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Surprising results with SoundFoundations Roller blocks

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SachinChavan

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A few days ago @Nikhil had this year-end thread, ‘Your best audio purchase of 2019?’ I had no doubt in my mind it was my Einstein Green Largo speaker cables. We are less than a week old into 2020, but it seems I already have my answer ready for the question ‘Your best audio purchase of 2020?’

It’s true that our major purchases are around speakers and electronics, but usually we know what to expect from them so the surprise element is low. But when a cable or an accessory improves the sound of our system beyond our expectation, now that’s a real surprise!

I was looking at solutions to reduce the boom in my system and talking to some FMs, especially Hari and Prem, I realised the importance of placing electronics on platform/supports. I wanted to believe first-hand. So I first experimented with keeping a wooden platform (‘paat’ in Marathi) under my Audiolab 8200A. Convinced that there was a perceivable improvement, I started looking for an elegant audiophile solution.

6DF20D98-2087-4870-B9E0-EA7B8E5E906B.jpeg

Based on @prem’s reference, I decided to explore SoundFoundations belonging to FM Ali (@magma). I wrote to him and explained my need. Based on the weight (medium) and quality (medium) of my components, he suggested trying the Roller Blocks among his product portfolio. So I went ahead and ordered a set.

When the set came, I decided to put it under my Lyrita DHT preamp (while keeping the Audiolab still over the jugaad paat). The roller blocks are essentially a pair of well-machined chunky circular discs with felt on the outer side and a semicircular depression on the inside. You pair the two discs and place the metal (tungsten carbide) ball in the spherical cavity that gets formed between them. The discs don’t rest on each other, but through the ball which is free to move. You keep this assembly under your equipment as a foot. You can keep either four or three pairs to support the equipment above. (I’d suggest 3 if your surface is not exactly even and the equipment is not too heavy). So essentially the equipment is now kind of floating on these supports. The idea is that vibrations from the stand/cabinet/floor the equipment is placed on should not travel back to the equipment. So this is kind of isolation.

E8090B69-362E-4775-A2A0-50F7D4EEC74C.jpeg

After I placed the roller blocks under the Tube preamp, I could note the improvement in sound right from the first track. The drums sounded a tad tighter with less boom and the vocals calmer/more composed. It was a perceivable improvement, kind of in the range of my expectations. I was happy with the purchase. An auditioning by a regular nearby audiophile friend who regularly listens to my system (as well as my wife who entertains my requests to assess) confirmed the same. In his words, the vocals now felt like the singer was in the room with us. He requested me to order a set for himself.

Buoyed by this, I ordered more sets to place under my Audiolab 8200A (used as power amp) and the Yamaha CDX 630e vintage CD player. I received them yesterday and went about promptly trying them out.

First i replaced the paat under the Audiolab amp with the roller blocks. There was immediate difference in the rhythm - it became faster - which usually makes the songs more musical. This was easily perceivable in rock drums as well as classical tabla etc. Must have been a result of the further reduced boom and improved bass definition.

EC217007-1E80-42AB-BAA3-8D9D1374A94E.jpeg

A9B8F711-6FB4-43A9-A893-15B8F58E55CB.jpeg

And then came the real surprise! Till now I hadn’t experience much improvement in treble or any major improvement in vocals. Most of the change was in the lower registers (with its resultant effect on the clarity of other frequencies as a small byproduct). But the moment I placed the roller blocks under the CDP (a capable vintage player with TD1541A DAC), both me and my wife could not believe our ears! I spontaneously wrote to Magma on Whatsapp to communicate my elation.

F8FD5DEC-AF97-47F8-846D-8412AABB0B68.jpeg

What happened was that with the roller blocks under the CD player (source), the noise floor dropped - not marginally, but substantially! As a result, all frequencies showed improvement. Suddenly it was sound transformed! The bass surely got further clearer and defined, but the treble too improved - both in terms of enhanced hearing of higher frequencies and the delicacy of the treble artefacts. My system benefits from the sweetness of the tube, but I have felt it also dampened the treble. Now, the treble was in its full glory (barring some understandable some roll off owing to the speakers).

