Of Pandora's and other boxes

Stop the pressses. We've got it all wrong.

Do you remember Notting Hill's hilarious episode in which Hugh Grant's William Thacker confides to his room mate? He distraughtedly mentions having taken some mysterious love heroin which opened Pandora's box to no longer close. To which Rhys Ifans' scene-stealing Spikey character replies: "Hmm, I see... tricky... hmm... I knew a girl in school once called Pandora. Never got to see her box though..."

Are you a Spikey type? Do you couple your loudspeaker boxes to the floor vis-à-vis spikes for that presumably better bass? Did you know that 10% higher bass distortion equates to a subjective 3dB gain in bass output? Does spiking really produce better bass? Or is it, perchance, just more of it, albeit at a clear loss of pitch definition, clarity and speed?

It turns out that coupling full-range speakers to the floor is just about the dumbest idea ever to be foisted upon our collective notions of high fidelity. What you want is decoupling, not coupling. At least on your living room floor, folks. Why? Because it's hard and bad for your back? No, because it's hard and thus transmits high-amplitude, low-frequency resonances from your speakers directly into your equipment stands, which, Golly Gee, happen -- in proper audiophile dress code -- to be spike-coupled to the floor as well. They thus welcome these presumably asinine vibrations with open arms and inject them right back into your components, naturally ever so slightly delayed in time to now overlay, intermodulate and muddy up the crystalline yet fragile signal so carefully encoded and upsampled from the 1 and 0 pits.

Ah, the ironies whereby accessory makers prey upon our desire for better sound. Dangerous territory for sure. And one I'm recklessly inclined to dive into all over again. You see, when I reviewed the Aurios MIBs for SoundStage! a good year back, I got more than one subsequent phone call from publisher Doug Schneider - about why placing flotation devices underneath speakers was a very bad idea and couldn't possibly work. Well, I had tried it and found it particularly efficacious with subwoofers. Doug hadn't tried it and was talking, well, out of his mouth. But - he did have a very salient point in his defense. To wit: A loudspeaker manufacturer goes to extremes to render his cabinets as inert as possible to create a non-moving, non-flexing launch pad for his drivers' motions.

Remember, the precision of their wave launch correlates directly with how successfully they can transform electrical into equivalent physical impulses. It stands to reason that allowing a speaker to arbitrarily move in space while its drivers are firing... Well, you get the picture. It undermines their very design goal of tightly controlled excursions originating from a stable, non-moving platform.

Schneider's reluctance to accede any possible benefits from floating speakers was thus grounded in solid reason - albeit not one tightly spiked to corroborative evidence. Others who experimented with speakers and Aurios thereafter reported the kind of results I had obtained, amongst those none other than John Stronczer of Bel Canto whose TAD 15-inch two-way horns, to this day, rest on Aurios MIBs. Engineering-driven Urs Wagner of Swiss firm Ensemble uses a unique compliant hinge/plinth interface for his Figura floorstander to minimize the backflow of speaker-generated floorborne excitations into the enclosure. The problem is very real and recognized. However, universal solutions for it remain elusive as yet. To the unwitting rescue now comes Alvin Lloyd of Grand Prix Audio. Unwitting? Because his Apex footers were not originally conceived for the use I'm propagating. They're intended to be placed beneath equipment stands or components.

The former usage was reported on in my previous report. It worked so well that I wondered. Replacing the formidably weapons-grade spikes on my Monaco stand with Apexx (fake plural) caused a perceptibly significant reduction of floor-borne resonances reaching my components and stirring up aural mud. Wouldn't placing the same devices underneath the speakers -- to prevent said vibrations from penetrating into the floor to begin with -- not reap equally profound dividends? (Of course you'd need six rather than 3 or 4 as for a stand - a somewhat costlier proposition.) When I first approached Alvin about trying his Apex footers below my DUOs, he retorted with the same convincing logic Doug Schneider had earlier. However, his open mind and native curiosity compelled him to send me twin trios of the circular Carbon fiber pyramids. They were clearly dispatched with the express desire to also use them as intended - below components. Being Teutonically stubborn, I predictably began with "my" application first. Incidentally, that's all today's report is about. Part 3 is in the making as they say. Why so belligerently focused on the great speaker flotation experiment? Because it rewrites the old Spikey Pandora's box myth. I'm eager to hip you to the new myth - especially if your speakers are full-range, bass-capable and you enjoy taxing music with bass at high volumes (that makes all of us, no?)...