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Gingko Audio's Cloud22 Isolation Products

04-17-2024 | By Francisco Duran | Issue 132

As many years as I have been in this hobby, within the last few I have become more and more intolerant of the exaggerated claims of expensive tweaks by some manufacturers. You can throw wire and cable into this debate, but that is a subject for another day. If one is trying to eke out that last bit of performance from their systems, or tweak to match a component, that cable, footer, or vibration device better give a noticeable improvement in performance, and not be more expensive than a new set of tires and rims for a car. Hey, the economy is where it is, and attention spans are getting shorter by the day. Let's get to the point so we can get back to the business of listening to music. (Hold on while I yell at the neighbor kids to get off of my lawn). That is why it is refreshing to deal with audio companies that offer affordable products and that work as claimed. It is also reassuring when these products are backed up by measurements to prove their capability. Gingko Audio is one such company. They are not new to me. Way back in 2011, I reviewed their Cloud 9 series of components. I ended up buying a few of their Cloud 9 platforms and used them for many years in my system.

Recently a call came out from our editors for a review of Gingko products, and I was once again lucky enough to be picked for the review. A few emails were sent to Mr. Vinh Vu, one of the two principals, along with Mr. Norm Ginsburg, of Gingko Audio to reacquaint myself and to send them critical info in order to match their products to my gear. Mr. Vu and Mr. Ginsburg both have extensive education and experience working in the engineering field. This experience is reflected in their products and the way they design them and how they are presented on their website. A box of Gingko products soon arrived at my door. Their product line up is quite varied consisting not only of vibration control products, but also speakers and dust covers. They are also the sole marketers for Danacable. I urge all to visit their website which also contains information on white papers, measurements and the technology that goes into their products.

For this review we will concentrate on some of their vibration control products. The box consisted of two Cloud22 platforms. These are rectangular acrylic platforms approximately 14" deep by a shade over 17" wide with a top and no bottom with a 1.5-inch skirt all the way around. Each platform comes with four Wood Cloud22 Bases for the support. The Wood Cloud 22 Bases are placed underneath and the gear on top of the platform. One platform came with four "small" Wood Cloud 22 Bases (balls) to support my Marantz PM 5004 Integrated amp, and the other platform came with four medium Cloud Wood Bases (balls) for the almost twice as heavy Marantz Reference SA-15S2 SACD player. The Cloud bases look exactly the same. The "small" Wood Cloud Bases are for audio and source components weighing up to 20 pounds. The Medium Wood Cloud Bases are for gear weighing up to 40 pounds. They have a round wooden, flat bottom with four very small rubber feet underneath the base with what looks like a woolly tennis ball glued to the top of the base painted black only the woolly ball part is soft and fuzzy. These Cloud Bases are designed for a warmer more musical sound. I can go for that. They still make the green rubber balls for the Cloud 9 series. Those balls are designed to correct bass related issues such as footfalls, feedback and rumbles from unruly speakers. Probably speakers that are not supported by Ginkgo's Arch systems. As for the particular reason for the use of wool balls the Gingko website states, … "when compresses under load, the wool fibers turn vibration energy into heat. The inert structure and composition of wool do not have a natural resonance that can add spurious vibration and smear the sound." Also sent were eight Arch supports, 2 1/4W x 4L x 1/2" thick little wooden arches to support my speaker stands. Four larger Arch supports were also sent measuring the same as the speaker Arches only 5/8 thick. These were to be installed under the spikes on my heavy gear rack. I have to admit I was a bit taken aback when I first laid eyes on the Arches. They are what they say they are. Little wooden arches with a metal dimple embedded in the middle-top of them to accept the spikes from your gear. But as we shall see, they are a lot tougher than they look. All of the Gingko products are nicely finished and sturdy. If you are not and audio tweaker, after playing around with all of this stuff you will be.

Installing the Cloud platforms and bases was easy, I just volunteered my son. I was glad he was there to help with the lifting. While I was at it, I volunteered him to help with his listening skills as well. I wanted to get his millennial opinion on this subject. I lifted the amp and CD player, and he installed the Platforms and Cloud22 balls underneath them. The platforms fit perfectly under my amp and CD player. The feet of both pieces of gear fitting just inside of the dimensions of the platform. Installing the Arches under my speakers was also a snap. I just used the same volunteer. Actually when it came to installing the four bigger Arches under my home-made gear rack, I was glad he stuck around. That rack full of gear is really heavy. But when we did it, we had to take all of the gear off of the rack, slip in the thicker Arches, put the gear back, hook everything back up and then listen. There was not going to be an in and out comparison of this set of Arches. We would either hear a difference or not. Why take chances moving the gear around. I figure the double wide rack with gear weighs between 180 to 200 pounds. The two-metal steel upright channels that hold the shelves are filled with sand. The four shelves are a combination of MDF and pine. My speaker stands are built from two round metal pillars 28" tall by 2" in diameter, and are also filled with sand. They usually sit on my carpeted den sans spikes. They weigh 24 pounds each, as does each Fritz Morel speaker that are on them. So my rack and speaker stands are very inert to start out. The Gingko products had their work cut out for them.

