Previous setup: I had the speakers on Audio Note’s 4-legged, mass loaded steel stands. They were filled with a lead and sand mixture as described by Audio Note. The equipment had been sitting on DH Cones and Squares.
Speaker Stand Description
The Sistrum stands have three steel legs that are filled with “Micro-Bearing Steel” fill, which Sistrum makes and sells. The three legs attach to a rounded triangular shaped steel plate that has a musical note in the center. They attach by having Audio Points screw into them through slots for size adjustment in the steal bass. Then there are brass spikes that screw into the top of each leg that the speakers sit on. With my speakers, I tried using the coupling disc they make to go between the spikes and the bottom of my speakers; but I thought the sound was just a little more focused without them. The spikes will leave marks on the bottom of your speakers though, if you do not use the coupling disc.
Equipment Platform Descriptions
The two smaller Sistrum equipment platforms, the SP-4 and SP-101, are similar to the speaker stands. In fact, the SP-4 under my WAVAC MD300B stereo amp uses the same steal plates and has Audio Points that screw into each other to create three points going down into whatever you are sitting them on, and three that point up which the equipment sits on. The SP-101 under the SACD player has a larger steal plate and larger Audio Points, but is basically the same concept.
The SP-101 is the real Sistrum platform. It is basically a one-shelve version of their multi-shelve equipment platforms. It is 8” high by 26” wide and 22.75” deep. This steel platform is suspended on three 6” stainless steel support tubes that are filled with the “Micro-Bearing Conductive Steel” fill material. The stainless tubes terminate into massive two-inch solid brass Audio Points.
This steel plate also has the musical note in the center and three slots. You can adjust the brass Audio Points in the slots to fit you equipment so that it sits on the stand inside the three tubes.
Best Kept Secrets
If I were to do an article on best kept secrets in audio land, the products from Audio Points and Sistrum would be first on my list. This review is long past due. I say that because as I am starting my second year of writing reviews for Dagogo, I must make a confession; that almost every piece of equipment I review eventually ends up on one of the Sistrum products. Why? Simply because that’s where they sound best. I use them under my electronics, my power conditioners, and my speakers. You often see them under really nice equipment in pictures from show reports. Heck, nearly every picture I’ve ever seen of a Wavac amp has had the amps sitting on a beautiful Sistrum stand.
Sistrum seems to get a lot of press in the way of being mentioned in a review or show report. They even got an award from Positive Feedback in 2003, but they get very few real reviews. Maybe that’s the nature of the audio game. Who wants to read about isolation stands, and especially devices that are several years old, when they could read a review of the preamp or CD player of the month? Let me tell you though: It may not be as interesting, but it surely can take your system further into the world of sounding more like music and less like recordings.
How They Work
If you go to http://www.starsoundtechnologies.com/livevibe.html you will find several very academic-looking papers that explain the rational behind the Sistrum approach to handling vibration in an audio system. I am not nearly technical or scientific enough to understand much of what is on these pages, but there are a couple of quotes I feel are worth sharing.
First, they ask you to try a listening test:
“Simply go to a wall, place your ear next to it and knock on the surface. You will hear a live sound with a wide dynamic frequency range. Now place a piece of foam or a large sponge next to the same spot and hit the wall again. You will notice a muffled or dampened sound. Which do you prefer – live dynamics or dead harmonics. If you love music, sound and video, we would hope you agree live and vibrant is the preferred choice.”
Secondly, they explain:
“Historically, this Industry has always tried to stop, halt or eliminate unwanted vibration.
‘Attempting to stop or eliminate a naturally occurring physical effect most definitely will compromise the desired result and prevent said state from from being attained. In other words you will always create inefficiencies.’ Sound Technologies Materials Science Engineer.
In acoustics and musical reproduction the trade off is an extreme loss of dynamics. In commercial applications, when one tries to reduce vibration or the noise associated with vibration (like large motors and transformers) through isolation and/or absorption techniques, the trade off is the product will become inefficient. The fuel load increases plus the device in now working harder to achieve the same result, thus causing additional and near future problems.
