"If it measures good and sounds bad, it is bad.
If it sounds good and measures bad, you've measured the wrong thing."


Review: Maple Wood Button Isolators.

Posted by kboe on August 15, 2011 at 8:55 PM

August 2011

Maple Wood Button Footers

Reviewer: Kevin Pope

Source: Pure i20, ALO iPod dock, 160GB iPod Classic loaded with AIFF

Amp: Schiit Asgard Headphones: AKG K-702, K-240 with Cardas replacement harness, K-130, Sennheiser HD-598

Cables: Power - Cardas Quadlink 5-C, Pangea AC14, AC9, Analog - Cardas Quadlink 5-C, Verumecce DIY interconnects

Rack: DIY rack with solid Maple hardwood shelfs, Mapleshade Cable Trestle, Wall Trestle, wood button isolation feet

Power Conditioning: PS Audio Duet

Sundry Accessories: Woo Audio headphone stand, Sennheiser headphone holders

Review Component Retail: $3.00 at your local hardware store 

Our very own Stuart, aka Deep Sounds got me started, so blame him!  Over a few e-mail exchanges, Stuart challenged me to remove the cork I was using under some granite slabs I had working as primitive vibration control.  Removing the cork was a revelation.  I can't explain it technically, nor do I care to, but the result was nothing short of miraculous.  Divine might go to far, but not by much.  Stuarts Sound Surfer cables work their magic through clarity and resolution.  Removing the cork worked just the same way.  Clarity went up just as it does when you go through a true component upgrade.  Not the usual side-grade, but a true upgrade.  

Later I would remove the granite all together, with a similar jump up in clarity.  After doing some point and click research, mostly concentrated on sites and manufactures that reckon transforming vibrational energy rather than trying to squelch it is the better way to go, I bought some maple wood furniture buttons.  After all, you can only transform or transport energy, you can't destroy it, so why try.  MapleShade is one such manufacture that has built a reputation for using vibrational energy in it's favor to add fine flavors to the sonic presentation, and is where today's tip/review came from.  Famed Franck Tchang's ASI HeartSong racks and Yamamoto's SoundCraft racks do the same thing, but for more money.

This review will concentrate on a much, much more budget friendly response to the resonance game.  Not thousands of dollars, not hundreds or even tens of dollars.  Try $3.00 plus tax at your local hardware store!  Granted this review will only look at footers, not a rack, but the idea and principle remain the same.  For a whopping $3.00 I bought a pack of 25 maple wooden buttons used to fill in recessed screw holes in furniture making.  These go under your components just like any other footer.  I started out by using them only on the amp, and just today got more to put under all my components.

After a few days of fun later, I realized that I was having more of just that, fun!  More general detail, greater dynamic swings, extended highs and lows with better microdynamics, (that's where emotion lies).  By microdynamics I mean a type of much subdued vibrato, a signature of a great artist.  Listening to the fantastic soundtrack The Fountain, I heard the slightest tonal intonations used by the performers from The Kronos Quartet during the opening track "The Last Man".  This is bone chilling, goose bump territory.  Minimalist string stuff usually is.   Intonation is how we as people gauge a persons level of seriousness or playfulness durning a conversation.  It only makes sense to listen for the same thing in a recorded performance.  The first time I heard these microdynamic details was when using a pair of Sony MDR-R10s at a local HeadFI meet about 6 months ago.  It blew my mind that there was so much more emotional content to uncover in my cd’s.  These maple wood buttons bring one step closer to that goal.  Not of complete resolution per say, that would be missing the forest for the tree, but rather heightened emotional "resolution".

What's equally amazing is that this refinement of content showed up everywhere.  Bass drums in orchestras gained detail and a "therness" I'd not usually associate with them is classical performances.  Because of their placement in a typical setup, the bass drums and percussion are usually over powered to some extent by the other members of the orchestra.  Now the textures of the drums and xylophones, the bells and snare drums came through, pardon the phrase, clear as a bell.  

I've also found that I turned down my usual volume levels by about 10% or so.  What I normally listened to on the dial was just a tad to loud.  Backing down a tish brought the volume back to long term comfort levels.  My idea being that the increased level of refinement brought to the table no longer required stouter levels for me to search for.  

I would recommend everyone go out and try this tweak.  Even if you have a better vibration/resonance system currently, the education this provides is far above the $3.00 asking price.  It'll give context to the more expensive feet you have, as it has for Mark, aka Rdr. Seraphim.  And if you have no experience with this type of tweak, it'll give you a taste of what's possible, of what's left to explore in your system.  And of course should you hear nothing, or not trust what your ears tell you, then just put back in your apple earbuds and go download some 128kbps stuff off iTunes.  On that note,

Happy Tunes,

Kevin Pope

Categories: Cables & Tweaks

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Reply kboe
11:00 PM on September 19, 2011 
Being that this thread went missing, I am restoring the original conversation post by post, nothing has been edited.

-Originally posted by beuatox-

"With a headphone system I doubt that the effect that you hear is due to vibration, as there is a miniscule amount coming back from the phones to the equipment. Also wooden buttons would not really help vibration anyway. Similarly, cork would be quite effective under granite at suppressing vibration. Removing it is unlikely to improve things.

