Build Bridges Not Walls - Livingston Brown

“on what kind of footing?” enquire Plebs, stage left

on Audio Origami IsoPods!

[pod invasion]

Audio Origami IsoPods - Universal Isolating Feet for electronics

[Italian version here]

Product: Audio Origami IsoPods
Supplier: Audio Origami - UK
Price: £200 for four and £155 for three YMMV depending on exchange rates
Author: Mark Wheeler - TNT UK
Reviewed: Spring 2024

These Little Feet with a little Little Feat

“Oh Dear already - the Old Scribe's started” note Plebs, stage left.

As you'll no doubt have read in Part 1 of this review (if not, why not?) of the Audio Origami IsoPods, these are compound footers designed to control vibration while preserving stability. The IsoPods are designed to control vibration generated in the component while isolating the component from external structure borne vibration. Reminiscent of the Jade IsoDuo after taking steroids and an engineering degree, the IsoPods worked well under turntables. That other electromechanical audio device in need of proper support and isolation is the CD player.


Test Procedure

The modified Shanling CDT100C usually lives atop an ERaudio SpaceHarmoniser supported directly by the Kevlar cord of the Something Solid XR4 rack even if there is a Something Solid end grain balsa shelf and 4 ERaudio steel cones in the picture in the original rack review. The rack stands on Something Solid Missing Link feet in an alcove at the side of the room, therefore it is close to the ends of the floor joists. On a wooden suspended floor this is the most stable position in the room. The icing on the existing vibration control cake for the Shanling is that the individual output valves are supported on Allnic Absorb-GEL Vacuum Tube Dampers. These little triodes have small plate structures, compared to Octal double triodes, so will be far less prone to vibration anyway.

If we can hear any difference with this set up, there is a significant effect being wrought by the Audio Origami IsoPods. For comparison these alternative, either widely familiar or personal favourite, footers are being compared.

  1. Michell Tenderfeet - large (to raise the player above its standard corner cork feet)
  2. Yamamoto PB - 4 - 2
  3. Polycrystal Isolators

Each type is similarly positioned. One sits directly beneath the CD transport axis and the other two beneath the transformer/choke section at the back of the Shanling. Many experiments have determined these to be the best positions for supporting this player. As usual three points of support prove superior with this CD player. With all hard footers tried over 40 years, 3 points of support prove superior to 4 points of support with solid feet, spikes or hard pucks.

[mind state]

Audio Origami IsoPods Sound Quality: CD player

First disc played is the United States of Mind by the eponymous supergroup Maxi Priest, RobinTrower & 'Livi' Livingston Brown. Playing this twice back-to-back, once on Shanling's own cork feet, then with the IsoPods in place. PRaT is successfully preserved, which is always the primary determinant whether source component isolation is worthwhile. Undamaged PRaT is no reason to rush out to buy a product unless there is something worthwhile that is changed for the better. Clarity, by which I do not mean exaggerated overall dynamic contrast, but micro dynamics and downward dynamic range, seem to be one area of improvement. The other is spatial positioning, especially at high frequencies.

Softcore Surge on Sly & Robbie's Strip to the Bone confirms the preservation of rhythm and timing while indicating a clarity of lateral positioning that implies good phase performance. That the IsoPods can affect this suggests that structure borne interference must influence phase by some subtle electromechanical mechanism.

Your Old Scribe is something of a fan of HDCD. One reason for continuing with the modified Shanling CDT100C is its HDCD capability. Some reviewers find HDCD soft sounding, but I suspect they'd just become accustomed to, or adjusted their systems to disguise, some filter ringing and/or some phase artifacts in the top octave which is absent on HDCD. Sadly HDCD, offered by Microsoft with open access was a victim of the commercial reality of the potential earnings by the developers of rival DVDA and SACD technologies. HDCD is particularly good at preserving spatial information (your Old Scribe would love to have a HDCD of the immensely useful LEDR test). However, it was the subtle nuances of musicianship that stood out while listening to the Joe Walsh HDCD which were enhanced by the Audio Origami IsoPods. The same applies to the Grateful Dead 2001 double HDCD of recordings so early that some are marked The emergency Crew on the original tape boxes and others the Warlocks. These are a compliation of assorted studio takes, both mono and some stereo. The Dead were exploring traditional bluegrass tunes as well as the forerunners of the material that made them one of the most successful bands in the world. Switching between CD mode and HDCD mode demonstrates that the Audio Origami IsoPods actually increase the audible advantage of the HDCD encoding.

