There are two possible approaches to audio accessories. Some people embrace them all already at the beginning of the audiophile road, while others proceed more slowly, getting to know the limits of their own perception, and at the same time the limits of money spent on audio gear, leave the fine tuning for the end, for desert. There is one more reason to become interested with accessories and items that should improve the sound of the owned system, or … sometimes only the wellbeing of a golden eared person fallen for another wave of audiophilia nervosa. You do not know, what I am talking about? Please remember what you do, when there are no financial reserves allowing to buy another amplifier, or a set of loudspeakers, when the pressure is almost killing you and the “Chief Financial Officer” does not allow for any budget negotiations. Is it not so, that in such situations you try to mitigate the situation with a new cable, a new power socket, or some other accessory? Well, that is what I am talking about.
However this time I would like to concentrate on searching for a final touch to a system, a pearl in the crown, and not on a pathology, spontaneous, and most of the time, ineffective way of curing the results of an audio system shortcoming, instead of finding and eliminating their origin. Comparisons to jewelry should not be surprising, as this time we are testing Ceramic Disc Classic from Franc Audio Accessories, a product so well designed, that it could compete with the best jewelers products.
The impression of dealing with something exclusive, original and special is there from the very beginning. Instead of a more or less extravagant packaging, Mr. Pawel Franc Skulimowski decided to use a seemingly modest, but in fact very elegant and timeless “little black dress”. Of course it is not a dress but a box, but I will insist on the comparison with the little black dress designed by Coco Chanel. Because it is the same kind of good taste, natural aesthetics, where less means more. Due to that, the tested feet are like Audrey Hepburn or Salma Hayek in a dress – emanating with elegance and far from cheap blatancy of Lady Gaga. No controversy, no trying to appeal the audience and no failed attempts of catching the clients interest.
Well, enough of the raptures, time to switch to less emotional descriptions. The box containing three pieces of the CDC is a black, rectangular “coffin”, held closed with magnets hidden below a satin-like padding. The padding is precisely cut holding the feet very tightly, what allows them to survive even the worst tortures served by courier companies. The feet themselves seem monolithic, but in fact are composed from no less than 14 elements, cut using CNC machinery. All those elements are for sure not put together by chance, starting with a ceramic ball bearing (which minimizes the support surface) and ending with massive chassis and elastic absorbers. From the outside, before placing the upper element, we can see only one ball, but inside the chassis there are three more, held together by an elastic o-ring. The chassis is connected to the base with chrome-nickel screws, what allows to level any device placed on them. The feet are made from gloss anodized aluminum in three different colors – two standard – black and silver, and one limited version – white.
Nobody has to convince me about the sense of limiting the influence of vibration on the audio gear, and the influence of that on the sound. I dealt with those many times. In the beginning of my audiophile way, trying to contain the influence of glass shelves, used by one of the manufacturers of audio-furniture to date, I could only experiment with Ixos sorbothane feet or DIY ones made from squash balls. Later I “listened” to different shelves, racks, etc, finally being able to test and enjoy products from such specialists like Gregitek, Acoustic Revive or Harmonix. In the meantime I observed the increasing activity and boldness of Polish manufacturers, trying to find their place on this difficult market, including Franc Audio Acessories, which slowly becomes the leader. With Franc (a welding chair graduate) we agreed on a test so long ago, that I do not remember when we started. So when finally the package arrived, I was very happy I could verify the positive opinions I heard in my own system.
I think it is important to mention in the beginning of the listening test section, that I conducted listening placing the CDC under the sound source – Ayon 1sc, the amplifiers Leben CS-300F and Accuphase E-600, which were placed on a massive rack Rogoz Audio 4SM3 and/or anti vibration platforms Acoustic Revive RAF-48H or Audio Philar Double Model. If you wonder, why I did not compare to electronics placed directly on the floor, them my response is: this comes from my respect to you, as well as to my time, as I assume, that everybody already has a chosen audio rack, and just wants to get the most of the sound quality, while rationally spending the money.
