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January 2005
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
Back To The Future: Dealing With Resonance... The Audio Points Way
Review By Max Westler
Click here to e-mail reviewer

 

  Audio Points are made by Star Sound Technologies, a company that's been specializing in "the science of energy transfer" since 1989. Though Star Sound now produces a wide range of products platforms, wire, harmonic precision electronics, and micro-bearing steel fill its reputation is founded on the success of this, its first and best-known product. Audio Points are precision-crafted brass cones that come in sets of three and are intended for use under most speakers and audio/visual components. The sizes (and the prices) vary depending on the weight of the particular component you'll be using it under.

When it comes to "accessories," I tend to be a "proof-in-the-pudding" kind of a guy; so those interested in the science behind Audio Points can visit the Star Sound website for the documentation. In brief, "the unique design of the Audio Point displaces the focal point of the resonant energy to a virtual point below the tip of the Audio Point," thereby creating "a natural high-speed channel through which resonance energy will flow." In effect, you position three Audio Points under the speaker or audio/visual component, and that brass to metal contact becomes a conduit, virtually eliminating resonance by draining it from the speaker or component to whatever surface it's been placed upon. Though I did a lot of experimenting with the different models of Audio Points I was sent, I found that the best fit for my particular components deployed the 1.0AP1D under my DVD/CD player, the 1.5AP1D under my pre-amplifier and power conditioner, and the 2.0AP1D under my power amplifier. Though I did not have occasion to use them, it's worth mentioning that there are threaded Audio Points available for those who feel the need.

 

Ear-Opening Openers

I began by installing Audio Points under each of my components separately, then pausing to listen for a week or so before moving on to the next. In a month's time, I had Audio Points under my power conditioner, amplifier, preamplifier, and my souped-up DVD player (that also doubles as my CD player). As someone who has tried and been disappointed by many tweaks and accessories that claim to cloak, reduce, or eliminate the "smear" of resonance, I was somewhat taken aback to hear such an immediate and dramatic difference. That difference was there from the first, and it only deepened and intensified as I added more Audio Points into the mix. Which is to say, the more I listened, the closer my dropped jaw got to the floor.

So what was I hearing? Well, first and foremost, I heard an enhanced and expanded sound stage with a greater sense of both width and depth. When I put on "Burning Down the House" (from Once in a Lifetime, the most recent and best-sounding of all Talking Heads anthologies), I could hear every percussion instrument in the complex mix coming from a precise location in a field that stretched upward and outward from my speakers. Whether I was listening to a solo piano or a symphony orchestra at full cry, a sultry voice backed by a small combo, or a big band blowing the room away, there was a sense of discrete musical events being reproduced within a precisely defined space.

On the altogether irresistible recording of Shostakovitch's First Concerto for Piano, Trumpet, and Strings by Valentina Lisitsa with Sarah Caldwell conducting, I noticed lots of depth between piano and orchestra, and lots of breadth between the fiddles on the extreme left and the double basses on the extreme right. The same was true when I sampled the Mercury Living Presence recording of Morton Gould's West Point Symphony: the image was again appreciably wider and deeper. I've always been able to judge the power of a tweak by how precisely it captures and just how accurately it situates the xylophone that so suddenly and pleasurably erupts in the middle of the second movement. In this case, it was set far to the left of the speaker, and sounded so pristine and sparkling that it produced a palpable shiver.

 

From Top to Bottom and Back Again

So many products claiming to deal with resonance promise improvements on the bottom end that I was somewhat surprised by the profound difference the Audio Points made at the top. In fact, the high end just seemed to open up, giving me a greater degree of both transparency and detail. Suddenly I was hearing more information, more music where formerly there had sometimes been a brittle edge.

Needless to say, I automatically reached for the several discs I had had trouble listening to for that very reason. Gyorgy Ligeti is an avant-garde composer who likes to set his compositions in the upper stratosphere, alternately testing and teasing the ear with eerie glissandos and sharp, almost-shrilling dissonances. "Atmospheres," which hopefully at least some of you will remember from its use in Kubrick's "2001," consists almost entirely of high-pitched textures, and I've never been able to listen to it all the way through without wincing. With the Audio Points installed, I could distinctly hear each of the overlapping strands, and had no trouble following the music as it moved through its brightly-lit, glacial changes.

I also sampled a few of Debussy's Preludes as played by the magnificent Krystian Zimerman. His performances of Books One and Two on DG have been the reference standard for this work since its appearance in 1994, but I have always had a problem with the excessively bright, almost glassy reproduction of the piano. This time around, however, the Audio Points solved that problem, and I could distinguish the very realistic sound of Zimerman's piano from the lively acoustic. As with several other "bright" recordings I checked out, the sound now seemed just about right: alive, vibrant, well-defined.

String quartets are a good way to judge midrange response; and over the years, the Tokyo String Quartet's "A Way A Lone" has been my reference. This intriguing disc includes music by Takemitsu, Barber, and Benjamin Britten, and is intensely, passionately played by the Tokyo in sound that was even more dynamic this time round. The sense of realism was total: I could hear not just the music being played, but the contact of bow on string as the music was being made. And speaking of intimacy, the Audio Points could be felt in the breathy, evanescent buzz of Gene Ammons' saxophone blossoming on "Close Your Eyes," or the dry, but well-lit timbres of Karin Allyson's voice in "Too Young To Go Steady," a song that might have been written with her in mind.