But that was not all. There was magic in the vocals (second time I used this term - the first time when I introduced tube pre in my system couple of years ago). The clarity increased and one could now understand the lyrics better. But there was improvement in the vocal details - I could now hear the sounds made by the mouth/tongue/throat movements of the singer making him/her feel more palpable/real. There was much better immediacy as I could also feel the studio room (reverb esp.) in quiet and well recorded vocals like Hariharan in Raincoat OST. These improvements were further endorsed by my wife yesterday and nephew (also a regular listener of my system) today. An allied benefit is the enhancement in the listenable volume range - I can now play at higher dB before distortion sets in and lower volumes before losing details.

All in all, there’s a leap improvement in the sound quality and consequently, the music appreciation and enjoyment from my system. At such a reasonable cost (around 2% of the total system), such an improvement is easily the best ROI I have had so far in sound. I am ordering another pair to sit under my Cambridge CXN streamer.

If you plan to use the roller blocks, I suggest you experiment with 3 and 4 block pairs to see which gives you better results. Also play around with the blocks placement under your equipment. I tried the two front, one behind and the reversed to figure out which worked better (different for different equipment). Also, I had to go with a peculiar placement under my Audiolab 8200A which has a heavy transformer on the rear right corner. So I had to figure out by trial and error the best placement which wasn’t an equilateral or isosceles triangle, but an irregular shape. The idea is to match the center of gravity of the equipment with the center of the triangle/quadrilateral formed by the blocks. Now, this is not what SoundFoundations prescribed, but what I discovered worked best.

To summarise, this is what makes this hobby interesting. It’s not just about buying the best equipment, but optimising and improving the sound through cables, connectors, placement, supports etc. It’s an organic journey of continuous improvement that keeps enhancing the listening pleasure to the listener as well as giving the owner a sense of fulfilment. Upgrading a component should be the last resort unless one has made a terrible mistake in its selection. At least, that’s how I prefer to go about it. My Audiolab 8200A and Castle Knight 2 speakers have been constant from day one, the Lyrita DHT preamp has been steadfast over two years now.. but there have been a number of experiments tried out in the connections etc. Some succeeded, while some surpassed expectations... the Roller blocks (as well as the Einstein Largo cable) belong to this category. It’s a wonder what two well designed and manufactured pieces of metal and a ball can do to the sound!

P.S. I have documented my experience. I don’t know how much it could get replicated in other systems. My guess is it could depend on the quality of stock feet of your equipment (mine being budget audiophile range, were rubber stubs) as well as where your equipment are placed (mine are on a large solid wood cabinet) and the extent of vibration in it. Poorer the stock feet and higher the vibrations in the cabinet, better might be the improvement with the roller blocks.
 
Last edited:
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Nice Review, I have 2 units of there, as I cannot see underneath the pic, are those build with Glass top? mine is built with glass top its the Tampered glass, but one of it has an issue, the cup does not move freely? and does not have the moment and getting stuck in one of the cups and hard to move the led-shot freely, either the lead-shot is smaller in one of those or some other issue, any idea?
 

arj

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Good purchase sir ji. I'm experiment with eraser underneath my cd player and speakers also and make some noticeable difference. This product reviewed well, right now im planning to diy this kind of roller blocks in house
you can do that with Glass Marbles. Please also try a Half filled bicycle tube as some systems prefer isolation especially for sources.
 

magma

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Hi Sachin
Thank you for the appreciation and encouragement

The roller blocks are indeed one of our isolaters that are preferred by some.members here
One of our very well known memeber and senior audiophiles has his entire racksystem built on them ( each part of the rack having them between the rack frame and the shelf )
And is peetty happy

I had a feeling that putting them.on the source makes a real differnce hence I asked you to try them there after the tube amp
A couple of clients had discovered that by chance



@ thinkdiffernt
I am.actually unable to understand your post well so i cant help
But there can multiple possibilities

For accuracy the cups need to be exactly the same hence CNC machining would ve prefferd
An uneven. Cup would not work

Also glass chips
This can cause uneveness with the ball not having free movement

Lastly lead shots are never perfectly spherical

All these factors probably cause what you are experiencing
 
Joined
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you can do that with Glass Marbles. Please also try a Half filled bicycle tube as some systems prefer isolation especially for sources.
Oh Yeah, I never thought of glass marbles, (lead-shots are expensive here) getting 3 of them in little bigger size may do the trick..