That was also my approach, accompanied with high expectations, when I placed the Ceramic Disc Classic under the player. And I was not disappointed. The background became much darker, but this was not by rough erasure of further planes, but by moving the invisible wall behind the musicians far away and placing there something like antimatter, black light or just plain nothingness. You could just hear the incredibly natural propagation of sounds, truthful reproduction of the acoustic environment of the individual recordings, and the bubble that condensed the sound somewhere on the borders of perception was not there anymore. All, even the smallest nuances gained crystal clearness, what improved the resolution, palpability and realism of the sound. A certain digital mist, which I believed was a part of the sound, was removed – there was no granulation, no blurring, that prevented to fully enjoy the structure of the human voices, or the shape of the instruments. And I am not talking about over-sharpness of the edges, because I did not notice that, but about everything becoming clearer.
The removal of the artifacts allowed to achieve higher than before sound volumes without ears, and what is even more important, other family members, complaining. The reduction of the amount of distortion created by vibration acted like plugging in a better, more resistant to clipping, amplifier. The sound did not hurt, even in moments, when Metallica on their symphonic album “S&M” and Apocalyptica “Wagner Reloaded” caused my listening room to shatter.
Very similar effects were achieved, when the Franc feet were placed under the Leben 300. However in addition you could notice, that higher notes could be given to saturation of the timbres and juiciness of the sound. Was it due to the more visible structure, or by minimizing of the slight vibration of the air surrounding the virtual sources, but the sound stage became more stable, was placed on stronger foundations. The organ sounds on “Kristin Lavransdatter” Arild Andersen maybe did not reach lower than usual, but the readability and variety of sounds registered on this disc was capable of enchanting me once again and I played this wonderful album a few times over.
The least influence was observed with the top Accuphase integrated, which so prominent in the sound, that the Polish accessories were placed in the shadows. Of course I cannot disagree with that approach, because many clients want such a delicate re-touch of the sound they love, and were trying to achieve for years. The CDC made the Accuphase character come to even greater shine.
The Ceramic Disc Classic do not smoothen and better the sound, as it might have seemed. They just prevent any degradation, any contamination from vibration come to the loudspeakers. They are a very effective barrier from external vibration, trying to enter our precious gear from the outside, and prevent interference between various elements of our audio chain. I think they deserve a frank recommendation.
Producer: Franc Audio Assessories
Price:2 200 PLN
– Diameter of the base/plate 68 [mm]
– Diameter of the top cap 48 [mm]
– Height of the base/plate 46 [mm]
– Height without base/plate 35 [mm]
– Maximum load 0-150 [kg](set of 3 pieces)
System used in this test:
– CD/DAC: Ayon 1sc
– Digital source selector: Audio Authority 1177
– Network Music Player: Olive O2M; notebook Dell Inspiron 1764 + JRiver Media Center
– Turntable: Double synchronous motor Transrotor ZET 3 + 12″SME + Transrotor MC Merlo Reference + external power supply Transrotor Konstant M-1 Reference
– Phonostage: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC
– Integrated Amplifier: Electrocompaniet ECI 5; Leben CS-300F; Accuphase E600
– Speakers: Gauder Akustik Arcona 80 + spike extenders; Trenner&Friedl ART
– IC RCA: Antipodes Audio Katipo
– IC XLR: LessLoss Anchorwave; Organic Audio
– Digital IC: Fadel art DigiLitz; Harmonic Technology Cyberlink Copper; Apogee Wyde Eye; Monster Cable Interlink LightSpeed 200
– USB Cable: Wireworld Starlight; Goldenote Firenze Silver
– Speaker Cables: Organic Audio; Signal Projects Hydra
– Power Cables: Furutech FP-3TS762 / FI-28R / FI-E38R; Organic Audio Power
– Power distribution board: GigaWatt PF-2 + Furutech FP-3TS762 / FI-28R / FI-E38R
– Table: Rogoz Audio 4SM3
– Ethernet cables: Neyton CAT7+
– Accessories: Sevenrods Dust-caps; Furutech CF-080 Damping Ring; HighEndNovum PMR Premium; Albat Revolution Loudspeaker Chips; Acoustic Revive RAF-48H; Audio Philar Double Model