As for the bottom end, I had been expecting something exciting; but again, I was surprised by just how deep and controlled the change was. On the recent performance of the Shostakovitch Sixth Symphony by Oleg Caetani and the surprisingly well-drilled Giussepe Verdi Orchestra of Milan, I could hear subtle gradations of bass response in the very busy and very thick textures of the sardonic second movement. In spite of the sheer mass of the orchestration, I could clearly differentiate violas from cellos, cellos from double-basses. I was equally impressed by the timbre of individual brass instruments as they joined in the choir; from high-pitched trumpets to the boomy plush of the tubas, I could hear the characteristic tone of each separate voice. And at the big climax of the final movement, the fierce thunder of percussion brought forth a more forceful whump and thump.

 

And Something For The Eyes

This is probably as good a time as any to add that the Audio Points made a difference not only in my listening, but also in my viewing. When I first sampled the Audio Points under my CD/DVD player, I had been in the middle of enjoying Return of the King for the umpteenth time. In the scene I'd been watching, a phalanx of Orcs had been crossing a bridge on their way to wreak more havoc. It wasn't an especially important or memorable scene, a mere prelude to the climactic battle soon to follow. But when I turned the television back on, the picture became more detailed and vivid; and the larger body of undifferentiated Orcs resolved into distinct and even fiercer looking individuals (hats off to the make-up troops). The same thing happened with the sound; the generalized rumble resolved into the discrete sound of boots clomping on the boards of the bridge.  Needless to say, it was still that same transitional scene I had been in the middle of watching just the night before only now I couldn't take my eyes off the screen.

 

In Conclusion

I've always thought that the truest test of a tweak or accessory is what you feel once it's suddenly removed. After six weeks of intensely pleasurable listening with the grace of Audio Points, I forced myself to remove them, all at once. Ernest Hemingway once famously commented that there's no going back to lesser pleasures, and that's how I felt about listening to my rig with the Audio Points removed. It hadn't taken long to grow used to the richness and definition and color of the sound, the spaciousness of the image, the heightened sense of realism. Without the Audio Points in place, I had to face the ill effects that "resonance" had been producing in my system without my really being aware of it. Suddenly the edge at the top returned; the mid-range narrowed; the bass became cloudier, less distinct. Worse, the image flattened out, and the sound seemed much less involving. Happily, I soon realized that there was a quick fix for the depression I was feeling, and hastily reinstalled the Audio Points. In fact they had aced the test, and would now take up permanent residency in my listening room.

In the end, the purpose of a tweak is to renew and reinvigorate your sense of how good your system really sounds. But with the Audio Points, the profound differences I heard changed the character of my system in much the same way a new piece of equipment might have. Just last week, an audiophiliac friend called to rave about the brand new and phenomenally expensive amplifier he'd been auditioning. "The sound stage simply fills the room, the music doesn't seem to be coming from the speakers. And the sound is gorgeous, not a harsh or unpleasant note anywhere to be heard." I didn't tell him that I had been having exactly the same kind of experiences in my own listening room but for much, much less.

So I think I've discovered why Audio Points have been around for such a long time: they really work. They keep their promises. And what I'm recommending is this: before you go off and purchase that new preamplifier or CD player you've been lusting after, buy a set of Audio Points and position them under your present preamplifier or CD player, and see if you don't hear the kind of immediate and dramatic difference I've been talking about here. You can then discover for yourself why Audio Points are such a bargain. And given that Audio Points are guaranteed, you have absolutely nothing to lose.

 

Tonality

Sub-Bass (10 Hz - 60 Hz)

Mid-Bass (80 Hz - 200 Hz)

Midrange (200 Hz - 3,000 Hz)

High-Frequencies (3,000 Hz on up)

Attack

N/A

Decay

N/A

Inner Resolution

Soundscape Width Front

Soundscape Width Rear

Soundscape Depth Behind Loudspeakers

Soundscape Extension Into Room

Imaging

Fit And Finish

Self Noise

N/A

Value For The Money

 

Specifications

Type: Resonance control devices

 

Audio Points Model 1.0AP1D

Body Height: 1.0"
Flange Diameter: 1.0"
Average Handling: 45 lbs.
Price: $62.97 for set of three

 

Audio Points Model 1.5AP1D

Body Height: 1.5"
Flange Diameter: 1.25"
Average Handling: 100 lbs.
Price: $86.97 for set of three

 

Audio points Model 2.0AP1D

Body Height: 2.0"
Flange Diameter: 1.25"
Average Handling: 100 lbs. +
Price: $104.97 for set of three

 

Company Information

Star Sound Technologies
1960 Meredith Place
Uhrichsville, Ohio 44683

Voice: (877) 668-4332
E-mail: starcompany@audiopoints.com
Website: www.audiopoints.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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