Impressive is the word that easily comes to mind when trying to describe this new Reference Series product by Bright Star Audio. It is not extremely large, ungainly or "Rube Goldberg" appearing. It has more than a dozen layers of carefully selected and tested materials each selected for its unique abilities. In addition to a layer blocking electro-magnetic (EM) interference, laminated layers include high-density polymers, polymer adhesives, multi density fiberboard, non-resonant primer, heat fired glass crystal, electro-magnetic shielding and carbon fiber materials. The top of this platform is a relatively svelte two and a third inches above any underlying shelf. Perhaps a quarter of an inch of that height/thickness is simply the space created by the supplied and now quite well known IsoNode feet.
As mentioned in my recent low priced isolation devices shootout review, these inexpensive feet often make for significant improvements in audio quality when used under components. Here they are an integral and important part of the IsoRock 3 Reference platform providing most of the decoupling effect. It should be noted that you should not drag or push the platform into place. The relatively sticky feet can easily cause problems, so lift it and carefully position it before placing any component on top. There is a slight possibility that the feet could mar a fine furniture finish. Place a thin piece of almost anything under each foot to eliminate any possibility of damage. The four feet supplied with the platform are designed to support and control an approximate equipment weight of twenty pounds in addition to the surprisingly heavy platform. Additional IsoNode feet are included to handle a total of up to sixty pounds and even more can be added if needed for equipment weight exceeding sixty pounds. Seemingly not hypercritical, excessive weight of supported equipment rapidly decreases the effectiveness of the decoupling feet due to compression beyond the maximum effectiveness range of each IsoNode foot.
Viewed directly head-on, the platform is seemingly divided into thirds with the middle third a bit thinner than the other two. This thin section is covered by an equally thin wood strip. In my sample it is finished in what I might call a light rosewood shade. As this decorative wood strip does not quite touch the upper and lower sections of the platform, it would be easy to paint the strip any desired color either to blend or contrast. All other normally visible surfaces are a heat fired glass crystal material called Black Pearl. While it is a beautiful gloss black, it is not perfectly smooth or flat and as a result it is not as susceptible to showing finger marks. It may be referred to as a variation of the so-called crinkle type of finish.
This is a professionally designed and produced product by a, or probably the, leader in this specialty area. At this year's CES in Las Vegas more than seventy manufacturers were using Bright Star Audio's products to allow their own products to sound their best. The need for this type of product is obviously self evident to other manufacturers and professionals. If you are not a believer, perhaps it is finally time for you check out the situation thoroughly and prove it to yourself one way or the other; assumptions are no longer good enough. These designs are researched and tested to result typically in better sound not just a different sound. This platform is simply dead when hit or struck. Do not think that you can begin to equal it by taking a slab of beautiful marble, granite or whatever and sticking some of their IsoNode feet underneath. I have been there and done that -- long, long ago. If you think that it would be a good idea to put some of the IsoNodes on top of the platform under the feet of the component resting on top, then your thinking did not take the underlying basic principles into consideration. That would be a fundamental error. Why would anyone want to decouple (separate) the equipment from the isolation platform?
Impressive was the word I used to initiate this review while describing the physical characteristics of the new IsoRock 3 Reference vibration control platform. Impressive is also the word I am using to describe its performance! As with my article comparing low priced isolation devices, I first used the platform under the tubed Heart brand CD player and heard overall improvement in detail with some extra solidarity and punch in the mid-bass range as expected. The Heart, while a very musical sounding player, is not a stellar or even an extended reproducer of the deep bass range such as below 50Hz or so. The outstanding Cary model 306/200 has no such limitations and with its upsampling mode can accurately be described as full range and then some. It is very sturdily built and weighs more than double the Heart player.
Unexpectedly, the sound quality improved even comparatively more with the Cary player using Bright Star's Reference platform than with the tubed Heart player! I am not sure why but it could be simply because of the extended and rather solid deep bass response of the Cary. In other words, the Cary player was putting out deeper and more bass energy that in turn creates more powerful sound pressure waves that cause most everything to vibrate and try to start a very vicious cycle. That response was audibly extended even further into the truly deepest bass while tightening up the mid and upper-bass ranges allowing more detail to easily be heard. At the same time, and particularly at the same time as deep bass notes were being played, music in the higher and highest frequencies became significantly cleaner, clearer and more naturally detailed, impressively so.
