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You want it hard or soft ...your isolation that is?
by Mark Wagner


When Dave Clark sent me a box with two sets of isolation footers from Gingko Audio and No Name HiFi, I knew I was going to be in for a treat. See, while No Name HiFi is a new company with their NRABs, I have always seen news and press about the many products from Gingko Audio, but had never really given them all that much thought. On the other hand, I had planned on someday obtaining some of Walker Audio's Valid Points to try out in my system. But, I was happy using a cute little product from a Canadian company called Gooeys. My Simaudio i3 integrated is a hefty little bugger and since the feet were seemingly impossible to remove and too tall for the Gooeys, I left it alone on my pARTicular rack. The UDP-1 was another issue and after I removed the footers, I found that the Gooeys did a fine job and actually were better than the footers that came with my UDP-1.

First things first: I opened the box and took out the Gingko Mini Clouds ($99 for a set of three). The black acrylic bases with their "seated" green balls were first placed under the UDP-1. Since I recently added the Tara/Oyaide cords and the Oyaide AC Receptacle, I thought that I was quite happy with the improvements in sound. However, what happened next was nothing short of astonishing. Immediately the sound stage opened up, way beyond what I had heard as sited before. Side to side, front to back, and top to bottom, the soundstage developed a rich organic texture previously unheard of by this Texan! Though I am an unabashed classical music geek, one of my current audition discs is, oddly enough, Lyle Lovett's Joshua Judges Ruth. I particularly like the second track, Church, as any change in the system will make itself immediately clear by its effect on the handclaps and spoken lines (think of a deep south Baptist church were the parishioners are very vocal) and shouts/exclamations. With the Mini Clouds, it was easier to realize the back of the studio and a sense of palpable space. Other CDs used were a RBCD from Reference Recordings of the UT-Austin Wind Ensemble and a Decca RCBD of Charles Duthoit and the Montreal Symphony performing Holst's The Planets. The UT Wind Ensemble recording opened up dramatically with the internal clarity of the ensemble being greatly improved. On the Duthoit recording, I had always felt that the recording placed the orchestra on a much "lower" soundstage …almost as if I was sitting in an upper balcony as opposed to the floor level. With the Mini Clouds, I was no longer looking down on the orchestra, as they projected a soundstage at an even level. Other recordings included Mahler's 1st Symphony with MTT and the SFSO (SACD), music of Hindemith (A Decca CD with Blomstedt and the SFSO) as well as some RUSH and Elton John. By this point I was convinced that the Mini Clouds rocked.

The other day a good audio friend came over to hear my system with the Gingko Mini Clouds. He was so impressed with the improvements he heard in my system that he went home and ordered a set for his UDP-1! When his Mini Clouds came in, he brought his set to my place and we did a brief experiment, placing the second set of Mini Clouds under my Sim i3. Once again, my recordings became even smoother, more organic, and just downright more fun. So, I will soon secure a second set for my Sim i3.

I said in my article about the Oyaide AC receptacles that the $85 I paid was the best money I ever spent. Well, when I add the second set of Mini Clouds to my system, the $99 for those footers will be money even better spent! Want a massive jump in sound for very little money? I can heartily recommend the Mini Clouds.

Gingko Audio

No Name HiFi

The other set of isolation "suspenders" come from a new company called No Name HiFi. This set of footers are quite different from what I have seen before, in that most companies give you three footers and NNHF give you four footers. These footers feature a small diameter porcelain cup that holds a smallish wooden ball. Under the cup is a small piece of foam material that seems to compress quite readily. I used the same music for this evaluation, as I did for the Gingko Mini Clouds.

I am including the following technical information from the No Name HiFi website:

Spikes work in one side. But NRABs work in both sides and as far as they are placed under the components, they will open up the soundstage, increase dynamics and reduce excessive bass at the room. Apart from rolling balls or ceraballs, when resonances of the component or audio rack are transmitted to NRAB's wooden ball, wooden ball wants to vibrate in sympathy with the harmonic distortion and literally steals the energy from the component. The energy is then is damped out and turned into heat by wood's natural damping coefficients.

The NRABs consists of two parts: The 1-1/2" diameter of US made precision wooden ball made of pendula wood and hand made the porcelain basement. Wooden balls are not treated with any synthetic polish, lacquer or paint to preserve original resonant characteristics of wood. But they are covered a special rigid powder. The balls function as a shock absorber for resonances and vibrations. The ball sucks vertical vibration from top and the bottom and absorbs by vibrating itself. As the component is placed on the NRAB, the vibration energy contacts the ball by the component and by the audio rack and absorbed at the ball without crossing other side.

What I experienced with the NRABs from No Name, though quite revelatory, is very different from that of the Gingko's. That is, I heard a good deal more pinpoint detail and resolution from the NRABs than with the Mini Clouds. The soundstage on the Lyle Lovett CD was rendered with extreme detail and an intense (almost too) crispness and snap to the overall sound. Orchestral string sound was ever so slightly less warm. I do not want this to be taken as a negative statement about the NRABs, as I personally prefer a decidedly warmer and more organic feel to my music. In fact, the NRABs are easily as good as the Mini Clouds in bringing about a noticeable change. The issue is how your system is voiced before you put these under your components. I think that the NRABs would be an excellent choice for a system that leans towards the slow or soft side of the musical spectrum—one that is in need of some snap and detail resulting in a substantial jump in enjoyment. On the other hand, if your system is perhaps a trifle too edgy, then the Mini Clouds will add a nice degree of warmth and smoothness. What is perhaps best of all is that at $99 for the Mini Clouds and $109 for the NRABs you can expect, as I did, a tremendous increase in performance for a very small investment.

No Name HiFi