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View Full Version : Spikes. More smoke & mirrors?



Neil McCauley
01-05-2008, 15:57
If, as seems to be the common consent, spikes on stands are crucial to getting the best out of loudspeakers in particular and many types of audio equipment in general, why is it that the finest pianos in the most excellent concert halls throughout the World are either on wheels or flat feet i.e. never spikes? Potential damage to the stage is surely not a practical consideration because protection can be provided.

Also when visiting modern professional recording studios, Iíve seen the same thing Ė no spikes.

Iíve asked numerous loudspeaker designers in the UK, Europe and N. America about this and most of them confess to being baffled. The others are non-committal. I have no idea either. A bit odd!

markf
01-05-2008, 16:22
The finest cellos in the most excellent concert halls throughout the World are on spikes,
but that really just clouds the issue of speakers and spikes.
So pianos no, cellos yes, speakers optional ! would be my answer to this conundrum.

Steve Toy
01-05-2008, 16:25
My speakers are not on spikes. The speakers I had before came with spikes. In the last few months in my system I removed them.

However, remember that a piano creates its own natural resonances. Microphony in a hi-fi system is never going to add anything of musical merit to what is already on the disc. I guess spikes in hi-fi (not just under speakers) may be crucial to faithful reproduction if not to live performance.

Mike
01-05-2008, 16:32
I've started moving away from spikes (no pun intended :)).

These days I prefer those RDC cones/cups and that sort of thing, although I'll have to drag my old Origin Live TT stand out of the loft soon and that has some of the most evil and vicious spikes ever!

Might have to do something about that! :scratch:

anthonyTD
01-05-2008, 16:50
If, as seems to be the common consent, spikes on stands are crucial to getting the best out of loudspeakers in particular and many types of audio equipment in general, why is it that the finest pianos in the most excellent concert halls throughout the World are either on wheels or flat feet i.e. never spikes? Potential damage to the stage is surely not a practical consideration because protection can be provided.

Also when visiting modern professional recording studios, Iíve seen the same thing Ė no spikes.

Iíve asked numerous loudspeaker designers in the UK, Europe and N. America about this and most of them confess to being baffled. The others are non-committal. I have no idea either. A bit odd!

hi howard,
i remember seeing a demonstration max townshend did at the heathrow show a couple of years ago. he was showing his latest speakers, which were suspended on frames via some hefty springs, he put a track on for us to listen with the speakers floating on the springs and i must say, they sounded very good, with even tonal balance etc, anyway, after the track had finnished, he wedged some spanners in between the spring and frame mechanism, making the speakers rigid, as if they were on the floor, he then played the same track again, i was shocked! the bass had disapeard! it just goes to show, there isnt a one fix for all where music reproduction is concerned.
anthony...:)

Neil McCauley
01-05-2008, 17:22
Ah yes indeed. I experienced the identical demo. I had the same experience as you. Max did have some theories, but although he was able to predict the effect, he was at a loss, other than in general terms, to explain the mechanics of it. Or perhaps I didn't undertstand his explanation. Quite possible actually. Anyway, Max was in fact one of the designers who I asked about the piano, and he had {at that time} no idea why pianos did not have spikes.

As a small deviation from this thread I started, during the same day where he demonstrated the spanner effect, he demonstrated something else which had such an impact on me that I decided there and then that after I wrote up the account of that visit for Hi-Fi News, that was going to be my final review.

I did write the review of the full Townshend system, but the then Editor (the one between Mr Miller and Mr Harris, can't remember his name) spiked it. No pun intended.

First and only time it ever happened. I never found out the entire reason why, however some months later an ex-employee of the publisher told me that the impact on some very influential advertisers would have been such that to print the review would have been commercial folly. "Bit too positive old chap!"

Moreover, and this was the bit I found a bit worrying was the flaw that Max had identified, and demonstrated to me re the majority of audiophile product review shortcomings would have had a negative effect on the public's perception of the reliability of reviewing. How much lower could it go I wondered?

My comment to them about holding back the invention of X-rays to protect the interests of witch doctors was, they felt, unhelpful. Ho hum.

I have a feeling that the current Editor has a better grip on things than the guy before him. Even so, I'm not returning to freelance reviewing. NUJ rates were £115 per 1,000 published words. Hardly worth the back ache let alone the head ache. Mind you, I gave those paltry fees to a number of low-profile and very deserving charities.

griffo104
02-05-2008, 15:01
I always thought spikes were there just to ensure a good contact with the ground, especially if carpets were used, certainly I've not heard any benefits from having spikes other than to balance a speaker optimally.

I took the spikes off my speaker stands and blu-tacked them to granite chopping boards, sounded much better this way.

Filterlab
02-05-2008, 17:46
I've always found spikes to improve the sound of loudspeakers, but not anywhere near as much as the surface they are standing on. However spikes (for me) don't work so well for most components, saying that they worked VERY well with my MF player & DAC.

Iain Sinclair
03-05-2008, 10:01
I've not detected much difference between the sound of spiked and not-spiked speakers, but did manage to inflict a nasty flesh wound on my foot with a speaker spike, so the spikes are now in the bits box.

Filterlab
03-05-2008, 10:27
...but did manage to inflict a nasty flesh wound on my foot with a speaker spike...

