Does isolation really work?

October 11, 2018
 by Paul McGowan

We’ve all heard the claims that isolating a piece of equipment or a set of loudspeakers makes a noticeable improvement in the sound. But, is it true?

While at RMAF I ran into a company out of Canada called ISO Acoustics with quite a convincing demonstration of how isolation impacts performance. I thought it might be fun to actually video the demo and record what I was hearing during that demo. To my surprise, it’s easy to hear what I heard.

Watch this video of the show, which starts off in our room and then heads down the hall for the demo. It’s short and worth the watch.

For those that already know how important isolation is this might just be a yawn. For those disbelievers, it may well be an eye opener. Whichever camp you find yourself in rest assured I checked to see if the demo was legit and to the best of my knowledge it was.


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27 comments on “Does isolation really work?”

  1. As ho-hum as I tend to be about cables, I am a firm believer in isolation for many of the same reasons the gentleman stated in the video. I do find significant differences depending on the surface my speakers are on and what they are setting on. I have tried the factory spikes, and Sonic Saucers, and Vibropods in the past but nothing quite this elaborate. I was most impressed with the pricing quoted, far less than I would have expected. This vendor seems to be reasonable and not price-gouging in that respect. I might have to give them a try! Thanks for the info!

  2. From my experience certain turntable isolation supports work well.
    I’m interested to try Stillpoints under equipment, pretty expensive but user feedback seems to indicate that they do work. I’ll remain sceptical until I try them in my own system.
    Btw I have no connection with Stillpoints.

  3. Allow me to finally complement you all on entertaining one of the most salient components of
    High end audio and that is isolation!
    I fully agree with my friends on the importance of isolation!
    By far , to me, it is one of the most aspects of approaching excellence in this hobby!

    I get great satisfaction when I enter my cave, turn on the gear,
    And then close the door providing me with the isolation I so
    Feverously look for!

    Also the price of this isolation is perfect! Get it!

    What a hobby!

  4. Skeptic turned into Believer!

    Mechanical grounding tames the sound in a way that is basic yet complex revealing clarity, depth and tightness. Speakers are recommended to come first, I went the other way going with amps and source.

    Even my lower priced HT benefited.

    I have no experience with ISO, but have read many good things about them and they are priced much better than the Stillpoints my entire system floats on, I don’t know if ones better than the other.

    Best part, no break in required, it’s instant results.

  5. Since I could hear a difference even in this amateur video through bad computer speakers, I assume the difference in person was quite dramatic.

    We used the larger isolators at an Audiophile Society meeting where we switched to Joseph Audio Pearl speakers (from largish speakers that didn’t actually go very low in the bass) and suddenly had terrible feedback into the turntable. The isolators were indeed remarkable in that room, which was a converted barn with wide, wooden plank floors. They work.

    However, I don’t think the video is a fair comparison, given that we are listening for improved imaging and less room interaction. The speakers with the spikes were farther from the wall and closer together, so of course they will sound very different.

    Anyway, I appreciate the video even though as a natural skeptic I don’t think it necessarily proves anything.

    1. The “edit” functions seems to be gone. I meant to say that the speakers with the *isolators* were away from the walls and closer together, which should create a tighter image and minimized standing waves in the bass.

  6. Amazing that your video recording produced noticeable differences with and without the ISO’s. The bad thing is that their website cannot be reached.

  7. As a sometimes DIYer I just might be tempted to design and build my own. I’d build a platform about 4 1/2 inches thick for each speaker out of a 4′ x 8 ‘ x 1/2″ Quietrock 530. That’s 9 layers of 18″ squares per speaker. Cost 51 dollars at Lowes.

    I’ve also been thinking about a vibration isolation platform for my turntables. I’d probably try a plywood or MDF panel suspended by 100 pound picture hanger wires from a frame made out of 2′ x 4′ pine. While my best turntable is very nicely suspended internally with a subchassis on adjustable springs, really deep bass still causes acoustic feedback.

  8. I always wonder about singular concepts for this problem.

    Isn’t mechanical grounding always a question what has to be isolated from xx and what has to be deducted to xx? So it should be very dependent on the kind and build of equipment what’s best.

