Nov 292010
 

This review kind of got stalled due to the clump of HiFi Shows AIHFA has been covering over the last few months, so apologies go to Concerto Audio for the lateness of the review

I installed these cones several months ago and there they have been until today (going about their business) when I sat down to formally review them. Sometimes (though not always) the best and most immediate evaluation is that gained via removing an item or items one has been using for a protracted period of time and then hearing the result of that action.

Truth be told they arrived at a particularly busy time and I had installed them after a brief exchange of Emails with Santosh of Concerto Audio but I had not listened to my system directly after placing them under my Meridian electronics. I was aware of a change in the  sound of my system but I had accepted it rather than analyse it. So having got used to the benefit of the Sound Mechanics C8E Cones being in place but until today I had not fully appreciated just how much of an improvement they were making to the sound until I removed them. However I am getting ahead of myself a bit here.

There are lots of Isolation (and coupling) products on the market, cones, spikes etc but in my opinion few are as beautiful or well made (the Track Audio isolators are both well made and beauties in metal. Review to follow soon) or as simple as the C8E Walnut Cones from Sound Mechanics are, or at least appear to be.

Each dome (there are three in a set) has a hollowed out centre and is made in the C8E case from beautiful walnut (one of my fave types of wood) wood and the hollowed out centre contains small particles, which are kept in place by a semi-opague material (plastic/acyrilic ?) and that’s it. One of the C8E cones has a small red spot on the top and the distributor expressed a preference for that cone to be positioned at the front ( under) the component to be isolated and that is how I used them during the test period.

Sound Mechanics offer 3 models of Isolation Cones the C8E Walnut, C8E Beech and C88. The Cones are the same physical size but differ in regards to their internal fillings and the type of wood they are made from. However as this review is on the C8Es I will concentrate on them alone.

As mentioned earlier on I used these under my Meridian G02 pre-amplifier, G56 power-amplifier and also a couple of phonostages (my own Bat VK10se, Croft Acoustics Riaa and a Hanns PA30) during the course of the review period.

I must be honest here and say that there is not a lot of explanations in regard to how these products work, namely the nature of the lose material that is contained within them. I suppose in a way that’s good as the ‘foo’ element that can exist with such products is kept at bay but my own natural curiosity would like some answers.

All I can present you with ‘dear reader’ is what I have lifted from Sound Mechanics website……

“Sound Mechanics’ C8E Wood Cones exploit the natural cell structure in specially selected walnut wood to improve the sonic performance of Hi-Fi equipment by controlling unwanted mechanical vibration. The C8Es are designed to :

1. Adopt a shape, which minimizes the effect of resonance of the cone itself.
2. Employ metallic particles inside to effect an even and wide frequency response characteristic (The design is patented by Sound Mechanics: US Patent No. 5159104).
3. Reduce the physical instability of the property of wood.”

Based on that information it would seem that these cones are designed to ‘tune resonances’ rather than couple or de-couple as other cones, spikes etc do. So we are in similar territory Harmonix and Shun Mook with these C8E cones.

The material (?) that is within each cone appears to be slightly visually different and thus based on what I quote above could be of a different resonant/density/frequency to each other. I am grasping at straws a bit here….however lets press on; with some more info from Sound Mechanics site.

“Our Philosophy

Some audiophiles seem to be impressed by coloration. But this is not what Sound Mechanics want in music reproduction. Sound Mechanics wants revealing reproduction that lets you feel the emotion of music, feel what composers and performers want to tell you.

Sound Mechanics believes in ultra linearity as being the way to achieve perfect muisic reproduction.

Sound Mechanics believes in perfect phasing as being the way to achieve perfect music reproduction.

Sound Mechanics believes in high speed and fast transient as being the way to achieve perfect music reproduction.

Sound Mechanics believes in wide bandwidth as being the way to achieve perfect music reproduction.

Every product designed by Sound Mechanics is based on our beliefs and is targeted towards real sound reproduction.

Technology

Resonance from transformers, electronic parts, and even your listening room affects the linearity and fluency of music and this is a known and accepted fact.

Vibration Coupling

Vibration feedbacks are one of the major causes of colourations. It disturbs the signal source and could even create multiple reflections. Various techniques are required to against or minimize the feedback problems, a proper coupling would ensure smooth energy transfer.

Mechanical Grounding

Grounding is one of the most important aspects to be concerned in a system, both mechanical and electrical. But in the audio field, it is not until late 90’s the importance of mechanical grounding was recognized.

Law of Multi-Laminor™

Selected hardwood strips are laid tightly inside each shelf under “Natural Coupling Ratio” (NCR) for Sound Mechanics HiFi racks and platforms. NCR diletes the resonance of the material itself, and hardwood strips effectively transfers resonance out of audio gear, providing the most neutral supporting platform to the equipments.

