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  7. Graphite Audio ISSB-40 & CIS-35 English ver.

Graphite Audio ISSB-40 & CIS-35 English ver.

Link do zapowiedzi (en): Graphite Audio ISSB-40 & CIS-35

Opinion 1

Putting some individuals aside, who sporadically visit our pages, or do it only for laughs, and for whom it is enough to put the stereo their bought in a free spot and connect it with the supplied cables, more advanced audiophiles reach relative satisfaction at some time. Relative, because although they think everything is OK, and at least in theory, they would like to stop juggling around with components, but they do realize, that some of the potential of the puzzle they pieced together is still dormant and could be released. This is why they turn to accessories dedicated to the ‘golden eared’. And this time we will deal with the mentioned accessories, the mind’s eye of many audiophile altars, and we will do that with additional enthusiasm, as this is also the debut of a Polish company, Graphite Audio from Bydgoszcz. But to make things less easy, the less controversial item, the anti-vibration cones IC-35 we will leave out to another review, and now we take a look at the loudspeaker supports ISSB-40 and the much more opinion-polarizing cable supports/stands CIS-35.

Getting a bit ahead of the facts regarding the influence of the tested accessories on the sound of the systems they were used on, as well as due to their similarities in terms of used materials and construction, I will allow myself to describe them together in terms of exterior design and sound. Of course the application and some looks are different, so I will treat those separately. The construction material is a proprietary mixture of graphite, or using company nomenclature “a refined and revolutionary polymer having anti-vibration and damping properties”. So it looks good, at least on paper, the more, that until today, we were not able to play around with accessories made from so unique material, except for maybe the Furutech Boosters. All the accessories from Bydgoszcz are supplied in nicely looking boxes made from thick, black cardboard, filled with white foam, cut to size, which protects the items from being damaged in transportation. The ISSB-40 are packed in sets of eight, and the CIS-35 in packs of four items.
ISSB-40 – Isolation Speaker Spike Bases, or loudspeaker spike supports, are not unlike the standard you can purchase on the market. Classical, not very high plates with a milled, cone pit, where the loudspeaker spike is destined to land. On the other hand, the CIS-35, Cable Isolation Stands or cable supports, are low cut cylinder with a groove, where you can comfortably place the cable. Here I will digress a little about the handling of those items, as the used material is fairly light and smooth, so both types of supports move quite freely on flat surfaces, what eases the positioning of the speakers using the ISSB-40, but with the CIS-35 and a rather stiff cable, which does not easily bend to the users desire, this might become an issue. Fortunately my test Vermöuth, as well the Hydra Signal Projects, I take out of the mothballs from time to time, are quite flexible, so I did not have too many issues with the tested Graphite Audio supports on my flooring.