It is out of the question, that isolation of audio gear from vibration is a substantial part of the achieved final result. Or at least it should be. Nevertheless many users do not care too much about this, treating the degradation of the sound in an irritably marginally way. Fortunately many manufacturers of audio gear know about the issue and try take care of the client themselves, implementing appropriate solutions in their products. Some are more sophisticated, others just put some elastic material beneath the plastic feet of their gear. So when devices owned by us are equipped only with good looking, but not very effective plastic feet-like struts, we should direct our attention to accessories present on the market in many variations. You can chose between audio racks, platforms and feet; and each solution has only one goal – to take care of our precious toys when playing music. Parasite vibration are bad, this has been confirmed long time ago, so we need to get rid of it. This is the reason, that many companies (including Polish ones) started to offer their patents to the vast amount of listeners out there. A few weeks ago, together with Marcin, we were able to verify some ideas by one of the most renowned manufacturer of such accessories – Acoustic Revive, so we were very happy to be able to test a set of three feet provided by a Polish manufacturer, Franc Audio Accessories, named Ceramic Disc Classic.
I have seen many accessories of that type, and I must confess, that if I would not know, who is responsible for manufacturing them, I would be pointing to the most renowned players on that field. And yet those are products from the Polish company Franc Audio Accessories. The feet look like small pieces of art. And they hide some profound ideas about elimination of vibration. The Ceramic Disc Classic turn out to be a simple looking enclosure to a complicated inside life, with a ceramic ball in the middle – the most important element of the foot. This ball supports a silicon coated platform, which is placed under the gear it will support. The whole is coated with some kind of foam, that increases the damping effect. The whole product is made in a nice black-silver finish, which is very elegant. But even without looking at the external design, when we take the foot in our hands, we can immediately feel, it is very solid. Together with the looks it is fully capable of bringing joy to our ears and eyes. I am using some anti-vibration accessories from Japanese origin, so I can truly give the Elblag based manufacturer a recommendation for the design. How those products will prove themselves in the most important – sonic aspect, I will tell a bit later. And I will try not to judge if the effect is good or bad, because each and every audio system is different and there is no universal way of isolating the audio devices from vibration. I use Harmonix feet under my gear, which make my system complete, and a change to Franc Audio may be perceived as different, but not necessarily better. However I do not say they will not be better – just that regardless of the result you should not depreciate his offering.
Thinking about where to place the Elblag made accessories, I decided to place them first under my CD drive, which has such solutions already built-in, what would place the threshold for the guest feet on an adequately high level. As I expected the changes not to be very pronounced, I decided not to experiment with the repertoire, but to take the set tested in all possible configurations and situations – the disc “Goodbye” by Bobo Stenson with Andreas Jormin and Paul Motian. From experience I know, that the most probable area, where the changes will present themselves, will be the timbre, resolution and setup of the virtual stage, and having the mentioned disc coded deep in my brain I would be able to easily catch any changes. And it proved true, as the supports for the CD drive showed their influence exactly in those areas. Like I mentioned, the Ceramic Disc Classic replaced other vibration damping feet, so the changes were not as spectacular as they might have been after implementation in a ‘nude’ system. However I clearly experienced a smoothening of the sound, increasing its homogeneity, without losing any openness of the sound. Everything became a little warmer and denser, with a practically negligible loss of sharpness at the edges. Please do not understand this description as sound falling into big planes, it was just a touch of a smoothness applied to the edges, bringing the final result closer to what we get from analog sources. The change went not in a bad direction, this was just a tad different approach to resolution and density of the recording, while still being on a very high overall level. This was a step to the side, I would enjoy it a lot, if I would not already have Harmonix feet. At the same time the presentation of the stage to the side as well as in depth did not change, neither did the way it was visualized. The piano profited most from the change, as it received some extra filling, and the contrabass sounded more from the body, while the cymbals played by Motian were only a touch rounded, what could only be observed in direct comparison. Knowing the capabilities of Harmonix products, I can tell with a lot of certainty, that somebody who has too much of chaos in the upper frequencies, and a rather thin sounding system, and does not use any kinds of accessories, will have a jaw dropping experience. There is only one problem, albeit quite hard to overcome, the potential client has to grow mentally to acknowledge the problem of vibration interfering with his system. However the people are more and more educated in that matter nowadays, and orthodox non-users are less frequent. So I played a few silver discs more which only confirmed the characteristics I described. This is why I decided to place the feet under the DAC.
