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POSITIVE FEEDBACK ONLINE - ISSUE 1
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final labs

Daruma 3II isolation bearings

as reviewed by Larry Cox, Dave Clark, and Francisco Duran

 

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LARRY COX'S SYSTEM:

LOUDSPEAKERS
ATC SCM 20.

ELECTRONICS
Majeel Labs Pristine S-10 amplifier and an E.A.R. 802 preamplifier.

SOURCE
Pioneer DV 525 dvd player.

CABLES
Quattro Fil interconnects and speaker cables made from Belden 1219A wire.

ACCESSORIES
API Power Pack and ACPEAM line conditioners.

 

one.jpg (6551 bytes)Final Labs Darumas are ball bearing damping things for placing under your audio gear. Final Labs, a Japanese company, introduced a similar device back in 1990; the current iteration was completed in 1995. Although the Aurios reviewed here an issue or two ago have gotten more press, the Darumas appear to have been the first on the block with this technology.

The devices are quite simple. There are two metal cups with a ball bearing sitting in a rounded depression of one of the cups. Thus, the equipment rides on top of the ball bearing, damping vibrations, or “earthing” them, as Final Labs says, in the horizontal and vertical planes. Final Labs notes on their web page that all audio equipment has mechanical vibration, so I deduce that you could put them under your speakers as well as your electronics. There’s no note on weight limitations, however, so go slow, Infinity Beta users.

They worked quite nicely under my soon-to-be-replaced Pioneer 525 DVD player, as well as my not-soon-to-be-replaced E.A.R. 802 preamp. Like most damping devices, they didn’t change Madonna into a throaty, deep voiced singer, but added a measure of clarity to the listening experience. They gave greater precision to instruments and vocals. I also noticed that the vertical height of instruments and singers became more clearly fixed in space. On Quarteto Gelato’s debut, without Darumas in place, the sound of the accordion was relatively familiar, a sort of mini-organ. With the Darumas, the sound was of a more textured instrument. While many vibration-damping devices add clarity, some give a hostile, bright, and beamy sound. With the Darumas, these qualities weren’t immediately apparent.

When the Darumas were here for review I also had the Theta Carmen DVD/CD player and their Pro Basic III DAC, a far more resolving setup than my lowly Pioneer. When placed under the Theta gear, the Darumas added resolution to an already high-resolution sound. Images became clearer, more effortlessly distinguished. All was wonderful. Only when I inserted the Black Diamond Racing Cones under the Carmen did I notice that there was a slight metallic ring to the Carmen with the Darumas. This ringing quality is very low in level in a system that is pretty darn resolving.

Damping devices often turn a rough, denim texture into twill or gabardine. What I got with the Darumas was more like wide-wale corduroy, a clearer presentation of texture on texture. That amounts to an improvement for me. The texture-on-texture differences weren’t as easily discerned with the Black Diamond goodies. The BDRs seemed a little slower and softer-sounding. Which is correct? Heck if I know. This is a system matching thing. I liked both, and think my preference might come down differently with a different set of interconnects.

At a mere $99 per component, you could have Darumas under three components for the cost of one set of Aurios. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear the Aurios, so I can’t comment on their relative merits. I’d say your system could well be served by all three. At $99, you could do more with the Final Labs iteration. Try—you may buy. Larry Cox

 

 

 

DAVE CLARK'S SYSTEM:

LOUDSPEAKERS
Reimer Speaker Systems Tetons.

ELECTRONICS
Clayton Audio M100 monoblock amplifiers. E.A.R. 834P phono stage. Blue Circle BC3000 preamp w/Tunsgram tubes, and BCG3.1 power supply.

SOURCES
EAD T1000 transport and EVS Millenium II DAC with Audient Technologies’ Tactic and Audit, and Taddeo Digital Antidote Two. Linn Axiss turntable with K9 cartridge and Basik Plus arm.

CABLES
JPS Superconductor+ interconnects, digital, and NC speaker cables. Sahuaro Slipstream, Blue Circle BC63, Clayton Audio, and JPS Kaptovator AC cables.

ACCESSORIES
PS Audio P300 Power Plant.
Dedicated 20 and 15 amp ac circuits. Shakti Stones and On-Lines. EchoBuster room treatments. BDR cones and board, DH cones, Vibrapods, Mondo racks and stands, Townshend Audio 2D and 3D Seismic Sinks, various hard woods, etc.

 

two.jpg (6646 bytes)The Daruma 3IIs came on the heels of the Aurios MIBs. Similar in design, both products address the issue of component isolation via bearings sandwiched between metal discs. The differences are in materials and execution. The Aurios are hardened steel, and use three balls, with the assembly held together through an ingenious design. The Darumas, which use a single ball with aluminum discs at top and bottom, are three separate pieces. There are couple of downsides to the Daruma design. One, you can easily lose a bearing, and two, with the softer aluminum, if you use a heavy component, grooves will form on the surface of the bottom disc. The first is merely an annoyance, but the second is more critical. Will impressions in the base reduce the Darumas' ability to function as designed?

