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Stillpoints Ultra 6 Resonance Control Feet Review

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In the past (at least until about ten years ago), I used a wide, constantly changing variety of isolation shelves and footers hoping to find the holy grail, or at least the audiophile equivalent. Various combinations worked to differing degrees; more often than not, they worked well at select frequencies and not as well, or not at all, at others. The problem with this approach was twofold: 1) lack of predictable results, and 2) the inability of any of these devices to work equally well at all frequencies. A general dissatisfaction with this approach led me to do some research and subsequently purchase what appeared to be the best all round solution at that time, a Finite Elemente Pagode Master Reference equipment stand (hereinafter the “FE”). While it was not perfect, it did provide an equal degree of noise attenuation across a wide band of frequencies. Nonetheless, it quickly became obvious that a further improvement in the sound of my system was achievable by using a footer/de-coupler between the bottom of the piece of equipment and the top of the FE shelf on which it sat. In this case, the solution was much quicker as I soon found that one of the footers marketed for use with the FE (their Cerabase) worked quite well given my tastes in music (tonal accuracy, image density, and musicality even at some expense to hyper detail or holographic imagining). This is where things sat in my system for a number of years until a recent visit to Ricky Brown at his home in Carlsbad, California where I listened to his system (Berning/HiFi One 845/211amps, Dohlman Helix turntable/Lyra Atlas cartridge, Tidal Akira speakers and Connoisseur preamp and phono stage). Ricky’s system had perhaps the most holographic imaging that I had ever heard without sacrificing musicality. After much discussion with him, he suggested that I try the Stillpoints Ultra 6 resonance control feet. Many weeks later, two cases of the Ultra 6 feet arrived at my door. The remainder of this article focuses first on a short explanation of how they work and second on my thoughts about what they do in my particular system.


The Technology

Stillpoints has been in the business of designing and manufacturing resonance control devices for over 18 years. Their current product line ranges from the Ultra Mini to the Ultra 6’s, which are the top of the line. While each of these devices shares certain sonic similarities, the degree of improvement in a system’s sound increases proportionally as one moves toward the top of the product line. Each device incorporates one or more mechanical filters, which Stillpoints refers to as “technology pockets.” Once you actually examine an Ultra 5 or 6, it becomes clear why the term technology pocket is quite appropriate. Each of these filters consists of multiple layers of stacked bearings resting in a minimal contact cup, stacked in a way that allows the vibrational energy (that is created by the electrical current passing through the components on the circuit board) to pass downward from the audio component that rests on it to the shelf below at adiminished strength.Once the energy is stored in the shelf, tothe extent that the shelf can contain it, the energy then rebounds upward through the technology pockets, again at a diminishedstrength but not overlaying upon the downward passing energy. Thus, there isn’t any thickening or coloration of the sound.No other device stacks bearings like Stillpoints, who hold two patents.

Steel and its various alloys provide a superior path for evacuation of energy but are harder and much costlier to machine than aluminum or brass. For instance, the Ultra SS is a two-piece filter housed in a stainless-steel body. The next up in the product line is the Ultra 5, which has five of the filters sandwiched between two substantial stainless-steel pucks and can be substituted for a product’s own feet. The technology pockets on the Ultra 5’s are not externally visible.

This brings us to the Ultra 6’s, whose technology pockets are located externally, five on the top surface of the sculptured steel puck and one on the bottom, with a mounting thread in the center of the puck to allow the Ultra 6 to be attached to your component with mounting hardware (that Stillpoints can provide). The 5 pockets are meant to make contact with the electronics and the single bottom pocket is added to further the isolation.

In those instances where you are concerned that the technology pockets might scratch or scuff the component or shelf/rack, you may want to insert something between the technology pocket and the component or shelf. The best sonic solution that I found, and one validated and tested by the factory, is a 3M Super Sticky 3” Post-It Note. It is completely covered with a microsphere adhesive that does not leave a residue when removed but will stay affixed and cover all six technology pockets, allowing easy placement and protection. [Credit for this discovery belongs to Ricky Brown of HiFi One, who is, outside the factory, the single most knowledgeable person around with respect to use of Stillpoints.]

What is placed between a component and the Ultra 6 technology pocket greatly influences the sound. As an example, a cardboard drink coaster is too thick and will immediately round, slow, dull, and effectively blunt the properties of the Ultra 6. It is a delicate balance of properties that allows the Post-It Note to work so well. Amongst them are its thin caliber and dense fibrous content. It is sonically transparent. However, in the final analysis, optimal “signal resonance” is assured when the technology pockets are directly connected to the component or shelf.

One further comment with respect to use of the Ultra 6. They should not be used on carpeted surfaces for the reasons addressed above; however, Stillpoints has thoughtfully provided a solution, which they can provide separately:the Ultra base. These screw into the countersunk hole on the top of the Ultra 6. As an example, this allows the Ultra 6 to be used on a carpet with the technology pockets up against the component. This can be expanded to any shelf or rack as the Ultra 6 works very well with all the stands mentioned at the end of this article. Finally, in my experience the addition of the Ultra base adds 20% to the performance of any Stillpoints product.


