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how does component "isolation" help with sound?


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Hey guys.

 

I've read the post here about how speaker and component isolation improved sound. I am trying to understand why.

 

Speaker isolation/coupling is easy - they vibrate. And isolating them using spikes or coupling them by placing directly onto the floor will change how the speaker box vibrates. And rubber pads probably achieve partial isolation and partial coupling. So then sound changes with each of the three setups. For better or worse.

 

But how does "isolating" components like DAC/CD player/Streamer/Amp/Preamp change the sound quality? Why would the electrical signals, digital or analogue, change if the unit is placed on a spike or Ikea board or whatever?

 

And don't most component boxes like amps come with round metal stands anyway?

 

 

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CD players are an optical device, so reducing unwanted vibration energy would result in more accurate laser readings.  Similar with valve-based technology (valves have electron streams, to my knowledge).  Turntables benefit from unwanted vibration energy being transmitted to the cartridge.  These devices in my system have benefited from attention to these matters.  However, I wouldn't expect pure solid-state devices to benefit from isolation.  I am interested to hear other's opinions. 

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As you mentioned I’ve certainly been able to discern an audible difference  when isolating speakers and turntables but never electronics. My CD player weighs 17kg and the amp when testing was 25kg, maybe that mass self isolates? 

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13 minutes ago, audiofeline said:

Similar with valve-based technology (valves have electron streams, to my knowledge). 

 

Valves, being physical structures made from metal plates and rods, can respond to vibrations, i.e. can be microphonic.  Yes, they have electron streams that are guided and modified by these physical structures. The physical movement under vibration of the components can change internal parameters momentarily, modulating the signal being amplified. 

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I love these simple questions that take a 2 semester university course material to properly answer. Let me answer with a question -  how is your partial differential equation knowledge these days?  

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Many electronic components have properties that depend on mechanical parameters. Capacitors or inductors for example are very much defined by their geometry. If they end up undergoing mechanical oscillations because they are mounted such that vibrations caught from the surrounding air or the PCB they sit on go right through them, then their electrical properties can change to the rhythm of the vibration. That’s after all how microphones work.

 

Other components affected in that way are tubes, piezo sensors (on purpose), cables and poor electrical contacts.

 

The case panels on an amp or DAC etc. are effective at catching sound vibrations from the air or the surface they stand on, and if  they don’t have sufficient internal damping of those vibrations then this can affect the signal passing through them.

 

One of the tweaks I sometimes apply to amps (rather than sitting them on exotic feet) is applying butyl rubber sheets to the bottom, top and side panels, as appropriate. Without covering any ventilation holes of course.

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On 22/10/2020 at 10:34 AM, Jinster said:

 

Speaker isolation/coupling is easy - they vibrate. And isolating them using spikes or coupling them by placing directly onto the floor will change how the speaker box vibrates. And rubber pads probably achieve partial isolation and partial coupling. So then sound changes with each of the three setups. For better or worse.

 

 

Fail!!  xD

 

Spikes couple - they do not isolate. (Just do the maths - in terms of the weight per square mm on top of the triangle (ie spike) ... and the weight on the point below.)

 

Andy

 

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14 hours ago, andyr said:

 

Fail!!  xD

 

Spikes couple - they do not isolate. (Just do the maths - in terms of the weight per square mm on top of the triangle (ie spike) ... and the weight on the point below.)

 

Andy

 

 

Sure. My bad for describing it from a simply "visual" perspective - couple = attached directly to ground; isolate = separated by spikes.

 

Let's talk about it your way, which I know is more industry norm.

 

Spikes may actually function as a decoupler on the horizontal plain on a smooth tiled surface due to the reduction in contact patch size. Woofers mounted low down can conceivably produce enough kick to vibrate the speaker forwards and backwards. Straight down speaker placement on tiles without spikes might provide better horizontal coupling due to contact surface redundancy - increasing the likelihood of achieving maximum friction given the same speaker weight.

Edited by Jinster
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Only while the contact patch area is smaller but the load is the same but increased expediently as it is the same load focused on a smaller area. Ever had a woman in high heals stand on ya foot, even a petite one will bury that heal in deep!