  9. Here’s Soundmind’s first principle of high end audiophile equipment manufacturers; If there are many ways to achieve the same goal, the manufacturer who targets the high end audiophile market will always find and use the most expensive and usually most convoluted way possible. You can’t make much profit off $50 worth of Quietrock. I wonder what Dick Diamond did with his CNC milling machine now that he no longer makes speaker cones out of billets of aluminum.

  10. In the spirit of Soundmind’s comment, I note that SVS’s similar style isolation feet cost about $50 per 4. They are advertised for subs, which is what SVS sells, but there is no reason why they can’t be used most anywhere they fit and fall within the feets’ support range: ideally 5-35 lbs per foot (up to 200 lbs mechanically – I asked). That said, I haven’t seen a comparison of the various brands, but imagine their effects would be similar.

  11. I first learned of these ISO Acoustic speaker isolation devices, which were introduced at the Toronto show, over a year ago and purchased them for my Sony SS AR2 speakers from Music Direct because of their 60 day return policy. The difference in sound was astonishing, obviating any thought of return. The sound became more open with greater clarity especially in the mid-range. The human voice, a strength of my speakers was particularly improved. Highly recommended.

  12. I seem to see endorsements for this product from a lot of people I’ve never seen post here before. Is that just my imagination? If it isn’t does it mean anything?

  13. I also heard this demo at the show. I had a few questions in mind.
    1. Wouldn’t the fact that the speaker/tweeter is higher change the sound?
    2. Using two different sets up speakers located differently will almost certainly exhibit a difference regardless of the height or what they are sitting on. IDK about you, but when I move my home speakers by an inch the difference is often dramatic.
    3. I didn’t get to listen for long, obviously I heard a difference, but I couldn’t tell which was better. They just sounded different, more listening time would have been necessary.

    Now, I say all of that not to deny the usefulness of isolation. What I wish they had done is figure out a way to use one pair of speakers with and without to eliminate some of the variables. But then there would be more of a delay in the switching which would introduce another problem haha.

    I intend on buying a set of these and testing with my system Dunlavy SC-lll’s.

  14. My post about a true test involving physically swapping the speakers around disappeared. Censored?

    So on to thought #2: A/B listening tests are generally verboten among audiophile elites, so how can we jump to conclusions so quickly here? Maybe a longer listening session would expose flaws that are not apparent in a quick A/B comparison.

  15. On the advice of Jim Smith, I recently isolated my loudspeakers using an industrial product (more affordable, but probably not as effective as iso-acoustics options), the speakers were spiked previously. This resulted in a nice improvement in sound quality; image sprecificity, soundstage dimensions, and especially depth. BTW I have a suspended wood floor, so that may be a contributing factor as well. One other potential factor, I live in a free standing home in a rural area, so I generally play music at high volumes.
    My understanding is that isolating reduces the amount of vibrations which travel from the loudspeaker, into the floor, and then get bounced around until they travel back into the loudspeaker (delayed) resulting in a time smearing effect.

    1. The main problem in your situation seems to me the energy transfer from the speaker into the wooden floor. This of course can cause a sort of time smear as sound travels into the floor and makes it a resonator, dissipating delayed sound. I can not imagine that a lot of it actually reenters into the speaker.

      I have a traditional wooden floor. After some experiments with air filled material or rubber I had much better results with steel pucks. According to the theory I used hard metal (carbide) would be ideal but is hard to find.

  16. Isolation works there is no doubt about it and lighter the speaker more difference it makes. Th point mentioned in the demonstration about vibration feedback from the floor to the speaker makes perfect sense unless it is a concrete floor. You heard the difference and need no convincing. I heard it on a laptop when I played your post. subtle but definite. After all a laptop is not the most revealing source. This topic has been discussed before in these posts. Regards.

  17. I am biased! We have been isolating Hi Fi since 1990 because it really works. Concrete floors are just as bad as wooden floors.
    See this video for our explanation.
    We do speakers up to 1000lb. It works everywhere, every-time and for every speaker.
    To work properly, for the entire audio band (min 15Hz), the suspension should compress between 3/4″ (20mm) and 1 1/4″ (30mm) between no load and full load.

  18. Paul,

    Where are the negative comments. I looked at yesterday’s posts and saw nothing but positive comments. Am I missing something? Is there another blog that I should visit?


  19. Forgive my idiotic question, I am a greenhorn, but was the acoustic panel positioned with respect to the speaker with the isolation or without? The room and its treatments make up a large percentage of audible differences does it not?

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