By Jack Lawson April 2020
Lateral Audio Stands
“I’m picking up good vibrations, She’s giving me the excitations…” so ran the Beach Boys’ single released in 1966 and still one of the catchiest melodies ever.
In most audio systems, quality cables, isolation support, synergy and room acoustics tend to be neglected for upgrading to the desirable devices such as players, amplifiers, and loudspeakers.
Surely the Most Promising Newcomer to our industry for many years is Lateral Audio Systems. It is not easy to design effective stands and offer a wide range of prices, dimensions and aesthetics. Perhaps for this reason audio stands, platforms and feet are the most neglected genre.
In the early days of the Music Room, we sold Grand Prix Audio and this remains the gold standard but the doubling of shipping costs this year and the fall in the pound sterling make this option very expensive. The point of Brexit is to make us self-sufficient, OK??
Enter LAS, whose founder combines engineering insight, design genius, and enough patience to cope with the most stubborn dealers! Add to that Kevin Hancock’s deep love of music and a very keen ear for incremental calibrations before products are signed off.
All in, LAS fills a perceived need, a real gap in the market. For the reader in a hurry, perhaps the best introduction is a new accessory, the stand alone Contact Component, in simple language, an isolation foot!
At the 2019 Ascot Show, the best sound was by far Esoteric with Raidho speakers and Shunyata cables and mains conditioning. Oh, and they were all on LAS Concert stands!!! But do stands really matter so much??? And do you have to spend megabucks??
Two days later she is playing her CD’s or streaming her songs or playing her LP’s and you have to wait, then she says the system is sounding amazing, “What have you done?”
Common sense tells you that the new feet can’t utterly transform the musical performance? Can they?
Well, you can remove the three feet, and listen again. Did we suffer this until now?? No wonder we hardly listened to our music.
So what was going wrong??
Manufacturers have various theories; which is why so many get their product fundamentally wrong, by design.
Designers of electronics give little thought to electro-mechanical vibrations and microphony; but the fact is that vibrations travel in the air and structures. Most destruction of the signal is caused by the components within the devices: transformers lose much energy to heat and to vibrations. These vibrations travel through chassis, feet, and through the metal interconnecting wires.
Designers of stands have are face with the challenge to alleviate a problem that would have been easier to eliminate at source. Moreover, three requirements are conflicting laws of Physics:
The resonance of the platform must be tuned, because Hi-Fi is (or should be) an instrument of musical reproduction; like a violin and a guitar. BCD stands from Italy address this problem brilliantly as do the Concert platforms from LAS and the Formula Shelves from GPA.
The platforms must also isolate devices to reduce cross contamination of vibrations; but
The platforms must couple the energy path of each device to ground vibrations harmlessly.
The advantage of high mass platforms to resonance and damp vibrations is punished by their energy store, so low mass intermediate platforms with carbon fibre and / or sorbothane are often deployed.
What most of the stand manufacturers manufacturers do, in all honesty, is compromise or give up in despair. The majority of isolation products are disappointing to mediocre; only sometimes better than nothing. It gives this subject a bad name. It confirms the idea that stands cannot make a huge difference.
The worst glare, smearing, and compression can be removed from many Hi-Fi systems by using good materials appropriately and giving glass and steel supports. However, my customers are amazed that even well-made wooden stands which are not cheap, are exposed as sound manglers by more serious designs.
The subject is more complicated than this brief essay can fully treat so I am tempted to suggest, talk to a good dealer who is not just a box broker. In an age of next-day delivery solutions, here are my favourites from the ranges of our selected brands. In alphabetical order:
bFly Audio “Highend Tuning”
This is a reliable designer of isolation feet and platforms with a London based office and website. You need to speak to me to make a rational choice from a wide range.
The BaseTwo Pro platform in black (Medium) is £529 + VAT is a standout product.
I love the new range of PURE-TUBE feet which replaces 4-TUBE, an older design I have enjoyed for years. Designed for valve amplifiers, they come in three height sizes, and three weights (12, 35, 55kg) cleverly paired for the heavy rear ends with transformers. Priced from £175 - £239 per set of four, you are going to fall off your chair, break out in a cold sweat, open your mouth and utter profanities when you defeat the manufacturer’s one dollar feet.
For loudspeakers, the Talis Basic or Pro feet (for 50kg or up to 400kg) are made in silver or black and a variety of adapters, normally M8 to replace the ten cent spikes supplied with your thousand pound loudspeakers. Prices start from £109 per set of four to £269 for the Pro range 400kg, plus VAT.
Grand Prix Audio
Designer Alvin Lloyd is a genius with a profound dedication to music and the in ability to compromise. It is astounding what he has achieved. I will never forget that fateful visit by Mr Crump to demonstrate the Monaco modular system.
The company has moved on since then but I must confess to a deep respect for the basic “classic” Monaco modular system. This means that you can stack up to four or five levels and always, ideally, place your amplifier in isolation (!!) from the source components on a Monaco amp stand. Various options have been introduced over the years, four legs, black columns, etc, but the new generation sorbothane dampers don’t cost too much to ship and we hold them in stock. A no-brainer upgrade for owners of Grand Prix Audio shelves.
Lateral Audio Systems
The new kid on the block has created a stir internationally and good for us that it is British. In three years LAS has rolled onto the market an entry point product Discovery LAS-9 to follow its classic LAS-4 range.
As always, dealer or designer advice is helpful and supplements his excellent website which is remarkably comprehensive and yet concise. This designer may be relied upon to give insightful and honest advice.
Discovery-9 is ideal and affordable for smaller and multi-components, eg NAIM, Primare, etc; a wide variety of heights and configurations are available.
Two core products from the ultra-high performance LAS-4 range may serve as examples: i) the LAS-4 Integral 3T/630 (three shelves, height 630mm) in light oak costs £1,075 including VAT, which is astonishing and example ii) LAS-4 Concert 4 Tier with the full spec, anodized bar, skeletal top tier, counterpoint feet, and the Concert isolation platform starts from £1,900 including VAT. There is a surcharge for black oak.
Lateral Audio Sytems Amp Stands are £750 each or £1,550 for the Amp Stand X with Concert platform. We have them on dem.
If you are using an existing stand or domestic furniture, you should try Contact Components, £450 per set of three, which completely outperform anything I have heard before. They are extremely good value in terms of the performance they deliver but also, the precision components and structure. They seem to work the same miracle for all brands and all prices and all types of components, but you can find out for yourself.