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Audiolics Anonymous Chapter 12
Wright Silver Foil Interconnects Plus Airheads and Other Blonde Jokes
Article By Bill Gaw

 

  Hello fellow Audiolics, welcome to another meeting of Audiolics Anonymous, our support group for the insatiably TWEAKED. As you may remember from the last column, the month was a disaster for tweaking at the Gaw listening room. Just about everything that could go wrong, did. Going from one problem to the next reminded me of some Blond Jokes Iíve heard. But I must say, this monthís tweaking has gone superbly, and I think I now have the best sound I can remember from my system. I also had Clark Johnsen and a friend of his from Japan over for a session last Sunday, and he agreed that the system did indeed sound the best ever. So for a change, I am satisfied with it. Of course just for now. All of the interconnects have been repaired, and I have found a new method of building the Alan Wright Silver Foil interconnects, www.VacuumState.com, which is easier, with much less risk of breakage, cheaper, and sounds just about the same. More on this later.

The main topic of this monthís meeting is the single biggest improvement I have made in my system in months: of all things, an equipment rack.

 

Arcici Airhead Suspense Equipment Rack
First a caveat. I have known Ray Shab, the owner of Arcici, and his associate, Nick Venice, since the early 80ís, and have used their other equipment racks for years. Also, when I used to have to sneak into the Consumer Electronics Show, as a ďHobbyist Without CredentialsĒ, Ray twice got me official badges. That said, I must tell you that, without prejudice,  the AIRHEAD SUSPENSE  is the best thought out and designed rack system that I have seen or evaluated. Why? Because it completely removes, like the VIBRAPLANE, structural and ground born vibrations from the equipment. And down to subsonic levels. For a complete discussion of this audio problem, please review my article AUDIOLICS ANONYMOUS, CHAPTER  2, UNWANTED ACOUSTIC VIBRATIONS.

Basically, the better the equipment, the more structural and air vibration transmitted to your components  will affect the sound, blurring images, distorting the sound stage, and loosening the transients. And believe me, mechanical vibration distortion is a hundred times greater than any electrical, especially with turntables and transports. One can damp the cabinets with mass, gels, paints, etc., or try to ground the vibrations with feet, but isolating them from the noise in the first place, works best. Enter the above two products, with the VIBRAPLANE being discussed  in the previous article.

The Airheadis the top portion of the unit which does the suspending. It was originally developed as a single shelf platform for turntables back in the early nineties. I can still remember first seeing it set up at a CES back then. It is a hollow box with three inner tubes inside with a metal plate- Acrylic top suspended by the tires, and still sells for $315, a true bargain. Ray found the the Airhead could suspend the heaviest turntables with ease, and came up with the bright idea of attaching it to four legs, and adding multiple shelves below it. Thus was born the rack.

The unit is a 24Ē deep x 24Ēwide rack, which can be supplied in heights up to 48 inches, and comes with four 3/4 inch thick clear acrylic  shelves suspended by four rods to an isolated top made of a massive steel plate with a smoky black acrylic top and base. The shelves and top plate are isolated from the stand and environment by three inner tubes under the top. The fifth shelf on the bottom is unisolated and fine for storage. The stand looks great, is well constructed, and does exactly as specified, i.e., isolate all of the equipment from structural vibrations down to the single Hertz level, and the thick acrylic shelves will ground the airborne vibrations if appropriate feet are used. The shelves are extra large, and will accommodate the largest pieces of equipment, and in most cases two to three per shelf. The top is the perfect place to set up your turntable or digital transport, and Ray has said that the unit will take a maximum of 600 lb.., so I doubt you can overload it. I have my 275 lb. Walker Proscenium on top, my two preamps next, then my DVD-CD transport, signal processors and Crown Macro Reference Amp, and the unit could still hold plenty more equipment. One can special order by height, shelf color, at, of course, a special price.

It came in three fairly heavy boxes, well packed, and no damage was found. The setup instructions, while adequate, could use some improving, especially since they make no suggestions for tweaking, and leveling and truing up the platform before placing the equipment.  Construction time was about 1 1/2 hours, with only a wrench, screwdriver, and an included Allen Wrench and level needed. The included Speed Nuts for shelf suspension made placement of the shelves and their leveling very easy. The Speed Nuts have a layer of Zorbex vibration absorbing foam on the top of them, which isolates each shelf from the others.

Finish is black with a hard wood trim, and while the structure looks a little rickety when first constructed, when mass is added, it becomes very firm and stable.  Stamping and jumping up and down on the floor next to the stand with my not insubstantial weight with the needle in the record groove gave absolutely no feedback to the loudspeakers with the preamp volume turned to maximum. Except for the VIBRAPLANE, no other rack I have had has passed this test. The unit is placed between my two subwoofers, and even with these mimicking dinosaur feet, no feedback was noted. For those without vinyl, CDís sounded cleaner, with more air and hall space apparent around the instruments. It almost brought 16/44 sound up to 24/96 level, and 24/96 discs and DVDís were also improved upon. Enough said for isolation.

One caveat. Do not touch the shelves or equipment while a record is playing, as the system floats so well, that the slightest touch will cause a large DC transient, with the needle and tonearm going bouncy-bounce, inducing one massive thump in your  speakers, before they disintegrate to dust or catch on fire. Always lift the tonearm before touching the equipment. If you thought electronic feedback is bad, try mechanical.

