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3D Seismic Sinks
as reviewed by Robert H. Levi
The Townshend Seismic Sinks aren't new to audio, but they are amazing and fun and have become new again. I owned one in the mid 90s, and used it under my Theta Data II transport to good effect. I have not used one since, but recently had an opportunity to test the latest version, the 3D. These handsome platforms come in three sizes, with two weight capacities per size. They come in a lovely black, or in stainless steel for a small extra charge. They cost between $450 for the standard finish and smallest weight capacity, and $1100 for the fanciest finish and most lifting capacity. Inside these elegant babies are air bladders that you fill with the provided hand pump. The top plate floats on the air bladders, and moves both laterally and vertically when you touch it. You can tell that this is a third- or fourth-generation design, as they are extremely well made and finished. The pricing seems at or below what I paid for my original Sink, ten years ago. That's very cool.
I became interested in checking these out when VPI and Sumiko "rediscovered" the Townshend Sinks as a boon to their new turntables. Made in England and available here in the U.S., I ordered a small one for my ModWright Sony 999 SACD player and a medium one for my VPI Scout turntable. I had been using a variety of pucks, soft shoes, Vibrapods, etc., with good results. Would the fancy Townshends be more effective? Would they improve the sound of the components? Would I like the changes they made?
I have tried all kinds of supports in the past to supplement my CWD furniture. Giant sand boxes gave way to expensive carbon fiber platforms that became simple ModSquad softshoe/tiptoe combos that sounded a bit more natural. The Vibrapods also sounded natural, but were not an elegant solution. Cheaper isn't always better. The rule of thumb for support devices is that hard sounds harder and soft sounds softer. Put hard pucks under a component and it will sound crisper and more vivid. Soft materials sound just the opposite. What does air sound like? I don't know. It isn't soft or hard. It's just there. I could not discern any colorations on the ModWright or the Scout that I can report. "Coloration" and "Townshend" just can't be used in the same sentence! Mechanically, the Sinks worked well and were a breeze to set up—no pun intended. Sonically, they just exist. I can't say that about the other equipment supports I've tried over the years.
The ModWright Sony showed the biggest improvement. It had defied my previous attempts to use support devices, becoming darker or brighter sounding. With the 3D Sink, the player improved about 25 percent in overall definition and became quieter, with a blacker background. I was shocked. Subtle passages were more distinct, fortes were bigger and clearer, and any vestiges of digital grunge were eliminated. The new Mercury SACDs became even more terrific and musical than I have reported. I could also hear the coolness of the RCA SACDs more clearly. On my best discs, I heard the back of the soundstage like never before. The differences were exciting, and far from subtle. The Sinks appear to do their job, which is to get out of the way of the component. They must reduce jitter and other resonances in digital playback. My listening room has a concrete floor, and I clearly heard improved smoothness and subtleness of tone and texture. The air bladders must absorb sins committed above AND below the platform and dissipate the vibrations in air!
My Avalon Eidolon loudspeakers are very tight and slightly lean in the midbass. With the Sinks, they sounded a bit leaner and clearer. When I turned up my Rel sub just a smidgeon. I heard drum skins and fiddle rumble like never before. The rosiny sound of low strings and the chatter of organ were fabulous. I heard pages of sheet music turning. These are qualities I hear on my Stax headphones, but not on speakers. The Sinks have made headphones out of my Avalons! This is a few hundred dollars well spent.
The Scout turntable also improved, but not as much. Designed without a suspension, it uses sorbothane and pucks designed by VPI. The sink improved clarity about 15 percent, but it was like someone was lifting the soundstage up and back. 3D images became more 3D. Maybe that's why the Sink is called 3D! My new Grado Statement cartridge took on a bit of extra smoothness, while the imaging and specificity of those images improved considerably. I again heard no added coloration. I have tried other supports for the Scout, and most of them brightened things unacceptably. The Townshend Sinks just let the turntable sing more clearly. I pulled out my vintage Mercurys and played LP after LP. All were cleaner and clearer sounding. There was no increase in surface hiss or decrease in bass. Actually, I heard a bit more deep bass quantity and quality. I also heard slightly sweeter violins. The sweetness was there before, but was less evident. I had no trouble leveling the Townshend under the Scout and keeping it level. It has feet that are easy to adjust. I can't report any problems, just benefits. It takes the $1600 Scout up a level in performance by maximizing all parameters. Even the tracking seemed to improve. The Sinks improved both analog and digital in the ways they needed improvement, but left their strengths untouched.
I am a big fan of neutrality, as I need to hear through my existing components to judge new ones. With the Sinks in place, the effects of cables and power cords became easier to define. I was able to swap AC cords and interconnects to tweak the sound to greater heights. Added definition and lower coloration is surely the ticket. The Townshends are the first supports that I unconditionally recommend for front end sources whose performance you want to maximize.
The Townshend 3D Seismic Sinks are new again, and refined to perfection. Though not expensive, they yield big sonic dividends for your front end sources, both digital and analog. I loved them under my ModWright Sony player and my VPI Scout, and have no intention of removing them. You can quit experimenting with tennis balls, gravity devices, and exotic composite megabuck platforms, and get real science and predictable results. All you'll hear is more of what you want and less of what you don't want. I did not think this level of refinement was available for the price—actually any price—but it is with the Townshend 3D Seismic Sinks. Buy them and start hearing how your critical source components really sound! Robert H. Levi