Product: ERaudio Space Harmonisers
Manufacturer: ERaudio - Russia
180 € dimensions (medium one): 290mm x 470mm x 29mm
250 € dimensions (big one): 380mm x 610mm x 35mm
The smaller platform may support up to 30 kg and the big one up to 50 kg
Reviewer: Mark Wheeler - TNT UK
Reviewed: October 2004
I have been experimenting with different materials in loudspeaker costruction for many years, and 15 years ago began to try various woods used in musical instrument manufacturing. For example, I discovered that the hard maple often used in electric guitar necks (and Fender USA fingerboards) also excels as a material for vertical speaker cabinet bracing. I even have two large slabs of fiddleback-sycamore (guess what that normally gets used for) quietly maturing until they're at least 7 years old, when these 60mm thick pieces will be formed into baffles. So I was very interested when TNT-audio received word from Russian company ERaudio describing their Space Harmonisers. ERaudio was established 4 years ago in Novirbirsk in Russia. ERaudio are an established Russian company who make violins, amplifiers and also fit acoustic treatments in concert halls throughout the world.
ERaudio Space Harmonisers go beyond the ideas of conventional audio support platforms that claim to work by damping vibration & resonances or isolate components from vibration. The Space Harmonisers make no such claims. The Space Harmonisers make such different claims that defy conventional audio wisdom; but we all know that conventional wisdom & common sense are merely the collection of prejudices one has acquired by adulthood. So it is important that a reviewer retains an open mind. ERaudio are proud they were the first Russian company to become a finalist of BEST OF CES AWARDS (Las Vegas 2002)
The Space Harmonisers are light structures (available now in two sizes but hopefully more eventually) that look like beautifully made cedar shelves. From the sides, endgrain may be seen that would superficially imply that they are constructed from glued together blocks of cedar, 100-year old Siberian cedar according to their blurb but whether that means the tree or the cut timber they do not say. Their very low mass gives a clue that all is not as it seems. Perhaps these platforms may contain hollows, although all construction information is kept very secret. Tapping them over various surface points creates a different sound from each. The bars are tuned by ear (presumably the ear of an experienced luthier) with a high rejection rate. Those that succeed are matched glued together to form the platforms in various sizes. I found glues to affect the colouration of loudspeaker cabinets so I did ask about the glues used by ERaudio. They did not want to divulge their trade-secrets and we agreed on the phrase "a special glue, carefully selected through experiments". Glues and varnishes used in violin making have already made controversial news in audio circles because of the C37 lacquer tested here on TNT. The controversial inventor of the C37 theory, Dieter Ennemoser, says that the harmonic decay-pattern is the dominant feature of it. That would fit one hypothesis about the Space Harmonisers that takes us into uncharted and very scary territory.
Valery Pankov, President of ERAUDIO, describes the Space Harmonizer as a set of resonant bars, assembled together, made of Siberian cedar and each having specific resonant properties. "Mounting the Space Harmonizer under components of High-End system" he says, "enriches the sound picture, increases the involvement into the listening process, raises sound reproduction of the whole system to a new level. We consider our product a new trend, and name it the Resonance Reproduction". So this could be a new philosophy that initially appears divergent from received audio wisdom.
Perhaps, however, this philosophy might be nearer to conventional wisdom than it first appears. We have long known that even harmonic distortion products are more benign that odd-numbered distortions, so much so that designers of musical instrument amplifiers frequently include one valve (tube) stage in otherwise solid-state amplifiers in order to swamp the tiny amounts off odd-harmonic class-AB transistor artefacts with yummy-creamy overdriven 12AX7 distortion. We also know that each higher order distortion component must be at much reduced level than lower orders for human perception to be comfortable with the sound. Distortions caused by mechanical resonances (transformer vibration, motor vibration, casework resonances, airborne noise exciting circuit boards & valves & capacitors) are inherently non-linear, that is, unrelated to the music being reproduced. One hypothesis I will try to test here is that these platforms resonate constructively with any resonance in a harmonic series, and resonate destructively with disharmonic vibrations. Destructive resonance would not simply cancel those frequencies, but intermodulate, producing beat-notes, like the waxing & waning of sound from a piano when a chord is struck.
If this is the case, a further philosophical argument appears. This kind of modification is no nearer accuracy (whatever that may mean) than the original discordant resonant series. Indeed, it may be greater in magnitude, and so theoretically less accurate even if it succeeds in being more pleasant. But we just want to enjoy music from our audio systems so theoretical objective accuracy might be less important to the home listening experience than a harmonically coherent soundfield.
