RINGMAT SOFT FEET

 

 

 

Dave Ayers
hi-fi+ Issue 16
Mar/Apr 2002

Extracts from First review of Ringmat concept of ‘soft feet’ under speakers. Although no mention was made of Statfeet, each set of Ringmat Feet incorporates a Statfoot, and these therefore formed part of the evaluation
 

AUDIO SMORGASBORD
 

Using The Ringmat Feet and Domes As Speaker Supports  

Back in the mists of time the earth was flat – truth. Why was it true? Because everybody knew it, and something that everyone knows has to be true....

And the purpose of this preamble? To discuss another one of those ‘truths’, i.e. that the only way to make speakers sound good is to spike them to the floor (via a stand in the case of smaller speakers). Before you dismiss this as the ramblings of a demented idiot, it’s worth noting that not only is there a groundswell of designers out in Europe who are eschewing the now traditional spiked approach, but also here in the UK....

In order to understand this thinking it is necessary to wind the clock back to those flat earth days of yore ... In those days floorstanding speakers would have plastic feet which would rest directly on your carpet or floor. You would rarely even find any adjustment for levelling. Bookshelf speakers were just that, and speaker stands were viewed, in the main, as a method of raising the tweeter to ear height. Speakers atop such stands would often wobble about frighteningly at the merest touch....

Spiking speakers and speaker stands is a very predictable way of controlling the interface between the speaker and its environment...

Now it is an immutable fact in our physical world that energy cannot be lost. It can be transmitted and it can be converted from one form into another, but not lost. So these are your two options when trying to deal with unwanted energy. In the case of spiking, the theory is that it will allow energy transmission into the physical structure of the floor, removing it from the cabinet and out of harms way, but energy transmission is easier said than done, especially at interface points such as the contact point between the spike and the floor. In fact you are just as likely to get the energy reflected back into the system as transmitted out of it if you are not careful. Try hitting a concrete block with a small metal hammer to see what I mean, not only does it bounce off, but the resulting feedback will vibrate up the handle into your hand and up your arm. Apply this to a speaker and you can easily see that the results are certainly going to be unfortunate....

The alternative method is to try and convert the energy into a less harmful form, typically heat....

So to sum up, spiking speakers may stop gross cabinet movement, but the solution is not without problems of its own, and it’s these problems that the dissenters are trying to solve. In the case of the Ringmat Feet and Domes, the solution is to couple the speakers to the stand or floor using a lossy mechanism, one that will not allow energy to be reflected back into the system, effectively providing the speaker with a suspension of its own....

First up on the system, a bit of Skunk Anansie and ‘Charlie Big Potato’. ...I wasn’t too sure what to expect when I settled back to listen. ... What I hadn’t bargained for is that the Feet and Domes need to be run in, which in the case of this application seems to mean that they need to settle under the weight of the speaker cabinets. Left alone for a couple of days, and after checking the speakers were still level, I tried again. Now the bass drum had impact aplenty, but the presentation had changed. Instead of being all skin and thud, it now had weight, timbre, and decay. In fact it was like the difference between using a kick drum with and without a sandbag inside (sandbags are often used to deaden kick drums for live performances). In fact the separation between bass drum and bass guitar was much more marked, each floating free, making the rhythm much less mechanical, and far more like real musicians playing together. ... Elsewhere in the spectrum a layer of aural grit had been removed, adding sweetness to Skin’s voice plus a layer of acoustic that had gone previously unnoticed. Also some of the edginess to the rhythm guitar had been removed, which could be perceived by some as robbing the track of a little excitement, but I felt that the presentation was truer to the original, and this kind of false excitement generated by having a few rough and ready leading edges to a system can be very wearing on a long listening session.

Moving across to vinyl, ‘Backstreet Slide’ from the Richard and Linda Thompson Album Shoot Out The Lights was an even better illustration of the benefits of the de-coupling. On this track the kick drum is very weighty, and fairly prominent in the mix and it can be overpowering on an unbalanced system. Add to that Thompson’s fierce guitar and Linda’s vocal, and you have a recipe for a serious headache. Up til now my system always felt on the edge with this song, the guitar always a little shrill and course, Linda’s vocal thin and recessed, the kick drum thudding out slightly removed from the rest of the action. With the Ringmat products in place, suddenly there was coherence. The kick drum given more depth whilst being reigned back, letting it rejoin the rest of the instruments, Richard’s guitar was given more depth, losing its sting without losing the attack. Linda stepped forward to take her place as lead vocalist.

The Ringmat Domes and Feet come in at around £115 per complete set (4), and you will need two sets for a pair of speakers. Once they have settled in, no further adjustment is required. But bear in mind that the Feet will only support a maximum of 22kg*. (* For ideal results). There is an extra heavy duty version on the way though. In the context of my system, this is an absolute bargain. Since using them I have harboured no desire to go back to the prior arrangement, so score another one for the de-coupling brigade.

To read the full review, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

Dave Ayers
Hi-Fi+
Nov/Dec 2001

Audio Smorgasbord
 

“Ringmat recently supplied me with some cork domes to try in conjunction with their feet that I’ve been using for a while. It was an instructive experience. ...

Using the track ‘Back Street Slide’ from Richard and Linda Thompson’s superb Shoot Out The Lights LP I started off by using just the feet under Tom Evan’s Groove phono stage. The most obvious effect was in the bass, where the kick drum had much more slam and impact. The overall separation of the instruments was improved with better timing leading to a greater understanding of the interplay between the musicians. ...

Adding the domes first to the Groove and then to the Argo [HR Pre-amp] was a big leap forward, or rather it was when I realised that the foot/dome combination should always be used in sets of three under electronic components, and not four. Now there was a greatly increased sense of a band of real people playing together and off each other. Thompson’s voice had much more body, and more importantly was much more expressive. Those micro dynamics where a singer very slightly stresses a particular word were much clearer.

Finally I tried the feet with and without the domes under the Pulsar DAC. Oddly here the feet alone were much more satisfactory than the foot/dome combination. With the feet used on their own, the results were very similar to the feet used with the domes under the Groove and the Argo. For example, playing another Richard Thompson track ‘Uninhabited Man’ from the CD Mock Tudor showed a staggering amount of extra bass depth, the kind of extra depth that adds hugely to the overall recorded ambience. The whole soundstage was bigger and had more acoustic. When you manage to achieve this sort of effect in your system, you suddenly find yourself able to hear more easily into the recording, separating the musical strands and giving greater insight into the interaction of the musicians. ...”

 

 

 

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