Audio VR Series Isolation Platforms

Silent Running Audio VR Series Isolation Platforms

Mike Silverton

22 March 2002


Component specific SRA isolation platforms conform to the width, depth and weight, and where necessary, the irregular contours of the hardware they support.

Silent Running Audio
325 Hubbs Avenue
Happauge, NY 11788
Telephone/fax 631 342 0556

Agreed: whether an audio component's job is to add, subtract, or simply transmit, we hear the role it plays. As a test (or reminder), swap that set of interconnects you were at pains to select with the cheesiest equivalent you can find. I cringe still when I think of the time I did. But why dwell on torture? Within an hour of having set my Mark Levinson No.39 CD player on a Silent Running Audio VR Series platform, I wondered whether anything I'd done to enhance my basic system was more meaningful than this. I realize how routine such expressions of joy must seem. Believe me, this is not your customary audiophile-journalist's triple salchow, double toe loop.

SRA isolators conform to the horizontal dimensions of the hardware they support; thus their trim, tailor-made look. The hardware's weight also figures, albeit internally. I find it remarkable that the handsome, two-tiered piece under my CD player, with its dappled gray (and highly specialized) finish, retails for $500. I'd have thought the price within reason were this one of a production run. Given the importance designer Kevin Tellekamp assigns to size and the vastness of hardware our hobby inspires, it would be unreasonably difficult even for a much larger company to stock multiples. My two-tier characterization refers to a bottom protruding "raft" within its outer housing. This "isoBASE" design conceals an assortment of "modules," similarly chosen according to their burden. Tellekamp mentions that he assembles his isoBASE lines within a nitrogen blanket - a tent of sorts - "ensuring that the enemy of proper isolation, air, is forced out prior to final assembly."

The VR's packaging is droll: a snug-fitting wood crate in military olive, on one side in white, TOP SECRET; on the other, CLASSIFIED. There's more to this than Soldier of Fortune whimsy. In Tellekamp's words:

I worked for different divisions of the military, their contractors and sub-contractors - Grumman Aerospace and Eaton Corp., to name two. My expertise is in coatings systems, especially Chemisorb and Chemosmosis. My experience covers everything from anechoic-type coatings and sound cancellation finishes, through high-temp & thermal-reactive materials, along with most every type of coating/finish and system in between. As the military gets strange over project-specific mentions, I find that not going into detail makes for a much more peaceful day. I give away no secrets when I mention that a lot of audiophiles are hooked into the military. You'd be amazed at how many phone calls I've received from these folks!

This aversion to martial specificity goes only so far. SRA's top lines, the Ohio Class XL and Ohio Class, have naught to do with the Buckeye State's pecking order. In the argot of the submarine set, the issue is silent running, which gets uppercased here to Silent Running, with ample audible justification. With certain items of combat hardware, undetectability is the biggest of deals, the collateral bennies of which this conflict-allergic aesthete reaps with thanks.

That first hour's delights are best encapsulated as heightened detail; to spell it out, upgrades in transparency, resolution, dynamic gradation, transient snap, all of which persist through follow-up sessions. Not that they were wholly absent prior to the SRA platform's installation, nor does one's journalese provide a true picture of the pleasure one feels when something sounds so right. We audiophiles are strangers to half-measures. One is blown away or not. I'm still looking for body parts. I would add only this (probably unnecessary) cautionary note: during one listening session, I bypassed my line conditioners (three free-standing Quantum Symphony pods and one Richard Gray's Power Company duplex), and the outcome suffered to a small but audible and therefore significant degree. No single tweak does it all. I await the arrival of two VR platforms for my Mark Levinson amps with pleasure.

Publisher's Response

I want to add my two cents to what Mr. Silverton proposes of Kevin Tellekamp's SRA products because they do indeed, sonically that is, do exactly as Mike stated. I've known Tellecamp for at least 5 years, as Jerry Gladstein, one of his many clients, just so happens to be a very close friend and uses SRA products extensively. Since Jerry seems to own the best of the best in, well… come to think of it, everything, I've always thought of the SRA stuff as a most expensive proposition. You see, Gerry uses the SRA products under his $70,000 Burmester digital front end as well as his $29,000 Lamm amplifiers and exotic analogue rig. Anyone with a good pair of eyes and a calculator would qualify this as an expensive outlay. Thus, I'm guilty by association.

My system's isolation is replete with Sistrum products for which I'm still quite happy and amazed. Consequently, when Tellecamp offered to build a pair of platforms under my Bel Canto EVo amplifiers I hesitated. The only reason I opted to experiment with them was the time he stated it would take, due to the fact he builds each one individually to spec. None of that "one size fits all" philosophy here.

The only thing that caught my attention were the crates they arrived in. The Deep military green with Top Secret emboldened on the top got my audio juices flowing, I will admit. But that's where the excitement initially ended, in the sense that there's no fancy secret formula, multi-tierd, dipped in gold, silver or bronze screaming-for-attention isolation device weighing more than the product it supports. To the ostentatious audiophile on the quest for that special something hoping to get a couple of oohs and ahhs from your audio stooges, look elsewhere. Besides the SRA emblem befitting a very snug and slick fit and finish under my EVo's, I've not gotten a single inquiry on its appearance, but plenty on its performance.

In short, I've added more body back to the performance. Our newest contributor, Greg Petan, formally of Ultimate Audio, describes my system's ultra transparency as the proverbial "throwing the baby out with the bath water" type. Not a compliment but true. Sometimes I think we can become a victim of our own biases. Ya think? With his constructive criticisms taken destructively, it was an absolute delight to hear the warmth reappear back in my system after a short absence. The Sistrum System is wonderful. I'm in no way thinking of removing them from my front-end where my Electrocompaniet CD player and Tact preamp slash room corrector rests. But I will state when using them in conjunction with the SRA products under my amplification, things did get noticeably better in the areas of body, warmth, richness; especially in the reproduction of the human voice. My system, without question, sounds more musical with the SRA products providing their services. A service I'm quite grateful of. So much in fact, like Mike, I've nominated the SRA as my new reference under my beloved EVo amplifiers.

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