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Desktop fixers

Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Main system: Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (4GHz quad-core with Turbo, 32GB RAM, 3TB FusionDrive, OSX Yosemite. iTunes 14.4), PureMusic 3.02, Audirvana 3, Qobuz, Tidal, Sonnet Pasithea, Soundaware D30Ref SD card transport & USB bridge; Preamp: icOn 4Pro S w. hi/lo-pass filter; Power amplifiers: Kinki Studio EX-B7 mono, Enleum AMP-23R; Headamp: Kinki Studio; Phones: HifiMan Susvara; Loudspeakers: Aurai Audio Lieutenant w. sound|kaos DSUB 15 on Carbide Audio footers, Audio Physic Codex, Cube Audio Nenuphar Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL; Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps, Furutech DPS-4.1 between wall and conditioners; Equipment rack: Artesanía Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands; Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators, LessLoss Firewall for loudspeakers, Furutech NCF Signal Boosters; Room: 6 x 8m with open door behind listening seat
2nd system: Source: Soundaware D100Pro SD transport clock-slaved to Denafrips Terminator +; DAC: Kinki Studio; Preamp/filter: icOn 4Pro + 4th-order/40Hz hi-low pass; Amplifier: Crayon CFA-1.2; Loudspeakers: sound|kaos Vox 3awf, Dynaudio S18 sub; Power delivery: Furutech GTO 2D NCF; Equipment rack: Hifistay Mythology Transform X-Frame [on extended loan]; Sundry accessories: Audioquest Fog Lifters; Furutech NFC Clear Lines; Room: ~3.5 x 8m
Desktop system: Source: HP Z230 work station Win10/64; USB bridge: Audiobyte Hydra X+; Headamp: iFi Pro iDSD Signature; Headphones: Final D-8000; Powered speakers: DMAX SC5
Upstairs headfi/speaker system: Source: smsl SD-9 transport; DAC: iFi Pro iDSD Signature; Integrated amplifier: Schiit Jotunheim R; Phones: Raal-Requisite SR1a
2-channel video system: Source: Oppo BDP-105; All-in-One: Simon Audio; Loudspeakers: German Physiks HRS-120; Subwoofer: Zu Submission; Power delivery: Furutech eTP-8, Room: ~6x4m

Review component retail: starting at $39.99/pr

Problem child. For hifi, the desktop can be. Not enough real estate. If you face a big screen like my HP Z34c—34 for diagonal inches, c for curved—there's not much room left for speakers unless your desk goes wider than my 130cm. So one pursues petitniks that park perfectly. That likely makes them so short that their tweeters aim sternly at our sternum or lower. Now they sound muffled and image poorly. We need to raise them up like the Titanic; or angle them upward like stargazers; then turn them face on. To this rescue come brands Kanto and Gravity with properly executed desktop stands. My new DMAX Super Cubes got the middle child above. Fram's Midi 150 moved into the bedside mini rig to get the first-born at left. I did seriously consider Gravity's bracket mount with adjustable height, angle and tilt. For my Slovakian oaks, its top plate would simply protrude which I didn't fancy. Mounted to my table's sides angled in, it woulda gotten half the speaker off the desk so decluttered more. But in the end I decided on the large Kanto S6 in black shown next. The medium SE4 elevator version had the ideal dimensions for the upstairs Polish actives. Their silver aluminium skins would look better with white than black risers I thought. It's good to get choices.

On the desktop I soon went full-steam audiofool so true dual-differential. I stacked two stands per channel. In the name of all that's unholy, why? Because despite isolating vibrations far better than anticipated from solid steel with thin black foam liners, some club beats still managed to leak into my wood/glass desk with suspended keyboard drawer. Feeling slightly delayed bass beats in the heels of my hands fed into my ear/brain's perception of bass accuracy. Though one was heard the other felt, these data somehow summed. I had another install elsewhere in our digs which could use the same stands should my nutty double-decker notion tank.

So I ordered in a second pair. Lo and behold, at my low-ish desktop SPL needed to get work done and hear myself think, I now was without vibrators. Snicker but don't underestimate the need for isolation to enjoy clean desktop sound. Just as spiked speakers sink resonances into the floor—subwoofers are the worst offenders—so do small speakers on a desk. Concrete, subfloor, carpet and shoes might absorb/damp a lot in a room to not be felt. Actual hand contact on a desk inserts no such barriers; and the desk's top behaves much like a very suspended floor to start with. It's where IsoAcoustics enter with their funky erector sets. I just didn't like their look to pass. See what I mean?

In my book, Kanto and Gravity make lovely problem solvers for this type of compact install. I bought my units from Gear4Music who delivered from inventory and very quick. Sometimes perfect audiophile fixes hide in the pro sector. Sometimes affordable pro solutions like CAT8a cables perform better than fancy audiophile sorts. A 6m €400 High-Street type as I²S-over-RJ45 link recently caused stutters. A delivered-for-€28 Amazonian equivalent didn't know dropouts from yippies. The smart money plays it origin agnostic. Whatever works best wins. Sometimes that's behaving like a prosumer.

Upstairs the Kanto SE4 not only raised the tweeter to ear level. It also minimized boundary gain for the lower front/rear radiators. Set directly on the lowboy, those had gotten too bassy. Raised up, now the sound balanced properly. Two tea-candle holders fit perfectly into the open spaces beneath the speakers. I inserted them to hold two small remotes. Mini system done.

What's 'thank you' in Kantonese?