Does it ever end - upgrading and tweaking and things getting audibly better? Can we really justify the feverish attention lavished, financially and emotionally and ongoingly, on our wicked audio systems? If today's report is any indication -- and we shall limit ourselves solely to the subject of resonance control -- it seems that the 40-year schlepp, through audio's Sinai desert and into the Promised Land, is indeed endless. Oy vey. Premature collapse is subject only to the following Divine interventions: Floundering bank accounts; nervous breakdowns called meshuggas; the final burial of patience - or all of these miracles combined. But then, diehard audiophiles are a unique breed of desert dwellers. They aren't prone to demonstrations of compromise, in front of golden calfs like lesser mortals.

Resonance control. Like cables or power line filtering, there's yet another subject rife with teary-eyed liberal claims. Alas, it's not superseded by the great equalizer called system synergy that plagues the other two. The removal of parasitic vibrations -- riding like freeloaders or stowaways atop the music signal -- is an audible improvement no matter where, when, how or done to whom. After all, it's not a matter of voicing. Rather and more fundamentally, it's the removal of insidious distortion. Admittedly, systems tend to be voiced around unrecognized distortions. Their removal can theoretically lay bare shortcomings we didn't hear before. However, outside the physical isolation (rather than coupling) of speakers from the floor -- which can alter subjective frequency response -- electronics respond to effective resonance attenuation with lowered noise floors, enhanced transparency and more low-level data. In predictable and repeatable fashion, they simply deliver 'more', not 'different but possibly detrimental'. How much more depends solely on the efficacy of the vibration attenuation devices employed.

Confession time. I've been a bad house elf - er, audiophile tweak. Bad, bad, bad. While adding/upgrading components to or on its shelves since the original acquisition, I hadn't, meticulously or otherwise, readjusted the Sorbothane tolerances of my Grand Prix Audio Monaco stand. You see, in GPA's multi-stage scheme, Sorbothane dampers decouple each standard acrylic shelf from the super structure's triangulated Carbon fiber struts. Those viscous pucks should be independently tuned not just to combined shelf/component weight, but to exact weight distribution front-aft and left-right. This accounts for each component's load imbalances since, like any automotive shock spring, Sorbothane requires careful matching -- of supported weight against innate rebound rates -- to effectively damp its load. Being compressed too much or too little undermines its ability to perform its job properly.

One glance at some of the application charts on the Sorbothane Corporation's website demonstrated instantly just how hi-tech a 'genetically' engineered product this squishy material, used in space shuttles and Trident submarines, really is. However, all this hi-tekkery amounts to naught if one didn't obey its intrinsic demand: Thou shalt carefully match the weight you intend to support against the load rating of your dampers.

A small but insistent voice now intruded upon my mental self flagellations. "Dobby terribly sorry, Sir. Dobby only meant to significantly degrade performance in small unnotable increments over time, so master could really hear the difference now." Damn, reviewers can't get no respect. Even house elves and other diminutive but large-eared critters insist that we need help to hear properly.

But magical creatures do have a way of pointing at the truth - that's why they're magical. This was driven home when Alvin Lloyd of GPA sent one of his Carbon/Kevlar Formula platforms for review. With it, he dispatched an assortment of replacement dampers whose required ratings were determined by me rattling off respective component weights over the phone. He also e-mailed a compression guide [right] which confirmed that my shelf interface dampers were sorrily overloaded. Due to practical considerations called laziness, I would first re-blueprint the entire stand with the correct dampers. I'd also slap the Formula shelf atop the highest tier to support my AUDIOPAX monos. I'd note performance improvements and, if drastic enough, perform inspired Dobby-style forehead chastisements with a table lamp - for having lived with a GPA stand sub-optimally set up for so many months.

After having established the new baseline reference for my resonance-free audio zone, I'd subtract today's review subject from the equation. I'd return to the stock acrylic shelf and observe the extent of impact on overall performance. If there were none, I could return the Formula shelf without regrets and save myself and you yet another audio-related expense. If the performance delta were too painful to contemplate doing without? By the Whomping Willow of Hogwarth's, I'd find a way to eventually afford it. I am, after all, one of those audiophile nut cases who, once alerted to something better, absolutely and stubbornly must have it. Hey, being a reviewer does have certain tactical advantages when it comes to justifying this madness with the domestic budget committee.

I had first spotted Alvin's Formula shelf, in the flesh, during San Francisco's HE2003 inside Music Lovers' Wilson/Spectral exhibit [upper right]. I'd then encountered even thicker, 2.25-inch custom-order blue SE versions in Fred Nadel's PureAudio exhibit. If shelves could be endowed with sex appeal, these ones managed big time.

As prompted by a proud Mr. Lloyd, perusing Stereophile's September issue a few days ago to learn which rooms had been voted best, I couldn't avoid noticing -- clearly as intended by that smug son of a gun -- that Alvin's GPA stands had been in three of the top four. This even included the perennial crowd favorite and once-again winner, Jeff Joseph, shown to right with his flagship Pearls, personal La Luce turntable and the grinning man from Grand Prix Audio. I gave up. I got it.

Back to our review subject. The Formula shelf uses vacuum-formed, 90° cross-fiber Carbon skins over a matrixed Kevlar core, the latter said to offer superior attenuation rates for the intended application but lacking in visual appeal - hence it's tucked inside a glossy, rounded-edge Carbon wrapping. I was eyeing the ceiling beam reflections in my sample with suspicion. How much of a difference could this posh black sliver possibly make?

Immaculately finished, with the expected yellow underbelly of Kevlar encased in some kind of high-gloss lacquer or polyurethane just like the top and clearly exposing the dissimilar materias' weave, I was struck once again that for a given size and thickness [here 21" w x 23.25" d x 0.75" h], composite materials really don't weigh very much - hence their popularity in mountain bike frames and other applications where a superior stiffness-to-weight ratio is key. Naturally, weight in this audio application wasn't a factor. Still, the platform's relative lack of heft clearly telegraphed that its effectiveness wouldn't be a function of sheer mass but rather, the multitudinous constrained-layer fiber elements embedded in it.