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Yamamoto PB-22 - setting bases

[Great pyramids of Yamamoto]
[Italian version]

Manufacturer: Yamamoto Sound Craft - Japan
Product: Yamamoto tuning PB-22 triangle
Price: 1000¥
Approximate European cost: ~7.30 € (YMMV depending on currency fluctuation)
Reviewer: Mark Wheeler - TNT UK
Reviewed: July 2009

"Not again!?! plead plebs, stage left, "Didn't we get enough of tuning and vibration control in the old fool's epic eight part vibration control series?"
"Not to mention the two extra pieces on space ships or some such thing," add plebs, stage right
"Space Harmonisers, like Star Trek," counter plebs, stage left, "plus the thing for isolating individual valves from vibration. The old fool's obsessed; he's developed OCD"

These PB-22 ebony triangles resemble individual chunks of Toblerone (now there's a thought for low-budget isolation) and are the least expensive in a massive range of vibration isolation, tuning and energy control devices from this established Japanese crafter of valve amplifiers and esoteric audio devices. Every aspect of the all valve ultra-fi-end of the audiophool spectrum seems to have been investigated and addressed by Yamamoto San, from boxwood or ebony SME type replacement headshells to carved wooden horns for Voice-Of-the-Theatre type speakers. Mr Shigeki Yamamoto sent over a large package of tuning products to try and I will review each type individually in its range of sizes. My obsession with ultra-value products made the PB-22 the first of Shigeki Yamamoto's to get excited about, being the lowest priced, even though until now I had not worked out just how inexpensive they are.

The previous vibration isolation series tested a range of products under each class of hardware: turntables; cd players; amplifiers (valve and solid-state); speakers and identified the most appropriate for each. Some rules of thumb emerged and the star good value products were the BrightStar Isonode in the lossy blobby category and the PolyCrystal Isolators (sold in threes) in the composite cone category. These two products beat off all their similar rivals for performance and price. Sadly several readers have found the PolyCrystal isolators are no longer available and I have been unable to contact the company; the superficially conceptually similar RDC cones and cone sockets do not come close the the PolyCrystal performance, despite also being hard compound mixes (which might explain why they were never submitted for review despite requests). The DIY solution of pumice cut into triangles is almost as good as RDC, if somewhat crumbly.

Fortunately other dual material types appear to work very well, the wood/carbon fibre Something Solid triple nipple feet (sold in threes again) work very well wherever the PolyCrystal did. The Avondale Audio alloy/carbon fibre feet (also sold in sets of three) work in the same locations for a more forward if generally similar interpretation. For a more damped effect, where needed, the Jade IsoDuo Absorba Footer attempt, at higher cost to combine the vertical isolation of the Isonodes with the lateral rigidity of the dual compound types. The Yamamoto products will be compared to the best of the rest for each component.

Times change and your scribe has become increasingly aware that vibration control is as much a tuning art as an energy control science. System improvements tend to be cumulative, particularly in respect of vibration isolation and fine tuning. On finding, in the original series of experiments that some equipment benefits most from flexible or resilient vibration isolation (blobby type devices) and some benefit more from more rigid decoupling regimes (cones and spikes) and others in systems that decouple more on one axis than another, I have tried the best of each under every hardware item I have reviewed to get the best from them. Some reviewers have argued that using the same brand of vibration control throughout ones system is cumulative and that the whole treatment exceeds the sum of the parts. I have yet to find a range of products from the same brand that perform universally well with all hardware so I continue to mix and match. I have even found that a mix of hard and soft isolators under some hardware (especially cd players) better than either alone.

Thoroughly reviewing vibration control and tuning devices is probably more complicated, and at times tedious, than anything other than pickup arms or cartridges. To give you, dear reader, any information more useful than the usual comics' "well the Niftofeet250 worked well under my amplifier so it's worth considering at the price" single page throwaway requires rigorous optimisation and testing, so this may take some time.

