Description

This is my 8th generation stereo system that started with a Kenwood receiver in college in the 1970s.  This is a great sounding analog system and the most musical yet to my ears.  I am soon to upgrade the digital side with a new DAC and transport.  Eagerly waiting delivery.  Until then I am spinning Vinyl and enjoying my new to me preamps.
I used the Golden Ratio for speaker placement.  The speakers are 7.6ft from the back wall to the center of the woofer and 4.7ft from the side walls.  The listening chair makes a triangle from the distance between the two speakers.  This room allowed me to set it up that way and it works.
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Room Details

Dimensions: 28’ × 17’  Large
Ceiling: 9’


Components Toggle details

    • Wilson Sasha DAW
    Great 3 way floor standing speaker.
    • Audio Research Reference 5 SE Preamp
    This preamp uses a 6550 and 6H30 for power rectification.  4 additional 6H30 tubes amplify the stereo signal at line stage level.  This 6550 tube runs hot.  My laser thermometer shows 230+ F on the top of the tube.  I had to lower the middle shelf of my rack to give this preamp at least 7 inches of clearance.  I did not want the shelf over it getting too warm.  Wonderful sound.  This is my first stereo system since the mid 1970s to have remote control (not counting a CD player).  I no longer need to get out of my chair to turn down the volume for my wife.
    • Audio Research Reference Phono 2 SE
    This has the same tube set as the Ref 5SE although it does not run nearly has hot.  I bought both the Ref 5 SE and this Phono 2 SE at the same time moving away from an older single box ARC preamp.  It is quite a step up in clarity, imaging and a much lower noise floor.  I have been very happy with the change.  btw- I love peering under the clear cover to see the circuit boards.  Beautiful layout of capacitors, tubes and transformers.
    • Pass Labs X-260.8 monoblocks
    Just upgraded to these new mono amps.  I noticed a bit bigger soundstage and clearer, more detailed bass as compared to my old X-350 amp.  The X-350 is a classic and hard to let go.
    • Sota Nova VI w/Condor Eclipse motor and Roadrunner Speed Control
    This is my new Nova VI Turntable.  I got all the options.  This turntable features a magnetic bearing and the Eclipse Condor motor package with the Roadrunner spead control system.  The Eclipse Condor package is an A/C motor with a very precise sine wave controller- the Condor.  Lift of the motor cover and the Condor controller is visible inside the plinth.
    • SME 309 Tonearm
    This is a rock solid performer.  I find it works very well with both MM and MC cartridges.  It does prefer heavier cartridge bodies.  Benz, Koetsu and Soundsmith cartridges work out well giving this tonearm system a resonance at 10 Hz.
    • Soundsmith Zephyr Star MIMC ES
    I wore my Benz cartridge down to a stub.  After much deliberation I decided to try the latest Zephyr Star by Soundsmith.  It sounds great and has outstanding tracking.  A couple of old records that I was resigned to accepting distortion on a few tracks sound perfect with this Zephyr.  I am very pleased with this phono cartridge.
    • Ayon Audio CD-T mkII
    This is a CD transport with vacuum tube output.  This transport upsamples CDs to 88.2 kHz PCM output through I2S, BNC, AES, RCA, OPT, or it can also output the CD code in DSD format using three BNC connectors- MCLK, DSD L, and DSD R.
    • Ayon Audio Stealth XS
    This DAC complements the CD-T II transport.  It features tube power rectification and tube output on the analog side.  8 tubes in total but running at fairly low wattage, as compared to the ARC ref gear.  The Ayon CD-T and Stealth get slightly warm but I cannot keep my hand over the air vents above the tubes for too long.
    • RS9 Music Server Music Streamer based on ROCK and running ROON
