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April 2004
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
Floating On Cloud 10 With The Gingko Vibration Isolation Platforms
Review By A. Colin Flood

 

Floating On Cloud 10 With The Gingko Vibration Isolation Platforms  Three slim Gingko Audio Cloud 10 vibration isolation platforms, in clear and glossy black acrylic ($299), came double-wrapped and double-boxed, with a baggie of green racquet-size balls. The platforms are deceptively simple. A top tray with sides rests on a set of green balls. The balls provide four degrees of freedom, isolating the top tray and front-end equipment from unseen, but annoying, vibrations from the bottom plate. The bottom plate has a dozen shallow conical dimples to snuggle the green balls firmly into place. A thumb size logo graces the fronts.

The platforms isolate front-end equipment from hidden acoustic anomalies degrading optimum home movie and music reproduction system performance. The clear version makes front-end components look like they were balancing in the air on the green balls. The black version is elegantly slick, like the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

 

How do they sound? Great. Read my vibration isolation platform review to see what a difference even my graceless devices make in an audio system. (Go to EnjoyTheMusic.com, Classic Web Site, Tweaks and scroll down to "Save $1680, Simple to make platform isolates vibrations: Brings out details for CD and record players.")

 

My DIY platforms weigh more and jiggle less than the simple Cloud 10s. Where I corralled a dozen tennis balls, Cloud 10s drills conical dimples for a few small balls. Knocking on my entertainment center wiggles the Cloud 10 as easily as new Cadillac, but NOT my ungainly, rock-solid platforms. Yet, the more expensive and elegant Cloud 10s are no less competent; the difference in sound quality they made is just as significant.

 

The green Gingko balls are smaller and stiffer than racquetballs. With three of their balls, the Cloud 10 jiggles as easily as a tone arm; the top plate pivots, swings and sways, before snapping back to position. The capacity for each of their balls is 20 pounds, beyond which the platform gets unstable. The optimal weight is around 10 pounds per ball. So the minimum of three balls works best when the equipment weighs about 30 pounds, although it could hold up to 60 pounds.

 

The Cloud 10 platforms are quite remarkable, not only in the appreciable audio difference they made with every piece of equipment I tried, but also with my John Candy physique. With a recommended ratio of 10 pounds per ball, I filled every other dimple with their rubber shock absorbers and gingerly stepped my diet-resistant 210 pounds onto the vibration isolation platforms. It held me as easily as a bathroom scale. I could still wiggle and jiggle, but I wouldn’t try the Chubby Checker twist.

 

Therefore, as superb vibration isolation and dance platforms, my initial impressions of Gingko’s Cloud 10s were very good, with only a reservation about the price. I’ve bought valuable products of finished acrylic, engineered to do a specific task, for my aquariums, but the price for a few pieces of acrylic still gives me pause. Yet, there is no doubt that the Cloud 10s make a significant and valuable contribution to my modest home movie and music reproduction system.

 

By putting a vibration isolation platform and my front-end equipment on the wide top of my entertainment center, I was able to slide the unit off the platforms, listen to a track at louder than normal volumes and then slide the unit back on again – then I repeated the test with one track after another.

 

By using the same unit and same track over and over again, I could clearly hear the improvement. Even with solid-state receivers, I immediately liked the slight improvement Cloud 10s made in darkness, separation, definition and upper bass. The platform increased darkness around the vocals. It made highs slightly crisper and bass more solid. Removing the Clouds made the entire musical range muddy and indistinct.

 

 

 

Evidence Suspends Disbelief  
Vinh Vu (pronounced "Ving Voo") is one of the principals of Gingko Audio. He says one of the key considerations of the design is to have the balls sit squarely in the dimples.

 

The visual evidence for how well the Could 10 works is there. Go to Gingko's home page, click on products, then Platformula™ Technology, then scroll halfway down and look at the charts. They show obviously less noise when using the Gingko platforms.

The second chart shows the reduced noise of a tube preamp when sitting on the platform. The top line of the charts shows a tube preamp without the platform, the lower green line shows the surprisingly audible affect with the simple platform.

 

Gingko used a tube preamp to measure the effect on signal noise. "Since the key hypothesis is that the platform reduces the vibration," Vinh says, "We focused in on the DELTA difference in vibration measured, not the ABSOLUTE vibration measured." Jens Waale, a trained scientist and member of the New Jersey Audio Society, did the tests. 

 

Vinh says an excellent indication of how well the Cloud 10 really works is customers who use it under turntables on wooden floors, to eliminate footfalls on the floor. The Cloud 10 absorbs enough of the floor vibration that they can walk normally while playing records now.

 

 

 

Resonance Frequencies
Vinh says, "Any vibration control device when designed properly should not add to the vibration problem and as such can be used in tandem combinations. I see no problem in using the Cloud 10 with other vibration control devices if they also work well in reducing vibration. The thing is some of them only shift the problem elsewhere in the audio frequencies with their own resonance frequency. Our Cloud 10 has its own resonance frequencies at 17.5Hz, which is low enough to not cause problems in most systems."

 

Vinh tested hundreds of balls (The Gingko balls are NOT racquetballs). He found that purple racquetballs are the worst. Vinh found that his green balls gave the best results on a vibration graph. He found that even small details such as the diameter, depth and location of the dimples affect the performance. That said, tweaking audiophiles could copy his design easily, which is why Gingko submitted a patent application. 

 

Vinh says, "the optimum load is 30-35 lbs, which is what most quality high-end component weighs (yet another consideration when we picked these balls)." Too little weight is like a stiff shock absorber on a car. If your front-end equipment is lighter than 30 lbs, he suggests loading the platforms with added weight. Gingko is coming out with brass mass loading weights in sets of three for use with lighter components.

