Acoustic Sounds

Townshend Audio

Seismic Isolation Podium

Townshend Podiums
By: Paul Seydor

April 17th, 2024

Category:

Accessories

Townshend Audio Seismic Isolation Podium

Welcoming Good Vibes, Banishing Bad

Max Townshend was one of the most original and creative thinkers the world of high-end ever produced. Australian born and educated, he founded Townshend Audio in 1975. Among its initial products were a parabolic stylus for moving magnet pickups, one of the first moving coils to use a line-contact stylus, and the now near-legendary Rock turntables, which involved innovations in tuned suspensions and a thoroughly original way of damping resonances at the critical stylus/groove interface (a paddle attached to the head of the tonearm travelled across the record through a trough filled with viscous fluid). In 1978 he relocated to the United Kingdom, where he lived until his death, aged 78, on the last day of 2021.[1] He pioneered the use of cryogenics in interconnects and speaker cables, made speakers, and in the early aughts introduced the Allegri Reference, a passive linestage that may be the most beautiful sounding preamplifier I’ve ever heard.

But his most significant work, I think it’s safe to say, lies in the area of the effects of vibration and resonance on the reproduction of music in the home. He paid particular attention to the physical interface between audio components, notably speaker systems, and the floors of our listening rooms. This led him to develop a series of products called “Seismic Isolation,” which are designed to break the physical connection between speakers (and other components) and the floor. The most significant of these, and the subject of this review, is Townshend’s Seismic Isolation Podium for loudspeakers. In audio shows and conventions throughout the world he loved to demonstrate the effectiveness of the Podium by placing a pair of speakers side by side, one on its supplied spikes standing directly on the floor, the other on a Seismic Podium. On each was an electronic tablet running a seismographic application. Townshend delighted in showing how all manner of disturbances from foot stomps to knuckle raps, even the extremely low-level, constant background movement of the earth itself, disturbed the speaker on the floor while the other remained unperturbed on a Podium. Townshend made a video of one of these demonstrations.

Vibrations Good and Bad

Vibration is at once the friend and the enemy of us audiophiles and our obsessive pursuit of the best possible reproduction of music in our homes. Without good vibrations, like bow across strings, breath through reeds, or sticks on cymbals, all of which set air to vibrating, we would hear no music or any other sounds. But air, which science classifies as a mixture of gases, is an ecumenically accommodating conductor, as happy to groove to bad vibrations as to good. What are bad vibrations? Limiting the discussion to our listening rooms, the buildings that house them, and their proximate environments, they are innumerable and include refrigerators, washers, driers, and generators. Then there are the structures themselves, which are far worse than air when it comes to vibrating and transmitting vibrations: floors, walls, ceilings, furnishings, quite literally almost everything in the room. Next those vibrations that originate outside, like passing vehicles, including trucks, busses, planes, trains, automobiles, and every sort of heavy equipment. And let’s not forget the components themselves: like the air, the floors, the walls, the ceilings, the windows, all too happy to sing and dance to whatever vibes are passed through cabinets, chassis, cartridges, tonearms, plinths, platters, bases, transports, and speaker enclosures.

For the purposes of this review I am limiting myself to the vibrations that originate in or are otherwise produced by structures, in other words, the buildings that house our dwelling places. In the very early days of audio hardly any attention was paid to these sorts of disturbances apart from their effects upon turntables, which in the more serious cases of acoustic feedback are readily audible. Inasmuch as a turntable with arm and phono pickup is a transducer, any vibrations that reach the delicate stylus/groove interface have the potential to be reamplified back through the system; in the most severe cases, the reamplification forms a repeating loop that gets louder and louder until, left unchecked, the resulting howl blows out woofers and fries the voice coils of midranges and tweeters.

Feedback leading to acoustic breakthrough rarely reaches that level of destructiveness—never unless a turntable is involved. In most instances, the effects of unwanted vibrations are sufficiently low as to cause little obvious mischief, particularly when it comes to electronics, most audiophiles ignoring or choosing to live with them. With speakers they cover a wide range of sins, including but not limited to bass that is soft, somewhat lacking in definition and clarity, plummy, a mite bloated, even maybe a little muddy. Some of these effects migrate up into the lower midrange; further up the scale clarity and transparency are compromised; throughout the entire frequency spectrum, dynamic range and transient response suffer, not to mention detail and resolution, along with them precision of imaging and a solid, well-defined soundstage. Perhaps what is most pernicious about these effects is precisely that they are difficult to pin down, rarely gross, obvious, coarse, or crude, but nevertheless occasionally, or oftener, present enough to provoke that vague feeling of dissatisfaction that many audiophiles experience from time to time with their systems.

Historically, there are two basic ways designers and audiophiles have dealt (and continue to deal) with these: coupling and decoupling. In the former, components are coupled as rigidly as possible to the floor, generally by spikes. In decoupling, something “lossy” is placed somewhere in the mechanical path between the component and the floor, in order to break or otherwise compromise the rigidity of the connection to the room.