A quick word on my amplifier. Some might question the resolving power of my inexpensive Marantz PM 5004, and you would be right to do so. I bought it from Best Buy solely to do party duty, mainly because it has four outputs, two of which I could run a pair of outdoor speakers with. But in 2022 I got the wild idea to have it modified. I found a place in Oregon that did modifications to stereo equipment, Stereo Dave's Audio Alternative. This outfit also has a great reputation. The results were fantastic. In the last two years I have been privileged to review some very fine integrated amplifiers for PF, and believe me, with its modification, my little Marantz gives them all very stiff competition. Even surpassing some of them in several areas, namely dynamics and tone. Along with my Sophia Electric Magik Box hooked up to my Modified Marantz SACD player, this gear was ready to extract the most Gingko Audio could muster.

For this review I used my Marantz SACD player only for playing tunes. At the time of writing, I was in the process of having the Denon DP-1100 turntable I bought in the mid-seventies refurbished, and my Kuzma was out of commission. Besides, it is much easier to spin a CD when doing quick A/B comparisons than fiddling with a record player. And we did spin a lot of discs. We started out with my ringers from Mapleshade, Mobile Fidelity, and some finely recorded SACDs. Then we went on to where the musical muse led us. We then played The Comedian Soundtrack, which led to The John Lester Quartet, which led to Lyle Mays, then to Pat Metheney, and on and on it went. Soon we had over 30 CDs stacked up in front of us, of various genres and looking like we were on a nostalgic trip back to the 80's. Hey if vinyl can do it, so can plastic.

For the record, I have been using an assortment of Herbie's Vibration products, Vibrapods, Black Racing Diamond cones, a couple of Ikea cutting boards, and some Blue Tac sprinkled around for the elimination of bad vibes in my system for some time. Sad to say that my Cloud9 and platform systems disappeared when I lent them out a few years back. I guess you could say that is what led me to experiment with the above-mentioned products.

But wait, there was a method to my madness. We didn't just slap all of the Gingko products into place and spin some tunes. We took all manner of vibration products out of the system and listened to some music. Then inserted one platform and Cloud22 balls under the amplifier only, and listened to some music. Then we installed the second platform under the SACD player and listened again. Then we installed the eight Arches under the speakers and listened, then the four Arches went under the rack for some more listening. Each time taking notes. We wanted to do this as fast as we could because we feel the retention of audio memory is not as long as even the most golden eared audiophile would think. This would give the products a fair chance.

Listening to the system sans any vibration control products, immediately noticeable was a slight haze of distortion and less focus overall. The music sounded like it gelled together instead of sounding clean and dimensional. When we listened to each brand of my vibration control products individually, we found that each one was doing its job at controlling distortion pretty well, but some were adding a distinct coloration as well. The Herbie's worked well, but unless the bottom of the gear you are installing the four rubber footers is completely flat, it could offset the installation and possibly cause some degradation of performance. You could place the equipment on top of a hard flat platform of some sorts and then put the footers under the board. But the board would introduce its own coloration. The Black Diamond Racing cones added a bit of brightness in the upper registers, and depending where you install them also a bit of hardening to the music. Herbie's makes a rubber pad especially for the BDR that sticks to the broad part of the cone. I'm guessing to control just this phenomenon. The Vibrapods also work well in my system. But the installation variables for those pucks and cones are great. It would seem that experimentation in installation is critical when using these products and results could vary from system to system.

On to installing the Gingko's. With just one set of Small Wood Cloud22 Bases and platform installed under my amplifier, the results were very noticeable. The music suddenly sounded more natural. Timbre of instruments sounded more true and real. Individual instruments were more clearly defined in space and anchored to the soundstage with more focus. The sound tightened up. Also heard was an overall quieter background. On the Comedian soundtrack we heard a more burnished quality to Terrance Blanchard's trumpet without diminishing the natural sharpness of the instrument. Harder, sharper, louder notes were treated with the same natural quality. This was very noticeable when Blanchard hits it hard about 3:50 into Track 1.

Next, we threw in another ringer, Telarc's Star Tracks with Eric Kunzel conducting the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. This disc has supercharged versions of cuts of music from movies like Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark that are very well recorded. If you want to test your system for dynamics, this is the disc to do it with. On track 6, "Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Raiders March" sounded more natural in the horn and violin sections with the Gingko units installed. After the modification to my Marantz PM-5004 amplifier not only resolution, but dynamics were greatly improved. But in conjunction with the Cloud22 under it, the performance level noticeably improved. When listening to The John Lester Quartet's CD, Jazz?, I was struck by the acoustic Bass sounding like the notes came out of that instrument, not only with an airiness and breathiness so natural, but the overall dynamics took on a slight added fullness to each note. I couldn't believe what I was hearing, and it is a bit hard to explain. This wasn't an added coloration, but an extension of the natural sound of the instrument. Wow! Similar results were heard on The Lyle Mays self-titled CD with this newfound clarity. On these discs instruments sounded a bit more solid in space with the soundstage also a bit more spacious and dimensional. I would say that is a pretty good performance improvement for one set of Cloud22 balls and a platform.

