Artesania Amp Platforms

6moons.com

Srajan Ebaen

Equipment isolation. Two guys sit in a tapas bar. Says one to the other: "My shelfless Artesania Audio Exoteryc rack from Spain is so selfless, it renders all add-on footers moot." The other guy is dyslexic. He heard 'mute' so says nothing. And that's just like the first guy's gear. Even so, that fellow can still add shelves into his frame-within-a-frame contraption which, from an outer exoskeleton, hangs an internal cage. There movable struts with adjustable upfacing Neoprene-padded footers conform to the size of his components.

He might add shelves to accommodate unusually small components which elude the tightest spacing of the rack's own contact patches; or to place two small components side by side. Or he might support an oversized turntable on top of the structure because it wouldn't fit inside.

Thus far the Spaniards of Artesania Audio had offered triple-bonded tempered glass for those optional shelves which could double as dedicated amp stands. How specialty glass which is structurally amorphous rather than grainy can be an effective resonance barrier is demonstrated by Perfect8, Crystal Cable and Waterfall Audio. These three companies use glass for some or all of their speaker enclosures.

Yet as we all know, time stands still for no man. To my knowledge, British expat to Spain Cliff Ormand of Vibex was first to exploit his country's Krion material to trap bad hifi vibrations. A mix of aluminium dust and resin binder, Krion can be cast, cut, moulded and polished and is strong enough for architectural purposes (see above). Vibex exploit it for AC/DC filter enclosures.

But for nearly a year, there'd been murmurs. Cliff was working on a Krion equipment rack. Now his country men from Artesania have beat him to the punch with their latest: Krion shelf options for their top Exoteryc racks. As it happens, Crystal Cable's Minissimo monitor launched at Munich HighEnd 2014. It used neither bonded glass nor bolted aluminium panels like its stable mates. Instead it was machined from a solid German equivalent to Porcelanosa's Krion, i.e. aluminium flakes suspended in resin. Edwin van der Kley explained how these flakes act like stressed members of a bridge.

With all Artesania stuff, we're talking high mass. Having moved house with a double-wide 3-tier Exoteryc once already—both flats involved plenty of stairs—my back knows it all too well. The rack is a beast to move but once installed, quite easily slid on its flat footers particularly when used with the hard white and not neoprene pads. If I need to get behind my rack, I can easily pull it forward on our hardwood floor without marring it.

The glass turntable platform is seriously heavy on its own. When it comes to shipping these goods, it rather impacts the transport bill. Ouch. But that didn't prevent Artesania global marketing director Cayetano Castellano from footing said bill for publicity purposes then or now. For this assignment, he proposed to send me two glass amp stands sized to fit FirstWatt's SIT1 monos; and an oversized aka turntable Krion platform with matching steel frame to use with my bigger Pass Labs XA30.8.

ntil now, all my line-level components had been properly artesaniated on the sidewall. This also rendered me elegantly immune from review solicitations for sundry footers, pucks and cones. Meanwhile the amp or amps, sniff, made do with a massive if perfectly ordinary hardwood rack from Rajasthan. That's a standard piece of decorative home furniture without any advanced resonance attenuation properties or interfaces. Was I leaving performance underneath that table?

Whilst I didn't play the harp but clarinet, I still love to harp on the subject of equipment supports. Like power delivery, it only appears to be a low-order concern. True, cinder blocks or wine crates will certainly hold up your gear. But that's not just a visual compromise. Proper resonance control is an unsexy topic which regardless pays big dividends once heeded. For a mini primer on the Artesania Audio Exotyeric way, take a look at the next photos.

You see upright pillars on spikes, then round discs with invisible pads on the floor. You see top and bottom cross members which connect the uprights. That's the outer frame or exoskeleton. You also note three white cylinders—there's a total of six—which stand off the uprights via thick welded short posts. It's from these that the inner cage hangs via six down-pointing spikes which rest in receivers inside the cylinders.

Next we see the triple-layer turntable platform on Neoprene pads and a steel frame which rests on four spikes atop the filled metal uprights. We also see an Esoteric C-03 preamp atop four Neoprene-topped white footers which themselves rest on needle bearings which bolt into movable cross members of the inner cage.

