Designed to isolate turntables and electronic components, Paul Rigby looks at this new series of Walnut and Maple platforms
Created to tackle interference caused by external vibrations and resonances (and named after the floating island of Delos from Greek mythology), the new models combine both IsoAcoustics’ patented isolation technology with a sort of butcher block presentation of solid wood. When I say solid wood I mean Walnut and Maple spanning 455 x 380mm up to 560 x 405mm in size. Both sizes are available in 45mm and 76mm thickness. The smaller size has a maximum weight capacity of 29.5kg and 24.9kg for the 45mm and 75mm models respectively.
The larger size Delos has an extra row of integrated isolators to provide a greater weight capacity at 45.4kg for the 45mm thick model and 40.8kg for the 75mm the model. The thicker 75mm models provide additional mass and give best results with heavier turntables and components.
Before I launched into the sound tests, I talked to IsoAcoustics about the product. Initially, I wondered why these particular woods were utilised, “Maple and Walnut were chosen based on appearance, hardness and performance,” said the company. “Maple and Walnut are considered superior tonal woods, commonly used in the manufacture of fine guitars, pianos and violins. While both are hardwoods, Maple is ‘harder’ (more dense) than Walnut. Maple platforms are known for their detailed, transparent and uncoloured sound.”
The company went on to say that Walnut, being a little “softer” will result in a warmer sound.
The Maple board has a Janka Hardness (click on the latter link then click on the chart on the left and you’ll see an exploded comparative chart of a host of wood types) rating of 1450 and the Walnut has a hardness rating of 1010. The hardness, as you might expect, also adds durability and resistance to scratches and dents. The butcher blocks are sealed with a urethane-based satin finish which is apparently resistant to stains and most solvents.
Something else that set me wondering was how the platforms were constrcuted. They appeared to be formed by cut and bonded wood pieces. I wondered how the pieces were bonded and how this affected sound, “The wood sections are glued using RF Cured Greenguard® Certified PVA adhesive. This has increased the speed of the laminating process (only 90 seconds) and has resulted in a strong weld and healthy wood. The state-of-the-art formaldehyde-free gluing process produces no volatile organic compounds. This laminated construction results in a very durable and stable structure with great acoustic properties and an aesthetically pleasing finish.”
So why are the individual pieces of wood cut in this way? They appear to be long wooden pieces but the thickness seems to vary, “After seasoning, ‘rails’ or ‘staves’ of prime Maple and Walnut are hand selected and sorted,” said the company. “They are then cut to size, eliminating defects caused by nature. The laminated individual pieces of wood come together in a unique pattern of colours and grain. No two pieces of wood are ever the same.”
Next I wondered why four feet were used on the smaller platforms. Why not have 6-feet options, for example? Why not go to nine with six feet around the periphery and three more feet in the centre of the larger platforms too? My patient contact said, “Our research resulted in these sizes and weight capacities for our initial launch and are in the process of investigating larger units with greater weight capacities in this butcher block configuration.”
As for those feet? The integrated isolators are based of the design of the GAIA Series. The isolators use IsoAcoustics patented design which consists of a top isolator, bottom isolator and a connector, “The isolation is a result of the way the three parts work together, so there is not a single path connecting the live equipment to the supporting surface. It is the shape, durometer and material characteristics of the isolators that are tuned for a given weight capacity. The isolators are absorbing the vibrations so they do not resonate through or reflect off the hard supporting surface.”
The isolators are partially recessed into the butcher block and fastened into place for a strong connection to the butcher block.
Finally, I wondered about the price. You’re getting a lot of solid wood here, never mind the isolation technology. Nevertheless, I wondered how the price was justified by IsoAcoustics, “The Delos butcher blocks are a high quality, made in the USA product, made in the traditional process and features IsoAcoustics patented, isolation system. As a raw material, Walnut is twice the price of Maple and results in a very contemporary and pleasing product.”
For this review I tried both the thinner and thicker platforms under my Funk Firm Little Super Deck, my Aesthetix valve pre-amp and my two-box phono amplifier from Icon Audio.
I began with Nat ‘King’ Cole’s Thanks to You From the album, Love (Capitol). The top and bottom of the Delos is that it reduces noise. Every positive sonic aspect that follows, flows from that one premise.
The fact that I was also using a reference, high quality Blue Horizon shelving system shows you (well, showed me) how many tools you need in the bag to tackle noise of various flavours. Most people would build a shelving system like mine and believe that the job was done. Not so and, as good as the included extra Blue Horizon platform is, the Delos takes the noise reduction one step further.
Because the noise floor was reduced, the big effect that I was hearing across all frequencies and right across the soundstage was the enhancement in reverb.
For the first time, I was hearing a sense of space and echo around the Cole lead vocal. To repeat, this element of the sonic spectrum was just not present before. This important aspect of the sound was present for the very first time because of the Delos.
Having this new air and space in the upper midrange meant that Cole sounded, well, free. He sounded more relaxed which, if anything, helped him to swing that bit further, possibly with an extra click of the fingers but, hey, I wouldn’t want Nat to get too excited. He was far too cool to do any of those hip-swinging shenanigans. But the newly, airy Cole sounded like he might sway a bit more, put it that way.
Similarly, the mid-song trumpet solo also added new reverb tails which provided a new sense of ease to the sequence. Bass didn’t sound any bigger or more powerful but it did produce an enhancement in its character. Tonally, it was more interesting. This effect was accentuated in the treble. Cymbal taps provided a new sense of tonal realism in which the size of the cymbal was better translated.
For the smaller platform, I found improvements wherever I used it but it was when it sat underneath my pre-amp that I had a ‘Ta-Daa!!!’ moment. Under this box, the overall imagery of the sound improved 100%. It was startling. I was, you must understand this, startled. The sense of focus across the soundstage was now core to the received music.
Thin Lizzy’s Having a Good Time from the LP, Chinatown (reissued via Back on Black) also benefitted. Percussion eased across the soundstage, sounding big, impressive and full of energy. The newly added space only increasing the sense of mass and physical size. Guitars also appeared to reach further in dynamic terms. Mids seemed to have more space to move into and thus offered greater detail with the lead vocal expressed itself fully and with vigour.
What also intrigued me was the performance of the larger platform, featuring six feet instead of four, thicker by an inch and wider by four inches.
What did the larger, 6-footed unit produce? All of the above. But more. The increase in sound quality moved down the road a pace. In fact, the reduction in noise, even with a relatively light Funk Firm turntable on top (which, in theory should be overkill) was lowered to such an extent that the stereo image seemed more secure and fixed, dead centre while a distinct precision now came into play. The entire soundstage was cleaned, tidied, all dust and grime was swept up and socks removed from the back of the sofa. That is, all frequencies within the soundstage were highly disciplined, clean and exacting. Presentation was highly focused.
Do the Delos platforms work? Definitely. The smallest and slightest of these shelves worked extremely well indeed, lowering noise and opening up the midrange to tremendous effect. Be aware, though, that some positions the platform sits in will have a greater or lesser effect so experiment to see where your platform offers most benefits.
What surprised me, though, was just how much better was the larger unit performance. The larger wood surface and the extra isolation feet pushed the beneficial effects to a level that really made me sit up and take note. If you’re able, go for more: more wood, more feet. Whatever you choose, though, the Delos support system is a valuable addition to an anti-noise toolkit.
ISOACOUSTICS DELOS ISOLATION SHELF
Price: Maple from £400 – Walnut models from £600
Tel: 03301 222 500
GOOD: low noise, airy midrange, characterful bass, tonally realistic treble
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