Isolation - How critical is it?

Isolation - How critical is it?

Sound Advice from David, MD of Kronos AV



Isolation… How critical is it?

The short answer to that question is VERY, although why is it so important?

Music is frequencies, and one of the issues that arises from your own HiFi products is micro vibrations as this can turn into radio frequency, and that is known more commonly as EMI (Electromagnetic Interference) or RFI (Radio frequency interference). This is what is known as parasitic vibrations. These come from your components within your system. Everything needs power and therefore things such as transformers are required which create micro vibrations or parasitic vibrations. It can’t be avoided as products beed power, but it can be controlled.

Essentially this interference is then penetrating everything in your system, such as your cables and components. The problem with this is, the longer it is in the system to more it is amplified. For example, if this is at your cartridge of your turntable, (coming from the turntable motor) it then is travelling through your phono stage, then amplifier, via all the cables and finally through your speakers and then your ears. This means everything you are hearing has been effected by parasitic vibrations.

Isolation helps to resolve this, but it also helps with external factors too. For example let’s take a few examples.


Speakers: At any time your floor will be vibrating in some form or another, this could be due to something outside, people walking, electronic appliances etc.. essentially anything touching or connected to your floor is causing it to vibrate.

Speakers create sound through vibration, so what do you think happens when external vibrations are introduced? Yip, your sound is effected. In this case you are dealing with micro vibrations and therefore internal issues due to EMI / RFI coming from within the system but now also external factors coming from outside sources such as your floor.


How to fix that?

There are a number of ways to hep resolve these issues. In most speakers you will get spikes, these are a very low surface area and therefore control the amount of vibrations that can come through the speaker. There are also products such as Isoacoustic Gaia isolation feet or Townshend Platforms. These use dampening materials or stings to absorb all that unwanted vibrations, thus removing the problem! You will most likely not on any really high end speaker they will have specialised isolation feet, that is exactly why. Products such as Bassocontinuo Spike C’s, Isoacoustic Gaia feet or Townshend isolation platforms are perfect “add on” isolation products to drastically improve your speakers performance.

Turntables/Toneram/Cartridges: Turntables (with tonearm and cartridges fitted) are arguably the most delicate and precision products it your HiFi System. They work with extremity delicate components such as Styli and Cantilevers which are extremity delicate but also extremely sensitive.

A turntable requires a motor to turn the platter, that motor therefore produces parasitic vibrations. In some cases there is out board motor which often have rubber feet which helps as it takes these vibrations away from the main turntable itself, but micro vibrations will still realistically get through and travel through your rack and into your turntable.


What is the problem with vibrations in your turntable?

A stylus makes contact with grooves within a vinyl record in order to pick up the information which is then turned into music. This is all on a very tiny scale, hence the need to magnify everything to see this in operation. If the cartridge or vinyl (as it in on the turntable) is vibrating, thus moving (even microscopically) this is not only effecting the sound as the cartridge is not picking up the information correctly and cleanly, but it is also potentially very slowly damaging your stylus, cantilever and vinyl records. In an ideal world you want the stylus to fit with absolute precision into these vinyl grooves, it can then pickup the information perfectly, and it is then giving you the perfect signal. Realistically there is issues such as motors to consider, plus any external factors such as outside disturbances, people walking on the floor, electronic applicants etc… causing external vibrations, creating all the issues we mentioned above.


How to fix that?

There are excellent options which do help to remove this. There are products such as the Isacoustic ZaZen platforms that you can place your turntable on to dampened the vibrations and isolate it from other components within your rack. Michell produce an Isobase which does something very similar. Platforms are ideal to help pull away all that unwanted vibration and to look after not only raw sound of your turntable, but also help give it longevity.

There are also some fantastic record clamps that also help with this. Products such as the Titanic Audio Newton Clamp not only helps to flatten the vinyl to keep it perfectly true, but it also has sprung ball bearings which absorb unwanted vibrations from the vinyl itself. This helps the stylus recover more information from the vinyl and helps to reduce premature damage to the stylus and cantilever.

The Origin Live Gravity one clamp and Stillpoints clamp help in similar ways, but the Titanic Newton Clamp arguably is the most advanced clamp in the world right now!

As you can see these are only two components but you can see the issues that lack of isolation is doing, and how much better it could be with more isolation added.

It is of course something you can do in stages, starting with one component at a time and slowly trying to add isolation wherever possible, and it all can be done relatively inexpensively too, so its a great idea as a road map for your next upgrades.

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