I'm not saying that you are not hearing an improvement, but the cause may well be unrelated to vibration, such as change in the dielectric surrounding the components. Or something else."
Reply kboe
11:01 PM on September 19, 2011 
-Originally posted by Amine, in response to beautox-

Hi beautox,

You make an interesting point. I have also wondered many times why I could hear changes in footers and audio rack when using my headphone system.

However it seems that many people make the assumption that internally generated vibrations are less important than airborne/speaker generated ones.

While I don't pretend I can answer why we can hear such differences with a headphone system, I personally believe that 2 of the explaining factors might include the following:

A. High End headphones are extremely revealing and can let you hear any difference in vibration (Option A by itself is not sufficient in my personal opinion)

B. There are complex interactions (besides vibration control) between the support platform and the electronic component including heat dissipation and RFI/EMI attenuation.
Indeed I have noticed that if I put a (light) A4 sheet of carbon fiber on top of my DAC, the sound gets a little bit smoother and more organic, which is probably due to the RFI/EMI interaction with the DAC. So if we substitute a wooden platform with a carbon fiber one, we are not only affecting the vibration side, but also other parameters.
(Option B by itself is also not sufficient in my opinion)

Also, A & B together are still not sufficient, in my personal experience.

The result is that, due to the complexity of the problem, I personally stopped trying to predict the outcome of experimenting, and started to rely more on what I actually hear in my system, regardless of the conventional "wisdom" on the subject.

To sum up, regardless of the possible explanations, I will read Kevin's upcoming review with an open mind and will focus my attention on what he actually heard in his system.
Reply kboe
11:03 PM on September 19, 2011 
-Originally posted by me, kboe, in response to Amine-

"... started to rely more on what I actually hear in my system, regardless of the conventional "wisdom" on the subject. " - Amine

This says it all on my philosophy about everything audio. If I hear something then I hear it, period. Explanations, test, numbers, data and objectivity have no place in what my ears actually hear. Sure it can be useful to know measurements, how they work and what they are, but at the end of the day I cant listen to my music with that info, I can only listen with my ears, it's my only method to hear anything. But it takes all kinds. And we need all kinds!
Reply kboe
11:04 PM on September 19, 2011 
-Originally posted by me, kboe, as a follow-up-

I just found the segment on wood buttons I was looking for from MapleShade. It reads,

"Here?s the physics: electrical currents, the music signals that drive your speakers, also create unwanted vibrations inside every electronic component and speaker cabinet. A simple experiment I conducted 15 years ago (which you can repeat at home) proves these internal vibes?not the external room vibrations?are the bad actors muddying the music signal. So standard isolating devices like springs, rubber feet, sand, magnetic suspensions, or air bladders don?t help. These products trap the vibes inside the component, exacerbating muddying of the signals, especially in the bass frequencies.

For firmer bass plus clearer mids and treble, try speakers and stands on three hardware store wood plugs or buttons--or use our brass footers to get two to three times the effect. Ditto for all CD players, amps, power supplies, ect."

I don't know anything about his experiment or physics, but I know what I hear, and so far I like it.
Reply kboe
11:05 PM on September 19, 2011 
-Originally posted by Rdr. Seraphim-

Hi Kevin, I've tried these in the past and found their effect negligible. The most significant impact in my music system was the use of end grain, maple cutting boards with some kind of constrained layer dampening. I use Marigo Labs Mystery Feet ( under my amp and DAC. The maple cutting boards are suspended via Mapleshade ISO Blocks, and are a good, inexpensive support. This combination of isolation and constrained layer dampening provides the most significant improvements in rock solid imaging and focus that I have ever heard.

EDIT: BTW, the effect on my big rig (e.g. tube amp and CPD) was startling. The effect under the DNA Sonett was more significant than under my Wyred 4 Sound DAC, but the combination seems almost additive. I also mass load my amp and DAC using a few strategically placed brass weights, also from Mapleshade.
Reply kboe
11:06 PM on September 19, 2011 
-Originally posted by me, kboe in response to Rdr. Seraphim-

Hey Mark,

If me and you are hearing the same thing, and you say it's negligible, then I have so much more to discover. But what I am hearing is not small or mild in effect. It's like going from a portable amp to a nice full size amp. Maybe as Bob suggested it has something to do with the dielectric around the equipment or something else, and zero to do with vibrational energy? Either way for $3.00 I'm a happy camper.

And believe me... MapleShade racks, footers, weights and platforms are in my future, it just might be a while!

Reply kboe
11:07 PM on September 19, 2011 
-Originally posted by Rdr. Seraphim in response to kboe-

In keeping with the tenor of your post, and process, I agree. I jumped to the final step in my discovery process. There are a lot of little steps in-between that I omitted in my comments. $3 vs $1,500 worth of feet is a a big, no, a humongous leap! After maple buttons I moved to brass footers--also from Mapleshade--and there was a pronounced improvement, as suggested by the same folks. (Not to mention their great music!)

After a point, the improvements are incremental at best, and the cost/benefit ratio starts to run amok. The fun is getting to the point of dimensioning returns, when you start asking yourself, was that really worth it, or was that merely a difference?

Then there's the flat out audio bargains, e.g. the Advent Receiver, Large Advent loudspeakers, Manley Stingray (original and 2nd versions), and even some cables from the likes of Stuart and some of Downsize's creations. (Will be putting Bob's new cable design together soon, too!)

I strongly support a $3 audio investment!
Reply kboe
11:08 PM on September 19, 2011 
-Originally posted by me, kboe-

Review finished.