Sound Mechanics was founded by a team of specialists renowned in the fields of acoustics, vibration physics and advanced wood and adhesive technology. The company is specialised in advanced high fidelity speaker systems, speaker enclosures, professional grade audio equipment suppport and vibration control accessories.”

There are some interesting claims there and while I am not qualified or able to test those details by measurements I can say that over the years I have subjectively found that placing equipment on different materials either on their own feet or with replacement feet has had an effect on the sound.

My first experiences in such matters date’s back well over 23 years ago when I discovered that both placing and moving cones around underneath a Marantz CD 94mk2 CD player chanced the sound. More recently RDC cones, Black Ravioli pads and Russ Andrews Oak Cones (to name a few) have been tried by myself with various effects but this review is about the Sound Mechanics C8E Cones so lets focus on those. I mention the other products just to illustrate that I am not new to hearing the sound alter (not always for the best) when using such items. I guess I am saying that I don’t view these things as some do as being ‘Foo’. The proof as they say is in the tasting of the pudding so let the review begin.

System

The system used was my normal recent reference system: Moon Andromeda CD player (I was also using a Hanns T20 turntable, SME 5 tonearm, Lyra Clavis Cartridge during this time period as well), Meridian G02 pre-amplifier, Meridian G56 power-amplifier, Balanced Audio Technology VK10se phonostage and Anthony Gallo Refrence 3.1 speakers. Cabling was Atlas Mavros both signal cables and speaker cables. The equipment was housed on Clearlight Audio aspekt racks (these use RDC in the construction). Mains cables were Analysis Plus Power Oval 2 and Audience AU24.  Telos RFI Caps were used on all unused RCA and XLR output and input sockets.

I thought that this review might require a lot of comparisons but it turned out to be more straight forward than that. I like reviews that are simple to do.

Music

In the main I used….

Nitin Sawhney – Beyond Skin

Massive Attack – Heligoland

Jeff Beck – Live at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club

The Test

I played a few tracks from Beyond Skin, namely Letting Go, The Pilgrim and Tides with the C8E cones in place and enjoyed the sound as I had for the past few months. I then removed the three cones from under the G02 pre-amplifier and I cued Letting Go up on the Moon Andromeda and hit the play button……oh boy !

The open, detailed and wonderfully musical sound I had been enjoying a few minutes before had lost those qualities somewhat. Letting Go had gained a layer of thickness, with the music now more closed in. The sound was less open with a thicker overall sound and a definite loss of definition. I guess it was like having High Definition TV and stepping back to standard definition. That anology only goes so far though as there had been no edge enhancement with the C8Es in place as you can get with ramped up HD pictures. The openness, detail, wider deeper soundstage and clarity gained by having the C8 cones in place was not at the expense of musicality.

I then removed the Cones from under the Meridian G56 power-amplifier and a similar effect occurred as had with the pre-amp but just not quite to the same level.

I then re-placed the cones under the pre-amplifier and then the power-amplifier and each time I was according to Sound Mechanics adding a layer of tuning under the components, the sound opened up and the previous magic was back. Adding the cones under the power-amplifier was not however as dramatic as adding them under the pre-amplifier.

I have looked inside both Meridian items and they are very well made and not in the slightest bit flimsy, nor do they look particularly microphonic but some less than obvious (to these eyes anyway) issue was being addressed by using the Sound Mechanics C8E cones.

Based on past experiences I had really expected this sort of effect to be more pronounced with components that use valves (and having tried them with several items that use valves they do work with them too) and I was somewhat surprised that in this case the components were solid-state (past experience with solid state amplification has not shown such great changes in sound using after market replacement feet).

I also listened to other music as well both on CD and vinyl and the results were always the same.

Conclusions

As I state above in the past my adding of cones, squidgy feet etc to solid-state amplification has not led to such a large improvement in sound quality over valve equipment. So from that point of view I am surprised at the level of improvement the Sound Mechanics C8E cones brought to the Meridian gear and not so much that there was an improvement.

These items are not hard to install in fact compared to other items of the type they are very easy to fit (and forget) as they don’t fall over when placed on a flat surface and will sit nice and stable, while you lower your amplifier, pre-amplifier or other component into place.

I for one am impressed by this my first exposure to Sound Mechanics cones and I am reliable informed that the MC88s are even better. So if you are near a Sound Mechanics dealer grab a few C8E cones for a home loan and I don’t think you will be giving them back.

Neil

Retail Prices…. C8E Cones £75  for three.

Source of  Review Product Loan…..  Concerto Audio (Distributor)

Link http://www.concertoaudio.co.uk/

Sound Mechanics http://www.soundmechanics.net/en/about.html

© Text and Photos Copyright 2010 Adventures in High Fidelity Audio…..except for Sound Mechanics product photos and album covers; Copyright belongs with their original publishers.

NB No part or portion of this article may be reproduced or quoted without written permission.

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