Audio Ramblings - The New and Improved Black
Ravioli Feet and Heed Audio's Quasar Phono Stage
All product images by Dave Clark
After all this time doing this and doing that, one would think that by now I would have it all figured out. But I don't. No more so than anything else in life, where you are pretty sure that you know it all, but then life tosses you a few curved cubes and you are left spinning around trying to make sense of it all.
Black Ravioli 'Feet'
Case in point: the new Black Ravioli products out of sunny and chirpy England—specifically the Big Foot Single, Double, and Triple pads (or would that be rightly so, the Big Feet?). Pads for your audio comfort! Well, see I had the originals here, and no, I did not like them all that much. Too soft, too easy and relaxed (somniferous-ness could be an apt descriptor though not quite that extreme), just simply too "not what I wanted sonically" thank you very much… better yet, make that musically. Yeah, for sure they did some things right, but what they did wrong was, well… wrong. I wanted speed and clarity. I wanted pace and dynamics. I wanted up-front visceral-nessness. I wanted it all! And so I continued to use a mix and match of BDR Cones and composite squares on my source and preamplifier, with the Marigo Audio VXi Mystery Feet ($799 for three) under the amplifiers. Nice and to my liking. My music sounded like what I wanted it to sound like… and that is ALL that mattered.
Oh wait… can of crap time! I will repeat that again… "my music sounded like what I wanted it to sound like… and that is ALL that mattered!" Once again… phuck that shit about what 'it' is supposed to sound like. That is… what some 'whatever' sounds like 'wherever' it was played by 'whomever'… give me a break. Making music is an Art, that is the actual playing of an instrument or whatever, but so is the act of recording it, and the act of reproducing it. And by reproducing it, I mean the system, components, room, etc., that is used to play back the music found on your choice of medium. They are ALL separate parts of the equation, and for sure, they are equal with respect to importance, but hey… the absolute sound?! Unless you were there when it was recorded, you have no idea what 'it' should sound like. Heck a direct feed from a mike will sound different than standing right there… so forget about it after it has been mixed, mastered, and then plastered. In the end, either it sounds good to you, or it doesn't and if you feel the psychological need to compensate for some lacking in your life and just have to claim that that there piana sounds just like the one I have at home when my 2 year old is a banging out the chop-sticks, then sleep well my friend. Peace be with you. Enjoy…. But keep it in your pants, 'cause we don't play that tune. My system plays music on my terms, and that is just fine with me, thank you sir. I have no clue what it should sound like via what it is recorded on, and neither does anyone else. But if I do something different here, and I like it more, or I like it less, or whatever, then that is all I can do…
And with the new BR Big Feet (Foot), I like it WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY more. I mean WTF? The earlier ones were like I said… not happening here, but these new guys are so much better and do so much more 'good things' to my music that it is pretty close to a system upgrade. Be forewarned though… and follow the instructions—they need to sit and 'adapt' or 'adjust' (acclimate sounds good actually) to the weight and character of the component for about a week. No way around that. Sure they do make a positive difference when immediately placed under whatever (and where you place them is important but not a deal breaker in my experience), so if you like what you hear, or don't hear what you like, give them a few days and try it again. The improvements or impact grows over time till the Big Feet kick you in the ass and you just got to sit and listen…
More of simply everything … and that is everything in a good way. For example, bass goes way deeper. I mean way, way deeper. No really, way, way, way deeper and yet it is faster with a greater sense of resolution and clarity, tactility, and expressiveness, and dynamics and that room-enveloping holy-crap-ness-ness that begs me to toss music onto the system to scare the crap out of unsuspecting guests. Never knew what my system was capable of till the BRF came into the mix.
Nice. Wait… hey man… truth is, after the BR's have been in the system I am hearing pretty much what the Marigo/BDR set-up but yeah… with the BRF the music is presented as being more refined, resolute... all the while as less edgy and hard. The soundstage is now even wider and deeper, and the proverbial and overly used audio-hacky-ness of having more there there. Clearly more 'air and space', more room around and between whatever is making the noise, and all naturally 'musically colored' or 'toned' to my liking. Nice, really nice. Pace and involvement—the way the music moves along - are now less of something one 'thinks' about and more of what one 'feels' or 'is' about. Sweet, I like these, I really do. My music more open with less stress and chaos, it moves and involves me way more than prior the Feet walking into the system. They keep what I liked with the previous supports, while going way further in the direction that I want. So is what I am hearing with these BRs more about being new and improved, or more about how I let them sit before passing judgment? No doubt a degree of both as Derrick has made some interesting advances and hence changes… and yes, I followed his instructions to a T in terms of their use and needing to settle in… like a new pair of shoes.
I mean… I liked what I have been using, and never felt that the set-up was wrong or doing something not right… that is by doing something that I did not like. Man, I loved what that set-up did! But with the BRF I now realize that what I had prior was shifting things this way and that… that they were either adding pieces to the puzzle that I didn't need and/or taking away pieces that I realize I now want. Not so the BRFs. These are marvels at releasing the true potential of one's system. I feel like I am listening to a new system… one that is WAY better at what I want in every respect.
But yeah, damn it, they ain't an easy purchase. Well, see they are easy purchase, like a cool glass of water is after a long trek across the desert on a hot day, after your car died, and you realized that you only packed some gin, and so by the time you reach a mom 'n pop you see that bottle of water and… sorry… because they work so well at what they do that you really, really do want them, but sheesh, they ain't so easy 'cause the really big ones, the ones I have here are will set you back a good car payment for one. Prices are (individually) Sticky Pad 1 $55, Sticky Pad 2 $55, Big Pad $120, Big Foot 1 $159, Big Foot 2 $289, and Big Foot 3 $399. But even so, they are worth every penny. What one has to do is switch the mindset that these are some 'casual tweak to be tossed aside'… no consider them a component and worthy of the expense.
