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Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
Source: Apple iMac 1TB with OSX 10.6.5, Pure Music 1.74 in hybrid memory play with pre-allocated RAM, AIFF files up to 24/192, Burson Audio HA160D as DAC, Weiss DAC2, Antelope Audio Zodiac Gold with Voltikus and Red Wine Audio 18V Black Lightning [on review]
Preamps: Esoteric C-03 (transistor), Bent Audio Tap-X (AVC passive), ModWright LS100 (tubes)
Amplifiers: FirstWatt J2 & F5, ModWright KWA-100 SE, Trafomatic Audio Kaivalya
Loudspeakers: Amphion Helium 510, era design SAT5, Dayens Tizo+ [on review], Kiso Acoustics HB-1 [on loan]

Cables: Complete loom of ASI Liveline, Crystal Cable Ultra, Zu Audio Event, ALO Audio, Furutech GT2 and WireWorld Starlight USB A-to-mini-B cables [on loan], LaCie and Entreq Firewire 800 cables, Black Cat Cable Veloce S/PDIF cable [on loan]
Stands: 2 x ASI HeartSong 3-tier, 2 x ASI HeartSong amp stand
Powerline conditioning: 1 x GigaWatt PF-1, 1 x Furutech RTP-6
Sundry accessories: Extensive use of Acoustic System Resonators, noise filters and phase inverters
Room size: 5m x 11.5m W x D, 2.6m ceiling with exposed wooden cross beams every 60cm, plaster over brick walls, suspended wood floor with Tatami-type throw rugs. The listening space opens into the second storey via a staircase and the kitchen/dining room are behind the main listening chair. The latter is thus positioned in the middle of this open floor plan without the usual nearby back wall.
Review Component Retail: £1.330/pr incl. VAT

Get on track. Take a stand. Both admonitions suit. Track Audio is a new UK brand with domestically manufactured speaker and subwoofer stands. They even include tower speaker bases and related accessories. Available heights for the monitor stands range from 200 to 700mm. Top-plate dimensions vary to accommodate different speaker footprints. Finishes are anodized silver or black on thick CNC'd aluminum stock with built-in spirit level above the front left spike. There are elastomerically decoupled footers with fancy floor protectors. Overall fit'n'finish and build quality are exemplary. Seeing is believing. Pricing reflects quality. It starts at £950/pr for a 200m tall monitor stand. The 700mm version comes in at £1.387/pr. Stands for tower speakers range from £750 to £850/pr, complete custom sizes for such speakers are made to order for £1.075/pr. Subwoofer stands come in below £500/ea. All ship fully assembled in individual boxes. BluTak is included to securely bond speakers to top or bottom plates.

Asking the company's Mike Butler whether the diamond-turned sectional uprights were joined by elastomeric compression fittings—the black banding so distinctive on the clear-anodized versions suggested as much—I learned that "all our stands are of modular construction allowing us to build to the customer’s requirements. We connect the solid aluminum legs in sections using a low density material ensuring there is no metal to metal contact to reduce unwanted resonances. The most important decoupling interface is in each spike assembly which was designed to reduce vibrations sinking into the floor to help room acoustics. Each pair of Precision 600 stands contain over 160 parts."

Applying to loudspeaker stands the term precision engineering would seem frivolous or grandstanding were it not that close inspection of Track Audio's stand loaners indeed reveals an unusually extreme level of execution. To find a better fabricated and finished speaker support of this traditional rigid type—Sven Boenicke's equally 'thru-engineered' SwingBase™ epitomizes the polar opposite approach and presently is only available for floorstanding speakers—should be difficult.

Having previously owned WLM-branded stands manufactured by Liedtke Metal Design in Germany; and having used the criminally priced €4.500/pr Acoustic Revive stands made for the Kiso Acoustics HB-1 mini as well as the still very costly €2.500 formal replacement version by Kiso; I'm confident that assessment holds. The Track Audio 600 Precision is cut from a different router and lathe.

Would it translate to superior sonics though? Or personify audiophile bling as eye candy without ear justification? With both Acoustic Revive and Kiso stands in-house as well as the matching speakers and monitors by Amphion and Dayens, reviewing speaker stands presented itself as the latest dubious exercise of worrying about stuff. Serious listeners know better though. Paying attention to detail rules. Cable routing, contact cleanliness, broadband resonance attenuation in equipment and speaker stands are just some of the oft forgotten areas. It's easier to spend big money on the apparent heavy hitters of component hardware and think you're getting ahead on the most steam. Not necessarily!