To Spike or Not to Spike

I’ve been an audiophile for over half a century and have tried both remedies, myriad variations and combinations of them, and a few dozen (maybe more) specific products like tips for spiking and rubber or polymer feet or discs for decoupling.  But for quite a number of years I used spikes to make everything as rigid as possible. Why? Well, because that was the received wisdom, and also because what I now regard as hasty, superficial comparisons suggested it was the way to go. When you spiked a speaker you right away heard “improved” definition, transient response, tighter, supposedly better-defined bass. The theory seemed logical, indeed, unimpeachable: rigidly coupling the speakers, or any other component, to floor or cabinet isolated the component and provided a path for spurious resonances to be drained away and dissipated as heat in the larger mass of the cabinet or floor (eventually the ground). If the only point of contact is the sharpened tip, how could anything reflect back through them?

The answer is that any and practically everything could and did, since that one-way street turns out to have been two-way after all. This is because, as the audio consultant and writer Jim Smith once put it—freezingly, in my opinion—“Spikes are NOT loudspeaker isolation devices. They are tuning devices.”[2] I did not realize this for a long time. But what I did know is that after the initial putative “improvements” in, say, resolution, detail, transient response, bass definition, etc., I began to find the presentation subtly edgy, sometimes not so subtly, with a difficult-to-define loss of ease and relaxation, of musical warmth, naturalness, a certain organic musicality, an always welcoming listenability, that it had before, replaced by a low-level aggressiveness. Not suspecting it could be the rigid coupling—received wisdom is a formidable inhibitor of out-of-box thinking—I tried any number of ways to get rid of it. Some seemed to work very well (room treatment, for example), but still that residual edginess raised its irritating head from time to time.

I’ll not recount the whole odyssey whereby I began to think that rigid coupling was the problem, but it more or less began with a pair of stands for which the spikes were missing. Waiting for them to arrive, I set the stands on the carpet, situated the speakers on them, and proceeded to listen. Now, I’m not about to tell you I immediately heard a reduction in the edginess. Remember, the edginess was low level and vague. But I soon enough realized there was a new-found, or, rather, rediscovered sense of ease and relaxation to the presentation. I attributed this of course to the new stands—until the spikes arrived. Then, like a dutiful lemming, I screwed them in and prepared to be wowed by ever greater heights of resolution and depths of detail. Instead, what I heard, this time almost immediately, were those damned bad vibes again. Sometime later I switched out the spiked metal stands for open wooden stands that, while rigid, were not spiked, the uprights resting directly on the carpet, and lo and behold, back came those good vibes. 

After several swings and roundabouts, I had pretty much consigned my pile of spikes, cones, tips, and other sorts of mechanical rigidifications to the attic. Not that I gave up, quite yet, on spikes, but if I used them for, say, stability on thickly carpeted or uneven floors, I made sure I put something lossy between the top of the stand and the bottom of speaker: rubber feet, sorbothane pads or pods, a healthy pellet of Blu-tack—hell, you don’t even need anything that fancy. An equipment reviewer I know had his carpenter build a sturdy utilitarian stand, made from nothing more pretentious than shop-grade two-by-fours and particle board, for his large three-way monitors; he put a thick towel on each platform and a speaker on the towel (that system, by the way, remains one of the half dozen or so finest I have ever heard anywhere).

If I have to place speakers directly on a hardwood floor, I substitute generic rubber feet for the spikes or else aftermarket decoupling discs with divots in them for the spikes, being sure, however, to use decouplers that have some sort of decoupling material under them (rubber, a polymer, felt, etc.).[3] If there isn’t, then I apply thick felt pads to them (these pads with adhesive backing are available in a variety of sizes, shapes, and thicknesses from your local home improvement store or Amazon). Jim Smith finds furniture sliders perfectly acceptable, and they’re certainly a good way to begin experimenting with alternatives or fixes to direct spiking and they also reap the considerable reward, as do felt pads, when the floor is hard (wood, tile, concrete) of making it so much easier to slide your speakers around for optimal placement and orientation.

The trouble, however, even with putting something lossy into the speaker/stand/floor connection is that it’s a decoupler that doesn’t truly decouple, thus truly isolate. In other words, there is a still a path for unwanted vibrations to reach your system, only a now less efficient one. But there is a third way: true isolation by way of high-pass filtering. The speaker or the speaker on its stand is placed on a platform with a tuned suspension, not dissimilar to the way some turntables are suspended from their bases on springs tuned to a very low frequency, typically around 3Hz. The tuning acts as a high-pass filter that prevents any frequencies above the tuning frequency from reaching the stylus/groove interface and thus banishes acoustic feedback as both problem and worry.[4] To my knowledge, there is only one manufacturer who has designed a series of products that make it possible for tuned suspensions to be added aftermarket to all the other components in a typical sound system, including, paramountly, loudspeakers.

Enter the Townshend Seismic Isolation Podium

Townshend Seismic Isolation Platform

One of the things Max Townshend discovered in his experiments is that, just as with turntables, all the other components in an audio system, including and especially speakers, are also susceptible to feedback. This in turn suggested that the same solutions that are so effective for turntables, beginning with Edgar Villchur’s Acoustic Research AR XA in 1961 and continuing to the present day in products like the most of the SOTA, SME, and Basis turntables, might be equally effective with all the other components in a typical sound system: namely tuned suspensions. Thus was born the Townshend Seismic Load Cell™. According to the literature, each consists of an alloy steel compression spring surrounded by a flexible synthetic rubber jacket with two end plates. The cells allow free movement in all directions and are height adjustable. The tuning frequency is 3Hz and a “movement-sensitive, air-resistance damper rapidly dissipates low frequency oscillation caused by disturbing the suspended equipment.” The basic product is the Seismic Isolation Pod, an individual cell, sold in packages of four to be placed under components, replacing their supplied feet. Seismic Isolation Platforms consist in a steel plate with four pods attached to it and are intended for turntables that lack their own suspensions and also for larger, heavier electronics.