Both acoustical and commercial categories loose a percentage of performance and create additional inefficiencies within said products.
Our application of physics is to let the vibrations take place. The component will vibrate as the loudspeaker systems generate the moving air and resonance associated with the physical reactions. Why not let it?
Now place a vibrating conductor (made from brass, copper, steel, aluminum) under the vibrating instrument (component, loudspeaker) and add geometrical designs that directs the resonance through the conductive materials to earth’s ground with no back-feeding effects – thus forming high-speed pathways to the earth’s ground plane.
The Sistrum Platforms and Audio Points® design do just that. They literally are vibrating thousands of times faster than that of the component and/or loudspeaker. The amplitudes of detrimental resonance formed are rapidly transferred to ground or the greater mass– thus the live dynamic remains within the instrument as the critical last movement. The detrimental effects of Coulomb Friction are removed and the musical performance flourishes.” (Reprint with kind permission from Star Sound Technologies, LLC)
How Sistrums Stands Came To Live In My Listening Room
My life with Sistrum began about three years ago. A friend of mine was going on vacation for a week and had just gotten a pair of custom made Sistrum speaker stands for his Audio Note Speakers, and wanted to know if I wanted to try them until he got back. We both have Audio Note AN/E speakers, though he had the SEC Silvers and I had the SEs. Well, as it happened, I had just been on the phone with the importer of my WAVAC 300B amp and he said he used the Systrum platforms for all his equipment. So I said, “sure, I’ll give them a try”.
A couple of days past and I put them in my system. First, I put one on the left speaker. Then I played some mono recordings and listened to each speaker separately. Well, there was no doubt that the Sistrum stand tightened up the bass, it seemed that it also somehow let the speaker play louder, and it was much more dynamic.
So then I put the other stand into the system, and I want to tell you my jaw dropped. If you think I’m exaggerating, came Monday morning and I ordered the speaker stands and two of the equipment platforms, one for the WAVAC and one for the Sony 777 SACD player. While ordering these, I learned from Robert at Star Sound (the Sistrum and Audio Points people) some more about how to set up the stands. I set up everything like he said and just couldn’t believe sound. The only problem was now I could hear some noises I had never heard before, and sometimes they were irritating. Robert told me to be patient until the equipment platforms came in. To my surprise, they came in the next day and let me tell you, they completed the treatment. The sound is just amazing.
Well, all of that happened about three years ago before I started writing equipment reviews for Dagogo. As I began to get equipment in for review, I would get different suggestions for what to sit the equipment on. Without exception so far everything has sounded better on Sistrum stands than any other thing I’ve tried. So I needed more stands. I called Robert up and he sent me an assortment of stands to review and use. I thanked him so very much; he is truly an easy person to work with. That was just as true before I became a reviewer.
So I have here before me to write about and use a couple of the SP-004s, a SP-1, a couple of SP-101s, and a pair of the speaker stands. I know you want to know what they do for the sound.
The Sound With The Speaker Stands
Regardless of which stand you use, it is not subtle! My first reaction came from using the speaker stands. I was wowed to say the least. My first reaction was “where did that come from”. It’s much more like getting new speakers than new stands. How did they improve the sound of the speakers? Let’s look at a few of the places that just jumped out at me.
Efficiency: You can go to the website listed above and get a more technical explanation, but let me just say that all three of the speakers I used play louder at the same place at the same volume setting than before. As I mentioned earlier in the review, I first noticed this with the Audio Note AN/E SEs when I had one speaker on the Sistrum stand and the other on the Audio Note stands. The one on the Sistrum stand sounded so much louder as to make the center image shift to the speaker on the Sistrum stand.
Dynamics: Not only was the effect of the stands to make the speakers play louder. It was more than that; now the Audio Note speakers were more dynamic. The Audio Note are often described as a balance of the best of both worlds between horns and stats, but on the Sistrum stands they became as dynamic as any horns I have ever heard and will play much louder than any single-driver horn-loaded speaker or stat that I have heard. A few years ago people use to talk about a speaker’s “startle factor”; that about sums up the sound of this combination. It has taken me several trips over to turn down the volume control only to learn I can’t turn up on quiet passages to the level I was used to.
