We all have our own set of problems... and so does our music reproduction system. While we love to have our system reproduce all the musical frequencies, these same sensations caused by our loudspeakers can cause detrimental vibrations that negatively affect many things. From the laser pick-up or our digital disc transports to our beloved tube gear. All those resonant frequencies, especially in the lowermost portion of the audible spectrum, can really play havoc on our music reproduction system. We need a good solution and Bright Star Audio is one of the most respected names in the industry. Unlike those voo-doo overpriced small puck-like pieces, Bright Star uses common sense and sells their units at real-world prices.
After i e-mailed Barry Kohan, Bright Star Audio's President, the size and weight of my components, he suggested i review their Gemini 2, Gemini 3 and Little Rock. During the past months i have tried these devices under quite a few pieces of gear. Generally these pieces used tubes, though my tweaked out digital disc transport also benefited too. Before we cover the sonic benefits i would like to share with you how easy it is to set-up these units.
Setting up the Gemini is quote straightforward. Here's how to do it per the short and sweet yet detailed owner's manual from Bright Star Audio. "Set up the Gemini on a towel on the floor. Fill the interior of the upper- open section to within 1/4 inch of the top with dry sterilized play sand or #20 - #30 silica sand (not industrial sand) and smooth the surface with the guide by drawing it gently back and forth across the top (fig. 1) - do not overfill. Play sand can be purchased at most hardware or Toys-R-Us stores (Steve's not: i went to Toys-R-Us). Silica sand can be found at building supply centers.
To settle the sand, grasp the entire Gemini by opposite corners and rock briskly, "bumping" the floor with the outsides of your fingers as you grasping the comers (fig. 2). Do the same from the other two corners. Settling the sand thoroughly is very important for best results. Add a little more sand as necessary and again use the guide to make it smooth (fig. 1). Carefully center the plinth in the middle of the sand bed. Make sure there is a even and open gap between the plinth and the inside edge of the base - the plinth's outside edge and the inside of the base should not be touching each other. Any slight warp in the plinth will straighten out once the component is put into place."
"Place the Gemini on a level surface with the nameplate facing forward. Set the component on top of the plinth and inflate through the air valve at the rear. Proper inflation is achieved when there is an even 1/8" gap between the upper and lower sections at each corner - do not overinflate. During initial set up some trapped air may escape over a three minute period from the space between the air cell and the upper and lower platform sections. You may then have to pump in more air to achieve proper inflation. It is best to make sure the surface the Gemini is placed upon is level as opposed to adjusting the minimum-contact brass feet but the feet can be individually adjusted if required to make the top plate level. Keep the Gemini level when it is moved. Do not lift by the upper section - support the bottom when lifting."
"Periodically the air cell will need to be reinfiated (this is normal for all captured air isolation platforms). Check the gap between the base and the top plate to determine if the Gemini requires reinflation. Dust occasionally with a new, clean paintbrush. If you have any questions, please contact your dealer or the factory. Thank you."
So my friends it was within about an hour or so of fun with good ol' Toys-R-Us playsand and all was up and running without any problems. The Gemini 2, Gemini 3 and Little Rock were ready to go. As a side note, the Little Rock is small, cute (to my eye) and ready to go right out of the box. No playsand needed. As a side note, a small hand operated air pump is included with the Gemini 2 and Gemini 3 units to assist with inflating their air bladders.
Head Games and Food For Thought
On the Bright Star Audio website Barry Kohan, Bright Star
Audio's President, "Your CD or DVD player is like your body and the equipment stand is like your chair. As the system plays the chassis is absorbing the radiated energy through the air and the conducted energy through the floor and stand. The chassis starts to resonate and conducts these vibrations into the CD disc, the player's electronic circuitry and the mechanical parts. As these parts vibrate the musical information the player is reproducing becomes contaminated. Jitter in the digital bitstream increases, microphonics from the electronic circuits and mechanical parts induce a "ghost" image over the original music wreaking havoc with tonality, pace and rhythm as well as increasing the noise floor."
