SYMPOSIUM

Frequently asked questions

General

What do your products do?

Our products are designed to reduce or eliminate the effects of mechanical vibration on electronic components, such as (and especially) high quality audio and video components.

Why would anyone want to do that?

Since vibration causes distortion in electronic circuits, it is desirable to reduce the amount of vibration to which they are subjected.

Can your products make a significant improvement in how my audio system sounds?

Absolutely! Often, the differences in adding just a set of Rollerblocks is as great or greater than upgrading to a new component. Just read some of the many reviews we have received from professional and non-professional listeners.

Is this voodoo and snake oil?

No, this is physics and science!

Where can I learn more about the technical aspects of your products?

Please see the "Technology" section.

What Symposium product should I get first?

If you've never experienced the benefits of Symposium products, we recommend that you start with a set of Rollerblocks. These can work wonders beneath digital front end equipment; and since the source component dictates what the rest of the system processes, it's the most logical place to start.

What can I expect to hear with Rollerblocks?

More "air" and musical detail without harshness. Greater sweetness and a greater ease of listening overall. Better controlled and defined bass. A larger and more spacious soundstage, with greater height and more "space" between instruments. Better dynamics- that is, a greater perceived range between soft and loud sounds. Less distortion overall.

What can I expect to hear with your platforms?


Our platforms provide greater "focus" - that is, less "smearing" of information, which can also provide better soundstage size and depth, due to better preserved relative phase information. There will be better defined bass, especially when compared to ordinary air bag isolation platforms, and often, it may seem as if the bass is going lower and is louder. Another characteristic most users report is improved dynamic range - that is, it may seem as if the volume control was turned up a little- even thought it wasn't! This isn't because the platform is somehow amplifying the signal, but rather because there is now less background noise in the signal, allowing "quieter" moments to be actually quieter, and thus giving one a greater sense of the true contrast and impact of louder sounds.

Should I get Rollerblocks or a Platform first?


In general, a set of standard Rollerblocks, especially under a digital front end, is best as a "first" Symposium product.

I've recently gotten my first set of Rollerblocks and they're great. What would you suggest I treat next in my system?


That depends on your system. If you're looking for biggest bang for the buck, we might suggest another set of Rollerblocks beneath, say, your preamp or amplifier, or a set of Svelte Shelves beneath your speakers, which will improve bass response and reduce haze and timing problems. If you're interested in refining and amplifying the results you've experienced with your Rollerblocks, you should put one of our platforms underneath the Rollerblocks.

Can I use your platforms with the Rollerblocks?

They are a perfect match together. Rollerblocks were expressly designed to work synergistically with our platforms, as well as other high quality support systems.

Can I put Rollerblocks underneath one of your platforms?

You can try this (if you do, be sure to use the "Rollerplates" between the ball and the platform bottom!), but we have found that they work better directly beneath the component in all cases.

Can I use your products with other "tweaks" that I already own?

For the most part, the answer is yes. However, there are a few exceptions.

What are the exceptions?

We don't recommend that you use soft, rubbery feet or rubber pads anywhere between the component and our platforms. You can, however, try these types of soft isolation feet underneath our platforms.

Can I use a Vibraplane with your platforms?

Yes. The combination of a well-designed low-frequency isolation device, such as the Vibraplane, and our platforms, can be a wonderful combination. Just be sure to put it underneath the Symposium platform!

Are there any advantages to using Rollerblocks in conjunction with isolation platforms?

We hate to sound biased, but if the platform is made by us, the answer is a resounding yes! Rollerblocks were specifically designed to work together with our platforms to provide greater performance than either device can deliver by itself. The Platforms take advantage of the Rollerblocks's excellent transmission characteristics and lower the noise floor even further by effectively draining and dissipating energy, and providing an excellent mechanical ground for the Rollerblock.

Can I use Rollerblocks with isolation platforms made by other manufacturers?

