The Aurios Pro and 1.2 Media Isolation Bearings
|The Aurios Pro and 1.2 Media Isolation Bearings|
20 July 2001
AURIOS PRO media isolation bearing
Price: $599 per set of 3.
AURIOS 1.2 media isolation bearing
Price: $399 per set of 3.
Optional Tungsten Carbide Ball:
$50 for 3 balls (one ball for each Aurio).
Vistek, Inc., Tempe, AZ
Warranty: 5 years
2660 County Road D
Woodville, WI 54028
Fax: 715 698 3256
Vistek’s AURIOS Media Isolation Bearings, which I reviewed in June, 2000 (see for details of construction, theory, etc.), was a watershed experience – a truly revolutionary product that forced me to re-think all my audio certainties, reformulate my paradigms, and re-evaluate all my opinions of all the gear I’ve heard in the last 30 years. Two categories now rule: gear heard isolated and gear heard not isolated. The difference between an Aurios-isolated component and what I now perceive to be its un-isolated Evil Twin is so significant that I no longer trust the opinions I arrived at ante-isolation. Vistek has expanded its line of AURIOS Media Isolation Bearings with the addition of the new 1.2 and PRO bearings, and, considering the profound musical satisfaction I experienced with the Original 1.0, my interest sprang to life anew.
Designed as upgrades to the original MIB, the new PRO and 1.2 also feature an easier set-up. Slight changes in construction improve self-centering, making installation far less persnickety and allowing far more latitude in the necessity for absolute leveling of the components. Physically slightly taller than the originals, potentially interfering equipment feet are more readily cleared, making it easier to properly float the component. Care must still be taken, however, to avoid cable and power cord fouling.
Installation allows three options: one, the component resting on top of the "cookie" part of the Aurios; two, attachment by threaded rod from the component’s chassis into the thread of the center of the cookie; three, resting on an optional tungsten carbide ball ($50 for a set of three) which then rests in the chamfered hole of the center of the cookie. Isolation now starts at 1Hz rather than the 0.5Hz of the original. The PRO version was designed with floor use in mind, a dust seal keeping potential contamination out of the bearing races. Larger in diameter than the original and 1.2, the PRO invites use under heavy or capsize-prone loudspeakers, equipment racks, TVs and heavy, floor-placed amplifiers as well as in professional applications.
Having lived with the Aurios for the last year and a half in both my systems, I’ve learned a lot about effectiveness and application, but I must admit that I’m still on the learning curve’s ascent. Part of the difficulty with forming a definitive opinion of their ultimate abilities relates to the fact that one is always using them with components whose inherent structural integrity and sophistication of isolation is unknown and variable. They range from the non-existent to the dubious (is a one-inch thick faceplate better than ¾-inch?) to the quite sophisticated (usually turntables). Essence Audio now designs its equipment and loudspeakers with the Aurios integral to their conception, and other manufacturers are soon to announce Aurios-based designs. These products should eliminate the hit-and-miss aspect of application, assuming of course that the integration is optimal.
The physics behind the Aurios is straightforward. (Again see Archives for details.) Their sonic effect is consistently identifiable: greater clarity and resolution across the entire bandwidth and dynamic range. Imagine that each component in a system is a pane of glass through which one is trying to view a landscape. Each pane is vibrating and moving relative to the others and is dirty to some degree. Placing a set of Aurios under each pane of glass eliminates the movement of the glass and cleans it. The quality of the perception of that landscape is now limited only by the inherent quality of each pane of glass. It also becomes clear (sorry) that to fully experience their effect, all the components must be floated or ultimate resolution sinks to the level of the dirty and vibrating pane or panes.
The musical effects are also consistent: a more natural reproduction of timbre, a more accurate tracing of each note’s transient and harmonic envelope, superior resolution of low-level information, better rendition of the time between notes and greater clarity in tracking the subtle gradations of volume. This translates to enormous musical dividends in identifying the instrument, placing it in a coherent acoustic venue, understanding the intent and artistry of the playing, and finally, allowing the artistic message to emerge. The journalist’s basic "What Where How and Why" is more clearly answered.
Predicting how a particular component will sound after the environmental contamination is eliminated demands actual auditioning. While use of the Aurios will not produce a silk purse from a sow’s ear, the improvement in budget components built with minimum attention to vibration control is both stunning and heartening. A well-designed circuit, regardless of the price of the component, will bloom, revealing potential never imagined in its un-isolated form. On really hopeless gear (and what constitutes this is less predictable too, as price or construction quality is not the simple determining factor), the sow’s ear is at least washed and trimmed of unsightly hair.
