Does Anti-Vibration Really Improve Audio?

Two of four Round Small Fat Dots from Herbie's Audio Lab.  Easy peasy.  But will the music sound better?

In my unending quest for ever-higher levels of musical authenticity, once in a while I discover something that makes a gigantic improvement.  This is a most rewarding moment for any audio enthusiast -- when you realize the whole game has suddenly changed for the better.  Then we want to re-play all our most familiar and favorite music to see how it sounds with the new improvement in place.  We note things we never heard before now found in familiar recordings.  For your sake, I assume you know what I’m talking about.

Usually, such a quantum leap in sound quality comes with a major (read expensive) change, like a much-improved audio component or maybe new speakers.  This is the story of how I recently enjoyed a Moon-landing leap in music quality with a modest Hi-Fi system.  It only took about 15 minutes to set up. The effort was simply adding a dozen small, drop-in parts.  Four each under the left and right speakers and the subwoofer.  For a skinflint like me, the best part may be the paltry cost -- $111.  In the world of audiophilia, that’s like, almost free.  

Now every measure of music quality I know how to describe has improved so that overall the music sounds marvelously better and more real.  I feel bewildered when this happens because I steadily enjoy fabulously authentic audio as the baseline for daily listening.  On that plateau, it’s hard to think audio could get better.  Then some unexpected confluence of fortunate events resets my baseline. I do the Snoopy dance while I challenge the new improvement with every great recording I can queue up.

A couple weeks into this audio system “tweak,” I’m still finding new things in familiar recordings.  I’ve been listening to a set of Audioengine A5+ Powered Speakers for quite some time now.  There’s an Audioengine S8 Subwoofer sitting between them, handling deep bass.  These well-reviewed speakers serve the music up fresh and tight for a cost that’s only a fraction of their performance.  A MacBook Pro feeds them music through an Audioengine D2 DAC.  These are all-time best buy powered speakers and widely recognized for quality sound.

My main music sources are all digital at this point -- streaming content from Spotify using the Ogg Vorbis file format, which is audibly superior to what I heard from MOG.com when it was alive or ever from Qobuz.com.  I also have a library of selected 24-bit recordings on local hard drive.  I moved beyond physical media a few years ago and never looked back.  So much is available streaming now it’s like a flame to a moth.  There are many sources for 24-bit recordings now and even DSD is available.

The gigantic mix of music on Spotify crosses all genres and runs from pedestrian to superb quality in performance, recording and mixing.  It’s an ideal test bed for a new audio system addition.  There you can hear exactly the same music I tested with and find your own gems for $10 per month Premium or even listen for free if you prefer.

I tend to listen “by the artist.”  If you want to repeat my experiment, I suggest Adam Hurst, renowned Cellist, “Elegy” and other albums; Fabrizio Paterlini, Pianist, “Art of the Piano” and more; Mo Foster, Bassist, “Bass Themes” and the rest.  These artists each have a special knack for capturing emotion in engaging performances.  Emotion equates to teasing instruments and stretching performances to the limits of expression and nuance.  Foster especially helps explore the bass realm.

A very welcome remedy happened under the subwoofer.  Before the change, it was wildly uncontrolled at any appreciable volume.  I had to keep the volume too low because the bass tended to break up into wretched noise and booming at higher volume.  It would even levitate slightly and scoot around the floor.  I was rather disappointed with it.

The special Extra Thick Hush Puckies in place under the Audioengine S8 Subwoofer -- see the text.

With anti-vibration treatment, the sub not only stays put, it now pounds out fast, clean bass all the way past the limits of tolerable volume.  It’s a night and day difference.  Now I can enjoy the bottom end of every piece I listen to rather than lopping it off for safety’s sake.  

This transformation came from placing a set of four Herbie’s Audio Lab “Extra-thick Hush Puckies” under the plastic cones that come with this down-firing unit.  Steve Herbelin made me a special set of Puckies with larger-than-usual spike receivers to fit the S8’s blunt cones.

The A5+ Speakers sit on cinder blocks (to ground them properly) while I wait for my new iHi-Fi IsoVybra Speaker Stands to be fabricated. I thought these  speakers already sounded great but I was intensely curious to see if anti-vibration treatment would make great even better.  The left and right speakers each received four Herbie’s Audio Lab round “Small Fat Dots.”  No question, great can get better.

With the anti-vibration treatment in place, I hear many subtleties that were buried in long-familiar recordings.  Musical detail and clarity are markedly improved.  True timbres ring without distortion.  “Speed” is also improved, making notes audibly crisper with sharper attack and decay and more discernable sustain.  Bass passages now walk tall and sing out boldly and transparently on Foster’s “Bass Themes” album.  Hurst’s somber overtones in the low range come through, darkly brooding in the depths of grief. 

Soundstage now reaches new dimensions.  My listening room is 16 ft. wide, 14 ft. tall, and 18 ft. deep -- not a small volume.  The L and R speakers are 8 ft. apart and my listening chair is about 9 ft. from the center between them.  The soundstage was smaller before treatment.  It now fills a full 120-degree arc when a recording supports that, extending well past the speakers laterally.  The vertical angle is about 60 degrees.  Instruments have better focus and are more discernibly located.

In summary, my answer to the question asked in the title of this post is most assuredly a resounding “Yes!”  If you like to cry while listening to opera, anti-vibration is the mod for you.  If you love rousing rock-n-roll that makes your hips move or wild, Gypsy violin, you need this “tweak,” no matter what gear is in your audio system.

I believe in the anti-vibration products from Herbie’s Audio Lab enough to include some of Steven’s components in every piece of audio furniture I make at iHi-Fi.  Steven Herbelin is competent, deeply experienced, ever-polite and incredibly helpful, providing individualized advice and key suggestions.  Orders ship the next day and arrive promptly.  The products are marvels of molecular science that look ordinary but result from decades of experimentation that make them small, easy to implement, and quite affordable.  Calling Herbie’s a world-class anti-vibration source is an understatement.

Steven does business as I do, with a 30-day audition and unconditional money-back satisfaction guarantee.  For my money, anti-vibration not only works, it’s probably the best buy in all of audio and no system should run without it. 

Now that my speakers have settled down and they finally work as-designed, I’m exploring what happens when I suspend each piece of gear in my whole system on Herbie’s component feet, one by one.  Rationally, I expect not much more potential remains to be realized.  But after what happened with the speakers, I could be wrong -- that blissful kind of wrong I welcome.

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