Vibrations Bad... Music Good
i first tried the Bright Star Audio devices under my digital disc transport (too modified and customized to actually be called by what was once a commercial product). While i first simply used the Little Rock under it, this seemed to give the music a subtly cleaner, more stable imaging. Transient attacks seemed to be faster while hall decay seems to be fuller and more delicate. It was as though someone added a touch more "hall" effect while also enhancing the microdynamics. Removing the Little Rock in favor of the Gemini 2 seems to give even greater satisfaction. As the Little Rock is a very heavy solid device whereas the Gemini series uses air bladders and also the playsand filled top piece, the added air bladder achieves ever more vibration isolation.
The large Gemini 3 was used under various pieces. One of which was my prized VOYD (now owned by Audio Note) turntable with silver wired tonearm and the world renown Clearaudio Insider Reference cartridge. The VOYD is much like the Linn Sondek LP12 in that is uses three springs in the sub-chassis for suspension. As i have used some unique vibration tuning for the top-piece for what i felt gave the best music reproduction, it was of the order in which i have not found anything to make it sound better. This includes everything from inexpensive Vibrapods to the Gemini 3. i have the unit on the cult classic among the LP12 fans Ikea Lack table by the way. The Gemini 3 seemed to thicken out the harmonics too much and reduce the uppermost frequencies. i would not fault the Gemini 3 here and more point the guilt to myself for tweaking out this table for what i felt was the best overall sound. When i first received the VOYD i felt the bass was lacking and the highs too bright. If the years of tweaking this table were not conducted by me, the Bright Start Audio Gemini 3 might be exactly what the doctor ordered. In my case it may have been simply too much of a good thing.
i did use the Gemini 3 under the various tube amplifier though. From the to die for Wavelength Audio Mercury monoblocks (see me review in the new Ultimate Audio magazine Volume 4 Number 2). It was also used with my fave VAC Avatar integrated amplifier at one point. Both of these tube units benefited in the same way. Clearer overall sound as if a layer or two of schmutz and fuzz was wiped clean. It was more subtle with the VAC Avatar than with the Wavelength Audio Mercury. This may be due to the VAC being a quite substantial (almost 60 lbs.) unit whereas the Mercury monoblocks were physically lighter. Of course we also must take into consideration the characteristics of tube microphonics.
Some tubes are more microphonic than others. If you use those dreaded Chinese 300B tubes you should get much greater benefits when using the Bright Star solution whereas if you use the Western Electric 300B output tubes the benefits may be less pronounced. The same goes for small signal tubes. Speaking of small signal tubes, i also suggest trying the Ensemble Tube Sox. In any event, the Bright Star audio devices are a great relatively inexpensive real-world solution for taming the negative affects of vibrations. Just make sure your equipment stand has enough height to accommodate the additional height these units add.
While i did not have the luxury to try this, Bright Star Audio also offers equipment stands too! This would seem to be the best overall solution to truly minimize resonant frequencies. Furthermore, they also make an upperline Reference Series that adds ever more techniques to solve the detrimental vibrations from disturbing your beloved music reproduction system. For the truly fortunate, Bright Star offers professional and also studio/lab grade devices too! If you have the financial means i would recommend putting these on your short list of devices to solve those nasty detrimental vibrations.
While our system's loudspeakers need to vibrate air to reproduce music, these same vibrations can also cause problems with our music reproduction equipment. Bright Star Audio offers many different solutions that can bring about added clarity that will enhance your musical enjoyment. This is especially true with tube gear and digital disc transport which are known to perform at less than optimal conditions when vibrated. In fact laser lens assemblies and their pickups can deteriorate to an inoperable condition! Those of us with years of vacuum tube experience also know about microphonics due to nasty vibrations reaching our gear. Bright Star Audio is an effective, relatively inexpensive solution. Highly and humbly recommended.
Gemini 2 is $379.00 in Dark Granite and $399.00 in Black Granite. 19.5" x 17" x 2.75" WxDxH and add ¼" for brass feet). Top plinth size 18 3/8" x 15 7/8" (WxDxH). Holds 130 lbs.
Little Rock 1 is $149.00 in Dark Granite and $165.00 in Black Granite. 14"x10"x1.5" (WxDxH) 19 lbs.
Bright Star Audio
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