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14 hours ago, Steffen said:

Many electronic components have properties that depend on mechanical parameters. Capacitors or inductors for example are very much defined by their geometry. If they end up undergoing mechanical oscillations because they are mounted such that vibrations caught from the surrounding air or the PCB they sit on go right through them, then their electrical properties can change to the rhythm of the vibration. That’s after all how microphones work.

 

Other components affected in that way are tubes, piezo sensors (on purpose), cables and poor electrical contacts.

 

The case panels on an amp or DAC etc. are effective at catching sound vibrations from the air or the surface they stand on, and if  they don’t have sufficient internal damping of those vibrations then this can affect the signal passing through them.

 

One of the tweaks I sometimes apply to amps (rather than sitting them on exotic feet) is applying butyl rubber sheets to the bottom, top and side panels, as appropriate. Without covering any ventilation holes of course.

Yeah that makes sense. Thanks, Steffen.

 

Following this logic, if the vibrations are transmitted from the speakers to the floor and then to the hi-fi rack and then onto each component, then really the simplest way is to mount spikes/rubber feet on the feet of the hi-fi rack....? Or are we saying the "vibrations" are actually coming from the components inside each hi-fi box to start with (even though they are all solid state)? Do transformers vibrate in operation?

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4 minutes ago, muon* said:

Only while the contact patch area is smaller but the load is the same but increased expediently as it is the same load focused on a smaller area. Ever had a woman in high heals stand on ya foot, even a petite one will bury that heal in deep!

Yes, I understand that. What you are describing is basically turning a spike into a nail. This is what happens on a soft-enough surface.

 

On a slippery tiled surface, the nail effect may not be a sufficient trade off to... say, the horizontal inhibition that comes from placing the wooden speaker box directly on the the (somewhat) sticky tile (sticky from moisture, dust, plant residual etc)...

Edited by Jinster
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Doesn't work nearly as well for better sound compared to real isolation in my experience.

 

Now if you place those spiked speakers on a bamboo chopping board and place whites anti vibration blocks under those boards you get a superior sounding result in comparison, and the $ outlay is very little, and paying more for a commercial solution you might even improve on that.

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4 hours ago, Jinster said:

Yeah that makes sense. Thanks, Steffen.

 

Following this logic, if the vibrations are transmitted from the speakers to the floor and then to the hi-fi rack and then onto each component, then really the simplest way is to mount spikes/rubber feet on the feet of the hi-fi rack....? Or are we saying the "vibrations" are actually coming from the components inside each hi-fi box to start with (even though they are all solid state)? Do transformers vibrate in operation?

Following that logic, you are pushing the proverbial up hill with a pointy stick. Think about the things that are way more affected by vibration that may have an affect on what you hear. Things that are encapsulated and solid will not be affected by vibration in any significant way. This includes semiconductor devices, discreet components like resistors, capacitors and even encapsulated inductors.

 

Things that may be adversely affected by vibration are thermionic valves, variable coupled plate type capacitors (tuning caps), open construction inductors (a coil not in a package), mechanical reading devices (laser or Turntable), speakers (mounting and enclosures), connector contacts, and maybe a few more that others might add.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I’ve recently gone from machined aluminum cones or spikes below my electronics (all solid state) and speakers down the isolation route with Sorbothane and Isoacoustics products. 
 

I’m very much enjoying the change and improvement in transparency and detail. 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 23/10/2020 at 9:14 PM, Decky said:

I love these simple questions that take a 2 semester university course material to properly answer. Let me answer with a question -  how is your partial differential equation knowledge these days?  

The simpler the question, the more profound the consequences of asking.

 

e.g. What is?

 

That question required the invention of science.

 

So I am not surprised at all, in fact I  expect it if the question is a good one. All good questions give rise to even better ones. Not answers but pathways that ignore the things we show to be wrong.

 

Yes I'd like to know how a ss device with no moving parts is affected by vibration, as I can speculate on some effects, but others may have more credible knowledge. 

 

I'm out of practice with my PDE's. But I  can still read them. Worthwhile knowledge if you want to get your head around how reality works. Cheers.

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On 24/10/2020 at 5:31 PM, bob_m_54 said:

 

Things that are encapsulated and solid will not be affected by vibration in any significant way. This includes semiconductor devices, discreet components like resistors, capacitors and even encapsulated inductors.

