Without resonance control it sounds decent but flat and lacking in character. But if you want to hear the harmonic possibilities he can create and gain insight to the genius of a musician who can change the direction and flavour of a whole tune with a single phrase, then the articulation that the Stillpoints bring to each note and chord is a must.
Sit the electronics on Ultras instead of Minis and the rewards are instantaneous. They knit the music together even more powerfully. The Moon components that always sounded like they were punching above their weight now seem a more suitable match. That Focal Beryllium tweeter is one of the best available, but it can be an unforgiving taskmaster. It demands quality and punishes harshness ruthlessly whether it is from inadequate electronics, cabling or bad system installation. It needs to be, as Hancock’s memorable interpretation of The Beatles’ ‘Norwegian Wood’ is a masterpiece of exquisite piano phrasing and milky guitar textures all arranged around Jack DeJohnette’s delicate but busy drum kit. As he works the skin with the brush the system now maintains the sort of perspectives, with an energised solidarity and depth of image intensity, that is classic resonance control territory.
The cymbals have a lustrous ring with full of wood-on-metal attack and impact as he uses them for shade and highlight. They are detached from the body of the music, above the drums and hang in the air somewhere outside the speakers as if by magic. It is a musical tour de force and a huge step up in quality, yet without a single component change and a great example of the way in which Stillpoints can liberate an existing system to another performance level completely. Adding the Ultras frees the speaker from the energy-conserving constraints of its own rather cumbersome stand and gives it low frequency speed and dynamic attack making it a more evenly-balanced speaker with an organic tonality and lack of high frequency emphasis that I don’t hear from the standard fixed-mount package.
I could finely tune the electronics by moving the Stillpoints around to where they sounded best. Forget symmetrical spacing. As a starting point, find where the transformer is and sit your first device there then perhaps, for the CD player, locate the next beneath the transport and then use the other two to balance the component. But remember that is just a start. Hard coupling of the steel of the Stillpoints to the case (not under the feet) means you will in effect be altering the vibrational characteristics of the whole structure, depending on where you locate them. You may be surprised at where they are at their most effective. But this isn’t really about achieving a tighter and more focused bass or projected midband or indeed any of the classic hi-fi improvements. Yes, the energy levels of the music are certainly better, as is the resolution right across the bandwidth but a fully floated system is so much more communicative and engaging. The small details may be enough to catch the ear, but it’s being able to hear ‘how’ the instruments are being played that is so endlessly interesting. Stillpoints strip the music of electronic artefacts leaving it more natural and less processed and I hear the music as being freer and less constrained and inhibited and of course the lower noise floor certainly helps the improved dynamics as well.
So, this is an introduction to the Stillpoints products, how they can be incorporated into your system and what musical benefits they can bring. So far though I have just scratched the surface as there is much more and in the final instalment (in issue 101) I will consider the ESS rack and its role plus the truly remarkable Ultra 5’s in greater detail. I will also bring Paul Wakeen’s philosophy together by floating an entire high-end system and closing the circle, and in doing so I hope to show you just how large that circle can be.
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