Now we see a thinner triple-layer glass shelf which itself is supported just like the Esoteric. Placed upside down, there are four more white footers with Neoprene pads atop the glass to act as receivers for the COS Engineering D1's very pointy footers. The glass meanwhile allows me to position this DAC/preamp diagonally so its IR eye faces the listening seat. Now I can also see its volume display of tiny white LEDS. If I did without the shelf as I do for the other components, this diagonal positioning wouldn't be possible.

To reiterate, like any properly engineered performance rack rather than piece of furniture, the Artesania Audio Exoteryc rack creates a number of mechanical barriers to prevent migration of resonances in either direction - up from the floor into the equipment; and from one component up or down into the next. No matter what equipment you own today, tomorrow or 10 years from now, it will always sound its best and like itself.

It won't be changed by interactions with external mechanical energies. 'Like itself' simply means, in mechanical isolation. Of course airborne energies are generated by your loudspeakers (the louder and bassier you play them, the more in-room air pressure they bathe your components in). Those remain unfiltered.

To eliminate them would require equipment vaults or housing all the gear in another room; snaking speaker cables through a wall or floor; and nasty WiFi to command playback selections and volume. For most, that'd be rather too extreme. But hey, for many even the basic notion that what hifi equipment sits in or on is too extreme already. So grit your teeth and bugger on.

That just any glass—or glass alone—maketh not for the most ideal hifi support is shown next with my Ikea office desk. Three silicon-ring suspended flotation footers called Vega from South Korea's HifiStay isolate the Goldmund/Job 225 stereo amp. They make a demonstrable improvement in soundstage depth, image specificity and general contrast ratio, i.e. better low-level resolution. How would the Spanish amp stands improve over my wood furniture?

Would the glass and Krion platforms 'sound' different - or one be superior to the other? 

On the appointed winter day, the delivery truck arrived with the Spanish pallet of 60kg worth of art(esania). Being nicely tied up and spotting three garage doors of which one was clearly ours, the driver had zero intentions of cracking into the tough shrink wrap and shlepping stuff up to our 3rd-floor digs. No stereo here but purely mono i mano. Thankfully the big Krion platform was lighter than its glass equivalent already on my rack.

 

 

Packed to the hilt, there was plenty of protective bubble and shrink wrap to undo. As usual with this product, I had a choice of black Neoprene or hard white plastic inserts for the floor discs. Since I wanted to be able to slide the loaded racks across the sisal rug and avoid bench-pressing the mighty XA30.8, I opted for the slippery whites. With the significant mass of the platforms plus the amps on their tops, the receiver dimples for the floor spikes are plenty deep to avoid jumping track once everything is leveled perfectly. I was in happy slide (ruler) country.

Cayetano had thoughtfully included two different frames for the big platform. One was the height of the smaller stands which eliminates the extension shafts. I opted for the taller frame to create an Olympic podium effect.

Here we see the big Krion slab on the taller frame. If stacked on the Exoteryc rack, this creates sufficient clearance for the next tier to house a component of standard height. That's the exact assembly I now had on the floor for the Pass amp. The big discs simply protected our parquet floor beneath the sisal rug.

Voilà, the full setup with the XA30.8 bracketed by its FirstWatt cousins, a pair of single-stage SIT1 monos.

As the interspersed shots of other systems documented, Artesania have truly made inroads into the highest brand echelons of our industry. This must be a combined response to their racks' good looks, solid engineering and demonstrable performance. A truly successful aka living-room friendly combination of form and function with something as basically utilitarian as hifi equipment supports isn't as easy as it may seem.

Further on cosmetics, available by special order is gold plating for the platform's frame and floor discs. Countries like the Arabian Emirates and Russia have traditionally shown fondness for gilded details. With this option, Artesania Audio have them covered.

For the duration of my Spanish rack swaps, the Indian hardwood furniture they replaced stored in the garage. Ours is a living room first, not a messy mad scientist's lab. My first comparison thus was between glass and Krion shelves. I used the tall loaner frame and the one which usually tops my Exoteryc. Those I set up side by side. Leaving the heavy amp plugged in and powered up, I simply moved it from one platform to the other and back. Soon I felt like a carnival huckster performing the shuffling cups game. Where was the marble? Had I lost it?