 

 

Sure, that's 'scientific' belief, Bob.  xD

 

All I can do is recount an experiment I did, about 15 years ago.

 

The braced hardwood frames for my Maggie panels sit on heavy, 'U' shaped bases (welded from 6mm thick, steel C-section).  These bases were spiked (through the carpet) to a concrete slab; my (ss) amplifier cases sat on the carpet, between the 'U'-base legs.

 

One day, I decided to place a 25mm-thick slate slab that I happened to have, under each amp case.  Under each slate slab was 6 squash balls - thus isolating the amp case from the slab.

 

I thought this had improved my sound but - knowing it's very easy to fool oneself - wasn't totally convinced.  So I was surprised when, at the next listening session with friends who knew my system well, they all said "What have you done to your system?  It is so much 'cleaner'. "  :)

 

So all I can assume is that, previously, vibrations created by the Maggie bass panels went down into the slab, via the spikes in the bases ... and came up into the (ss) amp cases.  But when I put the amps on an air cushion ... the vibrations no longer got into the amp cases.  Which produced the better sound!

 

Andy

 

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On 23/10/2020 at 10:01 PM, andyr said:

 

Fail!!  xD

 

Spikes couple - they do not isolate. (Just do the maths - in terms of the weight per square mm on top of the triangle (ie spike) ... and the weight on the point below.)

 

Andy

 

Sorry Andy, but you are not correct here. First of all if you are doing some maths you do that of sound waves in materials and consider how they transmit, reflect and refract. Your pressure calculation has little relevance.  Acoustic reflection coefficients are governed by Acoustic Impedance, which is governed by material density and the speed of sound in that material.

 

A non penetrative spike will isolate sound by trapping reflections in the internal volume of the spike.

 

A penetrative spike will allow transmission of some degree, and will couple to the same degree.

 

My take on it is that I  don't want my speakers coupled to the building. So I'm not sending sounds to my neighbour. 

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1 minute ago, dr_carl said:

 

My take on it is that I  don't want my speakers coupled to the building. So I'm not sending sounds to my neighbour. 

 

 

Understood, Dr_C.  But if you don't want sounds being transmitted to your neighbour(s) ... don't use spikes under your spkrs - use springs or air isolation (like, say, those devices made by Townshend).

 

Andy

 

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@andyr, I don't use spikes. Any alternating multilayer will do. That is why the IKEA boards are popular.  I've got cardboard under my chopping board under my Weston amp.  That probably says it all.

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2 minutes ago, dr_carl said:

 

 That probably says it all.

 

 

All it says to me is that cardboard under a chopping board under your Weston amp ... doesn't give the amp the isolation it deserves.  xD

 

Andy

 

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2 hours ago, dr_carl said:

The simpler the question, the more profound the consequences of asking.

 

e.g. What is?

 

That question required the invention of science.

 

So I am not surprised at all, in fact I  expect it if the question is a good one. All good questions give rise to even better ones. Not answers but pathways that ignore the things we show to be wrong.

 

Yes I'd like to know how a ss device with no moving parts is affected by vibration, as I can speculate on some effects, but others may have more credible knowledge. 

 

I'm out of practice with my PDE's. But I  can still read them. Worthwhile knowledge if you want to get your head around how reality works. Cheers.

 

The only problem is that in most of the cases people without any scientific knowledge prefer to believe rather than understand and know. It is extremely difficult to have a constructive, physics/science/engineering  based arguments with religious people. So, there are no good or bad questions, or good or bad answers. It all depends on intention and level of understanding of the topic. If those two requirements are compatible between two side in conversation the result can be useful for both side - as a teach/learn two-way street. In any other combination of circumstances any attempt to engage in information exchange is largely fruitless and mainly results in wasted energy and effort. 

 

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1 hour ago, Decky said:

The only problem is that in most of the cases people without any scientific knowledge prefer to believe rather than understand and know.

 

nailed it

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My high-end solution is a slightly inflated inner tube from a Vespa scooter tyres :)

 

One is actually lying under my pre from my diy wood rack.

 

Saw first time at an hi-fi expo under a heavvy TT and gave it a try first under my TT.

 

It worked well (more clarity) so I decided to adopt also on the pre. Of course the trick is best working when the unit is heavy (e.g. some weight on top of a cd player).

