Dark Star speaker isolation review

A very happy new year to everyone. We had a surprise to start our new year off with a great review on our Dark Star 38 isolation feet when used under speakers. They performed really well as expected, if you have a few spare minutes you may care to have a look here.

Solidair Audio Fact Check

I am sorry to have to make this post, but the persistent harassment of any discussion of our products on certain forums has forced my hand.

Mr Peter Newby makes claims particularly about our Pylons and gives out false information and snide smears, presumably to try get people to buy his version instead. He even has the audacity to call his products Pylons which is an original Solidair Audio product name and so a breach of copyright. I came up with the name ‘Pylons’ to go with our Speaker Suspension Bridges, continuing the civil engineering theme. You will find no mention of the word Pylons in relation to suspension towers anywhere before we went public with it early in 2018.

Around August 2018 Pete Newby contacted me several times through eBay in regard to our Pylons which we had listed along with some other Solidair products. He claimed to be poor and wanted to make his own version which would not go into commercial production. I helped him with general advice and the thread size that Michell use on most of their turntables. He has a blog which was under the name Gwernaffield on Art of Sound where he posted cheap upgrade ideas for the Orbe. He was very insistent that I looked at it, which I did. There was a long discussion about many possible ways to get small improvements, but no mention of any suspension upgrades. I suggested he put a pack together and sold them to make it easier for people to implement his suggestions, but he didn’t want to do that. Approximately six months later I was contacted by someone concerned at the nature of Pete’s blog. Upon looking it up I saw he was explaining how he set out to make a set of spring replacements having seen our Pylons and Gert Pederson’s earlier design. Sadly every mention of Solidair Audio, Gert Pederson and sometimes even Michell Engineering was entirely derogatory to the point of libellous. I found he had repeated this blog on other sites including Vinyl Engine so put up a strong retort and much of what he had written was taken down. Vinyl Engine and another site immediately deleted his whole thread. Michell Engineering also put up a rebuke of Pete’s actions. I have kept screen shots of much of what he said.

Pete has and continues to make many claims about our Pylons, some of which I want to address here. According to Pete they need our magnetic feet to work, will let the deck swing all over the place, will scratch your vinyl and cause your stylus cantilever to break should the string fail. He even posted a photo of a set of our Pylons where he had to cut the cord with knife or scissors as it would not break to illustrate his argument. Oddly he didn’t do that to his own version.

He has repeated this many times on various Facebook sites as soon as any discussion comes up about Solidair Audio. He has sent out private messages to people, some of whom have passed these messages on to me.

As I said in my initial rebuke, his behaviour is unprofessional and it is utterly contemptible to do this to someone who helped him get started. (In his reply to my rebuke on 6-5-19: “yes you did help with the size of the thread” Pete Newby. You can’t even start to develop a suspension without this basic information.)

That’s the background, so I think I need to address the erroneous statements that Pete keeps putting up.

1. The Pylons need the Solidair feet to work?
No, the Pylons work really well with or without our feet, they are not needed. Some people with True Point suspension use our feet too and rate them highly. Pete also stated that he has never tried our feet and never would, so all this is pure speculation with no basis in fact or experience.

When John Michell designed the earlier Gyrodecs, which have really changed very little, he knew where isolation was needed and put it in. Some forty years on we have new materials and new ideas to improve the isolation, which is why this such a good turntable for a few tune-up modifications. The springs are the first isolation point, the spike feet the second. They both have different jobs to do and both help with sound quality. There is also isolation under the arm board and through use of a record clamp. Whether you want to change anything is and should be up to your individual opinion and needs. We try to make our modifications unobtrusive or in keeping as we don’t want to detract from the beauty of what has been for decades, the most iconic and affordable turntable, a true masterpiece of design.

2. The Pylons let the deck swing all over the place?

No. According to Pete, Gert’s suspension does this too. Gert uses wires to prevent this and the geometry of our Pylons does not allow the deck to swing. The angle of the strings in ours means the movement is already pushing uphill. The motor and the stylus can’t put in enough force to overcome this to lift the deck further. You can move it with your hand, but it will not move in service. No wow or flutter. Our new version has elastomer suspension and uses a high performance web to stop any lateral movement, as more flexible suspension can’t stop it on it’s own. This is why True Point have sorbothane packing inside theirs (Pete’s).

3. Will the string break and break your stylus?

No, the string will not break. I can’t snap the Pylon strings and though it has been a few years since I competed in Cornwall’s strongest man, I am no slouch. The waxed cotton is very strong and has been used for sail making to drive boats around the globe for centuries, it is very tough and reliable. One strand is enough to suspend the platter, the Pylons have eighteen. I even tried Pete’s cut the thread experiment which caused a slight jump in the record playing but no damage and certainly no broken cantilever. I am not sure why they should be knife resistant anyway, perhaps it would be best to just not let Pete in if you plan to spin some vinyl.
4. Will they scratch your records?