"The Space Harmonizer" says Valery Pankov "doesn't absorb vibration. The Space Harmonizer is a resonant platform. When interacting with a component, it redistributes the whole frequency spectrum magnifying those frequencies that positively affect human hearing and reducing the negatively perceived ones. The principle of operation of The Space Harmonizer is similar to that of the sounding board of a violin." J-C Morrison, formerly Sound Practices writer, designer of amplifiers and latterly designer of Sovtek valves (tubes), railed against high-end audio neutrality, describing it as neutered. Like him I demand musical passion & harmony from my audio system. The ERaudio Space Harmonisers are precisely in that tradition. ERaudio's motto is "One can't be neutral in art, Our products reinforce and reproduce emotions". It is possible to argue that their deviation from the goal of neutrality actually veers towards a greater musical accuracy. I cannot express an objective opinion because this is entirely in the realms of subjectivity. Music like art is all about subtle nuances, so in photography I know exactly how each of my lenses will suit what image, regardless of the modulation-transfer-function test results. Some of my large-format lenses are very old & technically flawed, but I still use them, so perhaps I am not the writer to tell you, one particular listener, what you want to hear.
ERaudio eloquently describe the history of their Space harmonisers. "It all began with a violin soundboard testing and tuning laboratory once visited by guys from the amplifier development lab, who asked to give them a wooden support for a pilot amplifier model. Failing anything suitable, they were given a violin soundboard workpiece. The testing of the amplifier showed excellent results and everyone was pleased with the fine sound. At that time none paid heed to the support. After some time, the next amplifier modification with components of higher quality had been prepared, from which everyone expected even more impressive results. However, we were extremely disappointed when we found that the sound of the new model was much worse than that of the preceding one! Everyone was shocked and nobody could explain the reason of what has happened. It was only after some time that we have noticed that the first model was installed on the violin soundboard workpiece. We repeated the test with the new model installed on the wooden violin soundboard workpiece and we were amazed by the result"
It's a great story that illustrates the old adage "chance favours the prepared mind" although probably a narrative construct after-the-event. ERaudio recommend that the first components in the system to benefit should be the speakers. This seems obvious as those are the vibrators of the biggest magnitude (perhaps I could have expressed that better). ERaudio recommend that speakers be placed directly on the surface of the Space Harmonisers, which means they cannot be used with any speaker having a bottom-vent (oh dear, more crude ambiguity). Also the speakers will dictate the soundfield inhabited by every other system component, and if the effect of these devices transpires to be cumulative, speaker treatment might be crucial. Unfortunately their instructions seem better suited to floorstanders. The only speakers in my room this month are Rogers Studio 1a while my big home-made 3-way floorstanders are being rebuilt. The Rogers have a BBC type balance that's already warm and almost plummy in the bass & midrange. I have them on custom-made Origin Live stands with 3 legs and a very large footprint. These stands transformed the Rogers, which had seemed slow, even sluggish on heavy pillar stands and the extra height I specified (for the client to whom these originally belonged when I was doing specialist installations) enabled the OL stands to reduce the bass-mid emphasis as well. The large Space Harmonisers were not large enough to accommodate the stand (which I would have liked to have tried) so were inserted between stand & speaker. The Space Harmonisers rested on the upward facing spikes of the stand, but nowhere near the corners as ERaudio recommend. Without adding another board of similar size beneath each Space Harmoniser the supplied steel cones could not be used in their recommended position. These compromises flaw opinions here. However, I disliked the effect enough to realize that the Space Harmonisers would not remain under my speakers while I tested them under other components. I will arrange more suitable speakers for later testing and I suspect leaner balanced models might have more chance of benefit. I then tried them under various electronics, which led to a discovery.
There was something about the way they affected the voicing and harmonics of all my audio-components (whether or not an improvement), that made me try an experiment. I plugged my old Fender Bass into my little practice combo and played some familiar easy riffs. Then I put the combo onto the harmoniser on its little rubber feet. I asked my 9 year old son if he could hear a difference and he immediately responded that it was louder. This shocked me for a while until I remembered that the soundboard of a piano amplifies the string vibration coupled to it through the frame, in addition to reinforcing the airborne output of the strings. As well as the increase in volume (which sounded like about 2dB) the character of my bass was emphasised. The earthy woody tones of the Fender Precision were clearly foregrounded, regardless of the tone-control settings on bass & amplifier. The same phenomenon occured with my son's 3/4 size Strat-copy and his little old 8watt Laney. When we repeated the experiment after putting the steel cones under the Space harmonisers the effect was even more pronounced, as was the volume increase. This is a hifi website so I didn't explore the possibilities of them under keyboard amplification (or even keyboards themselves) or percussion. Because this is a hifi website I feel constained to limit my discussion of this application, but I believe every recording-studio should consider adding these to their armoury of devices to wring the best from performers; and who knows what they'd sound like under the peg of a cello?
