ONLINE - ISSUE 1
as reviewed by Dave Clark and Francisco Duran
Okay, heres the skinny. Aurios MIBs really work. They are by far some of the best isolation devices you can buy, so buy some and enjoy. End of review.
I wish it were that simple, but there are some problems. The first: Whenever your cherished amplifier, preamplifier, DAC, transport, CD player, or whatever was being built by Joe Audioguru, he "voiced" its sound in certain ways. One, the parts and circuit layout, two, the box it all sits in, and three, what he thought reproduced music should sound like. If he heard too much of this or not enough of that, he started to tinker, swapping this part for that part, this value for that value, moving this here and that there, damping this, isolating that, changing the feet, making the box heavier, making the box lighter, and so on. The result (we assume) is that the component sounds as good as it can sound under the constraints unique to its manufacture. But as I said, theres a problem. When the designer voiced the component, it was sitting on who knows what type of foot, connected to who knows what other components, with the designers choice of wiring. His system is built around what he thinks reproduced music should sound like, and it very likely will not sound the same when you put it into your rig, sitting on your stand, connected to your other components, playing your music.
Heres the real crux of the problem-play a record or disc, and everything starts doing the cha cha with the music. Each component has its own resonant frequency, and it may not be what the other stuff in your system likes to see. Its called synergy, which is why we like to try stuff out here at home to see if it plays well with the other children in the room.
So you buy a component, and as soon as the dust settles you start experimenting with equipment supports in the hope of cleaning things up and gaining the last iota of musicality and transparency. The assumption is that you are isolating your components from vibration, but it doesnt really work that way. You see, cones, feet, and stuff like that do not isolate. What they do is couple the component to the surface it is sitting on. In actuality, they "tune" the component to a different resonant frequency than the one it possesses when sitting on its own feet. Truth be told, you choose cone A over foot B under a particular component because cone A tunes that component to a frequency that is closer to your definition of what music should sound like, and/or one that is more synergistic to those of your other components. In most instances, using this cone or that foot results in a sonic difference. For some listeners, different is better, but "different" simply means "not the same." Different can be better, but it can also be worse, or just different. Cones and feet do serve a purpose, but try to remember that the purpose is to tune and not to isolate.
On the other hand, air bladder devices (Townshend and so on) and roller-ball type devices (Symposium, Daruma, the MIBs) will do a much better job of isolating a component from its environment, which includes not only the room it is in but the other components it is connected to. The Aurios people claim that only when you fully isolate a component will you truly hear what it sounds like, but heres the rub. The Aurios isolate better than anything I have tried, but if you put them under everything, its like having sex with the lights on. Less can be better, at least when you get to my age! The MIBs will isolate to a point at which you will hear your music as it has never been heard before. The degree of transparency will be really quite amazing. Unfortunately, using them throughout my system was too much of a good thing. At a certain point, they began to impart a slight "metallic" coloration to the musical framework, and more MIBs meant more coloration. The level of transparency increased, but it was not musical, and not enjoyable. Spectacular, yes, but musical, no. What to do? I determined where they sounded the best, and in those positions I placed a piece of wood between them and the underside of the component. I used maple pucks, though depending on the sound youre after, other woods would work as well or better. (I know of another happy MIB user who heard that same "metallic" quality in his system, employed Shun Mook mpingo pucks between the discs and components, and is in musical heaven!) The wood apparently helps by preventing the steel top of the MIB from interfacing with the bottom metal surface of the component. I found that using the MIBs, with the wood pucks, under the Clayton amps and the Taddeo digital device gave the most improvement.
When placed in these locations, the MIBs allowed the system really open up, both musically and sonically. Both components needed to have their character "lightened up" a bit, and the MIBs did the trick. At first I thought that the more massive the component, the better the MIBs would work, but trying them under the massive Blue Circle BC3000 preamp was not as pleasing as using a Townshend 3D Seismic Sink. I presently use Townshend 3D Sinks under my transport and preamp, plus 2D Sinks under the Reimer loudspeakers, and prefer them to the MIBs. With the MIBs I heard less warmth and "naturalness," even when combined with the maple pucks. I will be reviewing the Townshends in another issue and do not want to make this an MIB vs. Townshend review, but the comparison between the two isolation devices made me the question the claim made by MIB that the Aurios allow you to hear the "true" character of a component.
What, after all, is the true character of a component, and how would we know it when we heard it? If a component sounds one way with Cone A and another with Foot B (everything else in the system being the same), which sound is the "true" sound? And does a true sound even exist, given the fact that every time we change something-in that or any other component in the system-the sound of the entire system changes? While the Aurios may isolate a component from other components and the room, all the components combined form a system. I will never know what my amps sound like unless they are connected to other components that allow them to play music, and each of those components affects the other whether they are isolated or not. So, while the Aurios may isolate better than anything else out there, they dont really allow us to hear each component in isolation from each other, except perhaps in terms of resonance.