The Podium is basically a heavier-duty platform with a more elaborate pod assembly that allows for dual leveling. First, you level the platform by adjusting the feet (no level is supplied); then you place the speaker on the Podium and fine tune level if necessary via wheel-like knobs on top of each pod. The total height a Podium raises the speaker is only 0.75-inch. Podiums come in five different sizes, Models 1-5, with Load Cells™ keyed by color to weight ranges. Achieving the lowest possible tuning, which is desirable, requires springs suitable to the weight they have to bear. Since Townshend has done the calculating, you need only supply the weight and footprint dimensions of your speaker (including stands if required) and select the appropriate model. Weight ranges from 5kg to 200kg (11lbs to 440lbs) are accommodated, but the company says it can make (and has made) Podiums for speakers of any size and weight, including monster ones weighing several hundred pounds. Pricing ranges from $1300 to $2400 a pair, custom ones priced on application. My Harbeth Monitor 40.3 speakers, weighing a little over ninety pounds with TonTräger stands, required the Model 3 at $1700 a pair. These prices are not cheap, but Townshend products are very well made, exceptionally well-engineered, and work as claimed—formidably. The Podium improves the sound in almost every way that you can imagine.

Townshend Audio Podium under Harbeth Monitor 40.3 XD loudspeakers on TonTräger stands (Townshend Maximum Ribbon Supertweeter atop Monitor 40.3)

 Transient Response, Coherence, and Flow

I begin with this because so strong is the bias in favor of spiking that the first time many audiophiles see a Podium in action they reject it out of hand. Touch the speaker, give it an ever so slight nudge, and it starts to move or, rather, to rock, bounce, or sway gently and slowly. This can’t be right, surely—a speaker is supposed be planted rigidly, "unbudgeably" in place, not least so the box doesn’t respond, Newton-like, with an equal and opposite reaction to the sound the woofer reproduces, thus dulling transients, blurring definition, reducing clarity, and muddying bass. This is one of those canards that has been allowed to exist as long as it has mostly because its “wisdom” is so rarely examined, let alone challenged. In the video previously referenced, Townshend points out that if a typical woofer cone weighs about 40 grams and a typical cabinet 40kg, the cone movement will be a thousand times greater than the cabinet movement, which means that you lose about 1/1000th of the intensity of the music or 0.01dB. As a point of reference, the lowest difference the ear can discern is 0.1dB on pure tones; at least 2-3dB are required for music or other normal sounds; 0.01dB is not an audible difference.

My experience indicates the Podiums actually improve transient response because, once isolated from the floor, the speaker doesn’t become a tuning fork set off by the vibrations returning from the floor. No longer enhanced by resonances that spikes excite, transients of things like cymbal taps and drum hits, triangles and plucked strings, sound far closer to the real thing. Check out the wood blocks on Sonny Rollins’s Way Out West that really sound like wooden blocks. If you happen to have The Sheffield Drum Test Record, still astonishing after all these years, listen to how really clean the drum kit sounds from top to bottom under a Podium and then listen without the Podium. Next more over to a real torture test: the three virtuoso guitarists on Impex’s Saturday Night in San Francisco—don’t just listen for the transient response, listen to how natural the guitars sound and how dimensional.

Three additional points. First, if the drivers in your speakers are really well matched, then perceived coherence—that is, the sense that instruments retain their tonal character as they pass from one driver to another and that the sound is arriving together in time—is improved. Second, also improved are the music's flow and connectedness, which are obviously compromised when the reproduction is constantly disrupted by vibrations and resonances extrinsic to the source. Third, once situated, my Harbeths, mounted on their TonTräger stands, are extremely difficult to move around on the Podium platform. In other words, the speakers stay securely where you place them with no worries about their reacting deleteriously against the sound waves they generate.

Detail of cell/foot: adjustable feet below the platform for leveling the Podium by itself; wheeled knob atop cell for fine tuning level once speaker is in place

Noise Floor and Dynamic Range

I group these together because each relates to the other. A wide dynamic range is considerably less effective if the noise floor is high; while a low noise floor is always desirable, if you can’t play your music loud enough when it demands to be loud, then it’s kind of academic. Owing to their function as high-pass filters, Seismic Podiums clean up the sound to a quite amazing degree, beginning with the bass frequencies, which are not only better defined, more detailed and articulated, they are also fuller, richer, and appear to go deeper. Inasmuch as the floors are no longer vibrating your speakers, these virtues extend to the upper frequencies as well: clarifying the fundamental frequencies, and reducing them where appropriate, also in effect clarifies the overtones. At the same time, however, you no longer get that excessively tight bass that many audiophiles seem to like but that I’ve never experienced in any live musical performance. You might initially feel that you’re getting less ample bass than before. This is because you probably are, except that a lot of that ample bass was a function of resonances reinforcing themselves over and over. The rightness of bass response with the Podiums is limited only by the limitations of the recordings, your speakers and other components, and your room. Put on either the DG Original Source Series vinyl reissue of the great William Steinberg/Boston Symphony Also Sprach Zarathustra, or Zubin Mehta’s Los Angeles Philharmonic Decca recording, and just listen to how clean, defined, and deep that opening 32-foot pedal point really is.

