We’re going to jump down the rabbit hole this week. Let’s do it. I’m going to cover audio accessories and cables this week because I don’t get enough angry comments from readers about measurements and subjective reviews.
Audio accessories are a hot button topic for people and I understand the reasons why. The science behind some products is a tad murky (perhaps even sketchy) and the hi-fi press have pulled some serious boners over the past 20 years promoting ridiculous products that not only did not work but should make you question the auditory acuity of the people who suggested them. The IsoAcoustics ISO-Puck mini definitely work but let’s exhale before we continue our descent.
The problem with tweaks (and certainly ones based on wishy-washy science) is that you really want them to work; even when your brain tells you that you either hear no change in the sound of your system, or that something sounds better at the expense of something else.
Do cables make a difference? They do – but I’m no longer convinced that you need $3,000 loudspeaker cables, $250/meter Ethernet cables, or $1,000 power cables to maximize the sound quality of your system. $300 loudspeaker cables that are designed properly should work just fine. Power cords do make a difference – but spending more than $100 – $200 (depending on the type of amplifier or source) on a power cord is getting you an extra what?
Don’t get me started on audiophile Ethernet cables.
But what about tweaks that isolate components from vibration?
I’ve used vibration platforms and cones for 20 years and know which products have worked effectively with the equipment that I have tried them with. Every experience will be different because every component reacts differently to resonance control. Where the commuter train goes off the tracks (or in the case of NJ Transit, never leaves the station) is when the tweak costs more than component itself or even your entire system; which begs the question – why not just spend the money on a better component?
Hockey Pucks from Canada
In the case of the IsoAcoustics ISO-PUCK mini devices, what inspires confidence is the background of the company and their decades of experience planning and building radio and television studios for the CBC across Canada.
During my ten years in radio and television production in Toronto, I spent countless hours in studios situated in buildings either built directly over the subway system, or in buildings next to the city’s busiest thoroughfares. Vibration and noise were the enemy – but thanks to the engineering work of people like IsoAcoustics’ President, David Morrison, our studios were great places to record and edit.
IsoAcoustics focused initially on the studio world; creating stands for studio monitors that provide acoustic isolation. Having solidified its position in the pro space, the company branched out into the consumer market offering loudspeaker stands, isolation feet, and equipment pucks.
The ISO-PUCK mini are their most affordable product at $99 for a set of 8; each ISO-PUCK mini (1.7-inches x 0.7-inches) can support up to 6 pounds making them useable with a large number of bookshelf loudspeakers.
The ISO-PUCK mini’s upper flange acts like a suction cup that adheres to the bottom of your loudspeaker, while the bottom section anchors the speaker to the surface below.
But do they work?
What We Like
IsoAcoustics kindly sent me a set to try out with the bookshelf loudspeakers currently making music at home, which include the Polk Audio L100, Klipsch RP-600M, Quad S-2, Wharfedale Diamond 10.1, PSB Alpha P5, and Q Acoustics 3030i.
The results with each pair were fairly uniform; I tried each loudspeaker on a CB2 media unit and inverted IKEA Kallax bookshelf. Every attempt to use them on loudspeaker stands ended in failure due to concerns about stability on the top plate and child safety.
Placed flush on the surface of the media unit and bookshelves, I could feel the bass energy from each loudspeaker resonate across the surface and even down through the first level of shelving.
Bass notes felt less focused, and it muddied the overall sound with some tracks – not in a severe way but enough to take note of it.
With the ISO-Puck mini installed, I could feel zero bass energy interacting with the cabinet or bookshelves. And then I cranked it to the point that I received angry stares from children and pets. Zero interaction between the speaker and surface.
Listening to Hank Mobley’s Workout (Tidal/16-bit/44.1kHz), there was a noticeable change in the solidity of the percussion, and overall focus of the music. The presentation also seemed to move slightly forward without becoming more aggressive in the top end. Depending on the loudspeaker, I did perceive a tiny reduction in midrange energy – but the improvements in focus, detail, transparency, and bass solidity were evident across the board.
Another audible change with each loudspeaker was the lockdown (like the kind on Wentworth minus the blood) of performers within the soundstage. Image solidity is probably a better expression – each musician had a more identifiable presence. I hate audiophile mumbo jumbo as well. Sigh.
Fed a steady diet of Langhorne Slim, Sia, Ben Folds, and Mazzy Star, each loudspeaker held a much tighter grip on each performer – sharpening the lines around them within the recording space.
Electronica came across with more zip; Aphex Twin, Kraftwerk, and Tangerine Dream took on another level of engagement with the music sounding more forward.
The ISO-PUCK mini isolate loudspeakers so effectively, that you might expose one of their shortcomings in the process; a bright sounding tweeter will not sound any sweeter or rolled-off.
The Quad S-2 have a very revealing tweeter with remarkable extension for a loudspeaker under $1,000; the key is that they sound very airy and sweet in the process. The Klipsch RP-600M also have a very revealing tweeter – but I’m not sure that I would define it as sweet. The ISO-PUCK mini made those differences much more audible.
The ISO-PUCK mini will not turn bookshelf loudspeakers with limited bass response into bass crunching monsters; what you will hear instead is a tightening up of the bass, and a higher level of resolution.
With the exception of the Klipsch RP-600M, all of the loudspeakers that I tried with the ISO-PUCK mini have a warmer sounding tonal balance. I did notice a slight reduction in midrange warmth with each speaker (using the same two amplifiers) in exchange for the aforementioned improvements in transparency, detail, and image solidity.
Did it alter the overall tonal balance of those specific loudspeakers? No, but it certainly made them sound more open, and spacious – which has to be perceived as a good thing with entry-level loudspeakers below $600.
Over the years, I’ve found less than 4-5 audio tweaks that made a profoundly positive change to the sound of my system; most failed to change anything or created a problem that previously didn’t exist.
Anyone looking to isolate a pair of loudspeakers being used on a bookshelf, media unit, or on a desk will see immediate results with the IsoAcoustics ISO-PUCK mini.
The $99 ISO-PUCK mini from IsoAcoustics work out of the box offering an immediate improvement when used with bookshelf loudspeakers positioned on bookshelves, media units, and on your desk. Do they work equally as well with other components like turntables, CD players, and digital streamers? More to come on that front.
For more information: isoacoustics.com
Where to buy: $99 at Amazon
Learn more about audio accessories: The 6 Best Audio Accessories That Really Work