ISOACOUSTICS GAIA III loudspeaker isolators
+ Works as claimed in most of the applications tried; supplied thread sizes should suit most loudspeakers; very welcome alternative to spiked feet for rooms with wooden floors; brings glitzy chromed looks to the party.
– Thread sizes other than the supplied ones need to be separately ordered; clearer marking of orientation would have made installation easier; not cheap, obviously, but quality seldom is
NOT too long ago I reviewed, and came away impressed with, IsoAcoustics’ Aperta loudspeaker isolation supports. Those were aimed at desktop- or console- sited small loudspeakers/studio monitors, though one could also use them under floorstanding loudspeakers if one chose to.
However, such an approach, whatever its sonic merits, could compromise the looks of the set-up for too many a potential user, so I suspect this caused IsoAcoustics to take a different approach with the GAIA series of products that were intended to bring similar benefits to users outside the desktop installation world (being to reduce vibration by draining the same from the loudspeaker via proprietary dampening techniques, and to keep such vibration and ringing from the loudspeaker cabinet getting into the surface it is sat on, and subsequently detrimentally feeding back into the playback system itself).
In the case of the GAIAs, application is by substituting them for the threaded-in stock feet or spikes of a loudspeaker. Naturally, this would apply mostly to floorstanding ones, or perhaps work as substitute for the stock spikes at the bottom of the loudspeaker stands a bookshelf speaker is stood on, instead. I was able to test the product in the former setting, but not the latter.
The starting point is take cognizance of the total payload the GAIAs have to cope with in one-s set-up – in other words, by knowing what each of your loudspeaker units weighs. GAIAs I and II are able to take on speakers of up to 100kg and 54kg, respectively, while GAIA III, the cheapest in the range (for a set of four) and the subject of this review, has been designed to take on up to 32kg, such aforesaid weight ratings being for when using a quartet, not per GAIA foot individually.
GAIA III feet come with supplied options of M8, M6 and ¼-20 thread types. A suitable spanner is supplied for the relevant nuts (the nuts used with the feet, not you), though I found I was mostly able to get away with just finger-tightening these nuts used in securing the GAIA III units to the loudspeaker.
It is a requirement that the IsoAcoustics text/logo on each of the feet either face the front, or the rear, in order for the units to be effective as they had been designed to be. This is where some kind of clearer marking (such as a bright red dot, perhaps) would be helpful in aiding installation as the reflective surface and the chosen text colour make it difficult to see if the orientation is correct when one is in the midst of struggling to screw the threads into the inserts at the bottom of the loudspeaker while balancing it.
Once installed, what one finds is that the loudspeaker cabinet becomes more wobbly than when spikes had been in use. Not to worry, this is deliberately so. What cannot be denied is the shiny chromed GAIAs certainly do add a touch of class to the looks of the loudspeakers. They do raise the height of the loudspeakers, in comparison with most feet or spikes they replace, but I think this may actually be a good thing in most set-ups; it’s just that this is a factor in the listening tests which cannot be compensated for when comparing results.
I tried the GAIA IIIs under several loudspeakers and in each case, differences were not at all difficult to hear. However, that is not to say the results were always better overall.
Starting with the two most “conventional” models I had at hand, Monitor Audio MA202s and Triangle Electroacoustique Ikotos, both being budget ported two-way cone driver designs in MDF boxes from the 1990s (but still sonically competitive today, by my reckoning), the immediate feeling was that the music sounded freer, much less smeared, as if the loudspeaker itself had gotten out of the way and everything gained more depth and separation.
Bass depth and definition took a leap upward in quality, together with reduction of upper mid muddle, which were highly appreciated effects helping the music flow better and just bringing a better sense of overall ease, again the impression being the system was getting out of the way from impeding the music. Within the soundstage, focus of individual instruments and voices also became clearer and on certain tracks, the overdubs and added reverb by the producers became more apparent.
Further up the range, overall “air” and extension were also judged to have improved, giving a better feel of the recording venue, but also further exposing the weaknesses of poorer sources (such as the gritty, grainy brittleness in the treble on MP3 or other low resolution files) in the process – you want better transparency, you get it!
While the positives were also observed with two other loudspeakers I tried, there were downsides which, for me, caused me to prefer the results overall without the GAIA IIIs. With the Apogee Centaurus Minors, the bass actually seemed to lose, rather than gain, definition even if the upper mids seemed to, somewhat paradoxically, become clearer. I think the peculiarity of the loudspeaker cabinet layout may have contributed to this, the weight being unevenly distributed where it seemed the rear inner GAIA had to bear more weight than the other three. These Apogees also require a degree of front-back tilting, more so than with typical loudspeakers, to achieve best results and this may have had a role in unsettling the GAIAs from their optimised performance parameters.
Results, with the Spatial Audio M3 Turbo S were also less marked, possibly because of the lack of a loudspeaker cabinet to begin with (these being open baffle designs which sit on outrigger feet with a wider “stance: than most typical boxed loudspeakers). While there were positives, I ultimately preferred the results with the stock feet sat atop flat-profiled dampeners from a different source between the speaker feet and the floor.
This then may present a dilemma for the potential user of more limited economic means. Seeing that the GAIA III’s results were so successful with the boxed loudspeakers, does one go for a cheaper loudspeaker and acquire the GAIAs or go for a more expensive (presumably better) model and forego the GAIAs till funds permit? I know I’d be in two minds if I were not in a position to afford a simultaneous purchase.
THE LAST WORD
If they work for your chosen loudspeakers and on your floor (you may have to purchase the optional spiked bottom rests, if using the GAIA IIIs on thick carpet), there is a lot to love about what they bring in terms of perceived sonic benefits. As with all such tweaks, try to try before you buy. One of our other audioFi team reviewers tried one of the bigger GAIAs under his loudspeaker stands (he used his own money to purchase the sets in the used market, and not review test units) and quite disliked the effects.
But, if the shoe fits, would it be a case of better sound my foot? You’d be right, indeed (uh, or should that have been “you’d be wrong”, in order to be right?). Recommended!
Sources: Linn Sondek LP12-Ittok-K18Mk2; Technics SL10-Ortofon X1 mcp; Thorens 124 Mk II-Rega RB1000-Benz Micro ACE Red turntable systems, Dell laptop running Foobar 2000 and Bladelius Design Group USB DAC / Amplification: Parasound JC-3 phono stage, Euphonic Research ATT600 passive controller, Odyssey Khartago Extreme Monos and Euphonic Research Amp 80 power amps; Sansui QRX7001 receiver; Exposure X integrated amp / Speakers: Apogee Centaurus Minor; Monitor Audio MA202, Triangle Ikoto, Spatial Audio M3 Turbo S / Assorted cables including some diy stuff