In addition to the greater ease of set-up, I found the 1.2 a worthy upgrade to the original MIB. Everything the MIB 1.0 did, the 1.2 did that much better: resolution improved, ditto clarity, dynamics, and nuance. Most favorably, there was a fullness, richness, and roundness to the sonic palette that mated with a tonal balance that was very even and pleasing. $100 better than the 1.0? Easily!
Given my sympathy for budget components, I’d love to say that the $600 PROs showed no major improvement over the original MIBs, the new 1.2’s, or the Symposium Roller Blocks. Simply put, there was NO contest. As good as these others are, the PROs outperformed them all by a significant margin.
The further gain in focus, clarity, and harmonic and timbral richness and naturalness held up at all volume and dynamic levels. Intelligibility of lyrics – a good test for midrange resolution and therefore a good indicator of the ability to recreate the heart of the music’s action - was significantly clearer than the other devices, and light years better than no isolation. Particularly noteworthy were the improvements in the melodic and pitch aspects of bass lines and in the dynamics and pace of upper-octave percussion. Harmony, the language of Western art music, became more explicit, a boon to those who (like me) do not play an instrument and thus are defined as musical illiterates. With the PROs, I could identify both the chords and the individual notes that make them up.
Small ensembles, whether jazz, classical, folk or rock, shone in greater relief: the performers’ interplay was easy to grasp. This not only allowed access to some string quartets that had eluded my appreciation in the past, but also allowed me to more fairly judge my preference among different interpretations. This illumination also transferred to large-scale orchestral works. Great jazz improvisation and flow appeared with an immediacy and intimacy that permitted me to feel I was participating in the music. Heady stuff! To say that I was awed would be to understate.
With the PROs, I found myself listening to music the way one does at a live concert. Musical satisfaction did not fall victim to listening fatigue. Conversely, background listening became impossible. Stripping my system of all the Aurios and reverting again to an "un-floated" state highlighted again just how much mental effort goes into listening through the distortions, muddiness and opacity of a non-isolated system. Hard work, draining, and a heavy interference to the music: fortunately now, thanks to the Aurios, also unnecessary.
Due to the number of components I auditioned, I did not experiment with directly attaching the Aurios. I tried them on both concrete and wooden floors, in three rooms: under tube and solid state, vintage and contemporary, mid-fi, hi-fi and high-end. Except for pure panel loudspeakers (my reference Sound Lab Dynastats are an electrostatic/dynamic hybrid), I ran the gamut of speaker types. Floating my entire rack on the Aurios PROs was intriguing, though results here will vary with the integrity, size and height of the rack, with particular regard to any horizontal compliance in its construction. (Vistek purportedly is working on a rack.) This area seems particularly promising and fruitful, doubly so for those using high mass and heavy turntable designs with unorthodox footprints that make isolation directly under the turntable difficult: one can simply float the entire turntable stand.
I also listened to the optional tungsten carbide balls with both the PROs and 1.2’s. In a perfect ideal world, the hierarchy of performance would be:
PROs with balls
PROs without balls
1.2’s with balls
1,2’s without balls
the original MIB 1.0’s
Practically speaking, any combination of the above can work wonders in a given system: careful audition and experimentation is absolutely necessary. Since the PROs and 1.2’s can be mixed (they are the same height) under a given component in varying proportions, with a small enough component placed on one individual PRO, the possible combinations and permutations could get out of hand. Too complicated? Not to worry. The flexibility of choice should make it easy for anyone to tune his or her system for maximum clarity, naturalness and musical communication and still allow room for individual taste and budget. How to start? An initial minimum of three sets, with the essential audition under the loudspeakers, would be a safe bet. Eventually, an audition of the whole system floated is mandatory: the Full Monty effect needs to be experienced to allow rational application to each component’s needs.
My reference system, floated entirely on the AURIOS PROs, produced a clarity, transparence, naturalness and a profound musical satisfaction that I hold as a state-of-the-art reference. I give the AURIOS PRO isolation bearings my unreserved recommendation. They are the essential foundation in attaining the highest quality in playback: not simply an accessory or add-on, but a sine qua non.
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