Sorry, I did not understand what you meant by "Half filled bicycle tube"? can you please explain when you get a chance?

@ thinkdiffernt
I am.actually unable to understand your post well so i cant help
But there can multiple possibilities

For accuracy the cups need to be exactly the same hence CNC machining would ve prefferd
An uneven. Cup would not work

Also glass chips
This can cause uneveness with the ball not having free movement

Lastly lead shots are never perfectly spherical

All these factors probably cause what you are experiencing
Yes, as you have rightly pointed out, there may be an issue with the uneven cutting of the cups due to which the ball is not moving freely,
I shell try little bigger glass marble as Mr Arj, suggested (with similar sizes) and try,

thank You and Arj for chiming in with your input.
 

arj

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Oh Yeah, I never thought of glass marbles, (lead-shots are expensive here) getting 3 of them in little bigger size may do the trick..

Sorry, I did not understand what you meant by "Half filled bicycle tube"? can you please explain when you get a chance?
Take any Bicycle tube, fill it with enough air so that it does not collapse but at the same time you can put it in any shape you want. place it below an equipment ( usually cdp/pre) such that there is an air cushion with the air inside the tube under the component.
 

RRR

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An inexpensive solution is squash balls cut in half and placed under relatively light source equipment.
 

Hari Iyer

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you can do that with Glass Marbles. Please also try a Half filled bicycle tube as some systems prefer isolation especially for sources.
This is the exact solution I am using. I need to order granite block to increase mass. I am using bicycle tube for the spring. The marble on a carrom coin can give you low compliance.
 

SachinChavan

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Nice Review, I have 2 units of there, as I cannot see underneath the pic, are those build with Glass top? mine is built with glass top its the Tampered glass, but one of it has an issue, the cup does not move freely? and does not have the moment and getting stuck in one of the cups and hard to move the led-shot freely, either the lead-shot is smaller in one of those or some other issue, any idea?
AFAIK, mine doesn’t have a glass top. If they are from SoundFoundations, FM @magma might be able to help.

@captainrizal, as above.
 
Last edited:

Mukul77

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A few days ago @Nikhil had this year-end thread, ‘Your best audio purchase of 2019?’ I had no doubt in my mind it was my Einstein Green Largo speaker cables. We are less than a week old into 2020, but it seems I already have my answer ready for the question ‘Your best audio purchase of 2020?’

It’s true that our major purchases are around speakers and electronics, but usually we know what to expect from them so the surprise element is low. But when a cable or an accessory improves the sound of our system beyond our expectation, now that’s a real surprise!

I was looking at solutions to reduce the boom in my system and talking to some FMs, especially Hari and Prem, I realised the importance of placing electronics on platform/supports. I wanted to believe first-hand. So I first experimented with keeping a wooden platform (‘paat’ in Marathi) under my Audiolab 8200A. Convinced that there was a perceivable improvement, I started looking for an elegant audiophile solution.

View attachment 42387

Based on @prem’s reference, I decided to explore SoundFoundations belonging to FM Ali (@magma). I wrote to him and explained my need. Based on the weight (medium) and quality (medium) of my components, he suggested trying the Roller Blocks among his product portfolio. So I went ahead and ordered a set.

When the set came, I decided to put it under my Lyrita DHT preamp (while keeping the Audiolab still over the jugaad paat). The roller blocks are essentially a pair of well-machined chunky circular discs with felt on the outer side and a semicircular depression on the inside. You pair the two discs and place the metal (tungsten carbide) ball in the spherical cavity that gets formed between them. The discs don’t rest on each other, but through the ball which is free to move. You keep this assembly under your equipment as a foot. You can keep either four or three pairs to support the equipment above. (I’d suggest 3 if your surface is not exactly even and the equipment is not too heavy). So essentially the equipment is now kind of floating on these supports. The idea is that vibrations from the stand/cabinet/floor the equipment is placed on should not travel back to the equipment. So this is kind of isolation.