No. Pete thinks that you will have trouble with record damage if our Pylons are used when you have suspended floors. We have not found it makes a difference. Our feet help a bit and one of our customers was extolling the virtues of our puck (the Bass Driver) as it stopped record jumping for him with his suspended floor. With modern equipment the pressure is so light you should not get record damage even if you get a skip. No one is using the old steel needles these days are they?

5. The Dark Star Pylons
Pete now seems to think we have copied him for our new design. I had to laugh but no, our concept is unique and quite different from the way his works. It doesn’t even have O rings, which was Gert’s idea anyway, not Pete’s.

As with all things HiFi different people have different ears and like different things. The True point suspension is well received and has it’s fans. I have said before you will benefit from any of the suspension upgrades available. I have also said to Pete that he should be keeping it positive and just big up his product, all this negativity is just putting people off. Unfortunately, since our eBay chat, Pete has never replied directly to any contact I have made with him. I would be happy to see an end to this constant harassment and deformation, but there seems to be no reasoning with this man. Pete gets very upset about it all, so he doesn’t seem to be doing himself any favours here. I don’t know why he is so obsessed with us, but as he says, he likes winding people up, so maybe that’s it. I guess I will have to take heart that “there is only one thing worse than being talked about…”

Miles

The Trinity

We have a new offering for the lucky owners of Michell’s beautiful turntables. We have looked at the arm board spacers and developed a set of isolation feet to replace them, The Trinity. We have tried to preserve, as much as possible, the looks of the iconic turntables and at a casual glance we don’t think you would notice the difference. When you put on your favorite vinyl however, you will definitely notice what we have done for your listening experience. Super wide sound stage and details you have never heard before, this modification really lets your tonearm setup sing with it’s very best voice. We have been blown away here, we are sure you will be too.

The Trinity from Solidair Audio
https://solidairaudio.com/shop/michell-turntable-upgrades/the-trinity-michell-turntable-armboard-suspension/The Trinity from Solidair Audio

Covid and Brexit

Just a quick note to reassure our customers that we are still operating nearly as normal. Every safety precaution is in place and we are able to work in almost complete isolation here.

Brexit is sadly a different issue and we are finding that shipping to the EU is very unreliable. We ask our EU customers to please wait until this mess has been sorted out before ordering. Please feel free to contact us for more details if you need to.

We are also having some supply issues for parts and raw materials, mostly in the delivery process, which seems completely jammed up in some areas. At the moment we have run out of 6kg magnets, so some of our products a listed as “on backorder”. We hope this will be resolved quickly.

Very best wishes to you all

Miles

Solidair Audio

Why Solidair Audio Pylons?

There has been a lot of talk about replacing the springs on the Michell Gyrodec and Orbe suspension. The springs provide a good level of isolation, however in the HiFi world we always strive for a little more. We developed the spring suspension replacements to do just this. We came up with our name ‘Pylons’ to continue with the civil engineering theme of our ‘speaker suspension bridges’.

We have many years of experience in HiFi isolation and odd though it may seem, the sound of the system tends to sound like the material the isolation is made from. It takes a while to get a feel for what we mean by this, but metals sound a bit harder, woods softer, plastics and elastomers a bit dull. They can all be used to good effect and the main point of providing isolation usually outweighs any subtle nuance that the material gives to the system. Indeed it can be used to advantage if your system has a particular issue.

With the Pylons we tried many designs for the configuration, tops and bottoms and what connects them. We tried wires and O rings and different threads, acrylic, brass, aluminium and different woods. We found that waxed cotton with ebony or African Blackwood made the best combination acoustically. They were more musical and revealed more detail than other combinations. We were not particularly surprised, as we had been using cotton damping in speaker and interconnect cables for years. These hardwoods are also used extensively in instrument manufacture for their unique and musical properties. So this is where we settled, developed the design and brought it to production.

If you have not tried the Pylons they are well worth a go, modification wise they are considered by many to be the best ‘bang for your buck’ you can get. The difference is immediately obvious, very musical and clear, as the reviews will testify.

On many social media forums there has been much discussion. People who have them are very positive, others are sceptical, which is to be expected, and some just make things up:

1. Where’s the scientific evidence.

2. Are they any good, is it just snake oil?

3. There have also been attempts to discredit them for less objective reasons.

We will try to address some of these points.

1. We have tried measuring the sound, but it is not easy to do. We know that our speaker isolation reduces sound travel through wooden floors by over 50%, but that was easy to measure as well as to hear. The problem with soundscape and dynamic response is that is it very hard to know what to measure. For speakers it is easy to analyse the spectrum and look for boom frequencies and drop off in frequency response, and though you hear these anyway, it makes it easier to fix if you know the values of the problem frequencies. Isolation is different as it is very subtly changing the shapes of the waves. A good or well trained pair of ears will hear differences, even when two curves look identical in the instrument readout.