Many customers have reported excellent results and improved performance when they added Rollerblocks on top of their air isolation platforms, but the results (and the recommendations) vary with specific type of platform and individual components. If you have specific questions, we strongly recommend you call us directly and speak with an expert.

Rollerblocks

What are the Rollerblocks?

Rollerblocks are small "foot" devices which fit under your electronic components- like your CD player or your Amplifier- and reduce vibration in your components. They are sold in sets of three or four; three are perfect for most installations.

Do they go underneath the feet that are already on my component?

No, the ball bearings should touch the bottom of your equipment's chassis directly, thus bypassing the existing feet.

I've got an Audio Research® preamplifier and the bottom of its chassis is perforated with holes. How can I use Rollerblocks with it?

Every Rollerblock set contains three or four "Rollerplates." These are polished stainless steel plates, which can be used between the balls and your component's chassis if the chassis is ventilated, irregular, or doesn't present a good, smooth rolling surface for the balls. Or, you can use them if you're worried about marring the underside of your chassis through contact with the balls.

How do the Rollerblocks work?

In two ways. First, they isolate the component from lateral vibration through the action of its ball bearings, which can roll laterally. Second, they drain vibration out of your component through the Rollerblock body, which is a specially designed conduit for mechanical energy.

Will my component be able to move because it's sitting on ball bearings?

Yes.

Can my component roll off the Rollerblocks and be damaged?

This is extremely unlikely, and would require a concerted effort or a complete lack of common sense (which we know you must have a lot of, since you're here at our website!!) to make it happen. Once set up, it's actually easier to make your component topple over with cones than with Rollerblocks. Because of the design of the Rollerblock's cup receptacle, when a component is placed on the balls it actually takes quite a bit of force to make the ball roll up and over the polished cup's incline. Because the balls must roll up this constantly increasing incline, it makes it difficult for the component to roll off. We demonstrate this at audio shows quite frequently: if you push hard on, say, a CD player, it will roll a bit, and then an interesting thing happens: the balls begin to push the Rollerblocks, and the entire component, with Rollerblocks, just slides across the support surface. This demonstrates that the Rollerblocks, when set up correctly, are actually safer than cones, which will topple over and cause the component to crash. You would probably have to take a flying leap into your component to make it come off the Rollerblocks!

I live on the West Coast, where we occasionally have earthquakes. What happens if there's an earthquake while I'm away from home- will this cause my CD player to come crashing off the Rollerblocks?

A Rollerblock owner in Seattle recently returned home after a 6+ "tembler" which had moved furniture and toppled some items. All that happened to his Meridian CD player and Rollerblocks was that the setup had "walked" a few inches - the same as components which were not on any foot devices at all.

How do Rollerblocks compare sonically with the "other" ball bearing devices out there?

They are unequivocally superior, even without any of their bearing upgrades! This is not just bias, but has been borne out by critical review and direct comparison, and is reinforced by scientific theory. They cost more to make than competing devices, too. You can't cheat when you make ball bearing isolation devices: if you really want to experience what this kind of technology can deliver, there is simply NO subsitute for the quality that the Rollerblocks give you. Also, you will find that your money will be better spent than with cheap imitations. Those who sell these promise "the same" performance, merely because they also use a ball and a cup. Don't believe it! If you're in doubt, we'll send you a set with a full money-back guarantee- so you can compare and find the truth for yourself.

OK, let's say you're right, bias or no bias. Without getting too technical, what are the reasons for this?

Any ball bearing isolation device must operate with as little friction as possible. Friction makes noise, and this noise is "heard" in your component, because these devices directly contact your component's chassis. In order to keep friction as low as possible, one must observe two aspects of design, which govern this parameter: one, the number of balls or bearings in the system, and two, the quality of the interface, or the actual contact point, between the ball and whatever it touches. Each Rollerblock uses the minimum number of balls possible- one. Systems that use more than this number MUST have more noise, even if all other quality factors were equal (which they aren't). Second, the "race" (or area that touches the ball) in the Rollerblock is a precision cup, polished to optical smoothness! Ordinary races can't compare to it. Even the imitation devices from the far east, though they use one ball, are woefully short in this department - just look at one and you'll know. And finally, the patented design of the Rollerblock body improves vibrational energy transmission- a very important factor in sound quality.