View attachment 42388

After I placed the roller blocks under the Tube preamp, I could note the improvement in sound right from the first track. The drums sounded a tad tighter with less boom and the vocals calmer/more composed. It was a perceivable improvement, kind of in the range of my expectations. I was happy with the purchase. An auditioning by a regular nearby audiophile friend who regularly listens to my system (as well as my wife who entertains my requests to assess) confirmed the same. In his words, the vocals now felt like the singer was in the room with us. He requested me to order a set for himself.

Buoyed by this, I ordered more sets to place under my Audiolab 8200A (used as power amp) and the Yamaha CDX 630e vintage CD player. I received them yesterday and went about promptly trying them out.

First i replaced the paat under the Audiolab amp with the roller blocks. There was immediate difference in the rhythm - it became faster - which usually makes the songs more musical. This was easily perceivable in rock drums as well as classical tabla etc. Must have been a result of the further reduced boom and improved bass definition.

View attachment 42389

View attachment 42390

And then came the real surprise! Till now I hadn’t experience much improvement in treble or any major improvement in vocals. Most of the change was in the lower registers (with its resultant effect on the clarity of other frequencies as a small byproduct). But the moment I placed the roller blocks under the CDP (a capable vintage player with TD1541A DAC), both me and my wife could not believe our ears! I spontaneously wrote to Magma on Whatsapp to communicate my elation.

View attachment 42391

What happened was that with the roller blocks under the CD player (source), the noise floor dropped - not marginally, but substantially! As a result, all frequencies showed improvement. Suddenly it was sound transformed! The bass surely got further clearer and defined, but the treble too improved - both in terms of enhanced hearing of higher frequencies and the delicacy of the treble artefacts. My system benefits from the sweetness of the tube, but I have felt it also dampened the treble. Now, the treble was in its full glory (barring some understandable some roll off owing to the speakers).

But that was not all. There was magic in the vocals (second time I used this term - the first time when I introduced tube pre in my system couple of years ago). The clarity increased and one could now understand the lyrics better. But there was improvement in the vocal details - I could now hear the sounds made by the mouth/tongue/throat movements of the singer making him/her feel more palpable/real. There was much better immediacy as I could also feel the studio room (reverb esp.) in quiet and well recorded vocals like Hariharan in Raincoat OST. These improvements were further endorsed by my wife yesterday and nephew (also a regular listener of my system) today. An allied benefit is the enhancement in the listenable volume range - I can now play at higher dB before distortion sets in and lower volumes before losing details.

All in all, there’s a leap improvement in the sound quality and consequently, the music appreciation and enjoyment from my system. At such a reasonable cost (around 2% of the total system), such an improvement is easily the best ROI I have had so far in sound. I am ordering another pair to sit under my Cambridge CXN streamer.

If you plan to use the roller blocks, I suggest you experiment with 3 and 4 block pairs to see which gives you better results. Also play around with the blocks placement under your equipment. I tried the two front, one behind and the reversed to figure out which worked better (different for different equipment). Also, I had to go with a peculiar placement under my Audiolab 8200A which has a heavy transformer on the rear right corner. So I had to figure out by trial and error the best placement which wasn’t an equilateral or isosceles triangle, but an irregular shape. The idea is to match the center of gravity of the equipment with the center of the triangle/quadrilateral formed by the blocks. Now, this is not what SoundFoundations prescribed, but what I discovered worked best.

To summarise, this is what makes this hobby interesting. It’s not just about buying the best equipment, but optimising and improving the sound through cables, connectors, placement, supports etc. It’s an organic journey of continuous improvement that keeps enhancing the listening pleasure to the listener as well as giving the owner a sense of fulfilment. Upgrading a component should be the last resort unless one has made a terrible mistake in its selection. At least, that’s how I prefer to go about it. My Audiolab 8200A and Castle Knight 2 speakers have been constant from day one, the Lyrita DHT preamp has been steadfast over two years now.. but there have been a number of experiments tried out in the connections etc. Some succeeded, while some surpassed expectations... the Roller blocks (as well as the Einstein Largo cable) belong to this category. It’s a wonder what two well designed and manufactured pieces of metal and a ball can do to the sound!