In the previous review of the Audio Origami IsoPods I suggested that what they do (psychoacoustically) is reduce 'haze', whatever that may be. I accepted that I had descended into audio writer clichés with this statement. I even went further into the murky world of audio writer clichés by indulging in analogue photography analogies. This time it gest worse. The effect of the IsoPods is akin to the difference between good quality prime lenses (fixed focal lengths of simple construction and good glass, like Zeiss) or those third party wide range zooms popularly toted on SLR's. The subject may look reasonably sharp (and mtf tests might confirm this) but the overall image lacks that punch exhibited by Leica toting Magnum snappers; and the bokeh is confusing rather than supporting the subject: the IsoPods help the musical subject-ground relationship in a similar manner.

Testament to the success of the Audio Origami IsoPods under this CD player is that your Old Scribe kept forgetting to remove them for comparison and instead just played another disc. The Mapleshade disc, Yucca Flats: Garden of Weeds being recorded in a 'real' acoustic space rather than close miked and pan-potted, supports the hypothesis that the IsoPods remove some of the mush that might interfere with spatial information. The sound of disc also indicates that dynamic range is enhanced by extra clarity in low level detail and the natural decay of notes.

Audio Origami IsoPods Sound Quality: valve amplifier

One pair of output valves in the (Sonic Frontiers) Assemblage SET300B are notoriously microphonic (the big plate Octal 6BX7 drivers are too, to a lesser extent). These 300B are the Chinese Valve Art supplied bundled with the original kit. They are actually the least favoured DHT output pair in the Old Scribe collection. When the amp is used full range the Valve Art 300B are gutless and thin. The curtailed bandwidth is obviously less noticeable when the SET300B is employed for midrange duties from 240Hz to 2.4kHz in the Fourth order Linkwitz-Riley filter active system. In this context, with the Audio Origami IsoPods underneath the Assemblage steel chassis, the ringing plate structures contribute far less false reverb to the music.. This is especially obvious because some of the Valve Art plate resonance is outside the 240-2400Hz pass-band. The result is that, especially when used full range, it can sound like these valves are singing along with the vocals. With the Audio Origami IsoPods in place this effect is reduced to the extent that the Valve Art 300B become acceptable, saving wear and tear on the genuine Western Electric pair.

However, the WE 300B were also tried, out of curiosity. Vocals significantly improve with this pair of valves, but it is difficult to express in words without sounding like those reviewers who'd rather be writing for the wine pages of high-end lifestyle magazines. The delineation of individual voices from ensembles increases, most noticeable on Arvo Pärt's O Adonai from Beatus, the Grateful Dead disc and Crosby, Stills & Nash album of the same name.



The Audio Origami IsoPods do as claimed under CD players and valve amplifiers. For £200 for four and £155 for three (they're flexible so four is OK under heavier items) they represent fair value among your Old Scribe's favoured footers and bargains by the standards of various gizmos marketed as magic & mystery. Tested are marked 30% and other densities may be available on special order for particular equipment masses.

CD playback depends on accurate disc reading to minimise the amount of errors, which research shows is affected by vibration. In 2005 your Old Scribe described the effects of vibration on CD players in the review of the excellent Avondale AAA5. In that instance the vibrations were controlled by mass (a brick followed by the BrightStar Little Rock. I do wonder if the IsoPods might also work on top of equipment under an inert mass. The Audio Origami IsoPods work as vibration control (both external and internal) on CD players and valve amplifiers as well as turntables.

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Music enjoyed while writing this review

Reference system

on CD of course

  • Priest, Trower & Brown: United States of Mind 2021 supergroup outing that aims “to unite listeners around the musical these fractured times&rdquo
  • Sly & Robbie: Strip to the Bone
  • Pip Pyle 7 Year Itch
  • Little Feat: Waiting for Columbus
  • Yucca Flats: Garden of Weeds Mapleshade ADD audiophile recording preserving the studio acoustic
  • Future Sound of London: Expander EP
  • Joe Walsh: The Smoker You DFrink, The Player You Get Audio Fidelity HDCD
  • Arvo Pärt: Beatus Estonian Philharmonic Choir, recorded in the presence of the composer
  • Grateful Dead: Birth of the Dead 2001 HDCD
  • Various Artists: Jazz Grooves another excellent Mapleshade recording
  • Crosby, Stills & Nash: Crosby, Stills & Nash