This time I invited a small lady with a strong voice for a recital, Youn Sun Nah, on her last disc “Lento”. The material on the disc are rather ballads, but seems to be the most interesting in her portfolio, at least to me, and the way it is recorded allows to verify how audio systems deal with a closely microphoned female voice. In some pieces I have the impression of seeing the vocalist’s tonsils, what often results in sibilants being audible in lesser systems. My set handles this without such issues, but I waited what would happen, when I switch the Harmonix for the Franc Audio. Will it cause smoothening again, or maybe this time will it increase analytical capabilities of it, what can manifest itself as unpleasant hissing sound. So I placed the tested feet under the DAC and pressed play. I did not need to listen long, because the effect was immediately audible. But it was completely different than with the CD drive. There we got lots of smoothness and slight warming, while here we have a completely different road to the sound nirvana. This experiment showed another face of the FAA products. The sound went in the direction of resolution and putting the timbre half a notch up, while still controlling the treble. The sound got a bit more open and the breath of the musical even got bigger. The stage became a bit pumped-up, but vocals did not lose any palpability, we still had a very intimate contact with the vocalist. This was again a step sidewise, but the azimuth was completely different, what could mean a completely different target group – owners of systems too compressed at the midrange. This only confirmed the old audiophile truth, that there is no ready recipe for the final sound, as the same product may have a radically different influence on the elements of the audio jigsaw.
Frankly speaking, I did not expect the changes in both tested cases would go in such opposite directions. However looking from another side, when taking such accessories for testing, in different applications we can get completely different results, sometimes expected, sometimes unwanted. When we do not get the desired result in the combination we wanted to try, then we should pass the accessories to another component in our system and that what should happen with the player may happen with next component in the audio chain. The audio world is a game, with many surprises on the way, and it depends only on us, if we want to play along. I call it a game, but in practice this is a war with the negative influence of the environment on the audio signal, which must be fought by every mature user. And if satisfactory results cannot be achieved with products from one manufacturer, then you should try another one, with a different approach to the problem. And if we are still not satisfied, we at least gain some experience and our own view on the topic, which is very important for many music lovers. This encounter with the company Franc Audio Accessories is only a small part of what they offer, they have other models of anti-vibration feet and platforms, which can allow to fully enjoy listening to music. But even this short experience shows, that it is worth to get in contact with the manufacturer, to try to understand what he is trying to achieve and what he offers to revive our beloved audio system. I honestly encourage you to verify the described experiences by yourselves.
The system used in the test, a complete set of Combak Corporation.
– Separate DAC + CD player: CDT – 777 + DAP – 999 EX
– Tube preamp: CAT – 777 MK II
– Solid state power amp: KAP – 777
Speakers: Bravo Consequence +
Power cables: Harmonix X-DC-350M2R Improved Version
Speaker Cables: Harmonix HS 101-EXQ (mid-high section); Harmonix HS-101 SLC (bass section)
IC RCA Harmonix HS 101-GP
Digital IC: Harmonix HS 102
Table: Rogoz Audio
Accessories: Antivibration stand for the power amp by Harmonix TU-505EX MK2; Harmonix Enacom improved for AC 100-240V; Harmonix Tuning Room Mini Disk RFA-80i; Acoustic Revive RST-38H; Audio Philar Double Model
drive: Dr. Feickert Analogue „Twin”
arm: SME V
cartridge: Dynavector XX-2 MK II; London AEC C91E “POD”
– Phonostage: RCM „THERIAA”