Yeah, I did that some years ago with a pair of Mission 702s when moving house, spike went right through and poked out the other side. Feckin' painful that! Luckily the spikes on the small Mission floorstanders were only M4 so very slim - no permanent damage.

You see, people just don't realise what a hazardous hobby hi-fi is!

greenhomeelectronics
13-05-2008, 07:55
I think Mark f and Rob (filterlab) have nailed it. Spikes do make a difference to the sound, sometimes that difference is good, sometimes it's not. It all depends on the strengths and weaknesses of your system and the environment in which it is installed. The advice has to be try with, try without and see which way you prefer. The way that sounds best to you is the right way for you. The science does not matter, it's how you feel when you hear your music that counts. Don't let the marketeers compromise your listening enjoyment for the sake of following a fad.
Have fun folks!
Dave.

The Grand Wazoo
13-05-2008, 08:48
I think these things depend very much on the individual installation. I've found spikes to be quite good on/through carpet but I think the most important thing is to try to get them stable with no possibility of rocking. I don't have carpets, so my philosophy is that any type of height adjustable foot is probably pretty important.

The best thing I ever did to improve my old SD Acoustics OBS speakers was to remove the spikes and attach some whacking great thick steel plates to their undersides and get them onto a flat, level floor. It was also probably the cheapest upgrade and the biggest leap in performance I've ever made.

My current speakers are so bloody heavy (63kg) that I'd kill myself moving them if I added to the weight. The floor in the new room isn't flat enough for real stability, so I'm using Soundcare Superspikes to stabilise the speakers - they don't sound any different now than when they were on DIY feet I made using threaded bar & dense hardwood blocks. However, the Superspikes look better (not like spikes at all, which is great!) and they are much easier to adjust. Plus I don't have holes in my beautiful Birch floor (or either of my feet).

Marco
13-05-2008, 09:03
I agree pretty much with the observations made - results are application and system-dependant.

As far as my situation is concerned, I need to use spikes because of the arrangement on my Mana stands. I have no other option.

In order for my stands to work as intended, including the various 'Soundbase' levels, there needs to be an existing physical interface of floor > spikes > Soundframe> MDF board > spikes > Soundframe > MDF board, etc, until you get to the speaker stands themselves, which are spiked onto the MDF board of the final 'Soundbase'.

Removing all the spikes, which incidentally I've tried, defeats the purpose and intended effect of the stands, and compromises sound quality accordingly.

So, as usual with hi-fi, it's not a case of a 'one size fits all' methodology. There are many variables to consider and the effectiveness of spikes, or otherwise, will vary depending on the room and the system components or speakers used.

Marco.

jandl100
20-05-2008, 07:56
I've been doing some experimenting lately with "valve springs" - as used in a Hillman Imp car engine, I believe.

Very stiff - 4 can easily support a 30Kg speaker with just a very gentle 'bounce' ......

http://i262.photobucket.com/albums/ii114/jandl100/Valvesprings.jpg

Banana plug shown for scale. The springs are about 4cm high.

I compared their effect under my Bowers Active One speakers with traditional M6 spikes and RDC1 cones.

In increasing order of merit ....

3 - springs. A fairly musical sound but at the expense of the leading edge of notes and a resulting humdrum tedium of the music. Quite disappoimting after shelling out £12 for a set of 12 on eBay!

2 - spikes. Much better transient wallop and general pizzazz and involvement in the music. But I felt that leading edges were now a bit etched and 'hifi'.

1 - RDC1 cones. Ah, that's better - good transient capture but no etching and (although this seems unlikely) a richer range of tonal shadings.

So it's RDC cones for me. :)

Filterlab
20-05-2008, 09:48
I've been doing some experimenting lately with "valve springs" - as used in a Hillman Imp car engine...

Only thing is his Hillman Imp won't start now.

purite audio
20-05-2008, 09:58
Surely the idea is keep the box still and let the driver work against it.

Filterlab
20-05-2008, 10:05
Surely the idea is keep the box still and let the driver work against it.

You'd think, but my current speakers work much much better with their light open frame stands than on a pair of concrete filled Atacamas. Mass should be the answer to damping but it seems that it's not always the case - as Quadraspire attest to.

Also that seems to be the thinking behind Townshend's designs - the vibration cancelling kings.

DSJR
20-05-2008, 22:01
Surely Mr Popeck remembers WHO started this craze? Being sheep, we followed blindly!

It was the same firm that made bi-wiring kosher in the UK, although they weren't the first to do it...

Many speakers do seem to prefer to have the cabinet stationary to let the cones work against them, but a heavy speaker will have such a low frquency of movement it probably makes no difference (the big ATC's I had didn't "NEED" spikes - just plonk and go...).

Incidentally, the classic Isobarik stand may be good back to front, but they didn't half "boing" if the speakers were tapped sideways... Also top spikes digging into wooden cabinets was a bane in my life, especially said Isobariks after eighteen months or so when the top spike had embedded itself up to the shoulder on the cabinet base...

tfarney
28-05-2008, 20:24
If, as seems to be the common consent, spikes on stands are crucial to getting the best out of loudspeakers in particular and many types of audio equipment in general, why is it that the finest pianos in the most excellent concert halls throughout the World are either on wheels or flat feet i.e. never spikes?

OK, just a wild guess here, but perhaps because musicians are concerned with the music, not an inaudible improvement in the transient response of the F above middle C?

Tim