Moving on to the sound properties of the Graphite I had really no idea on what to expect from them. This resulted in a typical carte blanche with regard to my expectations, as well as to any subconscious influence by third parties, and with that I mean any more or less heated internet discussion. The only fact that I was aware of, is that wherever Szymon Rutkowski – the owner and founder of Graphite Audio – shipped his “samples”, each and every time he got back positive feedback, supported by a solid order and an agenda of future orders. And all of this with almost no promotion at all. So there must be something going on.
So what should I do? After a longer while of making photos and getting used to the design, I started some cross-fit exercises, as application of the ISSB-40 under my Contour speakers was not that easy, as the speakers are placed on the Base Audio quartz platforms and placing them directly on the floor meant an evident regress; the volume of the sound generated by the Dynaudio got painfully reduced, the resolution got worse and the motoric of the emitted notes got weakened. This is the reason, that comparing the Graphite to that, would not make much sense, so after a short deliberation the speakers got back on the bases and the ISSB-40 replaced the brass supports Acoustic Revive SPU-8 used by Base Audio as standard. And…? The Dynaudio sounded different, and the change was so obvious, that I needed to get acquainted to it, so with time, when the first emotions dissipated, I would be able to see if this a positive or negative change. And do you know what? The longer I listened, the more I got convinced, that such 0-1 approach would not be possible in this case due to my subjectivism and my habits. It got even worse – I got to the point, where I would like to have two sets of supports and change them according to the played material – its quality and repertoire, or even according to my fantasy at a given moment. This is because the Acoustic Revive SPU-8 homogeneity, saturation and timbre in its darker shade, while the Graphite Audio ISSB-40 are energizing treble and midrange in a truly brilliant way, while at the same time taming the bass. But mark my words well – keeping bass in discipline, and not thinning it, as I mentioned already, the perceived energetic load increases with the Graphite, somehow similar to reaching higher revolutions in a car, or changing its setup to sport mode. Compared to the SPU-8 the element of romanticism diminishes, what was a kind of return to truth with a recording like the slightly rustling “Quelcu’un m’a dit” by Carla Bruni, but I know, that many of the listeners would chose the less realistic, but nicer, and thus safer, version either consciously or subconsciously. With the Graphite you can not only hear more, but also better, so all kinds of underlined sibilants, or shortcomings in the vocal-performative nature, which can easily be spotted in the previous First Lady of France performance, become a thing, so either we need to take those for granted, or move to a disc of a lady, who does not show such issues. It is also worth noticing, that the ISSB-40 do not finger point at the mistakes and shortcomings, but also do no effort to repair of hide them. They offer everything just as it was performed and recorded, adhering to the facts, leaving their (over)interpretation to the listener. But with a repertoire, where everything is as it should, they open an almost limitless range of opportunity to search for all kinds of tastes and nuances, or even to do something as prosaic as follow individual instruments in the mix. If someone would wonder if this truthfulness based on phenomenal resolution does impact the emotional aspect of listening to music, making it a bit sterile, I would recommend that this person reaches out to the soundtrack of “Schindler’s List” by John Williams, and I would say that the lead motive alone is enough to stop thinking about such things. It is very moving, and it sets the mood of listener from the very beginning, and which can just be played “truthful” as it was done with the Graphite, or melodramatic, like with some other accessories present on the market.
I did not encounter any issues applying the CIS-35, so moving the cabling from the ash parquet to the graphite polymer stands showed the changes quite drastically. Although their character was completely in line with that, what the ISSB-40 showed, the change in intensity of the influence, as a result of the point of application, was truly surprising. The improvement of resolution and micro-dynamics, especially in the midrange-treble crossing, allowed the Vermöuth to approach the level of such powerful players like in-akustik Reference LS-2404 Pure Silver or Kimber KS 6065. And please read that sentence with understanding – “approach” does not mean “to reach” – but if you value the sound school of those reference cables, then applying the Graphite will be a step in the right direction. Dense, pompous orchestrations from „Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” of John Williams sounded absolutely marvelous – with a very suggestive swing and with lots of air surrounding the orchestra. Additionally the application of both sets of the „Bydgoszcz specialties” made me reach the maximum acceptable level of directness and realism, which allowed for multiple hours of listening, what was one of the reasons, that the IC-35 will get their own review later.
Of course I would not be me, if I would not try to add the latter to the tested brethren, but the result moved the esthetics of my system too much in the direction of stereotypical sampler one, where the amount of information, and its granularity, together with underlining all nuances brings too much analysis to the table, and we move from an opera to a dissecting room. True, I know people, who strive to such sound, but I personally prefer to consume such dissecting climates in liquid form, like the one produced by Laphroig Distillery and served in Glencairn Glass to having them in music. This is the reason, that following the maxim “Primum non nocere” please use common sense when applying Graphite Audio accessories.

However I need to admit, that the ISSB-40 and CIS-35 from Graphite Audio are doing real good job, and either on their own or together, they can release a lot of good things from the potential remaining dormant in our system. While doing this they do not tinker with the timbre, they do not dry or thin the sound, but also do not enlarge the virtual sources or, most importantly, they do not bring any mud into the music. So saying things straight – they do not „create the sound anew”, they do not rewrite sheet music to create their own interpretations or variations, but reach to the core, to the source of truth and present the effect of their explorations in a virgin, untouched form. So if you are wondering, how many hidden potential still lures within your system, please reach out for one of the tested accessories and see for yourselves.