This is as good a place as any to interject the obvious. Hifi is a hedonistic pursuit. Whatever makes you happy goes. Sweating over 'the sound' of different amp platforms is arguably not what the average user does or should do. For a common parallel, most of us buy a good used car with low mileage, then keep up with the scheduled tune-ups and oil changes. We don't fit it with aftermarket rims, a louder exhaust, performance tyres and go faster engine mods. But as with any other hobby, some people take things further. What might be extreme to you and me is mere common sense and fun to them if it squeezes another half a percentage point of performance from a given recipe. Or perhaps they just like the looks

Whilst still living in Taos, New Mexico, I'd performed a direct comparison between Grand Prix and EquaRack. From that I knew how different such equipment supports have different effects. You don't need accelerometer tests to prove that. You can hear it. Whether you care enough about that difference to pay for it—let's face it, this stuff isn't cheap—is another matter. In our first Swiss residence, my two Monacos became too big for the narrow but deep listening area. By the next residence, they'd been replaced by the double-wide Exoteryc. Just how much swapping shelves on a single component might do now; or for that matter, vis-à-vis having an amp squat unceremoniously on the floor... I was frankly far from sure. As a reminder, our tall Zu Submission sub with its downfiring sealed 12-inch woofer sits right behind the amp. By design, that's a constant generator of very low bass. You'd obviously not place a turntable right in front of it. But would a power amp prove susceptible to isolation from the floor (all whilst being engulfed by potent LF energy in very close proximity against which the amp stand would be useless)?

It took me a few cuts from different CDs before I thought that on the Krion platform, the amp created better focus. This wasn't per se like suddenly wearing corrective glasses when one's vision has gone a bit soft. I keyed into it with how specifically solo vocals contrasted against and stood separate from their backdrop. Once I'd found my marble, I could more easily find it again in subsequent cuts. That said, it didn't strike me as a global effect like people talk of removing veils or cleaning a window. This struck me as being more specific to slightly enhanced midband clarity. I never understand how certain writers assign 83 out of 100 points. That part of my brain isn't wired up. Just for illustrative purposes—we always want to know about the magnitude of an improvement—I'll call it a 1% - 2% gain. It was a small thing which required some digging to latch on to at first. Whilst I did develop a preference for the Krion, if you took it away, I'd very quickly get used to the glass. Those with less patience or no interest in analytical listening might as well shop this decision on pure looks. Don't we do it for shoes and clothes all the time, even for cars?

In lieu of the massive wooden furniture freezing in the snow-covered garage in late February, my bypass test came from the XA30.8 on the floor. Unexpectedly, this had an immediate negative impact on the soundstage. Most noticeably, there was lateral shrinkage to get more compact. Just so, I also had less depth. Some fine information about recorded space had been obscured. Unlike the Krion/glass swap, this clouding over and clumping together like cat litter took no fussing to identify. Obviously the amount of spatial compression or loss was related to how much of it was recorded in the first place. m.a. recordings' Sera una Noche was rather more telling than a synthesized wall of ambient sound from Al Gromer Khan's paisley music. Grasping for figures, I'd call this a 5% gain just to create context with the earlier numbers.

The most useful takeaway here ought to be that resonance attenuation has an audible impact; and that all materials have a kind of self sound which influences their behaviour or effectiveness for these purposes. From ceramic to marble, granite and shale tiles, tempered glass, Ikea bamboo cutting boards and Corian/Avonite kitchen-counter resources, a resourceful DIYer has a plethora of options to explore. Those after ready-made solutions have in Artesania Audio a proven resource for good-looking highly functional solutions at a price.

One should obviously care deeply about better sound before one allocates serious funds to purely mechanical devices which don't plug in to be in the electrical signal path. And it's probably true that with more effective circuit board suspensions, transformer and heat sink isolation and resonance-optimized enclosure geometries and materials, future gear could be designed and built to become less sensitive to external vibrations. As long as we're still dealing with 2015's status quo however, our apparently impervious components are more jittery than they look. Should you feel curious about the subject, there's a lot of untapped performance to be mined. It's not free because effective turnkey counter measures cost money particularly when they're high mass and expensive to ship. But tapping this forgotten performance is free by being applicable to all the components you already own. Getting the most from what you already paid for seems most sensible. This assignment thus also became a personal reminder. Where for most home dwellers, big acoustic treatments aren't doable, addressing the resonance control issue is. Your equipment has to sit on/in something after all. Why not transform that something into a very deliberate active contributor to better performance and higher resolution?