TU-210ZX Tuning Feet, RF900 Spike Bases and RF909X Spike Bases
Sure, these accessories look beautiful and I was sure that they would do good things for the sound but have always felt that you could achieve the same with more normal products. That was, until I loaned a set of TU210ZX feet from a friend. Soon after that I went to a Harmonix workshop during which many products were demonstrated to great effect. Many years later my system has converged more and more towards my ideal sound and the time came to add some finishing touches. And so the time was right to hear some of the famous Harmonix products for myself, to hear what their effect is, in the comfort of my own home, in my own system, no strings attached.
So I bit the bullet and decided to buy a whole range of their tweaking products, mentioned in the header of this review. I also obtained a set of RFA-78i Room Tuning Discs but figured that these deserved their own review.
RF-900 Spike Base
I bought 2 different sets of bases because I had read in reviews that they sound different and that the smaller ones might fit my needs well enough. But I likes the larger ones better for their looks. Of course I hoped that the larger, more expensive ones would also sound better but that remained to be seen.
Above: I had so far been using regular if nicely finished stainless steel “saucers” under all my speakers for more than a decade and decided that with my new Magnepan RG3.6R’s I deserved nicer-looking spike bases. If they also sounded better, that would be a bonus.
A HUGE difference!
I listened to some cd’s and decided on the test tracks and without any further redo I swapped the regular spike bases for the Harmonix rf900’s. These are the smaller ones. Would I hear a difference? BAM! A difference? A HUGE difference! This was no “listen carefully maybe there’s a difference kind of effect”. This was clear for all to hear. I repeated the test to be sure but it was absolutely obvious.
Compared to my regular bases, the treble smoothed down tremendously. I’d never know how brittle and hard the bases made my treble. I knew that the Maggies can be somewhat unforgiving in the treble so I took it for granted but it turns out that the bases played a large part in this! Or is it the other way around, that the 900’s tone down the treble beyond neutral? I cannot say. But there’s more to these little feet than this. The bass became fuller and more tuneful and the mids more communicative. Sadly there is bad news as well and I’m not talking about the price. The treble, most important to me, while indeed a lot less hard and brittle, also lost some air, openness and fluidity. Regular readers know that I cannot live without this. So out they went again, but going back to the regular saucers was no option. All hopes were now on the RF-909x.
Are they worth the outlay?
In a word: ABSOLUTELY. You won’t know how much cleaner your treble can be until you tried these.
RF-909X Spike Base
After being amazed by the rf900’s first, and then disappointed due to my personal focus points, my hopes were now on the RF-909X Spike Bases. Sure, they look the part. Solid, large, with a nice luxurious feel. But would they simply turn out to be the same as the 900’s?
We held our breath when I swapped them. I sat down, prepared for grumpyness… Mmm, there’s air, there’s fluidity. The music remained inviting: colorful and relaxed, while the bass didn’t quite have the speed and attack that the 900’s gave it, still it was plenty fast and lively for me. PHEW, I sighed. Could these be it? I relaxed. Indeed, there was enough sparkle in the treble. A little less than with my standard saucers, but a lot more than with the 900’s. And still super smooth and unforced. Wow. This was like you weren’t listening to electronics but to the actual performance. Well, sort of. You catch my drift.
So am I hearing my wallet?
While I’m aware that you might think that a pattern is emerging here, I assure you it isn’t so. It is just my luck that these beautiful, more expensive versions also sound better. Really, I’ve had it the other way around way too many times so I feel it is well-deserved:-)
Are they worth the outlay?
Most definitely. I know that they cost a small fortune but they make such a large improvement that you really should think about using them, especially if you own a revealing, high performance system. They may not be needed in systems that already tend to the mellow though. In these cases you might actually want to add zip and zing to the system which can be done with a host of products from other brands.
TU-210ZX Tuning Feet
The Tuning Feet are no strangers to me, as I had them on loan some years ago from a friend and compared them to Finite Elemente’s Ceraballs. I found that the Ceraballs were more threadbare but also more open, tight and fast. This was in my faster is better period. I am now in my smooth is better period. Well, that’s overstating it because I like it all to be in balance but I am tired of screetchy treble and forward mids that jump into your lap and slap you in the face if they’re feeling really naughty. Call me old. So be it:-)
Anyway, back to the TU-210ZX Tuning Feet. I tried them again because I figured they would lend some more body to the sound. The Magnapans can be a bit thin in the bass due to their lack of a cabinet. Also my Levinson 360s dac has its power entry at the bottom which prevents using it with higher end powercables. I wanted to lift it some more from the table and the TU210ZX might just be the ticket.
These nicely finished Tuning Feet sure make your components look the business when you place them onto them. They provide solid placement and in effect are much like cones but tuned with the large wood/metal body. The resulting sound (placed under any component) is that of a lot more speed and livelyness but at the expense of fluidity. They actually made my Rowlands sound a lot more dry as well as taking away from the airyness of the treble. This effect was also noticeable under the Levinson no.390s cd player. Although they do provide an overall better sense of timing (PRAT) I feel that they simply do too much to the sound to make them useful in an already balanced system.
Are they worth the outlay?
Well, the answer is twofold. They have an unmistakable effect. A large effect. But they need to suit your system and tastes. While that goes for any tweak, I feel in this case the tweaks may shift the sound too much. So, if your system needs some livening up they may be excellent and well worth their price. But if your system is already revealing in nature and you care about the flow and fluidity like I do, be careful with these otherwise beautiful feet. For a more natural sense of flow and gentler, airier highs I recommend Shun Mook Ultra Diamons Resonators. A short review can be found in the accessories review list.
One simple conclusion cannot be easily made. But there’s one thing I know for sure now: Harmonix Tuning Devices are absolutely no snake oil articles. They have unmistakable effects. In some cases effects so large that you may fall from the couch in disbelief when you hear them. While they are very expensive, in most cases I feel that they are worth their cost simply because the provide even better sound in an already fully-fledged system consisting of carefully choses high end components.
What else are you going to do if you like the overall sound of your system and do not want to change components? Indeed, you try accessories. And all in all, Harmonix Tuning devices are one of the most natural and universally applicable tweaks I have heard. Their effect is large and unmistakeable but, importantly, always musically valid.