looks like the letters: THIY... ] and this is potentially an issue for any kind of linear, predictable behavior – some frequencies/dynamics will be more damped than others – but it looks like they had fun setting it all up. :-)

Mike Fremer’s listening room circa 2009

Came across these photos which I had never seen before. Thought you all might enjoy them as well.

Found them on John Mahoney’s article on Gizmodo “Why we need Audiophiles

 

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So, he has some records. Duh. Pretty well organized compared to most people collections. Certainly when compared to ours!

 

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Looks like his old MAXX 3 speakers? And looks like he is reviewing Titan amplifiers. Those look like Shunyata power cords. This area is starting to look a little … uh …  cluttered.

 

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Older dCS digital gear. Hey, at least he has it turned on. May not play it much, but… you know… just in case.

 

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Plugging things right in the wall = good. Not familiar with what looks like an after-market wall outlet there.

 

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OK. Seriously ugly stuff to look at while listening to music. Maybe he shuts his eyes…

 

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The old Continuum turntable.

 

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From left to right, a Continuum rack, a HRS rack and a Finite Elemente rack. The older dCS digital stuff on the rack at the right.

But… how does he get up to the racks to play any music? He must be part ballet dancer tip-toeing through the piles of records and stuff. Interesting he has the DartZeel there. I believe he just bought some of their components recently (to replace his Musical Fidelity) ? Can’t keep up with this stuff.

All of these photos goes to show that no matter HOW messy Neli and I think our place is – it ain’t as bad as this! :-)

 

Acapella’s Spharon Excalibur loudspeakers

A cool post about the Acapella Spharon Excalibur loudspeakers on HiFi Vietnam. If you use the Google Chrome browser, you can easily translate the page, assuming you can’t read Vietnamese.

The article doesn’t say much, but has a nice photo of these speakers [and another of the full monty built-in Spharon].

You can think of these as Triolon Excalibur speakers but with 15 inch woofers instead of 10 inch.

Specials

After some… discussion… it was decided that specials will not be shown here on the blog.

OK.

So that means the specials will just be over on the high-end audio specials page, so if you want to see what they are, go over there.

:-)

We’ll be posting lots more soon, both large items and small. Kind of clearing out the closets… and garage.. and piles on the sides of the listening rooms… and underneath the beds… and blocking the doors…

Newport 2014: Horning, Tron, TW-Acustic

Either:

a) this room is getting better each show

b) the other rooms are getting worse, or

c) I am going slowly mad

I prefer to think that the answer is a), the room is getting better sounding each show.

Nicely dynamic and tuneful (the Teo Cable no doubt helps with this some), this system just conveys the energy of the music quite nicely, something missing from most rooms. No hardness or over-emphasis of this frequency or that, at least during my short visit [however, most short visits in other rooms immediately reveal such problems].
Perhaps when looking at the things that make up music: harmonics, dynamics, frequency range, resolution… it is good to not over-emphasize one with respect to the others. To keep the balance, to keep it musical.
The organic harmonics and medium resolution of the Teo cable is balanced by the high resolution of the turntable. The lack of bass slam in speakers this size is balanced by careful placement and presumably those platforms they put them on.
Anyway, liked this room I did.

 

Back to our regularly scheduled show report

We’ll have some relatively big news (for us) in a bit, but for now it is time to get back to where we were before we were shut down for being too… being too… successful. Weird, I know.

But now we have moved the website and are in the same place as CBS, Adobe and Samsung. So we hope we will have room to grow here :-)

Thanks for your patience…

-Mike

P.S. No, this guy isn’t me, he is just channeling me and the shock we both experienced last week when they suspended the site.

Acoustic Zen Crescendo Mk. II Speakers on Triode Corp electronics

It is funny [or not] when I read the better show reports and how they report on these rooms setup by Acoustic Zen and Triode Corp at all these shows. They point out something like that they heard a slight issue with the sound of a part of one of the tracks they played here. Ah, then this, they imply, can’t be best of show then.

What this really says to the perceptive reader who reads a lot of these things and thinks to themselves a little bit is that, hey, these rooms are such reliable performers, and it is so boring to keep awarding them the accolades they deserve, that they will dig deep down and find something [anything!] wrong so they do not have to put them somewhere on the BOS list yet again. The Lamm rooms experience this same thing.

Show reporters get so bored with seeing the same things each show [most of the gear, the setups, the people... it is all 98% the same from show to show] that they need to mix it up once in awhile and pick someone else as BOS, someone else to talk and rave about. And heaven forbid that they bore the readers [equals less traffic equals less ad revenue] by talking about the same old boring rooms that sound good, that perform well, each show after show after show.

And the speakers are only $18K? And the electronics are actually fairly reasonably priced?? BO-ring. Can’t get any more boring than this. Show reports got to be exciting wiiiild stuff, man…

They played music here. It sounded like music. It did nothing egregiously wrong and got a lot just right. It was immensely enjoyable. Like freaking always.

Well, I guess [and after all I am kind of a show reporter too...] I am also a wee tiny bit bored :-).

Yah, you know, each show it is the same… I can’t ever afford to spend a lot of time here [and this is what sucks about being a show reporter who actually goes to all the rooms (otherwise you have prejudged the show before you even arrive! Having decided what is best by the choice of what rooms you omit even visiting)]. You know I have to go and check out all those other rooms…

*sigh*

[This is a excerpt of a post made during CES 2014. We are doing some of these in order to modernize the website a little].

CES 2014: EMM Labs MTRX Amplifier

These amps really drove the poop out of the speakers. Yep, poop ALL over the floor. You could hear exactly what the amps were trying to get the speakers to do, and whether the speakers were capable of doing it or not. Do not think ‘yet another big mofo solid-state amp’. Those other solid-state amps sound wimpy and weak and are probably in need of a flu shot. There really is that big of a difference – this is not one of those subtle audiophile-ish things.

The tone here is very Meitneresque: tuneful and clear sounding and not at all solid-state-ish, although it is certainly not tube-ish either. It is kind of like you always thought solid-state amps were supposed to sound, before you learned that the vast majority of them are stereotypically harsh, lean, uneven, aggressive and unpleasant to listen to.

These amps seriously change the landscape and set a new bar for performance, much like their CDSA CD player did several years ago, sounding better at $10K than the $60K top player at the time. At $130K these 1500 watters arn’t cheap, but there is finally [finally!] a solid-state amp commensurate with the extreme high quality of the bevy of hard-to-drive statement speakers from Magico, YG Acoustics and, more recently, Marten [not to mention Sonus Faber, Venture, Avalon, etc. Lots of hard-to-drive speakers out there that have never been driven well]. Word to the wise: Once you hear these on your favorite speakers, whether at a friends house or dealership, you are going to feel really silly [or perhaps some other emotion :-/] for having bought one of those other mega amps. Just sayin’.

[This is an excerpt from a previous post posted last January. We're trying to modernize and make posts like this available to other parts of the website].

 

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