 

Since my Bottlehead 2A3 Paramour tube monoblock amplifiers only weigh a few pounds, additional weight is required for the Cloud 10s to work optimally. Other 20-pound front-end equipment, although light enough for just three balls, required four balls for proper balance or stability.

 

Vinh says if my amplifiers are on carpet, spikes aren’t necessary to couple the Cloud 10 platforms to it to the underlying concrete. He found that the simple design works so well that one does NOT need another means of isolation.

 

 

 

Jiggle Is Good
"The jiggle," Vinh says, "is actually good, as long it doesn't cause undue instability. For more stability, add more balls. That would make the platform stiffer (and perhaps hurt performance), but more stable."

 

Place the initial three balls as wide as possible under the equipment, more to the edges. The apex of the triangle should be in the dimples to balance the center of gravity of the piece.

 

Tweaking audiophiles can stack several pieces of electronic equipment on one Cloud 10, though it is better to have each piece supported separately at first so you can better tell if the Cloud 10 helps. That way, you can tailor each Cloud 10 (number of balls, positions, etc.) for the component it supports. Also, more weight equals more instability, so there is a safety issue here too.

 

In normal use, the green Gingko balls won't wear out. They have no pressure, so they don't lose air over time like inner tubes. The rubber does harden over time and looses resilience. The balls are inexpensive to replace so when in doubt, just replace them with new ones.

 

 

On A Clear Tray, You Can See Forever

Gingko also has blue color balls now. Most of the Cloud 10s sold are the black units, so ball color doesn’t matter because the skirt covers them. From across the room, the clear Cloud is invisible, leaving only the front-end equipment suspended on three green balls. Clearly a cool effect [pun intended]. With green or blue balls, the clear version would look futuristically sleek under many modern turntable designs. The more popular black unit looked best under old and new receivers, black or silver.

 

Of course, the clear unit is much easier to center its top plate over its bottom – you can see the space around the edges and if the balls are off-center or pinched. Either way, if the receiver’s uneven distribution of weight wasn’t apparent, the Gingko platforms quickly showed it. One more ball corrects any off-kilter problems. A small carpenter’s level is required for any tweaking audiophile: setting up these devices is one reason why. The level dramatically shows when the front-end equipment is properly balanced.

 

 

DIY

Tweaking audiophiles can easily make their own Gingko style vibration isolation platforms with racquetballs and two sheets of thick acrylic. One cheap solution for a vibration isolation platform is a thick slice of maple board floating on two layers of large bubble wrap. Compared to that simple solution, the Cloud 10:

 

* Looks better

* Is more stable

* Easier to balance uneven front-end equipment

* Holds heavier components

* Balls last longer than bubble wrap

* Acrylic and rubber construction absorbs vibration better than wood and thin plastic wrap

* And, has better WAF

 

 

Tweaking audiophiles can simply set their front-end equipment directly on the balls, but this has a few drawbacks. First, it doesn’t look as nice. Second, the equipment may be NOT be level. Third, the rubber may make marks over time on the underside of the equipment because of the heat of the component. That said, Gingko will soon offer a less expensive version, without the top skirt, so the balls will sit directly under the equipment.

 

They now offer sharp-looking equipment racks. The true audiophile rack has built-in dimples on the shelves, so the Cloud 10 top tray with skirt fits directly on the shelf. Vinh says that since glass is the worst conductor, it is horrible for audiophile shelves. Tennis balls, he says, are too hollow, too thin and too large.

 

Vinh finds most of his customers typically have $10,000 to $15,000 and upwards invested in their home movie and music reproduction system. Sub woofers, he said to the man who enjoys two, are the worst. They send vibrations through the equipment rack, floor and ambiance. “We let customers listen to their favorite tracks on their system for a few minutes,” he says, “then pop one of our platforms under, say, the CD player or the preamp. They listen to the same tracks again and then we ask: Did you hear a difference, and if so, did it sound better or worse? If better, how much improvement in percentage did you hear?"  

 

In all cases so far, he says, said there was a significant improvement, and the absolute lowest percent improvement was 15%!

 

 

Blue Notes

On my tweak scale from one to 10, where top-of-the-line equipment merits a high score, the Cloud 10s rate a solid one, possibly two. On the new EnjoyTheMusic.com 1-to-5 blue note scale, I thought the Cloud 10s made average improvements in almost all respects, compared to other seriously auditioned components, earning them many three blue notes. I rate them above average (4) for enjoyment. Like many of the slight improvements to my archaic home movie and music reproduction system, I didn’t know what I was missing until I tried something like the Gingko Cloud 10s. I kept one for myself. Something like the sleek Gingko Cloud 10s, or my own gawky vibration isolation platforms, should be a part of every tweaking audiophile’s home movie and music reproduction system.

 

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

Decay

Inner Resolution

Soundscape Width Front

Soundscape Width Rear

Soundscape Depth Behind Loudspeakers

Soundscape Extension Into Room

Imaging

Fit And Finish

Self Noise

Value For The Money

 

Specifications
Standard Black (18 x 14) $299
Standard Clear (18 x 14) $299
VPI SCOUT Custom (20 x 14.5) $329
Medium (20 x 16) $329
Large (26 x 20) $349

 

Company Information
Gingko Audio
8 Nicklaus Lane
Farmingdale, NJ 07727

Voice: (732) 946-9439
E-mail: gingko@gingkoaudio.com 
Website: www.GingkoAudio.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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