Equipment used in this review:

  • Turntable: Michell Orbe SE

  • Turntable Modifications: include Pedersen subchassis & suspension kit

  • Turntable armboard Modification: Pedersen Michell Armboard isolator

  • other Turntable Modifications: Polycrystal PolyCrystal Point Discs beneath 12mm laminated glass sheet, beneath Orbe and aftermarket feet; Deflex plain sheet beneath Orbe motor pod

  • Pick-up arm: Hadcock GH242 SE with all silver wiring from cartridge to silver Eichmann Bullet plugs

  • Other Turntables include: Garrard 401 (in plywood & concrete plinth) and Thorens TD160 in stronger plinth with laminated wood pickup arm platform

  • Pickup arms on 401: SME3012 series 1 or SME 3012 II with FD200 damper

  • Pickup arm on TD160: SME 3009 SII improved detachable headshell

  • Turntable support: Kiln dried sand filled custom wall shelf (aluminium reinforced plywood & hardwood) with marble sheets on sand bed

  • Cartridges: Dynavector DV XX-2 MkII; Decca London (John Wright serviced 2020) with walnut body;

  • Phono pre-amplifier: Canor TP306VR+ with Shuguang Treasure 6SL7 valves and NOS black bottle Brimar 6SN7, casework damped by additional internal struts and BrightStar Isonodes. Steel cover removed and chassis loaded by BrightStar Little Rock. Supported by BrightStar extra large Isonodes on Something Solid XR4 rack on Something Solid Missing Link feet. on Polycrystal isolator cones

  • Line Pre-amplifier: Audio Research Corporation Reference 3 with steel top cover removed, casework damped by BrightStar Little Rock 5, tube rolled and vibration further controlled internally by silicone O-rings and Pearl valve cooler/dampers, on Something Solid end grain balsa plank, on Something Solid XR4 rack

  • Crossover: Marchand XM126-3 Linkwitz Reilly (4th order) balanced valve 3-way active crossover with Marchand pm127 power supply

  • Treble Amplifier: de Paravicini (HiFi World) designed SET6080 in RATA Torlyte case and outboard mains transformer, and passive components to match mid and bass

  • Midrange Amplifier: Assemblage SET300B Signature variously tube-rolled and components to integrate with treble and bass

  • Bass amplifier: Breeze Audio Nelson Pass Zen clone SE class A FET 10W

  • Tuning planks beneath crossover, treble and midrange amplifiers: ERaudio Large SpaceHarmoniser on ERaudio steel cones or Yamamoto PB9 & PB10 'setting bases'

    on custom spalted beech shelves
  • Active Loudspeakers: 3-way active loudspeaker drivers:

  • Active Loudspeakers Bass drivers: Focal Audiom 12 VX with dual layer Cerwin Vega 2 layer cone roll surround, in 3 layer 25mm birch-plywood braced, hardwood - chipboard - fibreboard - birch-ply reflex cabinets, with Deflex subwoofer sheets & and with Deflex wedges and centre supported long fibre wool.

  • Active Loudspeakers: mid-range drivers: Focal Audium 7K with rubber solution surface damping removed. Mounted in separate enclosures with sculpted & radiused fiddleback sycamore baffle, 25mm birch-ply bracing, Deflex standard sheets. Rattletrap Extreme damped, decommissioned missile warhead, aluminium tipped copper mesh reinforced resin outer shells - literally.

  • Active Loudspeakers high frequencies: Focal TC120TDX with felt focus ring.

Extensive and ever evolving acoustic treatment including corner bass absorption, high frequency (above 2kHz) absorption at primary tweeter reflection points, high frequency diffusers at other critical points.

Some low impedance, low reactance wire is used to join these components together, much of it made up by the Old Scribe from high quality components with Pixie Dust personally mined by the Old Scribe. Mains is supplied by an audio only Ben Duncan 3kVA balanced mains spur main with centre tapped Radex earth (ground) non-inductive connections to a technical earth. Crossover and power amplifiers fed by a minimum connections hydra. All mains cables are screened & supplied from a non RCD connection.

Copyright © 2024 Mark Wheeler - -