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Butcher Block Acoustics Maple Edge Grain Audio Platform

08-01-2019 | By Robert S. Youman | Issue 104

Every once in a while you meet someone special in this industry. Jim Whithorne is that guy. Owner and proprietor of Butcher Block Acoustics (BBA), he has a wonderful back story including 40 plus years selling and distributing products in the Butcher Block industry. But, his real passion in life is music, and this connection is extended well into his family tree.

With relatives including noted author Ralph Waldo Emerson, American composer Emerson Whithorne, and his great-grandmother Ethel Leginska who was a British pianist, composer, and educator, music is clearly part of Jim’s DNA.

We first hooked up after the AXPONA 2019 show, and I could quickly tell that Jim was very customer focused, with excellent listening skills, and a strong commitment to quality and customer needs. The bottom line is that this guy obviously cares. Sometimes I wonder if we could use a little more of this in our industry.

What also caught my eye was the incredible craftsmanship and beauty of his butcher block products. This includes a fairly large portfolio of component racks, component platforms, amp stands, speaker stands, floor platforms, and resonance control accessories. 

One key BBA strategy is to provide quality and performance at reasonable prices. This is supported through Jim’s many connections in the Butcher Block industry, but also by manufacturing standard configurations and in large quantities. Custom orders are possible, but if you can match your component needs with some of the off the shelf options, not only will you realize a fairly reasonable price and value, but also immediate shipment.

For the last year, I have been patiently seeking out some platform options for my VPI Avenger Plus turntable, and thought that at these prices it would not be much of a risk to check out one of the BBA platform models.

After discussing my specifications with Jim, I decided to move forward on a 24" x 20" x 3" Maple Edge Grain Platform, with a list price of $180.71. These off the shelf dimensions were ideal for the VPI Avenger Plus turntable. This configuration also included four flush mounted standard M6-1 threaded inserts so that I could experiment with various cones and footers. 

Review System

  • Sonus Faber Stradivari speakers
  • REL No. 25 reference subwoofers
  • VAC Signature Mk IIa SE preamplifier w/phono section
  • Pass Labs XA100.5 monoblock amplifiers
  • VPI Avenger Plus turntable
  • VPI Unipivot Fatboy Tonearm w/Nordost Reference Phono Wire
  • van den Hul Crimson XGW Stradivarius moving coil cartridge
  • dCS Bartók DAC
  • Aurender N10 music server
  • Synergistic Research Element CTS cables throughout
  • Synergistic Research PowerCell 12 UEF SE power conditioner
  • Synergistic Research Passive Ground Block
  • Rix Rax Hoodoo component rack
  • Adona Zero GX1 amplifier stands
  • Custom Isolation Inc. acrylic shelves
  • Magico QPod footers

Caveat Emptor

System synergy and personal taste are critical when evaluating high-end audio products. This review is based on my subjective requirements, my subjective ears, my specific system, and my specific listening room. This combination is only one data point of many that exist out there for these components. Please consider my comments and analysis accordingly.


For audio platforms, BBA basically has four key in stock material options beyond a nice range of platform length and width sizes (see the BBA website for length and width options). You can select from either Maple Edge Grain, Maple End Grain, Walnut Edge Grain, or Walnut End Grain. 

With the standard length and width choices, you can select a thickness of either 1 3/4 inches or 3 inches. A square edge is included with all in stock platforms. The primary functional differences between the material choices is that Maple has a Janka Hardness Scale Score of 1450 and Walnut has a Janka Hardness Score of 1010.

Other than that, it is more of an aesthetic decision between Maple, Walnut, Edge Grain and End Grain. I have included a few pictures here from the BBA website to give you a feel for this, but there is also an excellent gallery link on the BBA website with many more pictures.

It should also be noted that all platforms are kiln dried for moisture content and control. All platforms are also finished with a non-toxic urethane finish.

Custom edge options include square, radius, chamfer and bullnose. Custom material options include Sugar Maple, Black Walnut, Red Oak, American Cherry, Eco-Lyptus, White Oak, and Exotic Teak.


I experimented with different cones and footers utilizing the standard M6-1 threads included in my configuration. Each had different results as expected, but I thought that every option sounded better than just laying the BBA platform on my component shelf with nothing between the platform and the shelf.

Though not shown in the picture of my VPI Avenger Plus, my favorite option below the platform was a simple pneumatic footer that utilized nothing more than a racquet ball and a low profile PVC plastic coupler / fitting from the local plumbing supplier. You might want to check this out for isolating other components even beyond the platform application discussed here. BTW, this is not a panacea for all isolation needs, but it sure worked well with the BBC platform!

The bottom line is that the BBA platform was even more than I bargained for. Yes, it seemed to stabilize the VPI Avenger Plus with improved isolation that resulted in less rumble and interactive motor noise, but it also added a very subtle layer of warmth and harmonics to the sound that was quite addictive. No less important is that this was with no loss of dynamics and detail which is often the case.

Female vocals and woodwind instruments were especially more liquid and fleshed out. Saxophones in particular had more bloom and color like the real thing. Bass had slightly more weight and grunt, but extension and inner detail again remained the same. Strings were reproduced with a delicate shimmer, and an air and openness that was very appealing. Of course, this is all a subjective thing, but I was swept away with the sonic beauty of these changes.

By the way, I was not able to compare the sound quality for the four different laminate materials, or the two different thickness options. Maybe I can tackle this in a future review. It might be a false assumption, but I have to believe that the key to this are the two different hardness specifications mentioned earlier for the Maple and Walnut utilized by BBA.

Again, Maple has a Janka Hardness Scale Score of 1450 and Walnut has a Janka Hardness Score of 1010. Scores are the same for edge grain and end grain. Based on past auditions, usually the harder the material the more detail, and unfortunately also the potential for ringing and other effects. This was the typical finding for me when comparing wood, acrylic, glass, granite, etc. I will try to follow up, but Jim can probably also share his past experiences with you if you give him a call or send an email.

Final Thoughts

I was extremely pleased with what the BBA Maple Edge Grain Platform offered for my system. The additional warmth and harmonics provided a new vitality and freshness to the listening experience. At these prices, I am strongly considering the purchase of additional platforms for my remaining components—it was that impressive. Clear results. Nice value. Excellent aesthetics. Well worth checking out!

Let me also note that when friends and relatives came by to check out the music and hardware in my listening room, they were immediately and consistently drawn to the BBA platform when entering the room. This amazed me that with such eye candy as the Sonus Faber Strads, the VAC Signature Mk IIa SE preamplifier, and the Pass Labs XA100.5 amplifiers, it was the BBA platform that got all the oohs and ahhs. Ya gotta love this hobby!

Maple Edge Platform

Retail: $180.71 (24" x 20" x 3" )

Several other material, dimension and price options can be found on the BBA website

Butcher Block Acoustics

P.O. Box 25007

Anaheim, CA 92825

Show room

1440 So. State College Blvd.

Building 2 – Suite C

Anaheim, CA 92806