 

Stefano

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4 hours ago, seppstefano said:

 

It worked well (more clarity) so I decided to adopt also on the pre. Of course the trick is best working when the unit is heavy (e.g. some weight on top of a cd player).

 

Stefano

 

Or a slate slab under the CD player, on top of the inner tube.  :)  Weight is definitely part of the success of this method.

 

Andy

 

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Agreed! In that case, I'd try coupling the unit to the slab, to let the tube wobbling dissipate vibrations provided by the resulting mass. Perhaps would be nice a sandwich of different materials, to let high frequency energy dissipate before reaching the tube.

 

My diy plinth applied this so-called "Constrained Layer Damping" principle, but I didn't apply it to my digital sources... yet 😄

 

Stefano

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Nordost refer to things like resonance "control".

It's not only about reducing or minimising but also, controlling it in terms of frequency. And this is also something IsoAcoustics have researched extensively and why their products have mass ranges for the given elasticity in their wide range of products.

 

Speak to Kiat at Duntech and Grazz at Apogee about resonance control of their solid state crossovers. There's a very valid reason why cross overs are "potted". Again, frequency of vibration does affect performance of almost all electronics.

 

Re spikes: if a piece of metal between two structures transfers kinetic energy from one structure to the other without loss, it's coupled. simple. Sure not all energy may be transferred (as there are various degrees of coupling) but a spike couples almost infinitely more than it decouples. Some may argue that even fancy isolation products using elastomers, air, springs, etc still couple and in truth, they do but much less so than a spike.

 

It would be interesting to see where the coupling vs decoupling line is drawn.

Edited by Winno
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Interesting reading. Personal solution was to run speakers in 1 isolated room, gear in another :). Can barely hear the speakers in the other room, therefore no problems with resonations/vibration getting into the gear. 

 

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I’ve found this thread fascinating, so thanks to the OP for posing the original question. It’s lead me to looking at my own system and the lack of attention I’ve paid to isolation/damping/vibration control.  It was only a few months ago that I fashioned a set of spikes for my speakers. The result was instantaneously obvious. When I think about it, as my main listening source is a turntable, removing unwanted vibrations must be at the heart of good clean sound. 
So I pop into a local HiFi shop to look at some options, expecting to be offered various spikes and feet type solutions, possible a rack, and I’m greeted with these wafer thin, Les Davis CLD pads. I’m looking at these things thinking, our hobby really is 99% BS and snake oil if these bits of plastic material costing $129 are going to do anything.  Really?  I don’t want to be this cynical but I’m struggling with this. 
Are there any devotees here?

Edited by captain.j
Grammar and spelling.
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Hi,

don't know those pads, but I would say the result would really depend on the mass of the plinth of your TT.

 

My strategy for TT has and would been: have a heavy, dampened, plinth, with losses (CLD) and let it float onto the inner tube.

 

HTH,

 

Stefano

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So what we are saying is that having my Mojo, spinning disc HDD and laptop sitting directly on top of my sub in my 2.1 system is bad, very bad...

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On 25/11/2020 at 9:30 PM, captain.j said:

I’ve found this thread fascinating, so thanks to the OP for posing the original question. It’s lead me to looking at my own system and the lack of attention I’ve paid to isolation/damping/vibration control.  It was only a few months ago that I fashioned a set of spikes for my speakers. The result was instantaneously obvious. When I think about it, as my main listening source is a turntable, removing unwanted vibrations must be at the heart of good clean sound. 
So I pop into a local HiFi shop to look at some options, expecting to be offered various spikes and feet type solutions, possible a rack, and I’m greeted with these wafer thin, Les Davis CLD pads. I’m looking at these things thinking, our hobby really is 99% BS and snake oil if these bits of plastic material costing $129 are going to do anything.  Really?  I don’t want to be this cynical but I’m struggling with this. 
Are there any devotees here?

The concept of constrained layer isolation is valid, but not sure how well those would work, and yeah, the price is a bit eye watering.

 

I have a constrained layer setup under my speaker, using 12.5mm thick Whites Anti Vibration pads > 12mm Bamboo Board > 12.5mm Whites Anti Vibration Pads. I think more effective at a guess and cheaper too. This would work under a TT also for isolation.

 

Could do it the other way with Bamboo Board > Whites Anti Vibration Pads > Bamboo Board.

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