Golden Sound Acoustic Discs, DH Cones And DH Squares
|Golden Sound Acoustic Discs, DH Cones And DH Squares|
7 December 2001
DH Acoustic Discs: $120.00 (set of 12)
Golden Sound, based in Virginia, has been quietly making some fine accessories since 1994. The various offerings are all competitively priced to beat similar products on the market. Otherwise, as owner Allen Chang says, "Why bother?"
After the new Legend Audio Design Nirvana mono block amplifiers settled into my home and I finished marveling at their virtues, I was left with just one gripe: these amps offer a terrific level of control and focus - perhaps too much. When you situate the amps on PolyCrystal stands, which excel in the same areas, believe it or not, you have too much of a good thing. The soundstage is riotously detailed, but, at the same time, it feels tight and unnatural (some guys might actually like this!) I wanted to keep the overall presentation yet lessen that feeling of over-control.
I had tried Q-dampers and then copper pennies under the built-in brass spikes on the amplifiers, and was looking around for something else when I read some positive comments regarding the Golden Sound DH Squares. DH Squares are simply coasters that receive the points of spikes or isolation feet. They are ½" high by 2" square with a little dimple in the center. Fabricated of a black, graphite-based composite, their hardness is somewhere in the middle ground between the super-hard graphite/carbon materials (like those from Black Diamond Racing), and the soft, absorbent stuff like Sorbothane. I put the Squares under the amps and heard the sound change in exactly the ways I had hoped. The sound lost that hard edge and was more relaxed, instrumental body and fullness gained, while timbre and treble extension remained unaffected. Mind you, it didn't sound soft. Transients were just as fast but came at you less aggressively, but at the cost of a slight reduction in detail.
Now, you may ask, "You've gotten a more natural sound, but you've also lost some detail. What's so great about that? Overall, have you come out ahead?" The answer is definitely yes! Because after you've gotten your system to sound good, to make it sound great you need to start doing a new balancing act. At this refined level you'll find that products that give you more detail tend to compromise instrumental body and fullness, while those that enhance fullness tend to soften the sound and dull the treble. The goal is to achieve that full-bodied sound and grab all the detail you can. Products that do both are not easy to come by. I'm always on the lookout for these products. In fact, these are the only products I'm currently interested in. The DH Squares strike a nice balance between the two extremes. They don't soften and dull the sound like Sorbothane. They also don't concentrate and thin the sound like most ultra-hard footers. The DH Squares belong in that select group of products that do both. I've since placed the Squares under the DAC and pre-amp.
DH Super Cones
LP's were sounding lovely again. Satisfied with the performance of the amps, I turned my attention to a newly arrived digital transport as CD's were not quite there yet. There was a particular problem regarding string tone on CD playback. On a favorite disc, Corelli Concerti Grossi Op. 6 #7-12, with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra conducted by Nicholas McGegan [Harmonia Mundi HMU 907015], first violins sounded electronic, almost unrecognizable. Enter the DH Cones. First I tried placing them along with the Squares under the digital transport but, alas, this was no Rx. Luckily, I referred back to the instructions (available from the website), because I then realized I hadn't installed the cones correctly. Golden Sound suggests putting two cones with points down in the rear, just past the center of gravity of the component, and one cone, point up, in the front. Two down and one up! This configuration made all the difference; the string tone was back. The effect was obvious and immediate. Other effects noted were a somewhat lighter tonal palette, increased spaciousness, and a further lessening of that hardness I mentioned above. These DH Cones enhance the auditory cues that audiophiles label "acoustic." Make sure you follow the instructions but be sure to try different placements under the component. I found the optimum position for my CD transport was with the front cone directly under the CD drawer, way to the left of center. If the tonal balance is too high, try all three points down. The glossy black cones are made of a space age, military-grade ceramic material. They feel like fine china to the touch, but they're really quite hard. The points are rounded, so the cones can be used with or without the DH Squares, and they come in many sizes to support heavier components.