    I added this music server in order to stream music and play hi res audio files.  It is feeding into my DAC via a USB cable.
    • AudioQuest Niagara 5000
    Powers the front end
    • Nordost Silver Shadow BNC
    I got three of these BNC cables to run between the Ayon CD transport and DAC.  It takes three BNC cables for MCLK, DSD R and DSD L output/input.  I know this breaks away from a complete Purist Audio Design cable system, but I felt these would be superior for the money.
    • Purist Audio Design Musaeus XLR Interconnects Luminist
    With the purchase of my new preamps I needed to move from SE (RCA) connectors to XLR types.  After much deliberation with myself I gave these PAD cables a try.  They sound great.  The soundstage has more depth.  Images have tighter focus and the system sounds very musical now.  I can't stop listening.  No ear fatigue at all.  They are keepers.
    • Purist Audio Design Corvus Diamond Revision Power Cord
    Pair of Corvus Diamond Revision Power Cords for the Amplifiers
    • Purist Audio Design Corvus biwire shotgun Luminist Speaker Cable
    Nice upgrade from the Museaus line.  Better bass and more 3 dimensionality.
    • Purist Audio Design Diamond Revision 30th Anniversary USB
    1.0m USB from the RS9 Music Server to the DAC
    • Purist Audio Design Genesis Luminist Phono Cable
    1.2 meter Tonearm Cable that lowered the noise floor on my analog side.  The sound easily bests the cable that came with my tonearm.  Should have upgraded years ago.
    • Purist Audio Design Aquila Digital Power Cord 1.5 m
    This is their series VII Power Cord made for digital devices such as DACs.
    • Purist Audio Design Musaeus Power Cords
    These power cords supply the Pass Labs mono amps with power.
    • Purist Audio Design Vesta Power Cables
    After trying the Musaeus Interconnects, I went all the way with their power cords.  Well, I dropped down one level since I had so many to buy.  The power cables enhanced the benefits of using their interconnects.  The overall system is very quiet now.  Very focused imaging and sweeter highs.
    • AudioQuest Hurricane
    Power Cord for the Niagara
    • GIK Acoustics 244 Bass Traps and Panels
    Wow!  Room treatments are an effective way to upgrade a system.  The biggest thing I noticed was clearer voices.  More detail as well as cleaner mid bass.  These traps took away the bloated mid bass.  I find these treatments to be very cost effective.
    • VPI Industries HW-16.5 Record Cleaning Machine
    Gotta clean those records.
    • Audio Additives Digital Stylus Force Guage
    This gage works well.  It comes with a 5 g weight for the auto calibration feature.  Quick and easy to use.
    • Keces P8 Low Noise Linear Power Supply
    This is a 19.1 Volt power supply for my RS9 Music Server.  I upgraded from the basic in line wall wart type power supply that came with the music server.
    • IsoAcoustics Gaia Titan Theis
    Added these to my Wilson speakers.
    • Hifi 25 Watt Power Supply 5 Volt power supply
    This power supply replaces the wall wart used to power the network switch.
    • AudioQuest NRG Edison 20
    20 amp power outlet for the Monos.  I was surprised at the improvement in sound this outlet made.  Not cheap but it did something.
    • VPI Industries HW-16.5
    • RSX Power 8 20 S
    An aluminum chassis power distribution box with a 20amp IEC type connection.  Using it with the subs and main amplifier.
    • No Name Cable Risers
    Designed and built by myself.
    • No Brand Audio Rack made by me
    I built this rack in my shop.  Took me a good week but was worth the effort.  I have almost infinite adjustability, superb isolation.  Best of all this rack is rock solid.  I did something right for a change.  I used butcher block boards, 3/4" threaded rod and brass acorn nuts.  The brass polished up nicely using my car polisher.  I mounted spikes on the bottom side.  The entire rack is heavy and it doesn't budge.