Imaging and Soundstaging

 These things depend primarily on how recordings are miked and mixed, only secondarily on the components that reproduce them. Of course, that “secondarily” bulks very large. When the whole presentation is purged of spurious resonances and unwanted vibrations so that it is reproduced against a really clean and quiet background, precision of imaging and stability of soundstage will follow as surely as morning the night. One of my reference recordings is the Bernstein Carmen (DG, vinyl and Blu-ray audio); go to act IV (side 6) to hear opera staged for the microphone in such a way that the whole world of the drama is realized in sound alone: the city square outside the bull ring full of hucksters selling their wares, the milling crowd cheering the arrival of the matador and his entourage, a children’s chorus marching in and out, eventually the matador entering the ring while the rejected, humiliated Don Jose turns up for the final confrontation with Carmen. It is all staged and reproduced as an integral space that is solid and three-dimensional, with remarkable verisimilitude that a good system will reveal in all its flesh and blood immediacy. The bass on this recording can be a little on the whompy side, but since it’s no longer exacerbated by vibrations you don’t want, the effect is greatly reduced. The dynamic range is huge, huger still with the Podiums than before (I’ve been using this recording as a reference since it was first released in the early seventies).

Holographic imaging is something we reviewers like to talk about, but again, its realization depends first upon the recording, then the equipment. The Norwegian label 2L records in churches and similar venues in such a way as to capture the ambience of the venues. The miking is a bit distant, but not too much, so that on a good system the best of these recordings really do conjure spaces with richly reverberant acoustics and musicians performing in those places. I’d recommend An Old Hall Ladymass with the Trio MediaevalOf Innocence and Experience (piano pieces by Beethoven, Liszt, and Schumann), and Polarity (a jazz group). Another recording engineered from the outset to capture the sound of a musical event in an actual venue where it might be performed is the recent Chandos complete Oklahoma! (see my Tracking Angle review), recorded in a real theatre with minimal miking and very little gain riding (maybe none once levels were set). Sit back, close your eyes, and you’re transported to the ideal seat in an actual theatre. What all of these recordings do, especially with Podiums isolating your speakers from the floor, is allow your system to come very, very close to Peter Walker’s ideal of a truly transparent sound: a window onto the concert hall.  

Tonal Balance, Disappearing Speakers, and Disappearing Rooms

As is frequently not the case with spikes, decoupled or no, Podiums don’t alter the tonal balance of the speaker. ln fact, with the effects of external vibrations effectively eliminated, your speakers will sound more like themselves than before. This is because one prominent effect mentioned by several reviewers is that the speakers seem to disappear as sources. I agree except that I think this states what’s actually happening wrong way round. What the Podiums do is reduce to an extraordinary, maybe even unprecedented degree the effects of the room as a vibrating structure or complex of vibrating structures on the speakers themselves. When an audio consultant friend of mine who specializes in optimizing the speaker/room relationship, with particular attention to the bass, heard the Podiums in my room, the first thing he observed was that they seemed to reduce the negative contributions of the room. In other words, to his ears, the room was doing the disappearing act, not the speakers. A large beneficial consequence of which is a greater openness, as if the entire presentation had shed itself of a certain restraint and constriction.

Resolution, Detail, and Flow

I’ve already adduced many examples of improved detail and resolution, not to mention definition and clarity. But I give them their own heading here in order to reinforce the point that the improvements brought about in these areas by the Podiums do not come at the expense of excessive or other artificially highlighted detail. The detail that I hear with the Podium sounds completely natural and in just proportion to the rest of the presentation. As is not the case with spikes, there is no transient enhancement, while ringing or other untoward effects are greatly reduced when they are not eliminated entirely. As for that elusive impression of musical flow and connectedness, obviously this is compromised by constant disruption owing to vibrations and is preserved when those vibrations are prevented from reaching the loudspeakers.

Accessory or Necessity?

The effectiveness of the Podiums, and all the other Seismic products, will vary from room to room and system to system, but I’ve yet to find an instance where the improvements they make are not substantial. This is as true, by the way, for poured concrete floors as for wooden suspended ones. I have two listening rooms. The one in the house has a wooden suspended floor, the one in my new office (a garage conversion) a concrete slab. The improvements brought by the Podiums are about equal in both rooms, just as Townshend demonstrates in his video with the seismographic apps. And because the biggest contribution of unwanted vibrations is from the floor and the speaker/floor interface, a pair of Podiums will also result in improved performance from all your components, especially your record playing setups if the plinths aren’t on tuned suspensions.

Setup is fairly straightforward and easy, though if your speakers are heavy and or/large, a second pair of biceps is advised.[5] Truth in reporting requires I note that two cells in one of the Podiums arrived not working, that is, they were frozen and would not loosen up. Replacements followed and all was well (though changing out a cell is a real pain). You know when they’re not working because once set up and the speaker positioned, if the speaker is nudged, all four cells should move freely as if floating and then come to a quick rest.