Yamamoto PB-22 triangular Setting Bases

These little babies are the starter in the Yamamoto setting base range; Shigeki Yamamoto uses the term setting base for his solid support feet, a term which I prefer to footer, the latter implying some sporting activity. Carved from solid ebony (sustainably sourced in Southeast Asia according to the website), they are uncoated to save cost. Many Yamamoto products are supplied in sets of 3 or sets of 4 (customer choice at the time of ordering) and regular readers will know I have tested 3 vs 4 hard supports in a variety of roles from cd players to loudspeakers and find 4 are at best the equal of three but never better and nearly always worse. You heard it: 3 hard support devices are almost always better than 4 and only very rarely are 4 equal to 3. Compliant devices are a different matter entirely. I am pleased to see some manufacturers acknowledge this with 3 rigid footers and a single compliant footer to make sets to insert under 4 spiked products; hooray!
The Yamamoto PB-22 do come in a set of 4. I suspect this is to make them fit neatly in a pack. I tried 4 under a couple of items and guess what?
"Wha-at?" enquire plebs, stage left.
3 is better.
"He would say that," taunt plebs, stage left.
I tried them point up and point down and guess what?
"What?" demand plebs, stage left.
It depends what they are supporting.
"copout!" accuse plebs, stage left.
I tried a mix of point up and point down under cd players...
"Aargh!" opine plebs, stage left.
Point up was better
"Well you don't say!" asset plebs, stage left, unecessarily sarcastically.

Manufacturer's Specification

  • size: 38mmX25 mm height of the base: 18 mm
  • material: South Eastern Asian striped ebony
  • Specific gravity: 1:1.1
    (lower than the ebony used in some other Yamamoto products)

Sometimes I am a cruel reviewer. I set up the Avondale AAA5 upon its own feet optimally placed on an old prototype Something Solid platform. I place this on magnetic springs (review soon) at each corner atop a kiln-dried sand filled box section frame on 4 cone feet. Theoretically the dominant audible effect of the supports will be that of the Something Solid platform (a known quantity of 20 years) and the feet between it and the flimsy steel case of the AAA5. To remove another dimension of chassis colouration a BrightStar Little Rock 5 is perched on top of the centre of the AAA5 top plate. One might expect very little difference under these circumstances, but what difference there is can only be from the cd player to platform interface.

Spinning Sly & Robbie Reggae Greats (an Island Compilation) foregrounds the best qualities of this set up. Great rhythm, superb bass, good pace and excellent macro-dynamics all explicit with the Avondale isolators. Substituting the Yamamoto PB-22 pyramids in the positions most favoured by Avondale's own isolators bring subtle changes. The soundstage is noticeably more diffuse, all instruments being larger and vaguer, indeed the whole soundstage is bigger in all 3 dimensions. The vaguer PB-22 soundstage is more overlapping and interonnected, which while less explicit is actually enjoyable in its own way. Rhythm and pace are equal to the Avondale isolator, which is a surprise as the Avondale Isolators are naturally top class in this position under the Avondale player. Bass is less well defined and the notes less well pitched with the PB-22; it would take more replays to sit down with a bass guitar and transcribe the part. The PB-22 are approximately 7.50€ which is much less than the 40 (currently approximately 43€) Avondale isolators, indeed at today's exchange rates one could buy over 5 sets of four PB-22 (making 6 sets of 3 plus two left over). The qualitative difference between the Avondale and the PB-22 sets is like that between stainless-steel strings on a maple neck bass and nickel strings on an ebony neck; ebony, now there's a coincidence.

Dynamics are equal between the PB-22 and the Avondale. The subtle differences are more audible than might be expected on this already well isolated rig, but the preference is not as clear cut as the prices would indicate. Human voices are well served by the Yamamoto PB-22, modern percussion by the Avondale. The orientation of the edge of the PB-22 can make a subtle difference; Yamamoto San suggests trying all orientated front to back vs all orientated side to side to hear which is better. I found the trio of PB-22 worked best under cd players with the lines of their uppermost edges arranged as tangents to an imaginary elipse intersecting all three; this applied under the Avondale and modified Shanling.

