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Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
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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, Singxer SU-6 USB bridge, LHY Audio SW-8 network switch, Sonnet Pasithea DAC; Active filter: icOn Gradient Box; Power amplifiers: Kinki Studio EX-B7 mono, Enleum AMP-23R, Goldmund/Job 225; Headamp: Cen.Grand Silver Fox; Phones: HifiMan Susvara; Loudspeakers: sound|kaos Vox3awf + sound|kaos DSUB 15 on Carbide Audio footers, Audio Physic Codex, Qualio IQ; Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL; Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Furutech RTP-6 on amps, Furutech DPS-4.1 between wall and conditioner; 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 D300Ref SD transport, Denafrips Terminator +; Preamp/filter: icOn 4Pro + 80Hz active filter; Amplifier: Crayon CFA-1.2; Loudspeakers: MonAcoustics SuperMon Mini, 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: Singxer SU-2; Headamp/DAC: iFi iDSD Pro Signature; Headphones: Final D-8000; Active speakers: DMAX SC5
Upstairs headfi/speaker system: Source: smsl Dp5 transport; DAC: Auralic Vega; Integrated amplifier: Schiit Jotunheim R; Phones: Raal-Requisite SR1a; Active DSP speakers: Fram Midi 120
2-channel video system: Source: Oppo BDP-105; All-in-One: Gold Note IS-1000 Deluxe; Loudspeakers: Zu Soul VI; Subwoofer: Zu Submission; Power delivery: Furutech eTP-8, Room: ~6x4m
Review component retail: $7'990 Babel, $480/ea. Delta standard, $1'060/ea. Delta Extreme
Delta force overcomes the tower of Babel. "Hi Srajan, we met at Munich many years ago. I've been an audio fanatic since 1982 when at age 13 I got my first Abso!ute Sound at the public library. Since then I built Gracenote the music database and MOG (early main competitor to Spotify and now Apple Music). On the side I've designed hifi systems for music producer Rick Rubin, consulted for David Chesky and done some other audio hardware tasks. But my heart has always been with the High End. I'm now starting up my last career helping guide people to audio nirvana. My current system includes these PMC Fenestria replacing Zellaton replacing Analysis Audio, Mola Mola Makua, Holbo and Balabo BP1. I thought you might like to test the Babel. I read your words on it a while back to know that you're somewhat familiar. I've got Arya Audio and Magico Qpod footers here. This thing is truly next level." The surprise email was signed David Hyman, founder & CEO of MetaVox (website coming soon) and founder/CEO of Unagi Scooters. Its header added, "I'm the new US distributor for Wellfloat Babel and Holbo airbearing turntables".
The Babel by Japan's Wellfloat is a multi-stage isolation footer. It embeds 9 wire-suspension modules in a four-tiered tall fat cylinder¹ meant to float gear or speakers up to 250kg. Rather than the customary three or four support points which the company's Delta footers attack, Babel goes singular. This makes a few obvious demands. One, the contact patch of what's to be floated must be perfectly flat and free of screw heads. Two, the component must remain stable once elevated on a single support cylinder. Three, it should be heavy enough to not turn or shift atop its perch when we push any buttons.
Being a practical-minded cynic when it comes to hifi extremism's willingness to get fussy and precious, I was much keener on Delta [below left]. That embeds 3 suspension modules but still carries 250kg/ea. Available with a spike dimple, it seems far more practical plus opens up floatation of entire equipment racks like my Artesanía and HifiStay stacks.
¹ Babel measures 17.5cm across, 6.5cm tall and weighs nearly 3kg.
What is a Wellfloat? Our hifi space has conceptual precedents with Sven Boenicke's SwingBase and StillPoints' ESS rack. Both run wire suspensions. They work like hippie speakers hanging in macramé slings off a ceiling but do it earthbound so nothing looks objectionable. Very cleverly, Wellfloat's engineers have miniaturized the concept to fit multiple suspension modules inside a footer. The operational pendulum principle remains the same. Whatever we place atop a Wellfloat isolates from terra firma with multiple degrees of lateral freedom. Popular roller-ball devices do too but struggle with perfect sphericity for their bearings and zero deformation under load. Various springs struggle with energy storage expressed as settle time. As we learn from their site, Wellfloat devices also work under musical instruments like pianos, double basses, celli, bass clarinets and others which traditionally couple to ground; and claim nano-level effectiveness. Also, the company has a serious background in the recording arts so first-hand experience with live music.