By way of wrap up, allow me to put this review in perspective: no accessory I’ve ever purchased in my several decades as an audiophile—no tips, spikes, pucks, pods, pads, bricks, blocks, stands, platforms, weights, dampers, certainly no wire products of any sort including line conditioners and filters—has brought the transformative improvements that the Podiums have, and with absolutely no negative consequences. When Neil Gader, my colleague at The Absolute Sound, reviewed the Podiums, he concluded, “Townshend’s Seismic Isolation Podiums registered on my own personal Richter Scale like few so-called ‘accessories’ I’ve ever experienced.” Those quotation marks around “accessories” were intended, Neil told me, to suggest the Podium is something of greater importance than a mere accessory. I concur completely but will state it less elegantly: for me, they are not accessories, but necessities that will remain a permanent fixture in any serious sound system I have. I’m already exploring the possibility of a set custom made for my QUAD ESL-57s!

Notes

[1] See tributes by Robert Greene in The Absolute Sound and David Price in stereonet

[2] “Spiking Your Speakers: What’s the Point?” (Copper no. 39: posted 8 August 2017): Smith is also the author of a really useful book called Get Better Sound: not a consumer guide, rather a series of steps and procedures anyone can use to improve the sound of a system they already have, no matter how modest, with particular emphasis on the speaker/room relationship.

[3] There are dozens of decoupling discs and gliders with divots for the spikes on the market, available from online (including Amazon) to specialty audio dealers. One brand that keeps coming up is Herbie’s Audio Lab, which offers a variety of products very reasonably priced. I’ve never used them but on the strength of recommendations from some industry professionals I find always reliable, I plan to investigate them.

[4] I assume no one reading this needs to be told that tuning the suspension of a platform that supports a loudspeaker is an entirely different thing from the tuning effects that spiking has on the speaker itself.

[5] Should you retain spikes on the Podiums? Your call. But if I kept them, I’d be sure to put decoupling discs under them so as not to mar the finish of the platform. (TonTräger stands are not spiked.)

Specifications

Podiums are available in five versions; weight, size, and price ($1300-$2400/pr) vary with model.

Manufacturer Information

Townshend Audio

Importer: EAR-USA

Ear-USA

Attn: Dan Meinwald
562 / 422–4747

Email: info@ear-usa.com

Comments

  • 2024-04-17 07:03:54 PM

    Josquin des Prez wrote:

    I'm curious how the Podium compares with isoAcoustics Gaia isolation feet for speakers. I have used a set of Gaia II under my Dynaudio Confidence C2 Platinum (which are 88 lbs each) since soon after I bought the speakers in 2018.

    • 2024-04-18 12:03:43 AM

      Paul Seydor wrote:

      Josquin: see Jack L's submission below, and also Freddy's Dead below that for Gaia comparisons. My answer to you is exactly what I wrote in the review: Gaia makes fine products but they are decouplers that do not fully isolate. I'd be surprised if Townshend Podiums didn't make a huge difference over the Gaias. Again, see Freddy's Dead below but one.

  • 2024-04-17 08:30:05 PM

    JACK L wrote:

    Hi

    "Herbie’s Audio Lab" sells quite a few isolation devices, including decoupling gliders & threaded stud gliders (for uneven floors). Also stainless steel decoupling cone spikes. Dirt cheap !!!

    So as a consumer, why should be spend so much more to pay for your Podiums as Herbie's gliders apparently work on the same isolation principle ?

    BTW, I am have been using steel spikes & isolation cone tiptoes for all my components & audio racks for decades in my basement audio den built of reinforced concrete structure, some 10-ft below grade with wall-to-wall carpet. So floor vibration due to foot drops, traffic etc never exist. I even purposely jump up & down close to my audio rig with music playing on my turntable on its dedicated floor stand, to test the spikes effectiveness. Nooo vibration problem at all.

    I enjoy me vinyl music bigtime since day one 6 years ago when I switched back from digital to vinyl. Zip vibration issue at all till todate ! My spikes/isolation tiptoes, which cost me dirt cheap money, work like magic musically.

    Listening is believing

    JACK L

    I am soo happy with

    • 2024-04-18 12:11:11 AM

      Paul Seydor wrote:

      Jack, many thanks for your comments. I'm not surprised you're having few vibration issues with a reinforced concrete structure some ten feet below grade. And if you're enjoying your music, have no vibration issues, and have been able to achieve this with spending a minimum of money, it seems to me to be win win from every direction. That said, I must confess, I'd be curious to hear if Townshend stands still might make a difference.

      • 2024-04-18 03:45:54 PM

        JACK L wrote:

        Hi

        "Townshend stands still might make a difference." qtd P Seydor

        Why not just out curiosity ?

        Every 'tweak' sounds different, & better or worse depends on the location.

        Years back, I read an audiophile's report using a shallow sandbath (in a low-profile DIY box) as vibration isolator for his floorstanding loudspeakers. He claimed sandbath is a very effective vibration killer let alone close to costless (free sand from the beach!)

        Well..