Comments 73

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Owner
Thank you milpai.
Some  might be wondering after spending 10’s upon 10’s of thousands of dollars on Wilson speakers what did I gain over the Thiels.  I think I can explain it- at least make up something that the wife would believe.  First of all, the costs are not proportional to the gain in sound quality.  Maybe it is cheaper than going to live concerts five times a week or hiring a live singer and band every weekend.  Concert tickets are crazy expensive.  First, the bass- the bass is goes deeper and is clearer on the Wilsons over the Thiels.  Good bass costs money.  I added subwoofers to the Thiels about 2 years ago in an attempt to stave off the Wilson purchase.  I got good quality subs.  It took me months to get them placed and integrated to the point that I liked the sound.  Still, the bass always seemed to sound better in the back of the room vs. my listening position and better when standing vs sitting.  In spite of all that the Wilson bass is better hands down.  The crazy thing is, the bass sounds the same everywhere in the room with the Wilsons- standing or sitting.  In fact, the music sounds nearly the same from anywhere in the room just more focused in the listening position.  Next, the soundstage.  The Thiels have a big and deep 3D soundstage with sharp imaging.  The Wilsons go bigger and deeper and way taller.  The Wilsons also have more resolution.  I can explain it like this.  If I close my eyes while listening to a song, the soundstage goes well beyond the walls.  After listening for a few minutes with my eyes closed, I open my eyes and am shocked to see walls in the middle of the soundstage.  I love doing that.  Still works every time.  But another thing that surprised me was the first time I played a Chorale piece on the Wilsons.  The choir was in front of me floor to ceiling.  I was dumbstruck.  I could hear the individual voices spread across the stage.  That’s the difference in resolution.  The Thiels have sharp imaging but in the case of this choir it is more like a cloud of sound.  The voices are there in front of me but they are blurred together.  The difference is like being in back of the hall vs right in front of the choir maybe.  And lastly, the highs are sweeter with the Wilsons.  Probably the difference of 15+ years of research and development in both speaker and capacitor technology.  Just wanted to talk a bit more.

tonywinga

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@tonywinga , that's a beautiful setup you have there. Loved to go through all the pictures. I am sure it sounds amazing. I LOVE that homemade audio rack. Kudos!

milpai

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Tony…I was able to find them on Amazon. Thanks!

audphile1

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Owner
I know,right?  I found the lamps on Amazon.  Living in a rural area leaves me little options shopping for items such as these. They are a thin fiber almost like paper on a steel frame.  I put in programmable color LED bulbs.

tonywinga

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Meant to ask you about those floor standing lamps…very cool…what are those?

audphile1

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Thanks for your response Tony! And I agree the Wilsons are really sensitive to placement. I’ve had my Sabrinas on furniture sliders for about 5 weeks evaluating each placement for days.

audphile1

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Owner
I have had the Wilsons about a month now.  What I have learned is that the Wilsons like to hug the walls.  This is a different paradigm for me compared to my Thiel speakers.  The Thiels want lots of space.  The needed a 4 foot radius of clearance all around the Thiels.  I think my struggle with the Wilsons at first was getting past that old paradigm.  I have finally found the spot where I like the Wilsons the best.  They are close to the front and side walls.  Funny thing is that except for at the extremes- ie. the speakers about 17" from the walls, the imaging and soundstage is not affected so much by speaker placement.  The bass response is heavily dependent on speaker placement.  I finally learned that and the current speaker placement sounds excellent.  The bass is amazing.  It seems like I am using subwoofers but I am not.  The clarity of the bass is so good.  The other lesson learned is that I had to move back from the speakers.  The speakers are almost 10 feet apart now.  I have to move back to 12 feet away from the speakers.  At that point the soundstage is in full bloom stretching from wall to wall and floor to ceiling.

tonywinga

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Owner
Thank you for the comments.  I am impressed with the Purist cables.  The Musaeus line is very good.  As I worked on my room and isolation of components the detail and resolution just kept increasing.  The cables have not held back the improvements.  After getting the Wilsons I moved up the Purist line with the speaker cables jumping from Musaeus to Corvus+.  The plus is because the cables are bi-wire cables with single terminations- shotgun they call it.  The Corvus speaker cables give me more of everything over the Musaeus line- more bass, more impact, more clarity and an expanded soundstage.  A lot of money but I definitely gained a lot.  Next step is power cords on the amps.  They should arrive this week, I hope.

tonywinga

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Great looking room and awesome system! Bet it sounds amazing! Wilson Audio/Pass Labs synergy excellent. How do you like the Musaeus XLRs?