I liked the MIBs at $300 per set, so how did the Darumas at $99 compare? To me, comparing them is like comparing a Mercedes CL500 to a Volkswagen Passat. While both are excellent cars, they have been designed to different price points and are not really in the same league. Or are they? I own a Passat, and it gets me from point A to point B rather nicely, though without the luxurious style of the CL500. The Darumas work quite well at their intended application. The sound opens up, with greater clarity and pace than with stock feet or other popular cones. Compared to the MIBs, they offer less clarity and detail, though the MIBs may be too brutal in this respect—they simply worked way to well in my system. (As I write elsewhere, the MIBs added a subtle "steeliness" to the sound, though I was able to overcome this by adding small wooden pucks between the MIBs and the component. With this configuration the MIBs really worked as intended.) But back to the matter on hand. The Darumas may not be as "good" as the MIBs, but when one considers the comment above, this may not be a bad thing.

Much of the difference can be seen in how easily components on the two products can be set in motion. The MIBs not only allow greater movement, but that movement is freer, with less sense of friction. Components on the Darumas travel less, and do so with a greater sense of effort, perhaps because the Darumas are made of a softer material. This may relate directly to the fact that the Darumas have a "softer" effect than the MIBs. The Aurios' steeliness is not heard from with the Darumas. Music has only about 75% of the pace and clarity that it does with the Aurios, but with little of the perceived coloration. A tradeoff to be sure, but not a bad one. Music just sounds better. For the money, these are highly recommended. The Aurios may get you down the road in greater comfort and style, but I did enjoy my time with the Darumas.

The Darumas work as advertised—I know a rarity in todays' audio market—by allowing more music and less vibrational noise to come through. Try these on a DVD player and you will really be surprised. Yes they are a bit difficult to get just right, though this is easily avoided by leveling the shelf the component sits on. And yes heavy cables can pull them off-center as well. But get it right and for $99, you can't really go wrong. Highly recommended. Dave Clark

 

 

 

FRANCISCO DURAN'S SYSTEM:

LOUDSPEAKERS
ProAc Response 2 with Osiris 24" stands.

ELECTRONICS
Monarchy SM-70 amplifiers (mono). Reference Line Preeminence lA passive line stage.

SOURCE
Musical Concepts’ Pioneer DV414 DVD Epoch VII Signature player. Taddeo Digital Antidote Two.

CABLES
Superconductor+ interconnects and a double run of JPS Ultraconductor speaker cables.

ACCESSORIES
Panamax power conditioning. BDR cones and Vibrapods.

 

three.jpg (8484 bytes) With all of the tweaks and accessories that are written about in the audio press, it’s a wonder a music lover (okay, gearhead) can decide what will work best in their system. How many times have we read how the latest gizmo affects the soundstage, tightens the bass, and is a big improvement over the last tweak that hit the market? It’s enough to make me want to chuck all of my gear, go back to a good old rack system, and concentrate on the music again. Well, maybe a nice tube rack system.

It seems like the latest trend is things to put under equipment that incorporate bearings in their construction. The Daruma 3IIs from Final Labs are cups machined from light metal with a ball bearing sandwiched between them. They are not fastened together like the Aurios, but move freely. There are three units per set. The Darumas are finely crafted devices that fit neatly under your components. It is said that greater benefits are gained using them under your source components and tube equipment. Why use such devices? To drain or “ground” excess vibrations that plague our gear.

I tried the Darumas under all of my equipment except my speakers, and heard positive effects in each case. The musical benefits were more easily heard when they were placed under my sources, but I also liked what they did under my Monarchy monoblocks. Before I go on, though, I have a little story. As I usually do with tweaks, I tried the Darumas under my VCR. They worked in a big way, cleaning up the grain in the picture really well. Colors were slightly richer, too. I also heard a slightly more full bass, smoother treble, and slightly clearer speech. Tapes got a lot more enjoyable to watch.

With three Darumas under my CD player, the improvements were obvious. The Darumas cleaned and polished dynamic peaks and transients, making for a cleaner, clearer musical presentation. The improvements were across the board with respect to types of music—rock, acoustic, you name it. These little guys made it easier to hear small musical queues, as if a little more air and space filled each recording. It also sounded as if I had gotten a few more decibels of gain. My system was certainly more dynamic.

I did the old switcharoo a few times to see if I was crazy or had developed that old reviewer’s disease, better-itis! You know. that sickness that makes you think that just because something is new and in your system for the first time that it is an improvement. I’m happy to report that I’m not crazy, because when I took out the Darumas, music sounded flatter. Cymbals lost a bit of their sweetness and smoothness. Music now sounded a tad less dynamic and lost a bit of detail. The sound was less musical and involving. These weren’t just a few audiophile tricks that went missing when the Darumas were out of my system.

You have to have a bit of patience when you install these devices. My wife and son can’t understand why I put them under both my DVD player and VCR, because every time they use either device, it slides around. This is the only down side I found with the Darumas. They try the patience of normal people, but patience, patience, I say, the rewards are great. With a little care and practice you can operate your equipment without everything sliding around.

Before the Darumas, I used a combination of the Black Diamond boards and the Vibrapods, but this combo doesn’t seem to be as musical. There have been reports that using bearing-type devices under your gear causes brightness and hardening. I did not experience this, just better music. This is one tweak that I really liked. Highly recommended. Francisco Duran

 

 

 

Daruma 3II
Retail $99 for three

Final Laboratory
web address: www.finallab.com
e-mail address: mail@finallab.com

US Importer:
Venus Hi-Fi
TEL: 812. 320. 4004
web address: www.venushifi.com
e-mail address: info@venushifi.com

 

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