Marcin Olszewski

System used in this test:
– CD/DAC: Ayon CD-35 (Preamp + Signature) + Finite Elemente Cerabase compact
– DAC: Gryphon Audio Kalliope
– Network player: Lumin U1 Mini + I-O Data Soundgenic HDL-RA4TB
– Digital source selector: Audio Authority 1177
– Turntable: Kuzma Stabi S + Kuzma Stogi + Dynavector DV-10X5
– Phonostage: Tellurium Q Iridium MM/MC Phono Pre Amp
– Power amplifier: Bryston 4B³
– Loudspeakers: Dynaudio Contour 30 + Brass Spike Receptacle Acoustic Revive SPU-8 + Base Audio Quartz platforms
– IC RCA: Tellurium Q Silver Diamond
– IC XLR: Organic Audio; Vermöuth Audio Reference
– Digital IC: Fadel art DigiLitz; Harmonic Technology Cyberlink Copper; Apogee Wyde Eye; Monster Cable Interlink LightSpeed 200
– USB cables: Wireworld Starlight; Goldenote Firenze Silver; Fidata HFU2; Vermöuth Audio Reference USB
– Speaker cables: Signal Projects Hydra; Vermöuth Audio Reference Loudspeaker Cable
– Power cables: Furutech FP-3TS762 / FI-28R / FI-E38R; Organic Audio Power + Furutech CF-080 Damping Ring; Acoustic Zen Gargantua II; Furutech Nanoflux Power NCF
– Power distribution board: Furutech e-TP60ER + Furutech FP-3TS762 / Fi-50 NCF(R) /FI-50M NCF(R)
– Wall power socket: Furutech FT-SWS(R)
– Anti-vibration platform: Franc Audio Accessories Wood Block Slim Platform
– Switch: Silent Angel Bonn N8 + Silent Angel S28 + Silent Angel Forester F1 + Luna Cables Gris DC
– Ethernet cables: Neyton CAT7+, Audiomica Anort Consequence + Artoc Ultra Reference + Arago Excellence
– Table: Rogoz Audio 4SM
– Acoustic panels: Vicoustic Flat Panels VMT

Opinion 2

Trying to write a sensible introduction to today’s test I looked back at the last year of our reviewers activities and, frankly speaking, I blushed a bit. The reason for that is, that we somehow closed ourselves in a loop of electronics and cabling, completely ignoring any kinds of anti-vibration accessories. And all this while we know, that fighting the detrimental influence of non-separation of the audio components, or speakers for that matter, from the unstable floor, is the absolute basic thing an audiophile should do. Of course this kind of situation is somewhat attributable to the distributors not proposing us such products for testing, but I must also confess, that when talking with them about maybe taking such accessories to our listening room, we often end up with a proposal of taking an interesting CD player or amplifier instead, what we gladly do. This however puts the topic of anti-vibration protection, in any conceivable way, way down on the to do list. Fortunately, from time to time, those seemingly inconspicuous attributes of a seasoned audiophile come out victorious from the battle with reality, what can be confirmed with the current test of the loudspeaker spike supports ISSB-40 and cable supports CIS-35 supplied by the Polish manufacturer Graphite Audio.

Due to the seemingly very simple construction of the tested accessories, this paragraph will not remind you of any of the hefty volumes you might have read, like the “Harry Potter” Heptateuch. So based on the sparse information from the manufacturer, and taking into account the company name, one thing is sure, the only substrate for producing those warriors of stability is graphite. But this is not the end of important information, because on the web page of the creators of those items, they mention, that graphite is only a small addition to the polymer, which is the main material for construction. In what proportions? Unfortunately, this information remains the secret of the R&D department of Graphite Audio. Is this a pity? For people, who would like to clone those products, which are usually a result of costly and time consuming tests, probably yes. But for me this does not matter at all, as when someone put his or her time in some project, and its influence on the sound of the system is not only evident, but also positive, I do not have an issue with thanking such a person for the effort with a purchase of that product. Finalizing this part of the test with some additional information about the tested devices, I can only add, that in case of the loudspeaker spike supports we deal with fairly small rings with a dent in the middle, which stabilizes the spike, while the loudspeaker cable supports are not very high cylinders with a half-circle groove to put the cable into. This series of accessories is packed into nicely looking, high quality boxes painted graphite gray, with a profiled foam inside.

Beginning the description of the influence of the tested devices on the audio system, I made the decision, that due the similar influence of the loudspeaker supports and cable supports, I will describe how they work in one paragraph. But to be frank, I must immediately alert you, that adding another product to the system increases the final sonic effect. This is the reason, that if you start trying them out for yourself, I recommend to use them in a progressive way, as too many Graphite Audio products applied at once might distort the positive influence they bring, and which I will describe below.

