Excellent Universally Applicable Footers
Review sample kindly supplied by Mad Scientist Audio
Set of 3 footers: $299
Set of 4 footers: $369
Regular readers will know that I have a long history with the BlackPod family. The first ones I reviewed in 2015 and since then the Mad Scientist has issued several updates. The footers reviewed here are the latest incarnation with 1 Tungsten Carbide ball and 2 Zirconia balls. Just as before, the footers have been designed to make for a strong vertical coupling while allowing a small amount of horizontal movement to dissipate energy. The new thing is that the footers now use Nano Tubes in the ball interface to enhance this principle. Additionally, Graphene is used in the top and bottom halves to alter the physical properties of the structure.
When placed side by side there can be a variation in height of the combined top and bottom halves. This is nothing to get worried about and just a result of the manual labor that goes into making these products. The important thing is that the combined height of the two halves and the ball is exactly the same for all footers. I measured this with a Caliper Measuring Tool and it is indeed a precise 3 cm for all three of them.
Subjects for comparison will be the SW1X DAC 1 and the Meridian 506.24 CD player. The former is a currently available product and an excellent DAC. The latter is by now an oldie, but a player that responds very well to aftermarket footers, such as the BlackPods.
Supporting the components is a 4 cm thick MDF shelf that sits directly on Neoprene discs coupled directly to the Artesania Exoteryc rack’s frame. So importantly, for this test the Artesania’s own suspension/decoupling system is bypassed.
SW1X DAC 1
The source was Roon running on a standard Windows PC, streaming via Roon RAAT protocol to an AudioAanZee Reference Flow music server with Euphony Drive. Its USB output was connected to an M2Tech Hi-Face EVO to supply SPDIF. Starting off with the SW1X DAC 1 using its own rubber feet, it sounds upbeat, open and spicy, quite unlike perhaps what one would expect from a tube DAC. With this DAC, the musical message comes across loud and clear.
Placing the DAC 1 on the BlackPod Nanos does not cause a tonal change (jay!) but does add a little bit more articulation in the mid-bass, which in my book is always welcome. Clearer is the change in mood, the sound becoming more “interesting”. This is tough to describe. If I were to use an analogy it would be a bit like listening during the day versus listening at night with candles lighting the room. What probably happens is that the subtle reverb sustains for longer, without affecting the initial transients. Needless to say, I prefer the sound with the BlackPods in place.
With 2 different ball materials, placement is something to experiment with. My initial method was to decide which side was heaviest and use the two identical Zirconia balls there. In the case of the DAC 1 this is the left hand side, which houses two transformers. The single Tungsten Carbide ball was used on the lighter right hand side. This yielded the audible changes described above.
Above: initial placement with the 2 Zirconia balls on the left side. Below: second placement with the 2 Zirconia balls on the right side.
Swapping the footers around to have the one Tungsten Carbide ball on the left side and the two Zirconia balls on the right side did make for a change in tonality: darker than before, and less vibrant. This was good to ascertain as this arrangement was less stable than the earlier one anyway, due to the uneven division of weight in the DAC.
Finally using the two identical Zirconia balls at the rear side and the single Tungsten Carbide ball at the front side as a third placement option, and as shown above, made for a presentation very similar to the first one, with clearly better focus than the second placement.
Going back a final time to the initial placement confirms that the initial positions sound best: it is somehow the most engaging one, without sounding any more forward. For my situation and for this DAC at least. I strongly encourage experimentation with this as every audio component will be different, as will the influence on the rack that it sits on.
Meridian 506.24 CD Player
The 506, and especially the .24 version, is a smooth performer. Its bass is not very articulate, actually a little fat, but this blends nicely with its creamy midrange and subtle and airy treble. Listening to the 506 is always relaxing.
Just as with the DAC 1, I placed the two identical footers at the player’s heaviest side, which in this case is its backside, and the remaining footer at the front. I’m sure that deviations from this could bring alternate presentations that may or may not work better in a given situation, but my arrangement at least made for the most immovable solution, which is always good when you are patching cables on a daily basis.
With the BlackPods in place, this player’s relaxed nature was not altered, but its definition was improved across the band. Bass gained in articulation, as did string instruments such as guitars and lutes, while vocals gained definition and were placed a little bit more upfront and more freely within the soundstage.
Above: the BlackPods come well-packed and complete with interesting documentation among others containing tips for placement.
It’s becoming a little predictable, and perhaps even a little suspect, but I have yet to come across a product made by the Mad Scientist that I do not like. Now of course preferences are very personal, and every system is different, but the great thing about these footers is that they do not upset a component’s basic characteristics but do add meaningful enhancements. This means that they should be very universally applicable. While 299 dollars may not be pocket change, compared to other footers out there (Harmonix, Stillpoints et all) this is still very reasonable, and with the 30-day money-back guarantee, what’s there to lose?