        JACK L

  • 2024-04-17 09:09:19 PM

    Freddy's Dead wrote:

    The answers you may seek about comparing Gaia's and/or Herbie gliders are in Audiogon. Before I purchased my Townshend Podiums last year, I read all of them and made the comparison vs. Herbie Gliders myself. I had Gaia's on my Sapphire M3s but not my current speakers which are Volti Rivas. The Gaia's made an improvement on the M3s but was not significant. The difference between the Gliders (or my concrete slab floor) vs. the Podiums was massive. The Podiums were a laugh out loud improvement - the best kind, IMO. The review above explains much better than I every will be able to but the notes were all more well defined from highs to lows as well as the sound stage was widened and also imrproved height-wise with better pin-point imaging. As mentioned in the review, there was no change in the tone.

    • 2024-04-18 12:05:05 AM

      Paul Seydor wrote:

      Thanks Freddy's Dead for your comments and for the reinforcement. Yes, in most circumstances I would not be in the least surprised that Townshend Podiums decisively smoke any other forms of isolation or decoupling.

      • 2024-04-19 11:27:28 PM

        Freddy's Dead wrote:

        Indeed. I just want to reiterate that as mentioned in my post above, my speakers are on a concrete slab and the podiums made a massive improvement. Also, I left out the "L" in my speakers above, they are Volti Rivals (not Rivas).

  • 2024-04-18 04:58:24 AM

    Volki wrote:

    Very interesting, Paul! After Max Townshend passed away a few years ago, I thought that the company had closed down. Nice to read that things are continuing.

  • 2024-04-18 06:59:43 AM

    Gary Saluti wrote:

    Thank you so much for this review Paul and your willingness to question the "conventional wisdom" to date. It's been a long time coming. I personally have used a Townshend platform under my turntable for years now. Works as intended. (FYI, I also tried Herbies Decoupling Sliders under my rack. Did absolutely nothing). I now use Norm Varney's EVP's under all of my electronics as well as my speakers. Big difference! My listening room is on a second floor with suspended wooden flooring. Now my speakers no longer turn my floor into a resonating tympanic membrane resulting in higher resolution throughout the frequency spectrum. I hope this review finally puts the Spikes Issue to rest.

    • 2024-04-18 09:40:40 AM

      Paul Seydor wrote:

      Gary, thanks for your comments, which are very much on point. Yes, wooden floors, beautiful as they are, can be a nightmare. Last year I set up my gorgeously restored Garrard 301 (by the UK's Audio Grail of Plymouth (home of the Black Friars distillery, makers of the world's best martini gin!). Feedback galore, resonances, etc. all because of the wood floor. Seismic Isolation Platform a necessity. The only turntables I find don't benefit from Townshend Seismic Isolation Platforms are those like most SOTA, SME, Oracle probably (I say probably because I have no personal experience them), old AR XAs, and a few others that employ tuned suspensions. I am unfamiliar with Norm Vaney's EVPs, so I shall investigate. Happy listening.

      • 2024-04-18 09:41:25 AM

        Paul Seydor wrote:

        Must control my impatience--double clicked again when first click produced no instantaneous results.

        • 2024-04-19 06:46:16 AM

          Gary Saluti wrote:

          Norm Varney's company is A/V Room Services. You can find the EVP's there as well as his detailed tests substantiating his claims.

    • 2024-04-18 12:02:13 PM

      Jeff 'Glotz' Glotzer wrote:

      Very interested in Norm's constrained-layer damping products and he was at AXPONA again this year and even gave a seminar. I like his approach but products are up there in terms of cost vs. Herbies for instance. I agree about the Sliders. Meh.

  • 2024-04-18 11:58:32 AM

    Jeff 'Glotz' Glotzer wrote:

    I've used a ton of Herbie's products over the years and they do couple very well, same with my input with the Gaia's (3's). They couple very well. They do not de-couple in the least, outside of absorbing vibrations. I love the products for what they do, but they are not effective decouplers in any way, shape or form. They absorb vibrations yes, but they connect equipment to their stands and the floor. My full rack moves in complete sympathy as if I shake it violently, the stylus does not mistrack or skip. Coupled to the Nth degree, with some decoupling.

    One must find de-couplers such as these Townsend units, which are not inexpensive and may beg the question to review HRS products for that need. Thick granite can be a effective decoupler as it is porous and lossy, but it is also an effective mass source. It also can transmit vibrations if not effectively de-coupled through elaborate footers as in HRS products. Both Townsend and HRS gear are very expensive for budget-minded audiophiles. I may be able to stretch my budget for either product, but right now I can get to unity gain on a 225W amplifier with (2) REL 200W subs within 3 feet of both of my racks, turntable included. I'd like to have the ability to play louder, but it works with a sprung floor right now and not where the floor joists are aligned with the turntable rack. Obvious choice is to swap the turntable rack and the amp rack with each other and be done with it. Without the subs in circuit, I can play the Maggies to unity gain plus 10db or more- loud enough for discomfort. Clearly the resonant frequency of my arm and table are a play with subs in tow and it may be the SolidSteel wall mount (with additional damping and mass) that will be the only thing that satisfies my set-up without huge cost outlay ($500 vs $2500 or more).