audphile1

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Owner
After some more work I found the speakers needed to be closer to the front wall.  I redid the speaker placement method and found a spot 47" from the front wall to the front baffle.  Quite a bit closer than before.  The bass is much richer with more impact and slam.  I also moved them closer to the side walls with a little more toe-in.  The imaging is excellent and the sound stage very expansive.

tonywinga

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Owner
Speaker placement:  I started by using the Wilson Audio Speaker Placement Method.  This is the final position of the speakers.  Using the front baffle and centerline of the speaker, they are 68" from the front wall and 46" from the side walls which puts the speakers 9' 1" apart.  I used a laser pointer to adjust the toe in.  The best toe in I found was positioned so the laser dots are 17" apart at my listening chair.  That makes the inside walls of the speakers just visible from my sitting position.  This gives me the best balance of bass and soundstage.  I like the imaging more with the speakers further from the front wall but I start to lose the bass when I do that.  I was moving the speakers in 1/2" increments.  Spent about 5 hours positioning and rating the sound.  It takes a while.
The starting point was 60" from the front wall and 44" from the side walls.  The sound got chesty when I moved the speakers closer to the side walls.  

tonywinga

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Owner
I added the GAIA Titan Theis footers by Isoacoustics yesterday.  These footers made a dramatic improvement.  First, I have a hardwood covered suspended floor.  The Wilsons provide deep, powerful bass.  With the Wilson Diodes/Spikes the floor was vibrating.  I could feel it in my feet.  Changing to the Titan footers the vibration in the floor is gone.  The sound is crystal clear now.  The bass nice and tight.  The soundstage got bigger and I hear even more detail.  
Without these footers the Wilsons had better bass than the Thiels with GAIA I footers but the Thiels were almost on par with the Wilsons for imaging and soundstage.  Now the Wilsons far surpass the Thiels in all categories.  I can't stop listening.
BTW- I wasn't sure so I left the Wilson Diodes on the speakers.  So the GAIA Titans are mated to the Wilson Diodes.  That puts the speakers 1.5" higher off the floor as compared to using the Wilson spikes with the diodes.  I can couple the Titans directly to the speakers which would bring them back down to the original height off the floor. I wanted to try them first with the Wilson Diodes.  My thinking is- the higher the woofers off the floor the better and I can position the upper tweeter/midrange module to match my listening height.

tonywinga

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Owner
I just made a big move.  I got the Wilson Sasha DAW's.  They sound splendid.  With that I moved up the Purist Audio line with some new speaker cables and have ordered new power cords for the Amps.  Staying true to isolation I have ordered a set of IsoAcoustics GAIA Titan Theis footers for these beasts.  Looking forward to hearing the improvement these footers will make.

tonywinga

Center
Congrats, Tony! I have a Nova 6 too and also am very happy with it. I'm guessing the Pass monos are a perfect match for Thiels. Well done, bet it sounds magical. Cheers,
Spencer

