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Zanden's audio weapon - vibration absorber

Zanden's audio weapon - vibration absorber

The recent audio excitement stemmed from last AE's annual hi-fi show in July is long gone and all the excitement that you had experienced aurally is now a distant memory for most of the attendants. Not for me, whenever I listen to a good sounding system, I memorise it and try my  best effort to create or recreate that aural sensation in my home system - the majority of you would think I am nuts as how can one achieve this without changing/upgrading your hi-fi components ??? !!!

The proof of the pudding is in the eating as even through I have not changed my gear for many odd years, audio folks who visit me once a year or there about always comment the sound they hear on present visit is better then the previous year. As I am constantly constraint by a very tight hi-fi expenditure budget which does not allow me to replace any of my existing equipment, all I can do is to tweak my room acoustics to achieve a different and hopefully, better sound. I was highly motivated recently when my hi-fi mentor sent me this piece of advice - "when I don't have things some people have, I enjoy life as it is and improvise as best as I can do". 

Action replay, I was asked to play a few LPs in the big room  on Sunday of last AE show in HKCC. Because I was sitting in the front row, the reflection of sound from the windows to my right side (I call this window of noise instead of window of opportunity) distracted my listening immensely but I had brought with me the sound treatment to tackle 'horizontal' noise and used my hand to feel the area where the vibration was most pronounced, then I stuck the wooden puck to the glass,  lo and behold, the sound that caused discomfort to my right ear reduced by a huge margin and sound became more natural and with slightly better bass definition.  When I went home, I spent a couple of days  treating all the window panels on the right side of my speakers and afterwards, the soundstage became more real with better sound imaging, to my surprise, sound volume from the right speaker (horn) was 1-2 dB louder, I needed to push the horn against the back wall by 2 mm to achieve a perfectly balanced sound.

Now to the topic I am writing today on sound vibration control. I have stopped using audio accessories to tackle vertical vibration, this I mean placing gadget/support underneath a piece of audio equipment because after using countless numbers of accessories all these years i.e. from very cheap tip toes to  Goldmund cones, Symposium blocks with exotic ball bearings to Shun Mook etc etc, I came to my conclusion it is best to leave components resting on hi-fi stand.

This year, Yamada-san of Zanden, on his last visit to H.K. in July, came to my home and said he had brought what he called 'audio weapon' in a small box for me. After listening to my system initially for an hour, I asked him what this audio weapon is, he then opened his box and showed me Zanden's latest product - vibration absorbers which are basically rubber base/mat, their looks really do not excite me as well as other audiophiles who are using some expensive footers. Although I have tried many rubber feet or hybrids in the past and am not interested in them, I realise I am currently using Zanden's special rubber mat on my turntable platter which has made a huge sound improvement ( I am sure many of you fellow users out there concur too), so I quickly cast my prejudice aside. 


  • Yamada-san said to me his vibration absorbers are pretty popular in Japan (selling like Japanese rice cakes) as many Japanese audiophiles do not invest their money on fancy hi-fi racks, so to their surprise, by simply placing these rubber mats underneath their components on furniture rack bring about instant audible sound improvement. He then added, for heavy equipment, you need to use the optional metal plate to strength the rubber base.

    Now this is my turn and with the help from Mori-san, I placed the 4 rubber mats under the Zanden power amps (remember to turn them off esp. for valve equipment), then my per-amp, CD transport and DAC. Once this slightly back-breaking job is complete, I turned on the electronic components and start my listening.

    Immediate impression was no change in tonality (rubber feet always reduce the highs and thicken the bass - usually effective for many transistor amps), a very slight reduction in the highs (I will get back to this later) but an obvious increase in harmonic decay, more inner details and better bass definition. The overall sound somehow improved after 30 or so minutes as I was playing the same previous CDs we listened to before the change.

    When I proceeded to play LPs, the sound improvement was more discernible as I could hear more details in the vinyl grooves which were not audible in the past, I was a happy lad again, I opened 4 bottle of wine during dinner to celebrate this happy occasion. 

    Next day ( I mean late afternoon), I turned on my system again and was excited to hear the same CDs I played yesterday. This time, I could hear what positive benefits these rubber mats bring. The human voice of male and female sounded more human (palpable) , I could hear emotion in their singing, the layering of musical details, though subtle, were audible and harmonic decay improved as well as certain occasional sting in the recording disappeared. The slight reduction in highs was not discernible this time and had a wee bit more extension, the bass had better definition. My finding is you need to let these feet run in for 24 hours or longer for the rubber molecule to settle in order to do their job.

    2 days later when I sat next to Yamada-san's Japanese guest at AE post-Sat show dinner party, I was informed this gentleman also use a full suite of Zanden electronic as well as Cessaro Beta in his auditorium (yes, he showed me the picture, a mini concert hall and has a Steinway grand piano where he occasionally arranges Japanese artist(s) to perform with several artists). I quickly invited him and Yamada, his daughter and Mori-san to my home to listen to my system (we were the first guests to leave the dinner party as time was ticking).

    Upon arriving home with equipment already duly switched on by my knowledgeable domestic helper, I started to play chamber music to this Japanese gentleman. After a a couple of CD tracks, he was talking to Yamada-san in their own tonque but I could sense he was pleasantly shocked by the musicality of my system which probably was not delivering in his own rig back home in Osaka.

    Although I was  sitting on the far left of my system, I could hear the sound was better. It was richer, more organic and had more details than before - these rubber mats still improve after 3 days (I did not play my system for almost 2 days). Finally, as it was getting late (don't annoy your neighbours by playing concert hall volume at night), I thanked the guests for coming over and was about to switch off my system, for the first time ever, Yamada-san requested to listen to Eagles Live - Hotel California before leaving, so I played the CD and the guests were  happy.

    In summary, I am very surprised to get this kind of sound improvement from these "humble-looking" rubber mats - the rich and famous will not own them because they don't look expensive and let alone, look effective. However, the sum of the parts (you need to have a number of sets under your components) really makes an audible improvement, I am pleasantly shocked. I recommend to give them a few days to settle, afterwards, you can enjoy the music and discover additional musical details which you hitherto are not aware of.

    Zanden vibration absorbers will not make a lousy sounding system sound good but any decent sounding system  will be further improved. Now I say to myself as well as to those readers who cannot afford expensive hi-fi equipment, achieving good sound is no longer privilege of the affluent audiophile, even those who have basic or mid-hi fi equipment can now enjoy decent music if they employ these rubber footers at a very low cost. They really give you 'maximum' bang for the buck and in my opinion -  a complete bargain in this audio world. 

    I feel truly blessed again (never forget to count you blessing and stop complaining) to achieve a very satisfying sound system at home, vocal recordings give you sense of experience as if the singer is right there singing in front of you and good orchestral recordings instantly transport you to the concert hall. Well, if you still doubt what I write, just make an appointment to come and have a listen for yourself.

    Happy tweaking and listening,

    Mr Z

  • Mr Zanden,

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