    I removed my Gaia's from under my VPI turntable and used BDR threaded cones with SolidSteel stainless steel pucks and the difference was audible instantly as well with a stationary groove test with unity gain with subs in tow and 3 feet away. An alternating approach of coupling, mass and decoupling is the best philosophy, imo. It also depends on what the gear is resting on, concrete or wood flooring. One solution for one room may be entirely the opposite approach with another environment.

    • 2024-04-18 12:03:40 PM

      Jeff 'Glotz' Glotzer wrote:

      Also, I am fully aware that spikes only de-couple somewhat. Constrained-layer damping is a better way of effectively decoupling. IE- EVP from Varney or others.

    • 2024-04-18 01:55:23 PM

      JACK L wrote:

      Hi

      "Thick granite can be a effective decoupler as it is porous and lossy, but it is also an effective mass source. It also can transmit vibrations if not effectively de-coupled through elaborate footers" qtd J Glotzer

      Yes, mass is crucial for vibration dissipation. Vibration energy = vibration movement speed x mass2 (=square). Larger the mass, more vibration energy will be dissipated by the mass.

      For 2 decades, I've placed my tube power amp mounted on heavy-duty spikes, on a 3" thick natural grayish massg granite block, which is 'floated' on my carpeted concrete basement floor with elastomeric cushion feet. So the downward pointing spikes at the bottom of my power amp increase the effective pin-point mass of the power amp bigtime, hence reducing vibration of the amp from any airborne vibration. The remaining vibration from the power amp is then drained out into & absorbed by the massive granite block.

      The steel spikes act as one-way-only vibration energy drainer effectively, for my standspeakers & 3 active subwoofers., etc etc., providing me with huge realistic soundstage & precision imaging. I just can't complain given their dirt cheap cost.

      I can easily crank up the volume of my vinyl music e.g. cathedral pipe organ music & fire-crackers, like Tchaikovsky 1812 Overture, etc, up to 105dB(C) peak SPL (measured at my sweet spot with my digital sound level meter). Loud but not noisy, very enjoyable, with zip acoustical feedback/vibration issues at all !

      Listening is believing

      JACK

    • 2024-04-18 02:06:22 PM

      JACK L wrote:

      Hi

      "coupling, mass and decoupling is the best philosophy" qtd J Glotzer.

      Yes, one type of anti-vibration device is often not a cure-all. Coupling, mass & decoupling etc combined should be most effective as what I posted below.

      JACK L

      • 2024-04-18 04:31:41 PM

        Jeff 'Glotz' Glotzer wrote:

        Precisely. Kudos to you Jack. I like what you wrote top to bottom here. A concrete floor is simply the best foundation for a room. Excellent!

        • 2024-04-18 08:14:09 PM

          Paul Seydor wrote:

          My new office, which was a garage conversion with a poured concrete floor, is a big improvement over the suspended wooden floors in the listening room in the house. And yes, I quite agree: mass is crucial to the equation, and coupling is fine especially when you don't want relative movement, i.e., between the arm/stylus/record surface and the platter. It's also great IF you can ensure one-way transmission so that spurious resonances and vibrations truly are dissipated in a larger mass as heat. But how often does that really happen? The problem is that once you couple something, it's difficult to keep everything moving just one direction only. The stuff comes back.

          • 2024-04-18 09:10:32 PM

            Paul Seydor wrote:

            Mac spellcheck strikes again: “surface” should be “interface”.

          • 2024-04-19 05:09:16 PM

            JACK L wrote:

            Hi

            "he problem is that once you couple something, it's difficult to keep everything moving just one direction only. The stuff comes back" qtd P Seydor

            Not with steep spikes pointed AWAY from the supported equipment. The spikes act like a diode. A diode allows electrical current going through only in one single direction, not vise versa. So any vibration energy once drained out of the supported equipment through the steel spikes cannot come back - one-way exit only.

            There are sooo many expensive well-known brandname floor loudspeakers equipped with steel spikes since day one. Please don't tell me those loudspeakers designers don't know what they are doing.

            Please don't take for granted for the sales pitches of other types of expensive anti-vibration devices against spikes which are cheap yet very effective if used smartly! Mine is a successful example !

            FYI, my 2 turntables are placed on my DIYed dedicated floor stands with elastomeric cushion pads supporting the TT rubber feet onto the stand plywood platform. Both TT stands got with steel spikes pointing down, enchoring onto my carpeted concrete basement floor.

            The first TT stand I DIY-built with space available back then, is built on 2 massy vertically placed hollow concrete blocks, with strong steel spikes pointing down onto the carpeted concrete floor. So isolation+mass+one-way coupling does the job effectively. As I posted here earlier, I purposely jumped up & down just in front of the TT stand with the vinyl music on, nooo problem. The massy TT stand cost me dirt dirt cheap !!