 

A few setup helps and tweaks:

                1. Make sure the base of the stand is leveled perfectly with the screw feet before you adjust the shelves and place equipment, otherwise youíll be repeating the setup again and again.

                2. Make sure that the nuts holding the steel plate to the four suspension rods are screwed down exactly the same amount, otherwise the unit wonít balance properly.

                3. Blow up the three tubes until the top of the unit is level, and just suspended from the rack, and then check the clearance of the top from the rack, and each individual shelf from the side supports to be sure everything is even, and then check the rods where they exit the tube support to see if they are centered in the holes. Do this before you place a 275 lb. turntable on top, and you wonít have to lift it off again. This will save on aggravation and back strain.

                4. Decide on which shelves to place your equipment before placing the shelves before you begin placing them, as they can be adjusted for height, but with a little difficulty.

                5.After all of the equipment is set up to satisfaction, pump up the tubes with the included air pump until the top is level with a 1/4 inch clearance from the support, make sure the rods and shelves are not touching the support rods or the hole in the underside of the top.

                6. Finally level out the turntable or transport, sit back and enjoy.

 

VIBRAPLANE VS. AIRHEAD  Which is better, the Vibraplane or Airhead. Both have advantages.

 

                1. Price:   Vibraplane with hand pump - $1695

                                 Vibraplane with air pump - $4950

                                 Airhead platform - $315

                                 Airhead Suspense Rack- $2295

 

                2. Carrying weight:   Vibraplane - 300 lb..

                                                     Airhead - 600 lb..

 

                3. Shelves:  Vibraplane: 1   But if you read AA II, Iíll show you how to place as much equipment as you can up to the maximum weight.

 

Airhead - 5 isolated, 1 unisolated

             

                4. Build  quality:  both excellent

 

                5. Isolation: Both to subsonic frequencies. Vibraplane probably a few Hz. deeper

 

                6. Setup:  Vibraplane - very quick with two people - minute         Airhead - about 1 1/2 to 2 hours

 

                7. Problems: Vibraplane - Over the three years I have had three of them, Iíve had to replace one foot and one air valve, which were very quickly sent to me by Steve Klein, at no charge, and with a gracious apology for the inconvenience. Thus service with a smile, which is rare in high end audio these days.

Airhead - Instructions need improving. Havenít had it long enough for a reliability factor, but with only three inner tubes that might need replacing down the road, I canít see much problem there.

                8. Better Deal: A toss up. The passive Vibraplane has great isolation at the lowest cost, but will not support as much equipment. The Airhead will hold more equipment, but may not give the final 1 % of isolation of the Vibraplane.

 

As a footnote, I understand that THE ABSOLUTE SOUND, which reviewed the unit a couple of issues ago, has actually plunked down money to buy more of the units, which must be a first for Harry and the group. Enough said on how much they like the unit. There are about twenty dealers in the network, and you can call Ray directly at Arcici, arcici@aol.com,  for availability. Well worth the price for a high end system.

 

Wright Silver Foil Interconnects
In Chapter Five and Six of Audiolics Anonymous, I described the then in vogue method of building wonderful sounding and inexpensive interconnects made out of silver foil supplied by Allen Wright, www.VacuumState.com. The method of construction while tedious, was relatively easy and the results sounded spectacular, but they have one little fault. The foil is very thin, which is necessary for their wonderful sound, but if the interconnects are flexed, the foil will easily break. They can be repaired  by finding the break, opening the sleeve, and soldering in a small piece of foil over the break, with little harm to the sound, but frustrating if you have tried to play pretzel with the cable, thus breaking it in multiple places. Enter the new method.

                1. Get some of the 3 or 4 inch wide clear plastic packing tape that you use for all of those boxes you send your equipment in by UPS every month, when you sell it for something new.

                2. Lay a segment about 1/2 inch shorter than your foils out on a flat surface, and run the foils  along it evenly spaced apart from themselves and the edges, with the foilís ends hanging a 1/4 of an inch off the ends of the tape.

                3. Cut the tape in straight lines half way between each foil.

                4. HARD PART. Lay each foil-tape assembly on top of the lower one such that the foils line up as perfectly as possible. The lining up is the most difficult part, but is very important for keeping the characteristic impedance of the cable the same along the full length.

                5. Lay a final piece of tape over the last foil layer, sticky side down, to seal the assembly.

                6. Solder on the plugs, and enjoy.

 

While the sound does not have the absolute quality of the Teflon Spacer Cables, they are darn close, and the plastic tape will support the foil, and make them almost impossible to break. As with the other cables, the capacitance is high, but the impedance is almost non-existent, and the cables will pass everything from DC to megahertz, while rejecting RFI to the GHz range.  Unlike the Teflon Cables, you should try to run them as much as possible suspended in the air, as they are more easily affected by laying them on carpeting, wood, etc.

Well, thatís enough for this issue. Next month Iíll be reviewing a phono stage by CAMELOT TECHNOLOGIES, that runs on DC, and possibly cartridges by LYRA, CLEARAUDIO AND CROWN JEWEL.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
 

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