Information, transparency, and detail: These audiophile terms mean different things to different people; but let me say there is simply a whole lot more information you can hear now. It’s not so much like grunge or noise is gone as it is like there’s just more to hear. You can more clearly hear the mics, the space, the phrasing, the subtle changes in pitch and tone. The soundstage becomes more believable. I mean in a way where instruments and people have their own space, and where you can more easily hear each of them. Especially with the Ikonoklast speakers that I am currently reviewing, the layering of the music was more easily heard. With these speaker on the Sistrum’s, the soundstage was very three-dimensional and at the same time very solid.
Bass: This was the only area I was actually looking to improve when I said I would try them. As amazing as the bass was out of the Audio Notes, I always thought it could be just a little quicker and better defined. Well, boy was I right. I have never heard bass like this before. I can now hear subtleties in the bass I did not know were on the recordings. I just wanted a little tighter and quicker bass, but what I got was that and a lot more quality in the bass. It is now so easy to hear the differences in drums as they are being played. The notes on a bass are so articulate. It’s just a whole new world on bass.
I so wish I could figure out how to make room for all my system to be on these. To do so, I would need them to be a bit smaller, or to have my room grow wider, or for my wife to not care. Having said that, if I owned large mono amps, I would have to have a pair of SP-101s. They are simply amazing.
The SP-101s are basically a single shelf version of the Sistrum equipment racks. As you take the few minutes to assemble them, you will be impressed by the quality and beauty of these platforms.
With the Wavac MD 300B Monos and the deHavilland Aries 845-G, both in for review, the Sistrum’s make such a huge difference in overall quality. I’ve tried several isolation platforms over, but the Sistrum platforms are the best that I’ve ever heard. The sound of the Wavac MD 300B Monos without the SP-101’s had significant less clarity. Neither are they as tightly focused without the SP-101s. The transients definitely don’t have the same “startle factor” without them.
The SP-101s simply allow a great piece of equipment to show all its glory. Unlike some stands, they do not damp out the music. In fact, it’s just the opposite. It’s like they open the piece of equipment up and let all the music, speed, harmonics, and tempo just flow out into the room.
With my current equipment set up, I can’t use the SP-101s with a stereo amp or with my digital set up. So I use a SP-4 under my Wavac MD 300B stereo amp and under my Shindo Monbrison preamp. Under my digital, I use the SP-1. What I can tell you about these stands is that they do the same things the SP-101s do, but not quite as well. I find the SP-4 works exceptionally well with small amps and preamps, and the SP-1 works well with my digital. In fact, my first recommendation to any good digital front end is a good power cord and either a SP-101 or SP-1, depending on your space. There is no doubt that the SP-101 is the best, but you can get a lot of the magic with the SP-1.
By the way, I am currently using a small floor standing speaker from WGA, the Ikonoklast Model 3s. It is amazing to experience the huge improvements that come from sitting the Ikonoklast on a pair of SP-04s instead of their own spikes.
A Couple Of Warnings About The Sistrum Stands
I don’t exactly understand this, but the stands take a few days to settle in. When you first put your speakers on them, they can be a little wobbly, but after a few days they settle in and have no movement front to back or side to side. Of course, like all tripods they can be unstable if struck on the corners, or if you lean on the corners. The wobbling is not a problem for the equipment stands, as long as you choose the right one for the size of your equipment. Both the speaker stands and the equipment stands definitely sound better after they have settled in a couple of days.
I could not give a product a higher recommendation. I so wish that I had just gotten their rack instead of the platforms; but my situation does not lend itself to that at this point. My reason for sharing all this information is that even though you may not be ready to buy the stands, at least go to their web sight and check with Robert on what you could do to start down the road of hearing what the equipment you have paid so much for can sound like.
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