Placed upon the ERaudio SpaceHarmonisers but beneath the equipment previously standing directly on them emphasises those tuned wood qualities I described in the SpaceHarmoniser review. The combination raises the total performance package another notch. However, below the SpaceHarmoniser planks, the ERaudio solid steel cones preserve rhythm and tonal qualities better than the PB-22, and it is valve amplification that benefits most. My DIY SET6080 in Torlyte case power amplifier gained 4 points (1 each for rhythm, bass extension, bass clarity, fuzziness) on three PB-22 (point edge upwards) over the existing arrangement of Isonode and Polychrystal, but only when its outboard mains transformer remained on 3 Isonodes. Solid state equipment seems to benefit more subtlely. Resonant cases are still better served by Isonodes, but a trio of Yamamoto PB-22 work under more solid or non-metal casework, if not as well as more expensive competitors.

Summary

[great_pyramids_of_pink_floyd] The Yamamoto PB-22 improve on the standard feet of most equipment. They generally work best in sets of three with the point edge facing up to contact either the hardware or support platform. The only place where they might be less able than the standard feet is where the equipment case is of clangy sheets of steel that benefit from the OEM compliant feet, or on those rare pieces of equipment that have high quality optimised feet fitted as standard.

Some equipment will do better with soft compliant supports. Even the bargain priced BrightStar Isonodes are 4 times the price of the PB-22 triangles, at present exchange rates, so the equivalent price point soft support would be halved slow squash balls. The PB-22 work in all the same places as the PolyCrystal work (at an Eileen of their price). The PB-22 are different but not globally inferior to the Avondale isolators that are 6 times the price; the PB-22 are perhaps less accurate but offer an organic quality instead. It is a choice to be made on subjective grounds alone.

In many respects there are similarities with the ERaudio SpaceHarmonisers in that the PB-22 do improve many aspects of audio performance in a subjective way that is not neutral. They do improve hi-fi qualities of information retrieval like many aftermarket rivals at higher prices, but they also add their own ebony colouration.

Conclusion

There is no competition to the PB-22 at their price, even the aluminium Mitchell Tenderfeet are more costly and would be optimum with completely different audio items. The Yamamoto PB-22 have been so fiercely priced that it would be difficult even to make them yourself at the same price (I checked the price of ebony at a local woodturning store) even if you, dear reader, have the time and the correct tools.

The principal strength of these little wooden triangles is the way they disentangle the various voices of different instruments and vocalists, whether under amplifier or cd player. They even benefit inexpensive plinth turntables (not that there are any really inexpensive skeletal turntables).

I began listening to the PB-22 setting bases first because I could see from the prices in Japanese Yen that they are the lowest priced feet in the range. I did not calculate the Euro price until writing the text you see before you. All my judgements had been based on what I thought these would cost in audio terms. I had expected they cost similar or less than the Something Solid, the Avondale, the RDC cones and the PolyCrystal. I had already written most of the text based on this 25€ to 50 € estimate. Using an online calculator to calculate the € price was a shock. At today's exchange rates they will cost Europeans 7.50€. This puts them in a similar price category to home made isolators.

The Yamamoto Sound Craft setting bases are a very inexpensive way to discover if exotic hard wood feet suit your equipment. If you buy 3 sets and try their combined effect under cd player, pre-amplifier and power amplifier and discover that just one of these components is transformed compared to your previous support feet, then it becomes worthwhile ordering more expensive ebony options. At this price it really is a case of suck 'em and see!

Music enjoyed during this review

On Vinyl:

  • Fleetwood Mac: The Pious Bird of Good Omen
  • Free: Pop Chronic, one of a series of 70s German sampler compilations, released on Island
  • Future Sound of London: Far Out Son of Lung and the Ramblings of a madman
On cd:
  • Future Sound of London: Expander
  • Arvo Pärt: Alina, sublime and heartrending when rhythm & timbre are perfect
  • Muse: Black Holes & Revelations
  • Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon, MoFiSL UDCD 517
  • Sly & Robbie: Reggae Greats, Island Compilation
  • Toots & the Maytals: Reggae Greats, another Island Compilation
  • Yucca Flats: Garden of Weeds

© Copyright 2009 Mark Wheeler - www.tnt-audio.com

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