What… back up there one gosh darn audio minute… work so well?! At what?! Come on Dave… what you takin' brotha? See the BRF's do some things way better than other isolation products while also doing some things that the other products don't do or can't do—like not only keeping vibrations and resonances from entering a component via the shelf, but also 'removing' vibrations and resonances from the component, and not letting them enter some other component or whatever. This means that you really, for the first time, get to hear what your stuff sounds like…. NOT what it sounds like on vibrations, but clean and natural, what it sounds like vibration-free. A vibration-free America… now what audio-kook, regardless of their political stance, wouldn't support that?!
Okay, so the crap that is either created by the component or the room or whatever is not affecting or clouding the true performance of the item they are being used under… it is less hampered or polluted by resonances and such. Neat! Of course I have no way of measuring this, nor can I prove it, but damn if it does not make sense. Talk to Derrick Ethel, the man behind their design and head cook at Black Ravioli. He is extremely approachable and will explain it all. Oh, and he is not some guy who tossed these together… no they are not snake-oil or operating from another dimension of science and time. See Derrick is an engineer and this is what he does… this is his area of specialty. They are not really all that squishy, being rather stiff and hard to the touch, and have a look and feel that imparts a sense of appreciation for the finished product. Soft feet tend to soften the sound, hard feet can harden the sound… the BRF do neither. They just make the sound (or better yet... music), sound right.
They really work when placed on the outside edges under a component or whatever you want to try them under. The bigger Big Foot 3 can go where ever there is more weight or potential resonance/vibrational concerns (from say a motor, transformer, or whatever… you get the idea.) with the Big Foot 1 or Big Foot 2 where there is less weight and crap to get in the way of the music. The small Pads can be used under computers and loudspeakers (say between a stand and the bottom of the speaker) or as a replacement for stock feet, but be careful... once peeled and stuck, they ain't coming off. There are several versions of these Pads, so make sure you are buying the ones that you need. The Pads do work quite well giving you a rather decent taste of what the Big Feet can do for considerably less money. A great bargain for sure. Like I said, Derrick (or even Chris Sommovigo of The Signal Collection, LLC who is the US Distributor) can offer some suggestions to get you started (check their site and he does supply a guide with the Feet), even so, where best to use the right combination for you is rather intuitive and so I have found little change when moving them here and there. Seems they are doing what they do where I started with, so be it then. Relax and don't fret... let them work.... Big Foot 3 and 2 under the Clayton amplifiers (3 front and 2 rear) a combination of 1 and 2 under the Playback player, and 1 under the Cary preamplifier. I used some Pads under the Bybee AC conditioner and computer as well. Keep them out at the edges and away from screw heads and such...
Okay... I could go on and on about the Black Ravioli spilling a few hundred more words (did I say how wonderful they are?), but I need to move on to the Heed Audio Quasar phono stage and perhaps spill a few hundred less... so let me choose my words very carefully!
HEED Audio Quasar
Little black box. Two actually. One power supply. The other phono circuit. Can be configured by internal jumpers. Phono stage killer. Simple as that. Damn. Thought the Samuels F117 Night Hawk had it all. Now hear otherwise. Quasar tonally richer. Bigger and meaner from top to bottom. Expressive and dynamic. Clean, quiet, and articulate when called upon, yet sassy and saucy when the lights are dimmed down low. Better than batteries. Big beefy power supply. No wonders then. But costs more too. $1200. What one might expect. Night Hawk still good. Still bargain too. Still like. Still recommend for phono stage. Just like Heed more. Does more. More of what I like and want. Has pace and rhythm. Way pace and rhythm. Makes one move off couch. Get up and dance. Playing more vinyl. Buying more vinyl. Getting bass out into the room that seems implausible for vinyl. Wicked stuff this Heed. Scary good.
Try an expensive AC cord. Steps it up a notch or two. Better, but still good with stock cord.
Really now! The Heed line is killerly amazing. Nice kit from Hungary. How they do it? Stupidingly good for so little cash. Competes way above its price point. Bargain.
In case you missed my point, let me spell it out for you… B A R G A I N ...and M U S I C A L! Perhaps yell it out! Better phono stages than Heed Quasar? No doubt. Cost more than Heed? No doubt. Heed have faults? No doubt. Minor and trivial. Could be more of everything and less of somethings. So what? At this price, who cares? Will you like it? Would think so. Don't see why not. But maybe not. To each their own. Depends on what you are after. Nature of audio. Listen for yourself. Just my experience. No one has answers. Only opinions.
Sound like tubes? Sort of, not really. Sound like solid-state? Sort of, not really? Sound more like music just happening in room. Sort of best of both. No real character of its own. Never heard my vinyl this good. Best heard here so far. Will hear better some day? Without a doubt. Will hear something differently different? With out a doubt. Heard many other phono stages? No, not really. Not interested in chasing sound. No what I like. Like Heed.
Cheesin' mad hard here. No need to say more. That says it all.
Have yet to hear any product from the Heed Audio line that does not excel or marvel at making music. Damn… need to go and listen. Have to go and listen. Bought it. Love it on the Black Ravioli Pads. Not a deal breaker if not. Stop reading. Go buy one… and some Ravioli too! Now own the Heed Headamp and Quasar. What is next from Heed?
Heed Audio www.heedaudio.hu
Blackbird Audio www.blackbirdaudio.com
Black Ravioli www.blackravioli.com/index.html
The Signal Collection, LLC www.thesignalcollection.com