Do Rollerblocks need a level surface to work properly?

No. They will even work on mild inclines!

If someone touches a component on Rollerblocks and makes it move, will it ever "bind up" and need to be "re-centered" or "re-aligned"?


No! Rollerblocks are self-centering and require almost zero maintenance - just set them up once, and enjoy the results!

Platforms and shelves

What exactly are these shelves that you make?

We call our platforms Energy Absorption Platforms. They work in three ways: by serving as a kind of heat sink for mechanical energy, by converting this mechanical energy to heat, and also by providing isolation from the outside world.

What are the technical reasons for their function?

For a more in-depth discussion, please see the " Technology" section for a technical discussion of the theory of operation of our platforms, or read any of the individual pages on the Point Pods, Svelte, Super Plus, Ultra, or Quantum platforms.

Are your shelves meant to be used in racks, or can they be used as ampstands?

They may be used either way: as replacement shelves, on top of existing shelves, or as stand-alone platforms or ampstands, used on bare floors or carpets.

What's the best way to use your platforms? Can I place your shelves on top of existing shelves?

The answer to this question is that they should be used in the manner most convenient to your particular installation. Our platforms are designed to give good performance no matter where they're installed. They function like artificial grounds for your components, a place where mechanical energy can be drained without reflecting back unwanted resonances and other forms of mechanical energy which can affect the performance of your components. The only thing we recommend is that you don't use any kind of soft, rubbery foot (or similar material) between your component and our platforms. Devices of this kind should only be used beneath our platforms, if at all.

Where should I use Rollerblocks and where should I use a Platform?

Beneath any device which has moving mechanical parts, such as a digital transport or turntable, we favor Rollerblocks first, and Platforms second. If the device is basically solid, a Platform, if coupled correctly, may give superior overall benefit, with Rollerblocks playing a secondary role.

What is the purpose of those little cubes that come with the Platforms?

We call those cubes "Couplers" - and their purpose is to link the metal top of the Symposium Platform to the (usually) metal chassis of your component. In this way, you bypass the rubber feet of your component to achieve good mechanical "coupling." Any good (preferably metallic) cone or foot device will work; we supply the couplers in case you don't have any.

Why can't I just put my component down on the Symposium Platform without the Couplers?

You can, and you will get benefit, but you will not get the full benefit that the Symposium system is capable of providing if you just place your component on a Symposium platform using its built-in and usually soft, rubber feet. The prime directive in vibration control is to get rid of vibration in the component itself - and this is best accomplished by first providing an efficient drainage path and a mechanical "ground" for this energy. Rubber feet on your component keep this vibration TRAPPED in your component by cutting off any possible escape route for it.

Is a Symposium Platform an isolation platform?

Our platforms achieve a degree of isolation in the component by absorbing energy from two sources at once: from the component and from the support surface. Our platforms GROUND your component and give vibration that would otherwise be trapped inside of it a place to go, be dissipated as heat, and NOT be reflected back into your component (in either its original form, or a different, supposedly more benign one). You can think of our platforms as a kind of "sponge" for mechanical energy in the upper 8 out of 10 audible octaves- that is, from about the midbass (50-80 Hz or so) on up. These 8 octaves represent the lion's share of musical information, and by far contain most of what is needed to recreate a sense of "realism" and faithfulness to the original performance. But the word "isolation" is overused in this field of audio, because strict "isolation" is not the answer to the larger problem which we need to address, which is vibration control. Mechanical vibration affects the sound produced by your components because it works on the sensitive audio circuitry INSIDE your component, and merely cutting off one of the sources of vibration- the entry point at the feet of the component- without considering other sources, may not solve the problem completely or even adequately. It's important to drain energy from within the component as well as keep other external energy out of it. We therefore feel it is important that "isolation" remain a secondary and not a primary goal in the design of our products, and its role must be kept in proper perspective as only one of a number of disciplines necessary for better sound.

