The Mapleshade Component Support System
|The Mapleshade Component Support System|
22 March 2002
Standard raw wood sizes:
12" × 15" × 2" - 13 lbs. - $50
15" × 18 "× 2" - 19 lbs. - $75
Custom finishing for above
12" × 15" × 2" - $60 additional
15" × 18" × 2" - $80 additional
Custom sizes and finishes available - priced accordingly
Set of 4 for up to 99 lb. load - $24
Set of 4 for up to 199 lb load - $40
Set of 3 - $110
Set of 2 small ¾ lb, 1 large 1 ½ lb - $27
Set of 2 small ¾ lb, 1 large 1 ½ lb - $50
2301, Crain Hwy
Upper Marlboro, MD 20774
Phone: 888-CD-MAPLE or (888) 236-2753
Where will it end? In the beginning, I stacked my gear on a pecan wood étagère because it happened to be in my living room. Then I graduated to real audiophile shelving with the purchase of Sound Organization racks from England with metal frames with MDF shelves. The Sound Organization philosophy is that lightweight racks sound better than heavy, massive units. Next came Solid Steel. These are made in Italy and also feature metal frames with MDF shelving, but have enhanced cone points under each shelf to better isolate each component.
Along with the new racks I started to acquire various specialized isolation products that sit on the rack and do things to make the sound better. I sampled Black Diamond Racing products, Dark Matter platforms, sandboxes, air bladders; you name it - I've probably tried it. Then came a huge leap up to the made-in-the-good-old-USA PolyCrystal brand. These have solid wood frames and composite resin shelving. PolyCrystal is heavy and dense and structurally more stable. What a difference they made! The PolyCrystal sounded so good on its own that I no longer needed the supplementary Dark Matter or other platforms.
For the last month and a half I've been auditioning the Mapleshade Component Support System (MCSS). This was at the time I was comparing my Linn LP12 with that manufacturer's current top-of-the-line model. The Mapleshade support I put under my table did things I had never heard before which were immediately recognizable as highly desirable. I had the uncomfortable impression that the "wonderful sound" I had been enjoying before was laden with artifacts and aberrations of a euphonic kind.
The Mapleshade Component Support System
The Mapleshade solution consists of four parts. The first is a slab of solid maple wood. Mapleshade sells solid wood blocks either in raw form or finished with chamfered edges and four coats of handrubbed lacquer, which about doubles the price. Standard length and width dimensions are 12" by 15" or 15" by 18", in either 2" or 4" thicknesses. Custom sizes can be ordered. Don't make the mistake of going to your lumberyard to procure the wood yourself. There are many varieties of maple trees; the wood used here is the same used in the manufacture of violins, violas, cellos, basses and guitars.
Four IsoBlocks come next, which are placed in the four corners under the wooden platform. Each IsoBlock is made of six layers of rubber and natural cork layered sandwich-like and laminated together. The overall dimensions are about 2" wide, 1 1/2" deep and 1 3/4" high. IsoBlocks are designed to suspend the maple slab and have "correctly tuned infra-bass resonant frequencies… and clean, non-distorting attenuation of the midrange frequencies." In other words, the IsoBlocks are tuned to offset the resonant frequencies of the maple.
A set of three Triplepoint Conepoints, which go between the wood and the component, are the next piece of the puzzle. The Triplepoints are very heavy, solid brass cones. The manufacturer claims that, as far as cones are concerned, brass sounds better than other materials, heavier is better than lighter and taller is better than shorter. A couple of sizes of these brass cones are available. The model I tried is the Ultimate Triplepoint design, which is heaviest and tallest, and has three mini brass points on the flat top of the cone, the part that comes in contact with the component. So you have points on both the top and bottom of the cone.
Finally, Heavy Hat weights are to be placed on top of the component. These are also machined of solid brass and come in two sizes. Also available are Heavy Hat Triplepoint weights which have the added three mini points on the flat side.
Count 'em. Four individual items just to support one component!
The excellently recorded LP Live at Bernie's with the Bill Cunliffe trio [Groove Note GRV1009 - 1 DD] is a collection of standards done straight up, for the most part. Cunliffe may not be shockingly original, but his dexterity and tasteful interpretations make for pleasurable listening. The sound of this 45 rpm Direct-To-Disc LP is fabulous. The A - B comparison revealed that post MCSS treatment, everything was a little different. The sound was full of desirable contradictions: soft, warm and full-bodied like the old-fashioned tubey sound, yet with noticeably more clarity, detail and dynamics. You know how you have to continually fight to maintain treble extension, yet avoid any kind of glare or shrillness up there? These platforms take care of that for you. The tonal balance had shifted slightly downward commensurate with the gains in weight and removal of glare. With the MCSS under the LP12, cymbals were altogether more present, defined and clear. But the real surprise was how complex and full of nuance and musical color the unamplified cymbals in their studio setting had become. The double bass tightened up and became easier to follow without any loss of body or weight. The piano began to sound more like a huge, nine-foot Steinway concert grand. Alas, it will never sound completely convincing. It is a common, and unfortunate, recording studio practice to cover, nay, to mummify the piano and shove a microphone under the lid. This is supposed to enhance realism?
What Happened to the Noise Floor?
