Ceraball on the cheap – A&B Systems ABS-02
Ceraball lookalikes that perform remarkably well
The other day my friend Wouter came by carrying what looked like Finite Elemente’s Ceraballs, only slightly differently shaped. He found them on Ebay for 15 euro for a set of 3! Mind you, the real thing starts from 100 usd! Their name: A&B SYSTEMS ABS-02 Steel Balls Aluminum Isolation Cones.
Naturally I had to compare them to real Ceraballs!
On the left are the universal variants of the Ceraballs, fit for use on any surface except on Spider Racks. On the right are Finite Elemente Ceraballs for Spider Racks, hence the cavity in their bases. At the bottom, in black, are the imitation Ceraballs. There are two major differences, one: the top part inserts inside the base instead of covering it, second: inside is no ceramic ball but a hardened steel one. The overall working however is very similar, with a soft rubber coupling between base and equipment-supporting top part.
Material: Aluminium or Steel?
The feet were tried under a range of mid-class, classic Philips cd players and the results were clearly audible. Ceraballs tend to sound like spikes, but gentler, more organic and often less harsh in the treble. And indeed, this time too, the Ceraballs made the sound tighter, faster, more dynamic and more interesting, without tipping over into clinicality. I for one was expecting the imitation feet to sound more metallic, brighter perhaps. Not so. As a matter of fasct, the imitation ones were very similar to the Ceraballs in that they too produced tighter bass and an overall faster sound, but they were different in the midrange, where they tended to sound more relaxed and arguably less dynamic.
After a few more swaps all of a sudden it struck me that the differences between the Finite Ceraballs and A&B feet are reminiscent of the differences between the Finite Elemente and E&T imitation Spider racks.
In the case of the rack comparison the imitation product, just like with the feet, also sounded more relaxed through the midrange, but unlike the racks, it looks like their design has really been thought through. They have very nice fit ‘n finish, are constructed very well and also sound very good.
Even though the Finite Ceraballs are more effective, the ABS-02 are certainly no slough. I like both presentations, and I think it is more a matter of fitting in and personal taste over absolute quality. At their ridiculously low price these feet come highly recommended!