P.S. I have documented my experience. I don’t know how much it could get replicated in other systems. My guess is it could depend on the quality of stock feet of your equipment (mine being budget audiophile range, were rubber stubs) as well as where your equipment are placed (mine are on a large solid wood cabinet) and the extent of vibration in it. Poorer the stock feet and higher the vibrations in the cabinet, better might be the improvement with the roller blocks.
Very nicely written sir. Will try it in my system.
 

superczar

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There was much better immediacy as I could also feel the studio room (reverb esp.) in quiet and well recorded vocals like Hariharan in Raincoat OST.
That’s a pretty thorough review sir..
While you and I have a bit divergent views on what helps with audio, I do respect your opinion.
Posted just to say that I absolutely love the Raincoat OST - possibly one of my all time top 10 albums

However the master for this album is not a particularly good test track - the vocal channel, esp on the hariharan rendition of Piya tora is particularly messed up by the recording engineers
Maybe they applied too much of filtering but The depth of his voice is badly attenuated on the track
While the recxording still remains absolutely beautiful and mesmerizing but it still makes you feel sorry that the mixing engineers could have accorded the same respect to the vocals channel as they did to he flutist :(
 

SachinChavan

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Ok, this post is for believers who use some kind of isolations.

Since I introduced the Roller blocks in my system a month and half ago I have been gradually working with different placement configurations for the blocks under the equipment and have summarised my learnings below. The idea is to help anyone else who might want to optimise the placement of their equipment isolators and don’t mind experimenting.

Yes the fine-tuning has to be equipment specific. My eventual positioning of the roller blocks under each equipment is unique. For the CD player (with relatively even weight distribution, slightly heavier at the front) it is a trapezoid that is almost a rectangle. For the pre amp (Lyrita DHT which is heavily weighted in the back half) it is in Y shape. And for the amp (Audiolab 8200A which has lopsided weight, mostly on right and behind), it cannot be described with standard geometry. It’s L shape with three blocks on the right side and lone block at center of the left side. I have four blocks under each of these equipment. I tried with three earlier but found better results with four eventually. One has to keep experimenting and finding what’s the best for their equipment. But it will seldom be standard rectangle (like how the stock feet are placed) because the weight distribution is never uniform. But there are some generic pointers that I discovered and in my opinion should be valid for any equipment (as they are not equipment specific, but roller block specific).


1. Ensure that you place the blocks under the heavy parts of the equipment. Put more blocks on the side (front/rear, left/right) which has more weight. Adjust them to get the center of all your blocks matching the center of gravity of the equipment.

2. Placing blocks more towards the periphery gives a calmer & melodious but also less open/dynamic sound. Moving them closer to the center of the equipment will increase the openness and dynamics (including transients) but reduce clarity and microtones. Adjust accordingly to get the right mix.

3. Optimise the placement under the source (CD player) first and then work your way towards the power amp. To begin, place all close to the stock feet and then starting with the source, start experimenting. Once you’ve optimised the placement under the source, move on to the pre. Once you’ve done all, you may want to do one more iteration if you are finicky like me.

4. Also check that each block is placed under flat bottom portion of the equipment. Don’t put a block under a screw or uneven surface. Once kept, shake the equipment a bit and see if all blocks are showing equal relative movement between the upper and the lower block. If it’s not free enough (all of them), you may need to add more blocks. If one/two blocks show less free movement than others, you may need to move the other blocks towards these blocks to share some of their weight.

I’ve noticed discernible differences when the blocks are moved an inch here or there. This doesn’t cost (beyond what you’ve paid for the isolators) and putting some effort can ensure gratifying results in terms of sound improvement.
Hope this helps some of you - today or in the future.
 
Last edited:

Sandip Das

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Ok, this post is for believers who use some kind of isolations.

Since I introduced the Roller blocks in my system a month and half ago I have been gradually working with different placement configurations for the blocks under the equipment and have summarised my learnings below. The idea is to help anyone else who might want to optimise the placement of their equipment isolators and don’t mind experimenting.

Yes the fine-tuning has to be equipment specific. My eventual positioning of the roller blocks under each equipment is so unique. For the CD player (with relatively even weight distribution, slightly heavier at the back) it is a trapezoid that is almost a rectangle. For the pre amp (Lyrita DHT which is heavily weighted in the back half) it is in Y shape. And for the amp (Audiolab 8200A which has lopsided weight, mostly on right and behind), it cannot be described with standard geometry. It’s L shape with three blocks on the right side and lone block at center of the left side. I have four blocks under each of these equipment. I tried with three earlier but found better results with four eventually. One has to keep experimenting and finding what’s the best for their equipment. But it will seldom be standard rectangle (like how the stock feet are placed) because the weight distribution is never uniform. But there are some generic pointers that I discovered and in my opinion should be valid for any equipment (as they are not equipment specific, but roller block specific).


