A picture of one family that didn't suffer good vibrations gladly
A move. The great weight. The good looks (on the part of the platform that is). Not wanting to return it. Sheer indigence. And the perplexity I felt about how to write a review about an isolation platform all helped create a crushing, writer's paralysis. Then I read Karl Lozier's review of another isolation platform in the last edition of Enjoy the Music.com®. If Karl can do it, so can I (Editor's Note: Always good to see sibling rivalry among the ranks)
An isolation platform is not about doing something, but preventing something being done, and that is how I felt about this platform. Or rather, that is how the platform made me feel. However, all good things must pass, and so too must this platform be passed back to Fabreeka, alas.
Though a relatively new entrant to the Hi Fi Biz, founded in 1918 with offices in Canada, the US, the UK, Holland and Germany, Fabreeka International is no stranger to isolation. According to their website, they introduced their first isolation product in 1936 with the Fabreeka pad. On the heels came the Fabcell, the Fabcell LeveLers, Fabcell Lev-L Mounts and DIMFAB 280. All of course Greek to me, but the DIMFAB 280, again according to the website, was developed in concert with the US Navy for use on Submarines and Surface Ships.
However, somewhere deep in this industrial products company does beat a Hi Fi heart and this is where the HFP-ISO-M emanates from. And what is good enough for the US Navy, is probably good enough for me. An isolation platform ideally would be a one way street or better yet a black hole. Bad vibrations go in and don't come out. In the real world however, one in which basic laws such as the conservation of energy apply, you simply can not just get rid of stuff like you could in those bad old, pre-Newtonian days.
So what an isolation platform really has to do is translate or better yet transform bad vibrations into good ones. As Mike Love put it in what was until the time the most expensive single Capitol ever recorded:
Bad vibrations can be passed on, converted into heat or transformed into good vibrations. The Fabreeka Isolation Platform mostly takes the latter route, dissipating short sharp shocks into graceful wobbles, passing subway trains into slow undulations, leaden foot-steps into gentle pond ripples, and kettle drum poundings into innocuous subsonic insignificancies.
Of course, as with anything, your mileage will vary.
A turntable, suspended or fixed, stands to gain the most from isolation. But tube gear also benefits significantly. Just as a rap of your knuckles against a turntable's plinth will be transmitted directly to the stylus and on through your amplification chain to your loudspeakers, a tap on a tube will also be audible through your loudspeakers. Try it. Or as they say in the UK, suck it and see for it really is a misguided notion to think of your loudspeakers as the terminus of your Hi-Fi.
Your Hi-Fi has no beginning or end. It's a loop with you and your music in the middle. As such, anything that can keep unwanted nasties from entering or exiting your precious loop will allow through more of what you want and less of what you do not. That is what a proper isolation platform does and its primary beneficiary will be you.
So Where To Start?
In grade school, do you remember the exercise where you and a partner had to make a list of qualitative and quantitative observations about a random object? In graduate school there was only a slightly more sophisticated version of this in which you tried to collapse the distinction entirely and all I remember from that is that it interrupted what could have been an excellent nap. But a quantitative description of the Fabreeka is probably as good a place for me (speaking from my own subjective experience) to start as any.
Three and three quarter inches high (un-inflated), two feet wide, twenty inches deep, and weighing at least 75 lbs, the HFP-ISO-M is no small addition to your set up. To do the platform justice it really requires its own platform as it is just too nicely finished to leave on the floor but too deep and heavy to place on any domestically acceptable Hi Fi rack. I just left it on the wooden shipping crate which was itself placed on a suspended wooden floor. Together with the Hi Fi on top they formed a sort of pyramid starting with unfinished ply, to finished veneer, to marble, and on to steel and glass.
The first challenge was getting the ISO delivered. Seems the original review sample found a good home and did not want to be budged. When the ISO did arrive, a huge truck pulled up front and down came the platform on a hydraulic lift. Neighborhood children came out to watch. And here I must here thank Pam Goulart of Fabreeka International for going the extra kilometer to have this review happen.
Once we got the lid off the shipping carton by way of at least a dozen screws and had fun with the perfect Styrofoam peanut storm that ensued we were greeted with a bicycle pump, a comprehensive manual and a gorgeous piece of black granite that the picture that prefaces this article does not do just to.
Just below the granite is a light colored wood frame set in about an inch. Underneath, who knows what lies? I was afraid to up-end it in case anything fell out -- which considering how nicely the platform is made - would be unlikely.
Once in place, pumping began in earnest and slowly, like a magician's volunteer, the ISO levitated and then began to list to one side like the Titanic. 'Close the valves,' the captain cried. And close the valves the Captain did. With a spirit level and the three regulator valves, the platform was leveled. This was fiddlier than I would have expected with the platform requiring the occasional pump up. (The ISO also comes in an active form for additional money which would ameliorate even this basic maintenance.)
Then the fun began… if you've never seen your Hi Fi jiggle to your simulated doc marten stomp, you haven't lived. And always the table would recover. Only under the most extreme of circumstances could I get the table to even think about skipping.
For the review, I tried the table with two turntables, a fixed Garrard 301 and a suspended Revox, a vintage valve power amp, a couple of tuners, and a solid state amplifier or three. Both turntables benefited, as I would have expected, greatly from the added isolation. What I did not expect was how great the improvement would be. The Garrard which already trounced the Revox in terms of less surface noise, deeper bass, blacker blacks and sheer fun kicked itself up a notch on the ISO. That said the Revox, a turntable that I do not love, became significantly more listenable on the ISO.
I could hear no advantages with any of my solid-state tuners nor did I try an mp3 player. That said, even solid state gear also stands to gain for microphony for good or for ill affects to varying degrees everything in your system.
How do I put it? With the ISO, you get more and you get less. You get a little more detail, a little less noise, a little deeper black, and a little better imaging. Although improvements in all categories were slight -- although certainly to me much less subtle than a swap of cable -- nowhere could I detect anything that was better without the platform than with it.
Usually with Hi Fi there are tradeoffs. Tube amps have more natural midrange but suffer soggy bass. Floor standers can fill a room, whereas mini-monitors image like no-one's business. But this is the first piece of Hi Fi equipment that did not ask me to make a tradeoff. The ISO's giving me good vibrations.
Type: Equipment platorfm and vibration isolation device