as reviewed by Bryan Gladstone, Dave Clark, and Francisco Duran
System tweaks are funny. Some work, some dont. Others work in some systems, but not in all, or dont do the same things with all gear. This is frustrating, but even more infuriating is the sometimes astronomical ratio of manufacturing cost to retail price. I understand that there are research and development considerations, and that the market for these things is small, but I hear my college economics professor in the back of my head saying "Free market, FREE MARKET!!!" Of course, he meant that if you dont like the product, dont buy it, but that is the problem. Vibration control products have allowed me to squeeze the last bit of performance from my system, and like any addict I will beg, borrow, lie, or steal to get them.
There are two types of equipment support products (excluding equipment stands)anchoring devices such as cones or spikes, and energy absorbent devices such as sorbothane pucks, air bladder bases, or even tennis balls. Most equipment will "prefer" one or the other. Almost all of my gear is on Bright Star bases, which are essentially sandboxes with plywood platforms set in the sand for the equipment to sit on. These, for me, have been a good starting point. Their sonic quality falls somewhere in the middle of the hard character of the cones and the soft character of the energy absorbent devices. However, the Bright Stars are not the final word in vibration control. Cones and feet in combination with them still make a difference.
Vibrapods look like small hockey pucks with lips. The trick to getting the best results is to weigh each piece of gear, and use the correct density pods (there are five models). Each piece of gear requires six pods, so you divide the weight of your component by six to determine which pods to use.
Im not going to try to hide my enthusiasm. I love these things. They may not be the pinnacle of high tech design, nor are they the best I have heard in overall control of vibration, but for about $50 per component their performance was well beyond my expectations. The Vibrapods seemed to make the most significant improvement under tube gear, giving amps and preamps an added smoothness and ease while opening up the soundstage slightly. Bass did not get lean, which has been a negative byproduct of some products I have tried. Images became more precisely placed, with finer delineation of instruments. Most importantly, a layer of grain was removed, leaving the midrange and high end cleaner.
One evening it occurred to me that I needed to try the pods under my turntable. This was a big decision, as moving my VPI HW19 Mk IV is not an easy taskthe table is hard wired to its stand-alone motor, so moving it is definitely a two-person job. I waited until I had some help, then slipped twelve Vibrapods between the table and a piece of plywood, and eight pods between the plywood and a Bright Star VPI base. Four more Vibrapods are used under a separate piece of plywood supporting the motor. I have been happy with my VPI for longer than any other piece of equipment I have ever owned. This is partly due to its upgradeability, as it has had significant increases in its performance over the years. Placing the table atop the Vibrapods gave similar results to many far more expensive upgrades I have treated the VPI to in the past. The table has become even more open and smooth, at all frequencies. Most startling was a blacker background.
Vibrapods are not a replacement for the some of the excellent isolation devices now
available. They will not make you give up your air bladder base, nor will they alleviate
the need to start with a sturdy equipment stand or shelf. They are for control of
micro-vibration, a constant problem for all of us whether we realize it or not, and they
are as good as most of the pucks and cones I have tried, for a fraction of the price. My
kind of product! How strong is my endorsement? Im buying more.
Vibrapods are another entry into the component isolation field, already populated by cones and feet of every size, shape, and construction material one could imagine. Lets cut to the chase. After all, how much can one write about plastic pods?
The Vibrapods work amazingly well. Why "amazingly," you may ask? Because looking at these plastic "pods," I didnt expect much. No magical material or mystical shape is being touted by the manufacturer. What you get for your $6 is a simple means to isolate, actually to "tune" a component, allowing you to enjoy music at a level that is quite enchanting. Compared to the sound of my system with other cones and feet, my system with the Vibrapods sounds different, but different does not always mean better. It does sound more "musical" and less "artificial," and yes, theres more detail and all the other tangible gobbledygook we want from our systems, but heck, these things just allow the music to flow. Dont ask me why or how, the Vibrapods just work. (To find out how, check out Vibrapods website.)
replaced all the Black Diamond Racing or DH cones under my components with Vibrapods.
Well, no. Why? Because, while the Vibrapods do a good job, so do the BDRs and DHs, the
maple butcher blocks, etc. Using Vibrapods is a little more complicatedyou not only
have to match a components weight to the type and number of Virbapods used, but also
to the distribution of the weight within the component. I would rather spend that time
listening to music and doing other things that normal people do. I suppose that when I
have several days to kill, I will do all that, but my life is already complicated enough.
Lets just say that the Vibrapods are an inexpensive alternative to cones and feet
from other manufacturers, and perform as stated.
If I told you that the reason I wanted to get my hands on some Vibrapods was a practical one, youd want me to hand in my audiophile union card, but for me the motive was an important one. On my Target component rack, equipment slides around with barely a press of a button or a turn of a knob. Ive pretty much gotten it under control by putting weights on top of everything, but with Black Diamond cones under most of my gear, every component slides from time to time. This gets to be a real pain, especially while changing gear. Youve got to make sure the RCA connectors are pushed all the way in (and tightened if they are WBT-type connectors). Youre also on your knees in a contorted position, twisting your neck around to look in back of your tortureI mean audiorack, usually trying to hold a flashlight with your other hand and preventing a piece of gear from sliding off the shelf. So along comes this little black puck that happens to have an indentation in the middle that fits perfectly under most equipment feet, is made of a material that wont slide, and is said to improve the performance of all A/V components. Ill take a dozen. Make that two dozen.
Okay, so I slapped some Vibrapods into my system. From a practical standpoint I was very pleasedwith them in place there was no more sliding of equipment. I could change interconnects and press buttons without worrying that I was going to push any units to the floor. However, audiophiles are practical people only when their significant others make them so. We want to be constantly mainlining better sound, and to hell with practicality. I can confidently report that the Vibrapods definitely deliver on the sonic level as well. Gimme my Audiophile Union card back.
There are four
different models, for handling different weights, but they all look the same except for
slight differences in thickness. Once I got the right pods for the right weight of
component I was set to "listen" to them. Resisting the temptation to put them
under all of my gear at once, I started using my DAC as the guinea pig. The first thing I
noticed was a cleaning up of low level detail. There was less smearing, and the trailing
edges of the music sounded a little cleaner. After the small improvement in this area, the
dominoes started to fall. The soundstage was airier, transients had a little more ease and
flow, and there was a slight overall improvement in coherence. Slight, you say, but with
every tweak Ive put in my system the improvements have come in slight gradations,
and most of them have floated my boat closer to musicality. Plus, since all of the
vibration control products I own cost a heck of a lot more than the $6 apiece Vibrapods,
their performance ratios were not much better than the Pods. So with a product that
is practical, functional, and very affordable, how can you go wrong?