Are you trying to tell me there would be vibration in my component even if I perfectly isolated it?

In almost 100% of cases, yes. There are vibration sources which even a theoretically "perfect" isolation platform cannot eliminate.

How does the vibration get in? Where does it come from?

Vibration in a component has two sources: outside and inside! Externally, it comes from the surrounding environment, which includes two pathways, the support surface (shelf, floor, rack, etc) as well as airborne vibration, or sound (which can be ambient noise as well as the sound coming from your speakers). The other source, and the one that is usually overlooked and ignored, is internal. These vibration sources originate inside the component itself.

How does a component generate vibration?

Power supply transformers are perhaps the biggest culprit - almost all of them "hum" or vibrate at the line current frequency (50 or 60 Hz, depending on where you are). Even when you can't "hear" a transformer humming, the amount of vibration it conducts throughout an electronic component is considerable. Even if there is no transformer in the component, the junctions of transistors can become piezoelectric, generating vibration through the current-induced expansion and contraction of semiconductor material or very thin wires. Then there are the spinning disc motors in digital front-end equipment. These may sound quiet to your ear, but to microscopic circuit elements, they are huge, whirling power plants of considerable energy, sending waves and noise throughout the component. Further, the laser reader is constantly moving and itself "rocking the boat." Airborne vibration in the form of sound waves from speakers or other sources impinges on the chassis, adding more vibration which no pure isolation device can cure. And, there are more sources, all making noise which intermodulates with and distorts the tiny signals being processed. For further information, please see the "Technology" section.

Why don't more dealers carry your products?

This is a dilemma we have strugged with for a number of years, for a number of reasons. First, and most importantly, Symposium will not compromise quality and performance for "marketability." Because our "mission statement" is to make the best possible products, period, this makes ours more expensive to produce than other competing products. The bottom line is that our products are expensive to manufacture- and this makes it difficult to extend the conventional discounts which dealers usually receive on "accessories," and remain competitive in the marketplace. All of our products require intensive, "hands on" work to finish correctly, and all are made here in the United States the "old fashioned way"- by dedicated, skilled craftspeople , one at a time. And, here in the United States, there is no discount for working longer hours!

We have been urged to go "off shore" and manufacture our products in a foreign country, where labor is less expensive. This is not an option for us. We're not saying that people in other lands aren't good craftsmen; we are saying that our standards necessitate proximity to the actual manufacturing (or that we do it ourselves) in order to maintain quality control.

Also, the quality of the materials used in our products is second to none, and because our products' effectiveness is directly affected by its composition, we can't skimp on machining expenses with "easier" materials, or our products would not be as effective. Just as Paul W. Klipsch (legendary inventor of the Klipschorn) once said that there is no such thing as "a miniature 32 foot wave," we can paraphrase that there is no such thing as "soft" stainless steel or tungsten carbide! All of this is regrettable, but we are caught between the proverbial rock and the hard place. We have to keep our prices competitive in order to survive in the marketplace, and this in turn requires offering less discount to the dealer than other products can.

Second, any Symposium dealer must know how to set up our equipment properly and be willing and able to demonstrate it. Most dealers just don't have the time to do that. We understand that, and certainly can't fault the dealer who may not find it profitable to handle and promote our products, because they too have bills to pay. But you can be sure that the dealers and installers that do sell our products are knowledgeable about and dedicated to the quality we represent. They understand us and our products. Simply put, they "get it."

So, if we don't have a dealer in your area yet, Symposium will sell direct to you- and will always be available to answer your questions and help you with your installation. And if we can't do that, we'll refund your money. It's as simple as that.


Symposium Acoustics

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