I have good news for people interested in applying the tested products. Despite how populistic it may sound, the tested items are splendid in their action. Their sound offering bases on phenomenally pulled together sound, without losing any of its density in the midrange. But what does the phrase “pulled together sound” mean? First of all there is an improvement in the sharpness of the line delineating the virtual source, what translates proportionally into the contour of the lowest registers, and secondly, in the same package, the upper registers explode with a wealth of vitality, but without any signs of sharpness, with an aura of brilliant informativeness. You might think this is nothing new, as many competitive products can do same. Not at all, as most competitors do increase the contours of the reproduced sounds, but at the expense of thinned midrange, and with the Graphite Audio we do not have anything like. The midrange remains juicy and resolved, the only thing that changes, is the previously slightly imprecise aura of the virtual sources is being translated into additional energy of those sources. Translating this into plain English – the previously quite thick outline and a kind of washing out of the virtual presences is translated into a pulsating roundness of their decay. The sound has a stronger beat, what automatically moves our legs to the rhythm, without our knowledge. We do not perceive any harmful insistencies, just the removal of a veil from the played music. It starts to sound with better timing and swing. This is on one hand very delicate, but on the other clear, so that for example the nice sound of the Vienna Acoustics Liszt was not overdrawn by the application of the supports. The sound of those speakers remained brilliant, as it was based on musicality. With the accessories things became more blunt, more expressive, but still in the domain of warmth and roundness. And it did not matter what repertoire was played, as in rock and electronic music the Polish supports underlined the tonal expressiveness, the core of such music, while with aetheric jazz and ancient music vitality gained on importance, absolutely not disturbed with any kind of unreadability of its background; also something that is intrinsic to those genres.
Trying to explain this, quite complicated statement, I think of a situation, where we sit down to listen to music and have the impression, that the sound in the listening room is clearer than usual, mimicking the moment after snowfall, which removes the ever present smog. Am I exaggerating? If you do not believe me, try it out for yourselves. But be warned, l already mention that before, applying more of the tested products in your system increases the effect; maybe not in proportional way, but in visible increments, what improves the volatility of the sound. Of course the final effect of such moves will depend on your initial system configuration, and the effect will be different with many of your systems, but trying to be fair to any potential buyer, but also to the Polish manufacturer, I can imagine a moment, where the barrier of good taste can be surpassed, and I remind you of that purely due to reviewers duties.

Concluding today’s test, I hope you have understood well what I tried to convey here. If for some reason I was not clear enough, I would like to point you to the fact, that my intention was to show you, that with the brilliant influence of both kinds of supports in the area of contouring the sound, nothing castrated the midrange, bluntly speaking, the saturation, which is so important there, remained fully. You might perceive it as lessened, but only because it did not overflow, the excesses were converted into energy. Can we have any side effects? Let me put it this way – if your system, similar to mine, is configured in a neutral way, or slightly tuned in the overweight direction, then things will become at least surprisingly positive, if not phenomenal. The only issue I can come up with, is when there was an error in the configuration of your system, and it is too light tonally. Then the tested speaker and cable supports will enhance that on purpose. All other audio sets, maybe with a small “but”, will rather profit from them. But what is with that “but”? I mentioned that a few lines up. Exaggeration of the amount of Graphite Audio products in one system might cause a hiccup in the form of cutting the music out with a scalpel, what could become too much of a thing for some people. But I am not an Oracle, and I will absolutely not be surprised, if someone will like that kind of presentation. We live in a free world, and anyone can do whatever he or she likes to do. I am just informing you of potential results of too nonchalant actions.

Jacek Pazio

System used in this test:
– CD transport” CEC TL 0 3.0
– DAC: dCS Vivaldi DAC 2.0
– Reference clock: Mutec REF 10
– Reclocker: Mutec MC-3+USB
– Shunyata Research Sigma CLOCK
– Shunyata Sigma NR
– Preamplifier: Robert Koda Takumi K-15
– Power amplifier: Gryphon Audio Mephisto Stereo
– Loudspeakers: Vienna Acoustics Liszt
– Speaker Cables: Tellurium Q Silver Diamond
– IC RCA: Hijri „Million”, Vermouth Audio Reference
– IC XLR: Tellurium Q Silver Diamond
– Digital IC: Harmonix HS 102
– Power cables: Harmonix X-DC 350M2R Improved Version, Furutech NanoFlux NCF Furutech DPS-4 + FI-E50 NCF(R)/ FI-50(R), Hijiri Nagomi; Vermouth Audio Reference Power Cord
– Accessories: Harmonix TU 505EX MK II, Stillpoints ULTRA SS, Stillpoints ULTRA MINI, antivibration platform by SOLID TECH, Harmonix AC Enacom Improved for 100-240V, Harmonix Room Tuning Mini Disk RFA-80i
– Power distribution board: POWER BASE HIGH END
– Acoustic treatments by Artnovion
Analog stage:
Drive: SME 30/2
Arm: SME V
Step-up: Thrax Trajan
Phonostage: RCM THERIAA

Manufacturer: Graphite Audio
Graphite Audio ISSB-40: 499 €
Graphite Audio CIS-35: 459 €

Graphite Audio ISSB-40
Set: 8pcs
Height: 13mm
Base diameter: 40mm
Max load: 180 kg/4pcs

Graphite Audio CIS-35
Set: 4pcs
Height: 40mm
Base diameter: 35mm
Max cable diameter: 25mm

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