Listening sessions with newly received discs were particularly intriguing. Gustav Holst's The Planets (Chesky hybrid SACD 234) features a rather sublime or even introspective approach with the recording revealing great inner detail of the smaller than usual sounding orchestra performing this showpiece. In the "Mars the Bringer of War" movement listen for the positive effect the IsoRock 3 Reference brings to the reproduction of the repetitive marching beats and the multitude of accompanying instruments, as well as the clarity of the perhaps exaggerated fortissimo cymbal clash towards the end of the movement. Franz Liszt's St. Stanislaus (Telarc CD-80607) coined by me as "the unfinished oratorio" is beautiful music making that has far fewer vocal passages than is traditional. Particularly noticeable in the final movement, the organ plus chorus is a real showpiece musically and for demonstrating the dramatic effect of a good isolation platform. Hearing that profound influence, almost forced me to pull out that well-known Magic (Dorian xCD 90308) played on the famous 28,000 pipes of the Wanamaker Grand Court Organ by Richard Conte. Richard's sister, actress Andrea Conte Noble served with me on the board of directors of a local playhouse. The recording stands tall on its own merits and the impressive improvement in overall sound quality using this new Bright Star platform was apparent from the first measures on, along with noticeably greater clarity from the deepest bass pedal notes to the highest overtones. In all the above examples there was a very noticeable increase in soundscape depth extension with concomitant increase in subtle details in those newly exposed depths. With a small group such as a jazz trio with vocalist, improvements are more subtle in general.
Bright Star's goal with the IsoRock 3 Reference was to come as close as possible to their ultimate cost-no-object products but at a lower price, smaller size and with no accompanying setup and no maintenance. Their absolutely best performing products require rather simple setup such as pouring the correct amount of sand into a base, inflating an isolating bladder to a specific pressure and keeping it there. No big deal really but many people demand a "set it and forget it" type of product. That is exactly what the IsoRock 3 Reference vibration control platform is. I should mention that the addition of Bright Star's Little Rock isolation pods to the top plate of electronic equipment cases often offer an additional improvement by damping plus some models even have EMI shielding. The truly ultimate Bright Star products used together may total six to eight inches high and would not fit into some cabinets.
I do not want to leave the impression that only reproduced bass affects and is affected by vibration. The sources can be many and are unseen. Clarity and detail over the entire audible range can be seriously or sometimes just slightly affected. The effects tend to increase with greater output level (volume) and with loudspeaker systems capable of powerful bass response. Have fun and experiment a bit. If you are only going to have one of these impressive platforms, try it first under your main player whether it is a turntable, CD, DVD-Audio, or SACD player. If it is a turntable, try it with the table's suspension disabled for some experimenting. If you have an excellent recorder, turn it on, play a couple of favorite passages at a somewhat louder than usual level without, then with the isolation base and lastly with the volume turned almost off and see if use of the isolation base comes very close to matching the quiet recording environment. I think that this seemingly simple product, the IsoRock 3 Reference vibration control platform, will impress you as much as it certainly did me.
I designed and built the original Big Rock vibration control platform in 1985. The Big Rock, a high mass - high absorption sand filled platform, has won many industry awards and I have been issued a patent on the design. The Air Mass, Little Rock and Gibraltar series have also won numerous design awards. Our products have been developed to comprehensively address the three main sources of harmful vibration:
1) Vibration that is directly-coupled from the loudspeaker, and transfers through the floor and up through the component stand into the feet of the component.
2) Air-borne vibration sent directly from the loudspeaker drivers through the air towards the chassis of the component.
3) Self-generated vibration that is created within the chassis of the component by spinning motors, humming transformers and cooling fans.
The other significant sources of vibration are heating and air conditioning systems and exterior traffic (trucks, subways, trains, airplanes, cars, etc).
The basic laws of physics tell us that the vibration's energy is never destroyed, it can only change form. Our products create an effective environment of high absorption around the component to drain away the destructive mechanical energy and change it to benign thermal energy. The dozens of industry awards we have earned over the past fifteen years, being voted "Product of the Year 2003" by Enjoy The Music.com plus being nominated four times for "Accessory of the Year", twice for "Editor's Choice", "Best of the Year", "Best Buy", "Product of the Year", three times for the "Golden Note" award, five times for "Component of Merit" and many others are a testament to the effectiveness of our designs.
For the very best in vibration control I have created our Reference Series. These components are the ultimate expression of my philosophy of vibration control and incorporate numerous cutting edge materials including heat-fired glass crystal, high density polymers, polymer adhesives, carbon fiber, solid brass and many other innovations. The new IsoRock 3 Reference platform was introduced at 2004 CES to provide a large slice of the performance capabilities of our top Reference Series models but at a more affordable price.
Over the last few years we have introduced a number of inexpensive vibration control products including the award winning IsoNode anti vibration feet. Like the IsoRock 3 Reference, the IsoRock 4 and IsoRock 5 platforms also combine multiple layers of high mass and absorptive materials, use IsoNode feet on the underside to decouple from floor borne vibration and are priced very reasonably.
We invite all music lovers to read our philosophy of vibration control by clicking clicking here. You can also view an extensive discussion about the varying degrees of effectiveness of pointed cones, three point mounting, round ball devices, the misguided notion of "tuning" vibration, concrete vs. wood floors and many other interesting topics by clicking clicking here. Home theater enthusiasts will also be impressed with the ability of our products to significantly improve the video picture in their systems as well as the audio quality. Computer users have recently discovered that using our IsoNode feet under multimedia speakers, laptops and outboard drives improves performance. Professional audio and video studios use our products to give their releases the finest quality available.
Please feel free to contact me personally if you have any questions.