1. Ensure that you place the blocks under the heavy parts of the equipment. Put more blocks on the side (front/rear, left/right) which has more weight. Adjust them to get the center of all your blocks matching the center of gravity of the equipment.

2. Placing blocks more towards the periphery gives a calmer & melodious but also less open/dynamic sound. Moving them closer to the center of the equipment will increase the openness and dynamics (including transients) but reduce clarity and microtones. Adjust accordingly to get the right mix.

3. Optimise the placement under the source (CD player) first and then work your way towards the power amp. To begin, place all close to the stock feet and then starting with the source, start experimenting. Once you’ve optimised the placement under the source, move on to the pre. Once you’ve done all, you may want to do one more iteration if you are finicky like me.

4. Also check that each block is placed under flat bottom portion of the equipment. Don’t put a block under a screw or uneven surface. Once kept, shake the equipment a bit and see if all blocks are showing equal relative movement between the upper and the lower block. If it’s not free enough (all of them), you may need to add more blocks. If one/two blocks show less free movement than others, you may need to move the other blocks towards these blocks to share some of their weight.

I’ve noticed discernible differences when the blocks are moved an inch here or there. This doesn’t cost (beyond what you’ve paid for the isolators) and putting some effort can ensure gratifying results in terms of sound improvement.
Hope this helps some of you - today or in the future.
Sending some pictures will help to understand the details
 

SachinChavan

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Sending some pictures will help to understand the details
Trying below. But it’s not easy to click picture below the equipment and still show the geometry clearly. Here’s my best attempt. Please correlate with earlier post.

1. Under the CD Player

F5BBBDA5-86E6-40C6-B198-2A2297C6DA98.jpeg
This is easier. You can see the four roller blocks in trapezoidal arrangement, two in front and two behind (partly hidden).

2. Under the Lyrita Pre

937B4379-4FAB-4F83-BF11-2946DD2E941E.jpeg
You’d need a bit of effort to see the Y shape here. Two blocks at the back (upper two vertices of the Y), one right in the front center (bottom vertex of the Y) and one behind it (the center of the Y). The Lyrita has many screws in the bottom plate making it difficult to place the blocks at the most optimum position.

3. Under the Amp

9CBDEEE5-A7F7-432E-A5E0-B957A62601FD.jpeg
The most difficult to render in a photo. See the left side has only one block while there are three blocks on the right in an inverse L shape (corner of L matching the rear right).

Once again, these arrangements are specific to these equipment (especially their construction and weight distribution). You’d need to work out the optimum positioning for yours using the generic guidelines in the previous post.
 

Vivek Batra

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Hi Sachin

If I am.not mistaken by looking at the pictures, you have placed the discs under the belly of the equipment and not under the component feet. Any reason for that?

Thanks
 

SachinChavan

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Hi Sachin

If I am.not mistaken by looking at the pictures, you have placed the discs under the belly of the equipment and not under the component feet. Any reason for that?

Thanks
Vivek, rightly observed. Firstly, I don’t believe any of the manufacturers have really given a thought on where to place the stock feet. In all cases they are uniformly close to the four corners of the base. My experimentation suggests that one needs to support the heavier portions of the internals directly to get better sound. Secondly, if I keep even one block under a stock foot, then I’d be compelled to keep the others also below the other feet to avoid imbalance in height. In any case, the roller blocks seem to me better designed to provide isolation than the feet, so there’s no reason to use the stock feet in combination with the blocks. Also, if I place the block under the feet, the block ultimately has to bear the weight. Then what’s the use of the feet?

Given all these reasons, I rather explored free style with placing the blocks to arrive at the optimum for each equipment.

Wow
so much effort u put on this
great work
hope this effort directly effect on sound signature
Sandip, effect on sound quality? Yes. I have outlined in detail in the first post. I would rather not want the sound signature to change, and it does not.
 
Last edited:
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