Stillpoints' Aperture Acoustic Panels
When one thinks of popular Stillpoints isolation devices, you immediately think of their world renowned Ultra SS, Ultra 5, 6, and their ESS Racks (right). Stillpoints has provided great demonstrations of their brand through exhibitions at the numerous hi-end venues. Of the few a shows I had the opportunity to attend, invariably the rooms I frequented possessed some sort of Stillpoints product. Since my first purchase some years ago, my current audio system now boasts numerous Stillpoint products including Ultra 6’s and the beautiful Stillpoints 4 shelf ESS Rack. My belief and adoration for the Stillpoints products therefore should be quite apparent. However, this review is for an entirely new and different product.
Built and assembled right here in the good 'ol USA (greater Minneapolis / St Paul area), Paul Wakeen is chief executive of Stillpoints LLC, and in my many discussions, he and his staff were always friendly and professional. Last year while speaking with Wakeen via cellphone, he mentioned one of his newest products named the Stillpoint Apertures. Wakeen explained that these were acoustic panels designed specifically for the listening room with the purpose of controlling three essential elements of sound: Absorption, Diffusion and Resonation. Normally when investing in an acoustic panel one typically concentrates on purchasing a product that works on either of the three aforementioned elements. Not all three. However it’s a rarity (if not an impossibility) to find all three combined here in one package. Wakeen made it clear that the Stillpoint Apertures are a unique design mainly designed to tame the many types of room anomalies that generally interfere with music reproduction.
Upon first glance, two observations that stood out were the size and pricing of these acoustic panels. The Apertures appear well constructed, measuring 22 inches high by 22 inches wide, with only a depth of 3 1/8 inches. Built around a sturdy oak wood frame, and a tan cloth covering, the total weight is only about 15 pounds. The Apertures, based on their weight, are quite versatile and can be placed where most large acoustic treatment panels cannot. In addition, their Wife Approval Factor (WAF) should earn high marks due to their wonderful design and cosmetic appearance.
Fortunately for me and due to their small footprint, placement was easy making them quite manageable for placement during listening/audition sessions. I started with two sets (4). Initially, I placed two panels’ panels at the first point of speaker reflection, while placing the other two sets directly behind each speaker. Another plus with the Apertures is that you can place them on the wall temporarily by use of the supplied Velcro mounts, thus preventing damage to the wall when removed. Once you find a permanent location, each Stillpoint Aperture come packaged with aluminum Z- Hangers. The Apertures can be placed side by side, mounted and stacked on top of each other, or spread out without taking up too much wall space like most acoustic treatment panels. Or if you should choose you always have the option to place them on the floor while deciding on a permanent setting. What I discovered is that once unpacked and placed in my listening room, I heard the effects immediately. Finding the best location took some experimentation and patience.
When I finally found the preferred location for these panels (behind each loudspeaker), I used a small drill, hammer and leveler to permanently hang 6 Apertures in my 18 x13 x 8 listening room. As the placements of the Apertures differed from place to place within the room, I was amazed by how I could hear how the movement of each panel helped to fine tune my room. Wakeen told me that the uniqueness of the Stillpoint Apertures is that it’s an absorber (made with a particular type of fiber glass), built around captive chambers that creates diffusion, and acts as a resonator. One of its main attributes is it is self-attenuating which means that at higher volumes - the more it functions. The less the volume, the less it functions. The Apertures operate in all frequency ranges which essentially makes them full range device.
Once I was fully satisfied with placement, the listening evaluation part was easy. To describe in a few words also makes this review simple and straight forward. Despite my room already being pretty optimized with all sorts of tweaks that work on air-borne vibrations including EMI/RMI/RFI, the addition of the Stillpoint Apertures was surprisingly synergistic and felt as they helped everything else work better. The Apertures allowed my system to work more as a whole rather than that familiar sum of the parts sensation. Room boundaries seemed to fade further away, expanding my sonic landscape from relatively small to convincingly large. This enabled my soundstage to become wider, more dimensional and easily better focused. The front to back depth from my rear wall yielded a more impressive sense of 3D layering. In other words, the music was solid, not hard etched but enriched with soulful colorations that I normally associate with the live event.
For the first time since owning the almost-too-large-for-my-room Sunny HW12 Horn loudspeakers, these mini-behemoths virtually disappeared from the room when the music started up. Most audiophiles I know often spend lots more money chasing a sound quality of this level. With the installation of the Stillpoints Apertures, a new feeling of in-room tonal balance and even-handed balance was noticed almost immediately.
The improvements brought on by the Stillpoint Apertures in my humble opinion are stunning and are hereby a must have. This review would be unjustified if I did not mention the cost factor. What the guys and gals at Stillpoints have done with regard to design, engineering and manufacturing of this product is an asset to the hi-end audio industry. Remarkably, what makes an even better story is their $650.00 price tag. Another great option is to have your panels designed with art of your choice (of course, this comes at an additional cost). In terms of build sound quality and taking into account today’s pricing in high-end audio, the Stillpoint Apertures are one hell of a bargain. I absolutely love them and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND them.
Walnut frame with black screen
Cherry frame with cream screen
Light Oak frame with cream screen
ADD YOUR OWN ART: Permanent internal screen printed w/ custom high resolution files or removable external screen printed w/ custom high resolution files
SIMON MARSH COLLECTION: Permanent internal placement or removable external placement
Pricing $650 per panel