Did the Terminator lean out the lower octaves as some isolation devices will? This could be a virtue or vice depending on system balance. In a system with an inherently flat tonal balance, the ideal is an isolation device that delivers detail and dynamic enhancements but remains neutral in the frequency domain. The Terminator 1 with graphite core hit this mark with distinction, avoiding any clinical demeanour and embracing the virtues of an extremely emotive vibrant midrange. It neither embellished nor subtracted. As a result, it was truthful about the quality of both recordings and system attributes without exaggerating flaws. Imaging was handled in stellar fashion with a big soundstage when the recording allowed, with precise placement of individual images on that stage and a believable combination of depth and projection. The spaces between images were well delineated with good transparency and a generous cushion of air. Venue information was enhanced by excellent detail. As a result, higher-res recordings were able to demonstrate their superiority by providing greater information with more accurate dynamic scale. The system was also able to clearly show the extremely different cutoff levels engineered on various recordings. Premature 'digital dead' was starkly contrasted against lower noise and greater dynamic floors with their richer venue acoustics. With the graphite column of the KAT footers achieving such high performance, it was time to explore what the alternate Teflon option could do.

For the second round, I dismantled the Terminator 1 by disassembling the base, unscrewing the remaining base plate, popping out a Teflon spacer, then pulling out the graphite core by screwing in the removal tool and giving a gentle tug. Then I quickly inserted the Teflon column and reassembled the foot. Although it sounds complex, the actual time to accomplish the task was less than it took you to read this description. It was quick, painless and intuitive. For those still nervous at the prospect, there is a step-by-step Chinese video.

The feet were put back. The music came up and dreaded audible confusion reigned again. Would there be more waiting required? Suspecting that the culprit was the top viton fluoropolymer O ring, I contacted Mr. Wang. The answer was swift and quickly dashed any hope that new break-in was avoidable. "You are correct. The polymer ring must reach proper compression. If the deformation has not reached stability, the sound will be bad. When the ring compresses, there are two effects: immediate and long-term deformation. If it sinks by 1mm immediately, that is immediate deformation. When it measures 1.1mm a day later, that is long-term deformation. The formal definition of this effect is creep. If the weight on a T-1 isolator feet is lifted, high pressure is relieved and the O-ring returns to its original shape. In the event of relocation or core substitution, it is always required to wait again for long-term deformation to set in."

I again made periodic notes to document the break-in process. One anomaly I encountered was a degree of acoustic bleed through on subsonic material as the fluoropolymer ring settled into final position. This phenomenon did not recur after the 4-week period but indicated how critically tuned the feet are as a complex system. After I was convinced that the Terminator 1 operated optimally again, it was back to serious listening. As Mr. Wang had predicted, the differences between versions were subtle at first but obvious over the longer haul. They did, however, still amount to relatively small character variations of the same basic effect. The Teflon core slightly elevated information in the lower midrange through bass, thus increasing the body of vocals and acoustic instruments. If the graphite option appealed to the need for speed and precision, the Teflon represented the organic side of the equation. This iteration of the Terminator 1 was all about dimensionality, solidity and mass. Did it give up anything to achieve this goal? Yes, there were tradeoffs. The accentuation in the lower ranges was accompanied by a diminution of the higher frequencies, trading some openness for greater sweetness.

This had some advantages. It made the system more forgiving of recordings with a leaner balance. Outside of the frequency differences, the Teflon option showed other distinctive characteristics that amounted to a predisposition towards a softer, gentler presentation. Compared to the graphite, there were minor penalties in absolute detail, transient attack and dynamic palette. This translated into a higher level of compression that somewhat truncated fine detail and nuance. Bass quantity was comparable to the graphite core but bass quality lacked some definition. Unlike the razor-sharp enunciation afforded by the graphite, the Teflon was almost old school tubular, throwing out powerful big rolling waves of bass. Images were a little larger and a bit more diffuse but with incredible presence and palpable solidity. The system’s presentation in the front to back plane now favoured projection over depth and the distance between objects was not as clearly defined, melting into a denser space. Big, meaty and brawny are apt descriptions for the Teflon version. Anyone with their heart in the organic camp would find a happy home. The overall transformation was to push the system into an approximation of classic Conrad Johnson gear. The flaws were similar but so were the addictive glories.

Now that I had a handle on the tuning flexibility of the Terminator 1s, it was time to see how the two versions would stand up against my chosen comparators. The Weizhi ($1’295/4) is my most expensive reference point, the EquaRack MF-1 ($100/ea.) my everyman alternate. I first replaced the Terminators with the Weizhi Precision Golden Glory as the former best from the talented Mr. Wang. These sophisticated devices are themselves on the luxury end of the footer spectrum, representing a different multistage approach that also exploits graphite for rapid energy dissipation. Like the KAT Audio, they incorporate a high-grade ceramic bearing approach coupled with two-stage elastomer damping. Both Weizhi and Kat Audio use copper to tune the dissipation characteristics of their respective approaches. Where the Terminator 1 employs copper-alloy cages to house the graphite and bearing systems, the Golden Glory infuses copper directly into the graphite. With parallels in materials if not methodology, would there be similarities in sound?