A trick item with going Track are the click wheels. They raise or lower each assembly in fixed increments. Should you wish to slant your speakers back, level the stand to perfection with the built-in air bubble. Now lower the rear spike in discrete clicks. This assures that each stand angles back exactly the same. The included pin assists in turning the ratcheting wheel, then locking the upper one. Not included but mandatory for best results is a laser distance measurer. I use a Stabila. Path length equality is as vital for accurate stereophony as gender equality is important in relationships.

While asymmetry of the stereo triangle relative to the room's walls can be a strategic advantage—i.e. the center line of the triangle aiming at your head does not overlay the room's center line but parallels it or even crosses it at a deliberate angle—dissimilar distances from ears to left and right speaker are strictly verboten. The more accurate you get here down to the decimal point, the more accurate the stereo illusion will be. That's not rocket science. It's simply proper care.

Equally obvious is that the louder you play and the more bass your speakers put out, the more resonance problems crop up. Grounding mechanical speaker vibrations is a bad idea. The mass of the floor conducts them into your rack. There they infect your sensitive audio components. What you really want is float your speakers where all mechanical interactions with the floor are cut. Until we get levitating speakers the best solution is a decoupling interface. That most likely will be based on viscoelastics as any machine shop uses them. Here Track Audio's stand differs from the spiked competition. Those attempt to bleed all vibrations into the floor. Track Audio does not.

Micro monitors played at subdued levels and incapable of real bass below 70Hz are lesser offenders. Maxi monitors with 30Hz ambitions are real disturbers of the peace. None of my resident monitors belong into the latter class. I thus couldn't demonstrate just how efficacious the Precision 600 stand might be. But the ticket still was pick the bassiest speaker, then get rowdy on the throttle and with the software.

On bass mojo the era design Sat5 came ahead of the twin-ported new Dayens Tizo+. Driven from ModWright's burly KWA-100SE, both are capable of more than compact size might predict. The bottom octave is awol of course but there are sufficient signs of life at 40Hz to be balanced. In with Mercan Dede it thus was, out with the neighbors.

The upshot? Whilst being the most 'affordable' stand of my sturdy bunch, the Precision 600 wasn't merely the nicest one made. It also was sonic top dog. The most obvious benefit was bass cleanliness and articulation. It's popular to talk of soundstage visibility but it nearly always pertains to the higher frequencies which define image specificity. Bass tends to be more amorphous in placement and texturally less sorted out from its surroundings than a zinging Zildjian cymbal. It's here where the cleaning/stabilizing action of the Track Audio stand was most apparent and appreciated. Better localization, pitch definition, freedom from murkiness and overall foundation quality were the results.

I also noted related improvements higher up. Think about shaking a tree. It's only a crude image but reasonably applicable. While you're working the trunk in reach, all the branches and leaves out of reach respond. Stop shaking the audio tree at its base in the bass and the leaves in the higher frequencies stop moving too. This sensation of things locking in as though some blurring mechanism had stopped moving was certainly apt. I'm certain that maxi monitors of Mark & Daniel caliber would demonstrate this effect at still greater magnitude. Suffice to say that on magnitude I was already very pleasantly surprised by my less ambitious monitors.

Because the competing Japan-issue stands were materially every bit as solid and non-ringy, the key design difference or unfair advantage of the Precision 600 must have been the properly engineered decoupling footers and sectional interruptors of the uprights. Given the broader bandwidth of such speakers it suggests that their tower speaker supports in three- and four-footer versions ought to be even more effective. Thinking of those as merely fancy spikes or stability enhancing outriggers would - er, miss the point entirely. Though they admittedly don't look it, they're flotation devices*. Clearly the Brits on the sound track have given this much thought, then went the extra rounds on execution and finish. First-rate stuff!

* About just what their decoupling material/mechanism consists of, Mike Butler was expectedly tight-lipped: "Each spike assembly unit is designed to take a maximum weight of 40kgs. The ideal working range is 5 to 25kgs. This allows speakers of up 60kgs to work within the ideal range of our 600 stand. I can send you a spike assembly drawing but it must not be published or copied." Taking him up on the look-see and mum is the word I can confirm that theirs looks to be a serious through-engineered solution which would explain why it's so obviously effective. Versions adapted for heatsink mounting on audio amplifiers are presently being developed.

Track Audio website