The other components in my system were affected very differently in each trial. The Shanling CDT100c benefitted in some areas immediately. Its sound became less of a sound and more of a musical experience when the Space Harmoniser was placed under it. The first trial used the Shanlings own four composite feet resting on the medium Space harmoniser, which rested on its corner rubber feet (small rubber inserts pressed into little recesses near each corner). There was some loss of rhythm & timing, but gains in musicality (now there's a word from the old 70s emergence of subjectivism that I think I first remember used by Paul Messenger). Several days of listening in this mode confirmed early impressions, then I inserted the steel cones under each corner of the Space Harmoniser. The rhythm & timing returned dramatically along with bass definition and transient attack. This combination exceeded the untreated condition in every area such that a quick trial without the Space Harmoniser did not last long. I tried under various other cd players and the music became less processed; processed-music like processed-cheese bears only a superficial resemblance to the real thing and is boring to the point of irritation, so this is definitely an improvement. Under cd players the Harmonisers only worked with the steel cones, the rubber feet collapsed the whole musical structure.
Under all electronics the soundstage altered. The change was different for each componant, in shape or form. Under some the image-depth increased at the expense of width. Under another the image collapsed into the speakers. But with several components it was image-height that became more obvious, even though I've never been sure if image height is a deception, in this instance the results were repeatable. The soundstage usually seemed placed in a darker (visual analogies permitting) background with a better sense of a real acoustic-space being mimicked by the audio system.
Under my home-brew valve SET power amp with remote power supply there were only slight differences, but in some ways the most pleasurable. The best result combined the amplification part on Polychrystal cones on the larger Harmoniser, with the transformer module on Isonodes also on the same Harmoniser. Although this arrangement made less A-B difference than without secondary tuning devices, the full combination was definitely the preferable condition. The steel cones were then tried under the Space Harmoniser and they improved bass definition & tunefulness just as the manufacturer suggest. Although the Space Harmonisers on rubber feet were destructive to cd players, under this amplifier they were merely inferior to the steel cones. This amplifier is already optimised for resonance control & rich in musical harmonics at the expense of textbook accuracy and the steel cones made a further contribution to the optimisation of musical experience in my listenning room. ERaudio say that they tried "cones made of chrome-coated brass or aluminum", but that these were inferior to "steel cones because they provide a better focus of sounding on the bass" and the steel cones certainly made that difference, but more importantly, they restored the rhythm that had been sacrificed by the rubber nipples. Other amplifiers were less affected and sometimes acquired excessive warmth in the cello range, especially those in resonant cases.
Sadly I have only three of these fascinating devices so I was unable explore cumulative effects throughout my system. Neither of the Space Harmoniser sizes supplied were suitable for any combinations of my turntables & supports and it would be misleading to try them in inappropriate locations. A wider range of sizes is needed, given the diversity of proportions of high-end equipment this would be a useful product development for ERaudio. Perhaps the existing sizes are dictated by the available tuned cedar bars they have available at the moment.
Compared to many of the weird & wonderful tuning devices the Space Harmonisers offer excellent perceived value for money. Your 200-270 euro buy a beautiful, if very fragile, piece of craftsmanship. Some of the weirder little gizmos on the market cost much more than this for a handful of tiny things in a fancy box. Because the Space harmonisers are effectively tuning devices I recommend they should be auditioned under their intended components before purchase. This is an occasion where good dealers & importers are essential to keep some examples for loan because they mark very easily. I imagine only polishes recommended for musical instruments could be used without impairing their performance.
Dear reader, you can't escape your responsibility for your own buying decisions this time. You must hear these Space Harmonisers yourself and decide if they work for you. If you don't go listen to them you may be missing that special ingredient you desire from your system. If you do listen and don't like the effect you will have learned something.
If you play an amplified instrument you really must try the ERaudio Space Harmonisers under your combo, amp-top or speaker. They seem to exemplify the character of the instruments being amplified. After 30years of dabbling with music & audio & perception it reminds me how little we really understand about the sensory-brain interface. It's a scary experience that defies much received wisdom of domestic audio & semi-pro folklore. Happy listening.
More experiments and findings on Part 2
© Copyright 2004 Mark Wheeler - www.tnt-audio.com