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Positive Feedback ISSUE
as reviewed by John Zurek
Over the years I've been impressed with the overall performance and value of the analog products that Vinh Vu of Ginkgo Audio/Norvinz has brought to the table. I use one of their Clara-Vu dust covers for my VPI scoutmaster, and have also listened to a wide range of their isolation products from the high-value Mini-Clouds www.positive-feedback.com/Issue20/gingko.htm to the superb Cloud 11 http://positive-feedback.com/Issue36/gingko11.htm.
The Mini-Clouds offer outstanding performance for the dollar and the Cloud 11 is a serious contender for best possible performance. Both of these devices nevertheless presented stability issues for me because of my cat Purcy. Daily slayer of mice and birds, this large Siamese has his very favorite perch on top of my VPI Scoutmaster. What to do? I love the rascal. The Mini-Clouds and the Cloud 11 do their job so well, that that once in place, your table moves gently up and down back and forth. You'll notice that your table literally floats. A plus if you don't live with a 16-pound analog-loving mouse assassin. What keeps me up at night is the thought of Purcy jumping off the table and knocking it off the rack, along with cartridge, tonearm, and interconnects. Might even drag along my Aqvox phono preamp.
After listening to the Cloud 11, I told Vinh I treasured the performance but was still concerned about its stability because of my special feline issues. Vinh told me he had just designed a new product that would address this issue.
Not strictly for cat lovers, his new design—the Cloud 9—enhances stability for the isolation platform and your turntable as well. "Does this mean Purcy can sit on top of the Clara-Vu dust cover and jump off without knocking the whole rig over," I asked? "I don't see why not," was Vinh's answer.
The Cloud 9 is designed specifically for the popular VPI Scout/Scoutmaster, and features the double thickness base of the Cloud 11 for high performance and safety (the balls won't roll off the dimples). It features a separate plate for the motor, further isolating motor noise from the plinth, and provides dimples placed strategically to allow many ball position combinations to accommodate different weights from the Scout to the Scoutmaster with Super Platter. The balls support the bottom side of the plinth for a lower profile. The silver cone feet go through the four corner holes and are lifted off of the shelf, further isolating the plinth from shelf vibration. According to Vinh "the use of the motor plate is optional. Some older versions of the Scout/Scoutmaster had shorter rubber feet—the motor plate will raise it up to the same level as the plinth if needed. Newer versions of the Scout/Scoutmaster have higher rubber feet thus obviating the need for the motor plate. The motor can just sit on the shelf surface. The performance is the same, as the motor noise is still effectively isolated from the plinth."
In my opinion a couple of things separate Gingko from other companies that build similar products. One, you don't have to be related to a petroleum company CEO to afford Gingko gear. Two, Vinh doesn't just make performance claims, he backs them up with solid engineering and measurements. Check out the Gingko website—very impressive!
This platform is so straightforward to set-up, you'll be spinning vinyl in minutes. Center the base plate on your rack. Position the motor plate. Plunk the balls down. Lower the Scoutmaster's spike-feet into the holes. Put the motor on the motor plate. Hook up the belt and interconnects. Boom, you're done. Lower the needle and instantly reap the benefits.
The Cloud 9 provided me with all the perks I noticed on the Cloud 11: Lower noise floor, deeper vision into the recording, more audible details, etchy highs tamed, more clearly defined bass, smoother midrange, improved dynamics, and more precise attack. Overall a much improved sound. So much so that I don't want to let the Cloud 9 go back to the east coast. And Purcy? I'm sleeping well knowing the Cloud 9 is doing double duty, helping my vinyl bring the music to me more faithfully, and keeping the Scoutmaster where it belongs while the bird whacker is up there.
High-quality engineering and design always involve a compromise. There is no perfect design, no perfectly engineered product. The art of engineering lies in realizing the precise balance of requirements. Vinh's elegant solution in this case achieves the optimum equilibrium. My ears tell me that the Cloud 9's performance comes in at about 95% of the Cloud 11 (at $449). You don't have to be a math whiz to discern the value here. High performance and stability take it straight to the top of the class. Cat/Scout/Scoutmaster lovers rejoice—Vinh Vu's engineering prowess and common sense have given you the (near) perfect solution to upgrade your table's performance and make sure it stays on the rack instead tumbling on to your floor.
The first line on Gingko's website says: "Our mission at Gingko Audio is to provide functional, effective, and aesthetically elegant products at a fair price". I'd say they've succeeded. Highly recommended. John Zurek
Gingko Cloud 9