Looking to reduce the noise from your hi-fi components? Paul Rigby tries the IsoAcoustics Orea Indigo isolation feet to see if they can do the job
Just because a hi-fi component is well designed, doesn’t mean that it’s not awash with detail-veiling noise. It is. No matter how expensive the item. Also, just because you place that hi-fi component on a quality piece of shelving, with great cables and possibly lots of other de-noising accessories, doesn’t mean that noise still exists. It more than certainly does. I could install a million pound hi-fi system into your listening room but then I’d need to spend a week trying to remove the noise from the thing (although the better the system, the more noticeable will be the effects of noise reduction).
I’m talking about the room, different types of vibration, RF and a dozen other variants. All damage sonics.
I’m sure that you do the best you can to get rid of the stuff but you should never lose an opportunity to tackle this issue. Noise is everywhere and you have my permission to come over all OCD about it. The best sounding hi-fi chains probably tackle the notion of noise removal in 20 different ways.
One of those ways is individual isolation feet that fit underneath components: your amplifier, CD player, phono amplifier, turntable, DAC…whatever the box might be. These things help to present drain points for your kit, allowing noise a place to escape instead of merrily bouncing around inside the chassis and travelling up and down your interconnect and mains cables.
As I infer above, isolation feet are not the solution – nothing is. Use these things but don’t expect the problem solved. Isolation feet will help to reduce noise, though, and are essential parts of the overall toolkit.
IsoAcoustics Orea Series is the latest release in the isolation foot genre. Available in two variants, the Bordeau features a higher maximum weight value of 14.5kg – aimed at larger separates such as mono-block amplifiers but I decided to address the Indigo variant (spanning 6 x 3cm in size) that features a weight cap of 7.2kg per unit or most integrated amplifiers and turntables and the like.
You’ll see a brand name on the side of each puck. The company says that the feet work best with the ‘Iso’ logo facing forward, as the isolators are tuned to resist lateral movements.
Although keeping quiet about the internal make-up of the noise-reducing components inside, the company did declare that the unit’s upper flange, “‘suction cup’ design adheres to the underside of the product,” while the upper portion of the foot then becomes, “‘live’ with the component, while the lower isolator adheres to the supporting surface. All the energy is managed within the core of the Iso-Puck’s isolators which are carefully tuned…while remaining on-axis. Three or more Iso-Puck’s may be used depending on the total weight applied.” So let’s see how they performed.
I began the sound tests with vocal jazz and Peggy Lee’s Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head from the 1971 original release, Raindrops (Capitol).
I chose this track for a specific reason, the Lee delivery. On this song Lee’s vocal not only dominates the song, her vocal delivery tries to swamp almost the entire soundstage. This is down the the slightly forward nature of the mastering, there may be some compression in there but the voice is also largely uncontrolled in the mix, so it permeates areas where it shouldn’t, masking detail elsewhere. An undisciplined or noise-heavy hi-fi system will not be able to handle it, basically.
Adding the Orea Indigo feet helped to reel in the Lee vocal. In fact, Lee was dragged back into the mix, where she should have been all along. Because of this, because the voice loses its smearing effect, the vocal actually contains a measure of reverb. Before the Indigo’s were in place, that never even existed. Previously, there was no room for reverb, it was like a battery torch shining in your eyes, there was hardly room for anything else. That had all changed with the feet in place. In addition, subtle elements within the voice, such as minor vibrato, was easier to pick with the ears.
Because the voice now offered a measure of control – it wasn’t completely perfect but it was 80% better in terms of sonic performance – I was also better able to hear the other orchestral elements supporting the Lee vocal. Hence, the line of small tubular bells that are swept in descending fashion at points along the song (I think they were supposed to be the raindrops noted in the song title) were now more nuanced and fragile in approach while the flute was supported my a cloud of air with extra focus, giving it a tonal enhancement. Percussion occupied a new piece of reverb-heavy space, the bass guitar was now ‘visible’ to the ear and the strings had a more significant part of the mix.
I moved the feet around my hifi system: from the turntable to my phono amplifier to my pre-amp, to give a well rounded performance response. I continued with Thin Lizzy and We Will Be Strong from the LP, Chinatown and was impressed by the extra texture to be found in the lead vocal from Phil Lynott. He was better able to project emphasis in certain words while his low frequency delivery, which can sometimes result in lost information due to the subtle nature of his delivery, was tracked more effectively now. Guitars, meanwhile, seemed to sit suspended, surrounded by air and space.
The Orea Indigo feet are not only are well made but they look good (they seem to provide a genuine visual extension to the supporting products, looking like they are a part of the original design – at least on my reference kit). More than that, of course, they sound good. The price might initially disturb one or two of you, especially when you add up the feet and price demanded but there is enough noise removed from the hi-fi chain to warrant the price asked.
The nature of the sonic enhancements from the Orea Indigos increase focus, precision and an essential tonal realism while providing important frequency discipline that results in an excellent sonic response. Frankly, the more feet you buy, the better your hi-fi will sound.
ISOACOUSTICS OREA – ISOLATION PUCKS
Price: £59 each
Tel: 03301 222500
GOOD: design, build, low noise, focus, soundstage discipline, tonality
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