POSITIVE FEEDBACK ONLINE - ISSUE 27
Risers and "cones"... oh my!
as reviewed by Graham Abbott
I realize, as most audiophiles do, that my zest for music and gear is seen by many as completely insane. People in our hobby are very often understood as some kind of fringe group, a collection of eccentrics and out and out wack jobs that should be accepted as so far out of the main stream as to be irrelevant. What I find particularly galling are those kind folks who want to save me from myself, or more accurately, my hard earned money from myself. Just bring up audiophile cables or vibration control, both subjects that will have friends, family and acquaintances tsk tsking and tut tutting within seconds. Watch as their faces morph from benign tolerance into abject pity; you are no longer your regular sage self but some poor delusional bastard who hears things that just aren't there and spends altogether too much dough for the privilege.
Stillpoints and Risers, the subjects of this review, are just the sort of thing that can make non-believers turn purple. Comprised of a Delrin cone, the Stillpoint part of the equation, that screws into a Delrin base or the Riser, they are an outwardly simple device that works wonders on just about anything. The point as it were of the Stillpoint cone is a ceramic ball that rests atop a constrained layer of four other ceramic balls within the body of the Stillpoint. Vibrational energy is converted into heat inside the body of the cone and away from the components in question or, in the words of the Stillpoint website "the system changes vertical vibration into horizontal motion and absorbs it". Operationally the Stillpoint and Risers are a model of simplicity, just tighten the cone down onto the Riser and then back it off approximately one half turn and they are ready to go. At about 1.5" high they are fairly easy to accommodate under components in an average rack.
The effect of these outwardly simple devices is quite profound, and underneath my Cary SLI80 they were nothing less than revelatory. After experimenting with placement positions I settled on a Stillpoint and Riser underneath both the output transformers with a third situated about four inches back from the front fascia. Right away the amp seemed to offer up dramatic gains in dynamic range at both ends of the spectrum. The top end seemed to extend out farther while at the same time offering up more detail and air and a beguiling lightness that just wasn't there before. Bass extended much deeper but gained in pitch definition and bounce. Kick drums and deep bass lines seemed to separate to a greater degree making it easy to hear both distinctly.
Various isolation devices I've tried in the past have had similar effects in regards increasing resolution and transient attack but usually there is a penalty to be paid in tonal richness and the presentation of the body of the instruments. The Stillpoints and Risers are a win/win in this regard. There is no 'thinning' of tone and body here, almost as if the increased resolution is allowing the listener to here more of the subtle tone and body clues of the various instruments.
A close-up of a cone... and the riser below ...in which the cone fills the top cavity.
Nothing however prepared me for the gains in both soundstaging and imaging. I am a freak for both and nothing gets my mojo working like a wide open soundstage with distinct and dense images. The Stillpoints combo worked wonders here, individual images were clearly delineated and the density and 'strength' of everything was just first rate. Symphony orchestras were simply outstanding, the myriad players placed distinctly in position, the timbre of each clear and present. And the detail! You can hear sound just bouncing off the rear of many recording venue walls. In fact, I suspect that the Stillpoints could make a lot of mid-priced gear sound like some of the really high-end stuff or at least do a pretty fair imitation. You can feel the air there if you know what I mean, and you'll need that detail, because the depth of the stage with these things in place is outstanding.
The only issue for me when using these devices was the feeling that the components were free floating, for lack of a better term, on top of the ceramic balls - the result being that my amp did in fact shift slightly every time I switched it on. My dealer suggested the addition of a Mini Riser - a small disc with a concave face that accepts the ceramic Stillpoint ball and prevents the unrestricted movement of components. He also suggested that the Mini Risers would improve the sound quality even more and sure enough he was right. Not that the degree of change was anywhere near the level of pre/post Stillpoint and Riser, but still the Minis seemed to finish everything nicely, especially in regards treble extension where they added just a smidgen more detail.
Remember those pitying looks we were talking about? Are all the changes above worth $700 CAN? I have to say yes. They've brought a cleanness and sophistication to my system that I've grown addicted to. For $700 or more I could have had my Cary factory hot-rodded (something I'll be writing about shortly) or maybe looked into swapping for different phono and digital gear, but I have to say, I wouldn't have wanted to do that without having these things in place so I could hear all of my current rig's capabilities. Before spending more, I think that the Stillpoints are at the very least a must try. Graham Abbott