When I was working on our reference system I changed the crossover and added a super-tweeter to each speaker. I got in Mr Ears with over 40 years of HiFi experience, Julius Hyde, to listen to what I had done. I thought they they sounded great but wanted to be sure. On sitting down he immediately said have you connected that left midrange driver round the wrong way. Indeed I had, I couldn’t tell the difference then, maybe I could now, but I wouldn’t put any money on it. It does show what a well trained pair of good ears can pick up though, so we tend to trust his judgement on things we make. If I can hear a difference it will be chalk and cheese to him, quite extraordinary, like a superpower! Anyway the point being we haven’t found a measuring device that can help us much with this type of modification. If we could measure it we would still rely on a pair of super ears to tell us what the readings meant, so here we cut to what is important, how it sounds. We are doing all this for the benefit of ears everywhere after all.

A good thing to do is to listen, then make a change and listen again. Undo the change and re-listen, often it becomes much clearer what the modification is doing when you remove it.

2. The Pylons really are very good, one of our biggest selling products that can now be found all over the world. We get great feedback and have many repeat customers. Much of our custom is from word of mouth and we have never paid for advertising. We can understand people crying ‘snake oil’ or ’emperors new clothes’ as some HiFi paraphernalia does fall short of hype and expectation. The Pylons are perfectly able to speak for themselves. The ebony and waxed cotton combination reveals so much hidden detail and gives a very smooth and musical sound with extended sound stage, huge detail and punchy bass. If you are brave enough to try them the results are plain to hear and will delight any audio loving ears. We will happily take returns if you don’t agree for any reason.

3. There is also some strange internet speculation: how the Pylons would fail if the string broke, producing some catastrophe of biblical proportions. We can assure you this would not happen and never has. I used to compete in strongman and I can’t break them. If a string was to fail, it would take a while for the string to pull through the holes and the suspended part of the turntable would eventually come to rest a few millimetres lower down. If you have ever worked with wax cotton thread you will know how strong it is, it will cut into your fingers before you snap it. The three Pylons will take over 120Kg, so the safety margin is huge.

Also that they cause the needle to jump more with suspended floors. They don’t make much difference, but they are not designed to address this issue. It is high frequency vibration that upsets the sound quality the most, this is where the Pylons make a big difference. Indeed, if you have a slightly unstable platform for your turntable, like a sideboard on a wooden floor, I would suggest you deal with this issue before doing any upgrades. Perhaps look at a wall mounted solution, or move your turntable to a different location. The standard springs are likely to be your best option until you are able to solve this unhappy situation.

Please be aware that what some people say on social media may have another agenda. If they are using our brand name “Pylons” and they are not from Solidair Audio they are an acoustically inferior copy and may cost more too.

Highly Recommended by HiFi Pig

We recently handed a variety of feet and speaker suspension bridges to Dominic Marsh, a reviewer for HiFi Pig. The review has now been published and can be seen on their website, along with all sorts of other interesting articles, in case you were unaware of the popular online magazine. The link URL is http://hifipig.com/solidair-audio-ukishima-magnetic-isolators/#more-35933
We are very pleased to have been awarded a highly recommended award for the products tested. Dominic has some useful insights into what we produce and aim to achieve with our products.

A new style Speaker Suspension Bridge

We have just made a set of speaker suspension bridges, destined for life under a pair of classic Lowther horn speakers in Kuala Lumpur. We are very pleased with the black anodised look, which compliments the brass so well, they should look fabulous in action. We have a review coming out soon in HiFi Pig, the online HiFi magazine, which includes a look at what the speaker suspension bridges do. We have not seen the review yet, but the reviewer was very complimentary, so we think he liked them as much as we do.

Website promotion discount code – autumn17

For a limited time we are offering a 15% discount to promote our website. pass it on if you know someone who could benefit from it, or use it yourself for any of our products.
autumn17 is the code, valid until 8th October.

Transcriptor Skeleton on the new Ukishima 15 Aluminium feet

Thanks to Steve Recker from Texas USA, for sending pictures of his turntable happily floating on our new aluminium feet.
He says “1969 Transcriptors Skeleton made in Ireland. It’s been in storage over 40 years in the original box and packaging. Almost no use! Still sounds great with original cartridge and now even better with floating magnetic suspension. Thanks for these!”
It is always good to hear from our customers and see our products in action. What a fabulous looking turntable.

Wooden Gyrodec feet

We have been further experimenting with wood isolation feet and have had some fabulous sonic results on the Gyrodec with them. I guess the look may not appeal to everyone, the organic burr oak contrasting with the sci-fi Hi-Fi look of the turntable. We will try some different woods next and get some feedback on our facebook page.

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