ISOAcoustics ISO-Puck mini Decouplers Review

219

After twenty years of reviewing consumer electronics, I have developed a healthy degree of skepticism when it comes to audio tweaks. Having tried dozens of devices over the years; ranging from power line conditioners, cleaning products, acoustic treatment, cable cradles, vibration platforms, feet, cones, and magic lotions – I’m not sure that more than a handful came close to justifying their asking price.  Audio cables (are they a component or tweak?) are a hot button issue for a lot of people and while not the focus of this review, I do think audiophiles would be better off buying more music than spending $3,000 on a power cord. The $99 ISO-PUCK mini from IsoAcoustics, however, would be a better investment for a lot of people – but let’s not give away the farm just yet.

Having owned more than a few power line conditioners over the years, I can attest to the improvements that some of them made with source components but can also point to some that sucked the life out of my system; an expensive lesson for sure.

The problem with tweaks (and certainly ones based on wishy-washy science) is that you really want them to work; even when your brain tells you that you either hear no change in the sound of your system, or that something sounds better at the expense of something else.

But what about tweaks that isolate components from vibration?

I’ve used vibration platforms and cones for 20 years and know which products have worked effectively with the equipment that I have tried them with. Every experience will be different because every component reacts differently to resonance control. Where the commuter train goes off the tracks (or in the case of NJ Transit, never leaves the station) is when the tweak costs more than component itself or even your entire system; which begs the question – why not just spend the money on a better component?

In the case of the ISO-PUCK mini devices, what inspires confidence is the background of the company and their decades of experience planning and building radio and television studios for the CBC across Canada. During my ten years in radio and television production in Toronto, I spent countless hours in studios situated in buildings either built directly over the subway system, or in buildings next to the city’s busiest thoroughfares. Vibration and noise were the enemy – but thanks to the engineering work of people like IsoAcoustics’ President, David Morrison, our studios were great places to record and edit.

IsoAcoustics focused initially on the studio world; creating stands for studio monitors that provide acoustic isolation. Having solidified its position in the pro space, the company branched out into the consumer market offering loudspeaker stands, isolation feet, and equipment pucks.

The ISO-PUCK mini are their most affordable product at $99 for a set of 8; each ISO-PUCK mini (1.7-inches x 0.7-inches) can support up to 6 pounds making them useable with a large number of bookshelf loudspeakers.

The ISO-PUCK mini’s upper flange acts like a suction cup that adheres to the bottom of your loudspeaker, while the bottom section anchors the speaker to the surface below.

But do they work?

What We Like:

IsoAcoustics kindly sent me a set to try out with the bookshelf loudspeakers currently making music at home; which include the Klipsch RP-600M, Wharfedale Diamond 10.1, Micca RB42, Acoustic Energy AE100, and the Quad S-2s. The results with each pair were fairly uniform, and I tried each loudspeaker on a CB2 media unit, and on a pair of 24” iron stands manufactured by Gig Harbor Audio.

Placed flush on the surface of either the media unit or loudspeaker stands, I could feel the bass energy from each speaker resonate across both the top plate, and inside the cabinet. Bass notes felt less focused, and it muddied the overall sound with some tracks – not in a severe way but enough to take note of it.

With the ISO-Puck mini installed, I could feel zerobass energy interacting with the cabinet or stands. And then I cranked it to the point that I received angry stares from children and pets. Zero interaction between the speaker and surface.

Listening to Hank Mobley’s Workout (Tidal/16-bit/44.1kHz), there was a noticeable change in the solidity of the percussion, and overall focus of the music. The presentation also seemed to move slightly forward without becoming more aggressive in the top end. Depending on the loudspeaker, I did perceive a tiny reduction in midrange energy – but the improvements in focus, detail, transparency, and bass solidity were evident across the board.

Another audible change with each loudspeaker was the lockdown (like the kind on Wentworth minus the blood) of performers within the soundstage. Image solidity is probably a better expression – each musician had a more identifiable presence. I hate audiophile mumbo jumbo as well. Sigh.

Fed a steady diet of Langhorne Slim, Sia, Ben Folds, and Mazzy Star, each loudspeaker held a much tighter grip on each performer – sharpening the lines around them within the recording space.

Electronica came across with more zip; Aphex Twin, Kraftwerk, and Tangerine Dream took on another level of engagement with the music sounding more forward.

Caveats:

The ISO-PUCK mini isolate loudspeakers so effectively, that you might expose one of their shortcomings in the process; a bright sounding tweeter will not sound any sweeter or rolled-off. The Quad S-2 have a very revealing tweeter with remarkable extension for a loudspeaker under $1,000; the key is that they sound very airy and sweet in the process. The Klipsch RP-600M also have a very revealing tweeter – but I’m not sure that I would define it as sweet. The ISO-PUCK mini made those differences much more audible.

The ISO-PUCK mini will not turn bookshelf loudspeakers with limited bass response into bass crunching monsters; what you will hear instead is a tightening up of the bass, and a higher level of resolution.

With the exception of the Klipsch RP-600M, all of the loudspeakers that I tried with the ISO-PUCK mini have a warmer sounding tonal balance. I did notice a slight reduction in midrange warmth with each speaker (using the same two amplifiers) in exchange for the aforementioned improvements in transparency, detail, and image solidity. Did it alter the overall tonal balance of those specific loudspeakers? No, but it certainly made them sound more open, and spacious – which has to be perceived as a good thing with entry-level loudspeakers below $600.
 
Target Audience:

Anyone looking to isolate a pair of loudspeakers being used on a bookshelf, media unit, or on a desk will see immediate results with the ISO-PUCK mini. They can work with loudspeaker stands but make sure the top plate has enough surface area to create a stable platform.

Final Thoughts:

Over the years, I’ve found less than 4-5 audio tweaks that made a profoundly positive change to the sound of my system; most failed to change anything or created a problem that previously didn’t exist. The $99 ISO-PUCK mini from IsoAcoustics work out of the box offering an immediate improvement when used with bookshelf loudspeakers positioned on bookshelves, media units, and on your desk. Do they work equally as well with other components like turntables, CD players, and digital streamers? Stay tuned…

Highly recommended

Buy IsoAcoustic ISO-PUCKS

Specifications:
Type: Decoupling Device
Dimensions: (W x H) 1.7-inches x 0.9-inches (44mm x 24mm)
Tilt: No
Weight Cap: 6 lbs. (2.75 KG) per ISO-PUCK mini
Quantity: 8 ISO-PUCK mini’s per box

Company Info:
IsoAcoustics Inc.
39 Main street North, Unit 5
Markham, ON, Canada L3P 1X3
Tel: 905-294-4672
Website: www.isoacoustics.com