I've involved myself again in another non-glamorous, but important area that may contribute significantly to the sound quality of your system. Could yet another tweak supporting my equipment, another type of footer, if you will, really make a sonic difference? We used to think that cables were just wires that connected equipment. There may be some still on the fence, but many audiophiles consider cables an important component. I think they make a significant contribution to the quality of the sound and cable companies have proliferated like weeds.
Why the fascination with these tweaks? For a relatively small investment, you can upgrade your system and often make noticeable differences. Yet, at times, the purported benefits don’t match the hyperbole and the sound degrades rather than improving.
The genesis for this review began with a feedback problem I was having with my turntable. I contacted Vinh Vu of Ginkgo Audio about my problem. He suggested he come over and see what he could do to help. I knew from their website Ginko had experts in vibration and resonance control; they produced their well regarded Cloud shelf series for turntables to help alleviate resonance problems. While discussing his pending visit, Vu asked if I knew about his ARCH system of footers. I replied that I didn’t and he asked if I’d be interested in giving them a try. Why not?
Vu and his partner, Norm Ginsburg arrived at my apartment to install the ARCH supports in my system. We began with a listening session. A before and after.
After about an hour of listening to a wide variety of music Vu introduced the ARCH’s into the system. The ARCH footers are based on a different technology than most other footers, spikes and devices. According to Vu, many traditional approaches end up transferring too much energy in the vertical plane of the speaker resulting in smearing of the sound. For a more complete explanation, read their white paper on the website.
The ARCH system consists of various thicknesses and materials; the ARCH 1, 2,and 3, the Lite ARCH, the Mini ARCH, the Stacked ARCH and the Super ARCH 1—your choice is component weight dependent. Messrs Vu and Ginsberg would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have regarding making the appropriate choice for optimizing the sound your system.
My system required four ARCH 3s under my rack, 2 sets of ARCH 2s under my monoblocks and Signal Completion Stage, a set of Mini-ARCHs under my phono and line preamps, a set of Lite ARCHs under the transport, and a set of Super ARCHs under my speakers.
The first impression was an increase in clarity and low level information. The proverbial lifting of veils happened producing images more three dimensional and lifelike. For instance, when listening to string sections, it became more easily acceptable than ever to see and hear individual musicians performing rather than some amorphous approximation. This result was not limited to just strings, but was relevant to all instrumental groupings. Vocals benefitted equally. With the revealing of inner textures and nuances, music became more visceral. Whether it was Frank Sinatra, Dianne Krall or Nancy Wilson, the ARCH footers created a lifelike sparkle. I was listening for hours into the night.
While the snake oil products seem to be fewer in our avocation—audiophiles are far more educated these days—resonance control still remains a problem in many systems and we need well designed products to rid ourselves of meddlesome distortion. Ginko Audio's website is full of products to help in this regard. The ARCH products really helped to 'ground' my system. A full set can be expensive (they range from $199 to $399—all come in sets of eight), but if you have resonance control problems, these may well be your answer. Highly recommended.
Further information: Ginko Audio
Amplifiers: Merrill Veritas Monoblocks
Preamplifier: Music First Classic v2
Speakers: Alta Audio Celesta FRM-2
Analogue: VPI AVENGER Cartridge: Shelter 9000
Phono Preamplifier: AVID PULSARI II
Digital: MSB DATA CD IV Transport
Preamplifier/Processor: The DEQX HDP-4 w/USB option board used as DAC. Speaker Cables: ANTICABLES Level 5 SIGNATURE, Acoustic Zen’s Absolute, Waveform Fidelity GS Mk III
Power Cords: Waveform Fidelity GS Mk II
Interconnects: ANTICABLES Level 4.1 xlr REFERENCE PLUS XHADOW, Antipodes Audio REFERENCE, Acoustic Zen’s Absolute Copper, Morrow Audio MA-7
Accessories: Redpoint BLAKHOLE’s, Herbie’s Audio Lab Tenderfeet, Soundcare products, Acme Audio Labs wall outlets
Power Conditioning: Waveform Fidelity