            JACK L

            • 2024-04-21 10:31:47 AM

              Paul Seydor wrote:

              Jack, I'm not in the least surprised by the success you have with your setup. But for what it may be worth, when I installed my Garrard 301 in my garage-converted office with its poured concrete floor, the problems with feedback I was having in the house with its suspended wooden floors disappeared--completely. I too can jump up and down right next to the equipment rack or anywhere else in the room with zero effect upon the turntable--this, by the way, even without a Townshend platform under it. Concrete floors go a long way. That said, it's pretty hard to deny Max's demonstrations with the seismograph and the obvious improvements in sound, even in very large venues like convention centers where audio shows are held. As for the designers of expensive speaker systems using spikes, well, that's kind of an argument to authority not to evidence as such. In any case, nowhere, I think, do I deny the effectiveness of spikes, I merely question whether their effectiveness is the best way of achieving isolation and/or whether it results in sonic effects you like. Most of the time, for me, they don’t and aren’t. There: personal experience, subjective response. One thing more: I applaud--I truly mean this—your seeking your own solutions to these sorts of things, especially considering high-end audio pricing these days. For what it may be worth, in my house I tried all sorts of solutions for dealing with the Garrard feedback issue--bear in mind, the Garrard bases have NO suspension or frankly isolation--and all that finally worked were the Townshend solutions. Per some suggestions by some other correspondents here, I'm going to investigate other options as well. Care to provide me with information as what elastomeric cushion pads are and where you get them--or how you made them? I’d also be interested if you’d care to share them some photos of your several solutions.

              • 2024-04-21 11:02:19 AM

                Paul Seydor wrote:

                One additional point, Jack. You write: "Please don't take for granted for the sales pitches of other types of expensive anti-vibration devices against spikes which are cheap yet very effective if used smartly! Mine is a successful example !" You are of course correct, but I note with interest that you do use spikes in combination with damping and other "lossy" solutions. My principle issue with the spikes alone contingent is that spikes alone rarely work and in my experience always yield something at least mildly unwanted (i.e., Jim Smith's point that they tune rather than truly isolate. As I am neither a mechanical nor an electrical engineer I cannot comment on your argument by analogy that spikes are like diodes.

              • 2024-04-21 02:22:12 PM

                JACK L wrote:

                Hi

                "it's pretty hard to deny Max's demonstrations with the seismograph and the obvious improvements in sound, " qtd P Seydor

                Indeed appreciate yr patience with me, a one-of-a-kind DIY audio consumer who does not want to patron any audio vendors whenever possible, given my decades' career in the electrical power engineering industries in the Northern America.

                Sound improvement comes with a price, big or small depends on the consumer's budget, requirement & the product worth.

                This is the sales tools used by the vendor in the show to sell its products. Technically, the scales/resolution of the vibration display screen was not specified. IMO, it could be some smoke mirror given our ears sensitivity to perceive such vibration.

                Any audio "tweak" changes the sound, better or not better all depends on location & personal taste.

                My audio consideration is the audio product's worth of the price to justify the subjective sonic improvement & any alternatives for lower cost !

                Be "tweak" smart !

                JACK L

  • 2024-04-20 04:05:44 PM

    Jack Pot wrote:

    RIP Max Townshend. A lovely man brimming with practical and unconventional ideas that actually worked.

    I used his cables, turntable, platforms and podiums for years. His turntable with SME V performed as well as a Techdas with Graham a 3x the price. His ls cables and interconnects are real performance vs price bargains. I used the podiums under my full electrostatics to great effect. I sold the electrostatics with the podiums, such was their positive influence on performance. When switching loudspeakers, I was able to compare the electrostatics on podiums vs. on ACapella bases. I consider the latter superior but they are twice as expensive. And the differences were subtle and perhaps even a matter of taste.

    I still use a Townshend rack for my smaller system, with all equipment on Townshend bases and with HRS damping plates where needed.

    On my large system, I use a NEO rack. But on each NEO shelf, the equipment is suspended on Nordost kones on a ACapella base. The sound improvement is profound.

    Out of context: I just purchased a Nordost QB10 distribution unit. The improvements are shocking. It made my power regenerator and QB8s obsolete in an instant.

    For the large system,

    • 2024-04-21 11:06:57 AM

      Paul Seydor wrote:

      Jack: I used one of Max's turntables for a while and have no trouble with your assertion that it sounds as good as setups north of $100k. My experience too--and also with other turntables more reasonably priced (my restored Garrard 301, Basis 2200, SMEs beginning with the Model 15, etc.). All that drove me crazy about Max's turntable is the clamping system--really dumb to make the thread spindle of the clamp in effect the record spindle and having to search around to find the whole; and even dumber not to put a rim on the belt pulley. Yikes! I am unfamiliar with the ACapella bases and will check them out. Thanks for the tip.

  • 2024-04-24 11:08:53 AM

    Derek wrote:

    As an owner of Wilson Yvette’s, would you think it likely that the Podiums would be a better buy than Wilson’s own Acoustic Diode feet? I was thinking of buying a set of those but reading your review and the various comments above am now unsure of the best way to go

    • 2024-05-20 02:22:39 PM

      Paul Seydor wrote:

      Derek: Several years ago in TAS I reviewed the orignal Duettes. As regards Podiums v. Wilson's Acoustic Diode feet, I have no experience with the latter and no experience with former with Duettes. The Wilson feet attempt to control vibrations and feedback essentially with damping. The Townshend Podium does it with a tuned suspension that acts as a filter. Generally speaking, I find tuned suspensions work better in these applications than rigid coupling with damping. But then I'm not a rigidity uber alles audiophile. As I explain in the review, I find that when things are made too rigid they tend to sound as if they've been tuned higher, they became a bit edgy and analytical. But I have friends with first-class ears who get very nervous when things are not rigid. Chacun a son gout!