sbank

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Owner
My Sota Nova VI has arrived!  I have listened to about 20 albums so far and absolutely love it.  The magnetic bearing is brilliant.  It is dead quiet.  If I play a record really, really loud all I hear now- on a good record with quiet vinyl is just a tinge of groove and a hint of rushing sound from the phono preamp.  But I qualify that with a super quiet listening room and the volume up very high.  The background is dead quiet at reasonably loud listening levels.  What I thought was groove noise before included some platter rumble apparently because the groove noise even on noisier records is quieter.
The speed control system is near perfection.  I played a test tone and hear no w&f.  Speed drift is a thing of the past with the Roadrunner tachometer.  My iPhone app shows the same speed every time which also correlated to the Tachometer readout.  
The sound of this new table is excellent.  Perhaps it will have some break in improvement but already the improvements over my old Star are more clarity in the mid bass and the bass.  The highs are sweet.  Cymbals have a delicate sound with every detail from the stick hitting the metal to the decaying shimmer.  Older analog recordings make hearing cymbals a whole new experience.
Sound stage is a bit bigger than before and images even sharper in focus.  I think the  speed control is responsible for the improved highs and imaging.  This new Turntable looks almost the same to the casual observer.  The only notable difference over my Star is the now two silver buttons on the motor cover.  The turntable now starts/stops and toggles speed between 33 1/3 and 45 rpm by pressing the large black button which used to be the speed adjustment.  Now turning that black knob does nothing.  The two silver buttons are used to adjust speed.  One bumps the speed up in small increments and the other down.  These are only needed if someone wants to run the platter a bit fast or slow.  The Condor controller locks in the speed at 33 1/3 or 45 rpm.  The road runner tachometer uses a speed sensor under the platter to feedback speed to the Condor.  It can make small fine adjustments to compensate for speed drift due to temperature changes, etc.  One thing I noticed is that I could put my finger against the side of the platter to induce some drag but the speed did not change.
The Nova VI also features a new suspension system.  I don't have the details but one thing I did was to place a small mirror on the subchassis by the tonearm and bounce a laser beam off of it to the wall.  The multiplier of the lengths was about 30 to 1 and yet I could detect no movement of the laser spot on the wall.  This is very impressive.  That means the subchassis is not being moved as the motor pulls on the platter.  This is a big improvement over my Star.

tonywinga

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Owner
I am between turntables at the moment.  I have turned in my Sota Star with the Series VI motor to Sota for a trade up to a Nova VI with the Eclipse motor and Roadrunner tachometer system.  The new table will also feature Sota's magnetic bearing and of course I will stay with the vacuum platter system. I picked out a beautiful Cherry wood plinth.  Can't wait to hear it.  I bought a couple of new records in anticipation.

tonywinga

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Owner
Thank you @ghdprentice.  I enjoyed the X350 for 19 years.  I thought about the X350.8 for an upgrade but always wanted to try monoblocks.  The update was noticeable.  What struck me most was the attack/decay of the new monobolcs.  Cymbals have a more fast clean sound with a clear attack and shimmer.  The other surprising thing was even with a lower power rating (90 w/channel less) I didn't have to change the typical  volume setting on my preamp.
I have heard the ARC Ref 160m amps.  Very nice and quite a looker.

tonywinga

222222&text=gh
Nice system. Sounds like we did some of the same stuff, I upgraded a few years before retirement, then a couple years after.

I see a Pass 350…. Then a couple of Newer Pass x mono blocks… what was the difference.

I switched from my Pass x350 to an Audio Research REF 160s. Just for fun my dealer dropped off a set of ARC REF 160m mono blocks. 

ghdprentice

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Owner
My preamp has two sets of main outputs.  I have used both sets for a year now.  One set drives the main amplifiers and one set drives the subwoofers.  I had not considered the load on my preamp caused by driving two sets of amplifiers until the 6550 regulator tube went bad in my preamp.  I found in the ARC Ref 5SE manual that 20kOhms output minimum is stated in the specs.  Well, since my main amps have a 22kOhm input impedance and my subwoofers also have a 22kOhm input impedance my preamp was seeing a load below 10kOhms.  I contacted ARC and confirmed this was the case and that kind of load will affect the sound.  SVS and ARC both recommended to connect the subs in series with the main amps.  The only problem with that is my PAD interconnects are not long enough so I would have to buy longer ones plus two additional cables to run from the subs to the main amps.  I found a different solution.  I am using the Clean Box Pro as a buffer.  It has a 100kOhm input impedance so it does not load down the preamp.  Combined with the main amps the preamp sees a min 17.3kOhm load.  Sound is improved and I find the 6550 regulator tube in the preamp is running a bit cooler.

tonywinga

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Owner
My latest addition to my system is the PAD Diamond Revision 30th Anniversary USB Cable from the music server to the DAC.  It has been playing for 30 hours now and it sounds pretty good.  It replaced an AQ Coffee USB cable which I have been wanting to replace for a while.  The PAD USB cable is astronomically priced, used it is just really expensive but it is a very fine, pure Ag cable.  Compared to the old USB cable this one has more detail in the highs.  The ting when the sticks hit cymbals is very clear and concise now.  It also eliminated some glare that was almost not noticeable until it was gone.