My experience with the wood pucks raised the further question of whether any device can truly isolate a component from its environment, and do so without adding resonances and colorations of its own. I am sure that Aurios has measurements to prove that the MIBs prevent the transfer of environmental vibration to a component, but as I and others have discovered, the MIBs impart their own sound. Even so, I recommend them to anyone who is serious about music, with the caveat that they are not a "magic fix," and careful experimentation will be necessary to achieve the best results. As always, theres no free lunch in high end audio. Dave Clark
I'm going to start this article with the conclusion: The Aurio Media Isolation Bearings work, and work well. They are designed to provide isolation in the horizontal plane. Media Access states that with coupling devices such as spikes and cones, vibration not only drains out but travels back into the component you are trying to isolate. With the MIBs, this is not possible. Paul Wakeen of Media Access was kind enough to send us enough MIBs to float my entire system and then some. I even tried them under my VCR.
The MIB instruction manual recommends three under each component. With MIBs under everything in my system except the speakers, my system became more grain-free and warm sounding than I thought possible. The music also displayed less smearing and grunge. Transients were round and polished. Instruments sounded more solid, and the space around them was cleaned up. Music was more naturally atmospheric, especially with voice and guitar. Then I got brave, and with six MIBs in hand, headed towards my speakers. Instead of putting the MIBs under the spikes of my Osiris speaker stands, I placed them between my speakers and the stands. The outcome proved interesting. The MIBs continued to improve the sound in the direction noted above, but the tonal balance changed. The sound was cleaner, but it was also thinner and more analytical. Maybe the place for the MIBs is between the speaker stands and the floor, but placing the MIBs under my stands was just not possible, as the floor in my listening room is extremely uneven. Or perhaps the Aurios were just bringing out the true sound of my speakers!
Then I felt it was time for a little experimenting. I took the Aurios out of the system and switched amps to a Parasound 1500 II. After getting used to the sound of the amp, I put three Aurios under it. With just the three MIBs, there was a slight but noticable improvement. Then put six, nine, twelve, then finally fifteen MIBs under the amp. With each addition the level of improvement was noticeable. Boy was I surprised. This raised the level of performance of the amp to quite a degree. It became more full and sweet, with a slightly rounded and very clean overall sound. Vocals were more intelligible. There was better dimension, more air, and more detail. I could now hear way into the soundstage. The rhythm and pace of the music picked up a notch. Placing this many Aurios under each component is impractical in more ways than one, but it was fun to try. It did not make the sound brighter, as it has in the past when I tried this experiment with various cones.
The Aurio MIBs
did a better job of removing unwanted vibrations than anything that I have tried so far.
The big surprise, though, was that I didn't have to strain to hear the benefits. Once you
hear what the Aurios can do for your system, it's hard to go back to the "bad
vibes," so slap a few of them under your components. You'll be amazed.
Being somewhat of the "new kids on the block" to the realm of high-end audio/video, we at Vistek were pleased to see that you found our offerings so worthwhile. As engineers and technologists, we also applaud your efforts to present the full story, both pro and con. We appreciate the time and effort you expended in order to obtain the very best of the MIBs capabilities and your concise recounting of the journey. Careful setup does pay handsome rewards!
We recognize that, though our Aurios technology breaks new ground and offers an exciting level of performance, we cannot avoid certain realities of physics. We only wish that the following statement excerpted from Francisco's review was true: "With the MIBs, this [vibration] is not possible." If we were to change that phrase to read: "With the MIBs, this [vibration] is minimized," I think we could sleep better. We are continuing to develop our technology, and hope that we can make physics work to our common and greater advantage.
To that end, we are happy that you have joined us in this discovery process, and expect that someday everyone associated with the audio/video industry will fully understand and appreciate the need for proper isolation solutions. Thank you again for your part in bringing our story and products to light!
For the staff at VISTEK INC.,
The Aurios Media Isolation Bearings are like any other device that is added to an already "tuned" system: it has to be integrated into the system, utilizing its strengths and minimizing its weaknesses. There can be a lightening of the tonal balance when the MIBs are installed. It may require a change of speaker placement, interconnect, or speaker wire to regain the preferred tonal balance.
With the MIBs, the lack of resonance-induced colorations allows a component to be as transparent and as detailed as its circuitry will permit. You've heard the statement that your music system can only be as good as your source (meaning the software). Well, here's a twist to that statement: Your source (now meaning your component) can only be as transparent and detailed as it is isolated from vibration. At times, the lightening of the tonal balance is just that-lightening of the tonal balance. Resonance of the chassis that was present when the designer "tuned" the component is now diminished to the point where you now hear everything else more clearly. Now all you have to do is to tune for the lack of resonance (which can be as easy as moving the speakers slightly), and you get to keep the transparency, air, detail, dynamics, etc.
Thanks to Dave and Francisco for their time, effort, and perspective on the use of the Aurios MIBs. This is only the beginning. There'll be more.
All the best,