While I was curious to audition the Apex under my Kestrels, Alvin suggested I try them first beneath my rack and individual components. I initially placed the Apex under the Manley Labs Stingray and various CD players I had on hand. The results easily surpassed any footer I have tried to date. Playback was simply more coherent and involving, with across-the-board enhancements in clarity, transient fidelity, image focus, soundstage depth and width. By comparison, my Black Diamond Racing cones seemed limited in bandwidth which surprised me - I had thought them to have more wide-range effects.

Placing four Apex under my $300 sand-filled steel-tube rack reaped some of the aforementioned benefits but the underside of the supports did not offer the Apex bearings an ideal surface to couple with nor did I have levelers with the correct gauge thread. However, I believe I got a taste of what they could do with a proper fit. Again, I noted an across-the- board enhancement of space, ambient cues and greater transparency, just not to same degree as under my individual components.

Placing the Apex footers under my Kestrels was a completely different story. To paraphrase Keanu Reeves, "Whoa!" The soundstage lit right up in all dimensions. I noticed a quieter background where previously obscured musical details were now clearly delineated. The bass at first seemed attenuated but I later realized that extension was still there but lower frequencies were cleaner, tauter and more integrated with the rest of the spectrum. I had been battling a slight upper bass/lower midrange boom which I assumed was the result of
standing waves in my room. After trying several positions and homebrew room-acoustic techniques as well as my BDR/Notepad mix, I managed to greatly reduce said boom but it still remained noticeable. With the Apex footers coupled to the Kestrels via the levelers, this aberration all but disappeared. Very cool. Allow me to hypothesize: This boom after all was not the result of any nefarious room nodes. Instead, my speakers were passing low frequencies into my floor which sympathetically resonated with the music to cause blurring. This energy no doubt made its way also into my components to inject various time-smearing effects into the delicate equipment signals. By almost completely isolating my speakers from the floor, the system was now able to perform with greater clarity and less echo and smearing artifacts. To say the Apex devices blew away my BDR cones is a gross understatement. Of course, they are also nearly ten times the price so this was hardly unfair. Are they ten times better than Black Diamond's products? I cannot say. Such mental exercises are meaningless to me. Yes, the Apex footers are expensive but once you hear their effects, you will want a couple of sets, period.

I believe there are three areas to which audiophiles currently do not pay enough attention: Power line conditioning, resonance control and room acoustics. In a way, all three are linked since they all are essentially system-tuning products. Rather than scouring AudioGon for a deal on the latest reviewer rave, why not spend your allowance on optimizing the system you already have? Since I started on my little audio journey, I discovered more differences and improvements with the above-mentioned triumvirate of devices than I do between CD players and amps. I next took the Apex footers to local dealer Ovation Audio for a little group audition. Proprietors Mike and Ricky were somewhat skeptical especially when I mentioned the price. They simply could not believe that the Apex cones could justify their high cost. The expression on their faces plus that of a browsing customer when we placed them under a pair of Meadowlark Ospreys (with Airtight, Gamut, MSB and Accustic Arts gear in front) was not one I shall forget anytime soon. The improvement was immediately audible and not at all subtle. All three cited broad-scale improvements in clarity, soundstage width and depth. Images were sharper, bass was more defined and tauter, transient fidelity enhanced and volume seemed louder. The result was a musically far more coherent and involving presentation. They were all clearly disappointed when the Apex footers were removed. As one observer put it, "Now all I hear are two boxes". We also tried the cones sans levelers under an Audio Note turntable and OTO integrated amp. The results were similar to the speakers but dramatically less so under the turntable while
the amp displayed results somewhere between the two. When leaving, I remarked how satisfying it felt to finally turn the tables on Mike and Ricky who so often had provoked similar reactions from me when I auditioned their wares - very satisfying indeed.

I really cannot add anything further to what Srajan has already written about these remarkable components. I heard essentially the same effects he noted. Suffice to say, to my ears they accomplish exactly what their designer claims. My only two qualifiers? You may be distressed by a subjectively upward tonal shift which may throw your system out of balance by cleaning up the bass but subjectively also reducing its output. This might require other changes elsewhere to compensate. My other concern is the price. The Apex and associated hardware retail for almost as much as my speakers - $1400. To a cheapskate like me, this is cause for much hesitation before I want to whip out my battered and abused credit card. I fully admit that at first blush, I thought the Apex to be widely overpriced. I was blissfully content with my inexpensive BDR and GutWire Notepad setup. But after living with the Grand Prix Audio footers for several months and finally removing them to ship them back, they appear to be worth every penny.

Allow me to put this into perspective: The Apex cones made a greater wholesale improvement in my system than over $2500 of power conditioning. If the idea of warming up your credit card to the tune of $1400 for what seems mere tweakery causes you not so much as an involuntary eye twitch, buy with confidence. If such an activity promises sleepless nights and waves of nausea, think of the Apex footers as components rather than accessories. Therefore, before you go blowing two grand on your next DAC or preamp, try the Apex instead. You will be surprised. Additionally, if you are satisfied with the present state of your system and are not contemplating any major upgrades at all, the addition of the Apex devices would simply take your system to a higher level of performance and musical enjoyment. Products like these have generally been labeled accessory or tweak. I think it's time to change that unfortunate belittlement to component status to properly indicate the amount of improvement they can render. All that's left now? I need to convince Lloyd to allow me to try one of his racks. Good grief, what am I getting myself into?

Postscript: As it turns out, I've been approved to review Grand Prix Audio's new Laguna Isolation System in the near future. I have also received permission to keep the Apex footers a little while longer to facilitate comparisons between the audible isolation effects of the Laguna spiked and with the Apex decouplers installed. Stay tuned.

Since I did not make any musical references in this review, here's a list of recent acquisitions for your consideration -Candyman's Heavy Rotation List:

The Real Tuesday Weld: I, Lucifer [Six Degrees 1097-2]
Roy Orbison: The All-Time Greatest Hits of Roy Orbison LP [S&P 507]
Sonic Youth: Sonic Nurse [Geffen B000254912]
Wilco: a ghost is born [Nonesuch 2-79809]
J.S. Bach: Cello Suites LP [Mercury/Speakers Corner SR3-9016]
Mahler: Symphony No. 3 - Chailly [Decca 475 514-2]
Karsh Kale: Liberation [Six Degrees 1090-2]
Romane: Djangovision [Iris 873]

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