Golden Sound Acoustic Discs
If the ceiling corners of a listening room are not treated, the sound energy collected there is reflected back louder, and with the wrong decay. A popular and effective solution is Corner Busters from the Echo Busters Company. These small, triangular, fabric-covered pillows provide absorption of mid and high frequencies and ameliorate the decay problem with their reflective outer layer. I had a pair of these in the two front corners of my room for so long I don't recall not having them.
Now there's another product with an entirely different approach to treating the ceiling corners: the new Acoustic Discs from Golden Sound. Acoustic Discs are small resonators, about 7/8" diameter, and ½" high, made of constrained layers. I applied three discs in the recommended triangular pattern to each of the two front corners in place of the Corner Busters (the rear corners are covered over by Double Buster diffusion panels going up to the ceiling.) Then I put on that Corelli Concerti Grossi CD again.
Wow! The sound changed pretty drastically. It seemed less assertive, less energetic. Then it dawned on me that there was a new smoothness in treble response. The frequencies from mid-treble on up were now evenly gradated and of equal decibel level. Those first violins were sounding silky smooth with much less edge, while being as extended as before. By comparison this area had previously been irregular and jagged. I imagine this is because the Corner Busters beam back selected treble frequencies with their reflective outer layer. This does add sparkle and excitement, but I bet it also introduces the unevenness. The Acoustic Discs, on the other hand, don't beam anything back. They address the ceiling corner issues in a different way, by neutralizing or canceling reflections and excess sound energy. This was great! Not only were the little resonators visually unobtrusive, but they fixed a treble problem that was so prevalent, I had taken its existence for granted. In my ignorance, I had thought the uneven violin tone was something related to Baroque performance practice, and had come to accept it.
There was a great improvement in soundstage clarity. This was caused by a similar change in the mid and upper bass regions. A kind of resonant overhang was removed. It wasn't so much noise removal, but rather the reduction of reflections at those frequencies. When the mids and upper bass are too ripe it tends to smear the midrange.
The best news is how affordable the discs are. They come in a box of twelve for $120, so you can do all four corners with one box. You put three of them in each corner using a provided template. Although primarily used on the ceiling/wall corners of your room, the included info package offers suggestions for other placements. I next applied one of the discs in the physical center of the rear wall behind the listener. The effect here was subtle but positive -- center images became more stable and the stage projected more into the room. The sound was more detached from the speakers.
Allen Chang of Golden Sound says the effectiveness of the discs is not an accident. A lot of R & D time went into the product. Many different kinds of materials were tried for the layers. Theoretically, he's not sure what principles are at work, but the effects can be empirically verified via computer spectrum analysis and listening sessions. The wall placement was also studied, so by all means use the provided placement template. If you position the discs closer or further from the corner, you'll impact alternately the bass or the treble. Closer to the corner yields tighter bass, but the treble suffers; further out gives improved treble. The template places them so as to balance their effect on all frequencies.
One caveat to keep in mind: try not to get too enthusiastic and heavy handed when applying these discs. Too liberal an application will certainly give you great clarity and image stability, but it could also result in a loss of bloom and suppleness to the point where we're back to that scenario of over-control and tightness. I found this out when I tried applying a second box of Acoustic Discs and had to back off. Fortunately, the discs are not too difficult too remove and can be reused. Extra double stick pads are included for this purpose.
I got best results with a triangle of discs in each of the two front and two hallway corners, for a total of twelve discs. I tried using less than three discs per corner. I may be wrong, but I thought I detected timing problems with this configuration. Some frequencies were arriving later and coherency suffered; enjoyment decreased.
The Golden Sound DH Squares and DH Cones are especially good at enhancing the natural timbral balance we strive for in high-end systems while maintaining detail retrieval, and so belong in a very select group of products. As promised by the manufacturer, they offer very good value.
The Acoustic Discs are more radical in concept but have the biggest impact. They are also easily recommended because they fix your room's sound problems in a way no other product addresses. Both Corner Busters and Acoustic Discs correct the build up of acoustic energy and address the timing issues created by ceiling corners. The Corner Busters give a lively, exciting presentation by reflecting treble energy. The Acoustic Discs have a less energetic sound, but are more linear throughout the frequency spectrum. I think they promote a natural acoustic and now prefer them in my room.
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