Andy Baker is a sceptic, but like most hi-fi nuts, he’ll try any tweak for the chance of sonic improvement.
THE AUDIOPHILE WORLD is packed full of tweaks and gadgets all purporting to improve – or at least fine tune – the sound of our precious hi-fi investments. While I’m sure most of these products are well-intentioned, words and phrases like ‘dubious’, ‘spurious’, ‘outrageous’ and ‘what the hell?!’ spring to mind. There are various cones, discs, pads, balls, platforms and crystals of varying materials, shapes, sizes and of course prices (and I include cables in this list), some of which actually do work. And if they don’t, you can rest assured that it’s because your system isn’t good enough. Or your unrefined ears aren’t attuned to picking up the subtle changes to the sound.
Yes, I do lean towards the sceptical side, but I also have an open mind and I’m willing to give anything a try. There is no doubt that vibrations from transformers and moving parts can affect the quality of the sound produced and many of us don’t exactly have the ideal environment in which to locate these sensitive devices. Even I have cones and granite slabs, not to mention some “magic discs” attached to my speaker cables (they were a free sample and I’m yet to bring myself to assess them) and adorning my component cabinet. So when Simon Brown (designer of The Wand Tonearm) from Design Build Listen in Dunedin sent me a box of Les Davis Audio 3D(2) dampers to accompany the brilliant Hana MC cartridges which he is also the NZ agent for (the review of which I promise to complete before Christmas) I was intrigued.
Made in Sydney, Australia, the 3D(2) dampers use constrained layer damping technology, the same as that used in aviation and astronomy for effectively controlling vibrations. Constrained layer damping is the process in which a viscoelastic material is sandwiched between two stiffer layers. ‘Viscoelastic’ – the word describes itself but basically in this kind of application it can refer to a synthetic rubber material which dampens, isolates and absorbs vibrations, noise and any sort of shock. Sorbathane is a common example, though I can’t say what exactly is used in the 3D(2) dampers.
The wee silver dampers are laser cut into discs of just over 50mm in diameter and about 1mm thick and are designed to be used in pairs, one on top of the other, underneath the feet of audio components such as CD players, amplifiers, turntables and speakers. My question is why use them in pairs, surely they could have been made thicker? No doubt there’s a logical, scientific explanation. Anyway, they couldn’t be simpler to use and, to be honest, it’s comparatively cheap, so why not give them a try?
Some people report more than subtle effects, like hearing deeper into recordings, lower noise floors, more detail; all the good stuff, really. The consensus is that depending on the equipment being used the effects can be anywhere from subtle to downright dramatic.
Experimenting can’t hurt, either. Try using pairs of damping discs under only two of your components feet, for example. Simon Brown told me he heard noticeable differences when the discs were placed under just two of the feet of the power supply from a $60k turntable. I first tried the discs under my custom Lenco turntable and the effect reminded me of the time, years ago, when I placed a heavy sandbox (audio-grade of course) underneath my old Rega P3-24. The result was a sharper, more focused sound and an even quieter-than-usual noise floor, giving me a fraction more detail and, most importantly, more enjoyment. Put it this way: I didn’t want to remove them. Placing them under my amplifier and phono stage gave more subtle effects, though I’m still playing around and I’m currently experimenting with placing them beneath the spikes of my speakers. Thinking in terms of the audio chain as a whole, the Les Davis 3D(2) dampers have made a noticeable improvement to my system overall. Which is probably why I bought two sets. AW BAKER
* A box of 16 costs $115 from www.designbuild.listen.com