I also have learned much about isolation over these past couple of months.  Springs isolate while rubber dampens.  I didn't fully realize that concept until recently- and I'm an engineer.  Rubber like Sorbathane, which I have used for years under components dampen but not completely isolate the component from external vibrations.  And since rubber dampens it can add coloration.  Springs when tuned properly completely isolate a component from external vibration.  Tuning the springs is more quickly done with some math.  The goal is to get the spring mass system (The component is the mass) to have a resonance point at around 3 Hz.  I used this formula to size springs for my Amps, Subs, Speakers and everything on the front end.  And guess what- the Sota Turntable Suspension is already tuned to 3 Hz.  Here's what happened.  The bass is no longer muddy or boomy.   I didn't know my bass was muddy until I heard the Wilson Alexia 2 Speakers in Atlanta.  Well, now my Thiels sing. The bass is crisp and clear.  Not quite Alexia 2 caliber but very good now.  Imaging improved.  Images are sharper and crisper now.  Detail went through the roof.  In fact, I have so much more detail in the music now that it was distracting or overwhelming at first.  I almost want to go back to how it was before.  But the genie was out of the bottle.  After a few days I grew used to the added detail and now I enjoy it.
Being retired and putting in the time to experiment and learn this past year has been fun.

tonywinga

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Owner
Thank you.  I find the PAD cables are musical.  That’s the best word.  I can listen to digital or vinyl for hours.  I usually have to make myself shut it all down for the night.  I keep wanting to hear just one more song.

tonywinga

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I see the isolation for your speakers you mentioned....nice!  I also have CS6 and 3.6.  How do you like your PAD Museaus speaker cables.  I have venustas IC’s and considering more PAD for speaker cables.

pops

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Beautiful system. Thanks for sharing you isolation experience. I guess at some point I am going to have to bite the bullet and do something myself.

ghdprentice

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Gorgeous room!

oldschool1948

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Owner
Thank you for the kind words.  I just added a photo showing butcher block hardwood boards under the speakers.  Well, beneath those boards are 4 coil springs on each board isolating the speakers from the floor.  The resulting sound improvement blew me away.  Images are more focused with even more clarity.  I’m a believer in spring isolation now.  It started by seeing a lot of posts about using springs for isolation.  I even watched some videos demonstrating the advantages of spring isolators.  These high end platforms cost $$$ and I was reticent to invest that much money into something that I wasn’t convinced would make a difference.  So I did the math to determine that I needed 57 lb/in springs to make a platform with a 3.3 Hz resonance point- similar to the Sota turntable suspension.  I ordered the springs from McMaster Carr and the butcher blocks from Amazon.  The springs are 2” long and 1.5” in diameter. I also got some rubber feet to put on the springs and I stuffed the springs with foam for dampening. I’m in for just $200 which is probably the most effective tweak for the money that I have done yet. I bored holes 0.75” deep on the underside of the butcher blocks.  It worked out perfect.  The platforms have about 0.100” of travel under load so the speakers are not too wobbly.  
Using a vibrometer app on my iPad I could see the difference this isolation makes.  Resting the iPad on top of the speaker and the speaker directly coupled to the floor as I have had them for years, I tap on the speaker cabinet and I see not just a pulse but ringing for a short moment.  The vibration waves are reflecting back through the speaker cabinet.  I saw exactly this on videos online. When I tap on the floor I see the same response and ringing just like tapping directly on the speaker cabinet.  After decoupling the speakers with the springs the difference is amazing.  Tap on the speaker cabinet and the app shows the spike but it doesn’t ring.  Tap on the floor and the iPad app shows nothing- complete isolation.  You might think that the speakers would rock back and forth with the music.  They do not.  It’s a 165 lb speaker that the cone drivers are pushing against.  It doesn’t move.   

tonywinga

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