A Few Caveats

How you react to the Stillpoints Ultra 6’s will to some extent be a function of how well your current set-up deals with resonant energy; however, I find it highly unlikely that any system will fail to benefit. To understand what effect the Ultra 6’s had on the sound of my system, it may be helpful to talk briefly about the sound of my pre-existing resonance control devices, the Finite Elemente Cerabases. I have a soft spot for the Finite Elemente products, which I have used for over ten years. While the Cerabases are not neutral, they work well with their companion equipment stand the FE Pagode Master Reference. While significantly less complicated than the Ultra 5’s or Ultra 6’s, they also depend on the use of ceramic ball bearings. Both Stillpoints and Cerbase use ceramic bearings. Stillpoints use multiple layers while the Cerabase has only one layer. In practice, the Cerabases improve focus noticeably, provide some noise reduction, and improve resolution/detail retrieval.However, their single most salient contribution is to increase sound density. I hear this primarily as a warm, dense sound with somewhat rounded edges with a nice top end. The focus of the sound is the upper bass through the midrange with some softening of the frequency extremes. Voices and stringed instruments are particularly well served. Prior to auditioning the Ultra 5’sand6’s, I had tried a number of devices similar to the Cerabases, which offered some combination of improved focus, increased bass control, higher resolution, better leading edge and/or more extended highs.But any improvements were always at the expense of the lovely and seductive tonal warmth offered by the Cerabases. Extra detail or even better imaging are meaningless to me unless the end result is tonally and musically accurate.

At this point, I began substituting sets of Ultra 6’s for Cerabases in my system. While I would normally suggest that you start with your turntable, this was not possible with my Rockport Sirius, which came with a dedicated 300-pound air isolation base coupled with a constrained layer plinth incorporating layers of dissimilar materials around a layer of EAR damping material. Consequently, I began with my tube Audio Note preamp and phono stage, then proceeded to my EMM TX2 Transport and EMM DA2 D/A Converter.


The Sound

Stage width increased somewhat with better image focus and a greater sense of ambient detail. It became easier to discern details about the space where the music was recorded. Backgrounds were quieter, which allowed me to hear more deeply into the music. Resolution improved particularly at the frequency extremes with more extension at the top (without any accentuation of brightness) and bass definition and clarity improved. The Ultra 6’s enhanced detail and leading edges with percussion instruments like chimes and cymbals without hardening other aspects of the presentation. In particular, the extension at the upper frequencies improves the air around voices and instruments while at the same time enhancing the ability to hear the space in which the performance occurred and the room boundaries, at least to the extent that information was captured on the recording. More importantly, these positives were not at the expense of tonality, musicality, or image density. Female voices remained seductive as did massed strings. The effect of these substitutions was cumulative. Each substitution contributed its own improvements; however, some pieces benefitted more than others.

Stillpoints’ recommendation is to start with three, placing them under the circuit board stand offs’ connectors on the chassis bottom. Once finding the best performance position, adding a fourth can increase their effect. OEM designers place four feet on their cabinets with no regard to the sound of adding isolators; thus, using the thread inserts for feet isn’t the best placement for Stillpoints.

While Stillpoints recommends the use of four decouplers under each piece of equipment, I found that three worked quite well.  Some experimentation with their placement was beneficial. It is, however, critical with equipment where the weight is not evenlydistributed to place the Ultra 6’s in a manner so that the device is stable and weight is more or less evenly distributed on the supports.  Given 24 versus 18 pockets of isolation, it is also clear that 24 will sound better with the caveat that the “technology pockets” must be active. It also seemed helpful to ensure that an Ultra 6 was centered under transformers or other vibration-generating components.



Substitution of Stillpoints Ultra 6’s for manufacturer provided feet or other aftermarket footers will in almost all instances enhance the listening experience (sometimes rather significantly) by lowering the noise floor thus revealing more low level ambient information, improving leading edge definition, increasing resolution and clarity, tightening low bass without diminishing quantity or impact, and last but certainly not least, improving focus and depth of field to yield in some instances an almost holographic image. The thing which is most surprising is that the Ultra 6’s do these things without sacrificing tonal density or midrange accuracy. Finally, some caveats: the level and degree of improvement which the Ultra 6’s can deliver is dependent on how well you have already addressed these issues in your system. Likewise, their effectiveness will to some degree be dependent on your shelf or equipment stand. They work extremely well with their companion Stillpoints equipment racks/stands, Finite Elemente racks or amp stands, and with any of the HRS or Critical Mass equipment stands/racks. Use with an appropriate stand/rack is integral to achieving the results which I have described.


Copy editor: Dan Rubin


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