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The photo at left depicts the Babel challenge: visual oddity when used underneath a full-size component. Also, it mandates a shelf. Racks like Artesanía eliminate those by design. Now imagine a Babel beneath a tall heavy speaker. In my black book, this would take hifi extremism too far even if I see no functional reason why it wouldn't do its mechanical task to perfection. I'd simply favor 3 or 4 Delta footers despite them losing the flagship's multi-tiered structure (Japanese patent N° 7104389) to likely be not quite as 'nano-level' effective?
Of course women who shove their delicate feet into men-designed ultra-pointy heels of ridiculous height then squeeze into push-up bras and glue extended lashes to their eye lids know. Modern beauty ideals and suffering go hand in hand. Perhaps I must get more in touch with my inner female before I can even dream of becoming a fully paid-up Babelonian?
On the subject of which, what kind of coin does it take to float well?
Being the firm's newly appointed stateside distributor, David would have cashish metrics in U$. Incidentally, Wellfloat's principle already scaled up to a massive Pegasus equipment rack. Whenever one has a thing which works, circling the wagons to capture all possible applications is nothing but good business.
Resonance control is good essential hifi housekeeping. I use four big Carbide Bases underneath my 2×15" cardioid sound|kaos sub, Kepler footers by Divine Acoustics under the upstairs 2×9½" Dynaudio sub. HifiStay roller-ball footers do the biz on sound|kaos monitors or Qualio floorstanders, their stock floor interfaces the Artesanía and HifiStay racks. On that score I'm a fully current member in the isolate-don't-couple club of niche audiophilia. The primary spec advantage of the Wellfloat is their extreme weight rating. 6 x Delta under a double-wide Artesanía rack will support (cough!) 1.5 tonnes. "I need me some d'Agostino Relentless" I hear you thinking. Unlike with viscoelastics there's no spring rate to fret over, no material fatigue to enforce eventual replacement of Sorbothane parts. Aside from cost, my real question was whether relative to audibility, my setup left enough room to play still foxier footsies. After all, signing up for a deaf gig—I wouldn't tell a difference—isn't my idea of fun. Just because something is measurable on a scope doesn't automatically translate to any Aha moment in the listening seat. Knowing of course means personal experience. And that means nothing ventured, nothing gained. So I enrolled in a session at the Wellfloat Spa with my host David Hyman. Country of origin also had my attention². When it comes to precision work and job dedication, many consider Japan the Switzerland of the East. It's here where eternal apprenticeship to perfect one's craft enjoys ongoing relevance as a life's long work. It's the antithesis of the Western warrior who thinks himself 'done' and masterful after a quickie weekend course. Against the backdrop of endless learning, what have the audiomaniacs at G Clef of Osaka, Wellfloat's parent company, achieved in the resonance-attenuation sector after 44 years of dedicated immersion in the subject?
² Think of brands like 47labs, Accuphase, Audio Technica, Audio Tekne, Bakoon, CEC, Denon, Esoteric, Final, Fostex, Furutech, Koda, Kondo, Leben, Luxman, Lyra, Marantz, Nakamichi, Onkyo, Oyaide, Panasonic, Phasemation, Pioneer, Reimyo, Rotel, Sakuma, Sharp, Shindo, Sony, Soulnote, SPEC, Stax, Sun Audio, TAD, TEAC, TechDas, Technics, Triode Corp, Yamaha, Yamamoto and Zanden. In fact CEC market a Wellfloat equipment platform co-branded CEC endorsed by non other than Living Voice's Kevin Scott: "If we had to choose just one…the CEC Wellfloat board has become something of a 'go-to' choice. Not only does it bring an entirely positive enhancement to CD replay, it's proven to be a remarkably versatile well-balanced (no pun intended) device in a wider range of applications than we might have anticipated."
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