We next installed a Medium Wood Cloud22 Base under the CD player. This is another hi-rez modified machine in my arsenal. It being a Reference line product, it is built to a higher standard than my PM-5004 amplifier. It is built from thicker metal; it has a potted transformer and dampening material was installed when it was modified by the now defunct Upgrade Sales. Plus, it is twice the weight of my amp! It would seem that the effects of the Cloud22 system would not be as great as with my amp due to its build quality. I was wrong. The improvements heard with the amplifier were also heard just as clearly with the CD player. We heard better clarity; depth of stage was improved as was solidity of images and focus. It would seem that aside from its better build quality, it still benefited from the Cloud22 system and then some. The improvements were easily heard.

We next installed the eight ½ inch thick Arches under the two speaker stands. We left the Cloud22 under the amp and CD player. Instantly noticeable was better separation of instruments, and vocals sounded slightly cleaner with again better overall focus. On the Comedian soundtrack my son commented that it sounded like you were in the studio listening. The music drew us easily into the recording and it took my mind off minor anomalies in my system and put me right into the mix of the music. And it hit me, the Gingko products were taking those minor anomalies out of my system. It didn't hurt that this is one of my favorite new CDs, and the recording is very good. Adding the Arches under the speaker stands did not elicit the improvements to the degree the Cloud22 system did under the amp and CD Player, but it was close and again were easily noticeable. With all of the Gingko products installed in my system though, a cumulative effect was definitely in place.

Last but not least we took everything off of the gear rack, installed the thicker Arches, reinstalled everything, and had a listen. Honestly we thought we heard a slight difference. But not to the degree of the other models under the equipment. The fact that it took so long to install everything for an A/B, or the fact that the rack is built so sturdy, inert, and heavy might have made it harder to determine a difference.

Now for the scary part. We took the Gingko products out of the system one by one. This is where the rubber meets the road so to speak. Did the Gingko's show their mettle, or were we simply hearing things. Well, with each subtraction we instantly heard a sound change to the negative. We heard what can only be described as the sound turning mushy. Instruments sounded more congealed with a slight haze to the soundstage. A whole laundry list of audiophile negative descriptors went through my mind. Digital recordings sounded flatter and thinner, bass sounded plumier and slightly thicker. Vocals were slightly less distinct. The soundstage and the natural tone of vocals and instruments also took a bit of a hit in the form of sounding hazy. We were flabbergasted. I was very surprised. My son, who has less experience with this stuff than I do, easily heard the difference. Even he was surprised, exclaiming, "Wow, the sound really changed without the Gingko's". I thought, how could my souped-up gear that I have been bragging about sound this bad without these tweaks? I was shocked! I did not think installing these products would give such a performance difference in my system. But taking them out really showed the difference. During the next few weeks with the exception of the Arches for the rack which we left in, we did a few more in and out swaps to recheck our findings. The results were the same. With the exception of noticing a bit of hardness to the music. After a bit of experimentation we found that it was coming from the CD player. Swapping out the Cloud22 system for another brand of products fixed the issue. The culprit could have to do with the density of the balls used under this very high-resolution CD Player and its weight. But I didn't have extra set of Cloud22 balls to experiment with. Only the ones that were under the amplifier. Perhaps a follow-up is in order?

I liked the Gingko Audio products a lot. They worked very well in my system. Both individually and collectively. They also worked well regardless of the build quality of the components. They are affordable, relatively easy to install, and are built to a high standard. As each product was installed we heard a definite sonic improvement to one degree or another. Similarly, as we took them out one by one, the sonic effects worked in the opposite way. We could hear a slight sonic degradation every time. In my system, we found very few negatives using them. As I mentioned in the first paragraph. My frustration with the performance and price of various audio accessories still stands. But it is greatly curtailed by the Gingko Audio products. Once again they have proven their worth both sonically and monetarily in a very competitive market. Well done Gingko!

Cloud22 platform

Retail: $349

Cloud22 Base small

Retail: (4 ea.) $119

Cloud22 Bass medium

Retail: (4 ea.) $139

Equipment and speaker stand ARCH

Retail: $159-$209

30 day money back guarantee (contact Gingko Audio for details)

Gingko Audio


[email protected]

We at Gingko Audio would like to thank Francisco Duran for a thorough and well-written review.

Although we are confident that our vibration control products will result in significant improvements on the system sound, we strongly believe that the final judge should be our customers.  That is why all our vibration control products come with an absolute, no-questions-asked 30-day money back guarantee.  We insist that our customers return the products if they don’t work for them.  When the products are returned undamaged, the customer only pays shipping cost and any incurred bank/Paypal fee.  Write us at [email protected] with any questions on our products.