As claimed, resonance control was excellent. Especially in the bass register, the halo that surrounds each instrument was reduced. The removal of this persistent lower register resonance was what really turned me on. This opens up and clarifies the entire presentation. Soundstage attributes were all enhanced, including localization, dimensionality, and recreation of the recording venue. Depending on the CD, the soundstage could seem less focussed. Then you put on the next CD and it's razor sharp. There is no excess sound, no smearing or resonance. The image of those cymbals ended, and beyond there was just STILLNESS. No etched outlines, no unfocussed borders, no unnatural blackness, just a realistic fading into space.
Based on the highly desirable benefits the first MCSS under the Linn LP12 delivered, I decided to take the plunge. I installed maple platforms and IsoBlocks under the amps. (My amps have built in PolyCrystal cones that prevented use of the Ultimate Triplepoints.) I found the platform's effects additive. You'll hear positive results with the first one and then a compounding as you install more. When I put the last platform in place, so that the entire digital chain was sitting on brass and maple, the sound really locked. Clarity, power, realism and happy listeners sum it up.
I noticed the same thing with the cymbals on Big Sweet N' Blue with the Norris Turney quartet [Mapleshade MS02632 gold CD]. Track 3, "Blues in B," has the piano, bass and drums doing an extended intro before Turney enters with a riff reminiscent of the Duke. Turney was Ellington's last alto sax soloist. The drum kit is featured in that intro and the cymbals are prominent. There's a whole lotta treble shakin' here that can sound pretty gray and undifferentiated. The MCSS brought out the different sounds of each cymbal, and the many colors possible from one cymbal, depending on where it was struck and what was used to strike it. Jimmy Cobb was doing a lot more with those cymbals than I had known about prior to treatment.
On the Decca 180 gram LP re-issue of Leonard Bernstein Mozart[Decca SET 332], orchestral strings had more shimmer and, at the same time, more authority and power. The piano sounded more acoustic and more powerful also.
I find that practically any object placed on top of a component will change its sound. I prefer to have nothing sitting on the component. I did try the Heavyhat brass weights, and found them as good as any other weights I had on hand. Some weights, like the VPI Bricks, dampen the sound and make it darker. The brass weights tended to give a little extra energy to the mid-range, without damping. Then there's the Heavyhat Triplepoint, which gave a little sparkle to the treble. It's rather like preparing a fine meal and then seasoning to taste. Use the Heavyhat to coarsely tune your system and then fine tune with the Triplepoint. One combination that worked well with my AC conditioner was a VPI Brick in the center with a Heavyhat Triplepoint on either side of the Brick. This energized the bass along with good treble extension. So, depending on your taste, the Heavyhats might fit the bill.
Amazingly, there were no trade-offs or compromises in the musical areas I pay most attention to. However, there are some practical concerns. The fully implemented MCSS, without the Heavyhat brass weights on top, elevates the component an additional 6 inches. Finding that much extra height on one shelf, let alone all the component shelves, can be a problem. To save space, I broke the IsoBlocks in half, and then used each three-layered sandwich under the maple. This saves about 1" in height. Pierre Sprey of Mapleshade says you lose a small percent of the effect this way. I used the IsoBlocks both ways and found you do lose a little bit of the effect, but also the overall balance had moved towards the treble with the shorter sandwich. Then I had to resort to the HeavyHats to add body.
Though the IsoBlocks are laminated together, they were easy to separate and sometimes came apart on their own. Also, their dimensions were variable, with some being much larger than others. The raw wood is very porous and tends to warp over time. And even though the finished ones warp a little over time, I strongly advise that you go for the finished product. And while speaking of the finish, it is obviously hand-worked, and there are imperfections. It looks OK, but there is no mistaking it for furniture grade.
Turntables present a problem. Putting three cones under the plinth does not exactly make for a stable support. It's only feasible if you get Triplepoints with threaded inserts and screw them into the plinth. For my LP12, the table's Trampolinn base sits on the maple plank, and then come the IsoBlocks.
Best results are achieved when the MCSS is used without other specialized isolation products. Initially, I put an MCSS over a Dark Matter platform. I didn't like it, and concluded that the particular component wasn't synergistic with the maple. Later, I removed the Dark Matter and tried it again, with very positive results.
Make sure the IsoBlocks are securely contacting the maple. If any one of them moves freely shim it up with some stiff cardboard or pieces of wood veneer. Don't use corrugated cardboard for this - it's too compliant. You want something stiff.
The cardboard shims actually affected the sound slightly. After I put a few more of them in and liked it, I decided to try some Golden Sound DH Squares instead. The DH Squares under all four IsoBlocks worked nice magic on the CD transport, LP12, the phono pre-amp and the power supply to the line pre-amp. However, it didn't work with the other components, so experimentation is recommended. The maple only sounds good with the IsoBlocks under it. The wood on its own is too warm and dulls the sound.
Order of application: the first component to address is anything that has moving parts, like an LP turntable or CD drive. Next would be tube gear. I also used it under my Accuphase AC conditioner to good effect.
The Mapleshade Component Support System is aimed at the tweakers among us. If it seems like the whole thing is just too much bother, let me reiterate the MCSS achievements. The treatment removes a pervasive low frequency resonance surrounding each instrument and treble glare and haze. It offers a heightened sense of power and forcefulness, even on treble instruments. The resulting sound is clear and loaded with detail and yet decidedly "non-hi-fi." It is slightly darker, but based on how good the added weight sounds; I must conclude that my system was in need of it. Yours might need it too.
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