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Review: Neuance Isolation Platform

Date: 12/21/2002

Author: user510

Model:  Neuance "Beta" (supports up to 65 lbs) 

Category:  turntable platform

Suggested Retail Price: Base price=$175,  price as tested=$195, includes $20 extra for over-sizing 

Distribution: sold direct from manufacturer

Description: turntable base platform, oversize at 19 x 21 x 1.75 inches, weighs 4 lbs, materials used are not disclosed by the mfr.

Manufacturer URL:http://www.neuanceaudio.com

Question: What... is a Neuance Isolation Platform...?  

Answer: According to the Neuance website, the platform  is described as: ".....[a] low mass, internally dissipating design [that] augments your components' own resonance control functions.  Neuance preserves the pace, rhythm and timing of the original musical performance, offering an organic, natural and balanced presentation.  The result is a product that reveals the music's dynamic, kinetic and emotional qualities."  A pretty lofty claim.  Is this hype or is it true....?

This will be an opportunity for this platform to prove it's stuff while supporting a Teres model 135 turntable.  The designers of the Teres say their table sounds best when supported by high mass, heavy and rigid support designs.  Some Teres owners state that a 150 lb granite surface plate is the ideal support.  I won't be able to try the 150 lb. granite plate due to listening room requirements.  My  room is a third story flat featuring a tall vaulted ceiling and, more importantly, a suspended, bouncy floor.  The bouncy floor means siting the turntable on a floor standing rack will have  foot fall vibes causing the cartridge's cantilever to perform "olympic class gymnastics" on my vinyl.  This has led me to use a dedicated wall mount for the turntable.  A good solution.

In turn, the wall rack comes with a weight limitation.  That limit lies with the load bearing capabilities of the 2x4 studs the rack is bolted into.  Being the tweaker that I am, I've been trying various rigid platform ideas in a 'do-it-yourself quest' for the ultimate turntable platform.  The best sounding platform I was able to build turned out to be the simplest.  It was made of several bonded layers of medium density fiberboard stacked into a 3 inch thick platform. Seen in photos 3 and 4 below, this platform weighs fifty pounds by itself.  It is not at all light, but this weight is within the load bearing capabilities of my wall mount. 

Make no mistake, this platform is a very solid, high mass approach that should not be compared with flimsy particle board shelves that can be found in department stores.   

Now for the frame of the turntable rack.  This is also a do-it-yourself effort on my part.  The rack is composed of one-inch square steel tubing, .07 wall,  welded into a highly rigid framework.  Link here for details of it's construction and the associated DIY projects leading up to this review. Frame_1a.jpg (40273 bytes)  Note also the photos 1 thru 4 below.

This review will take the form of a shoot-out comparison between the hand-fabricated MDF platform I built out in the garage and an expertly engineered, commercially manufactured platform,  The Neuance.  Which will win....?  Is it even fair...?

Regardless of the outcome in this test, it should be noted that the Neuance is a popular choice among Linn LP12 turntable owners, but is also popular in other high end turntable applications including some large, heavy high end tables.  The platform has a long history with substantial development and evolution.  I believe, this shootout will be the first performance evaluation for the Neuance while supporting a Teres.  The Teres turntable is a relative newcomer to the arena of high end analog.

For reasons of efficiency, the Neuance platform will sometimes be referred to as the "light-rigid" platform and the 3 inch thick MDF platform will be referred to as the "heavyweight" platform.  Now on to the comparison.

First, a description of the sound I had previously with the "heavyweight" platform:

In general I would describe the sound of the turntable and associated equipment in the system as having  a natural, fully timbered, rich and revealing presentation.  The music is articulate, with fast transients yet delicacy and fine details are preserved.  There is a pronounced aliveness to the sound.  In the right context reverberant passages can evoke strong, hair raising sensations.  Goosebumps.  Dynamics are fast and explosive. Rapid, dense musical passages are translated into a presentation where each instrument is defined with a sense of space around it, separate yet still a part of the greater whole.  It's revealing but not analytical.  Rhythm and pace are right there.  Listening to rock, involvement can be total, on occasion evoking the listener to break out into air-guitar riffs in mindless abandon.  Listening to hard bop jazz, acoustic bass is richly timbered with all associated collateral sounds of the note striking process revealed.  Midrange is liquid smooth and sweet.  Highs have plenty of air with crisp snappy detail, no roll-off all the way up.  

Question: With the system working this well why would I want to make any changes....? 

Answer: It's always interesting to find where the limits are through trial and error, and I like to work on fun projects in the garage.

I was mid-process with the above mentioned turntable wall-rack building process when Ken Lyon emailed me and offered one of his Neuance platforms for me to try out.  Ken said he was curious to find out how the platform would work under the Teres.  Of course my reply was that my system was already optimized and that there would be no need to try anything further.....?....  NOT...!  Naturally, I said " SURE....!".  About three weeks later, the Neuance arrived at my door step.  Thank you UPS.  Thank you Ken...! 

When lifting this platform up out of it's carefully packaged heavy cardboard crate, I was totally faked out by it's lightness.  Ken won't tell me what's inside the thing.  When pressed harder, he said he'd have to *-%$.....if he told me.  Well I can guess, I suppose.  Multiple layers of differing, light, and probably "organic", materials glued together into a rigid structure, then covered with a synthetic material that looks suspiciously like counter top "vinyl".  Hmmmmm, old recycled records....?

At four pounds, this platform is lighter than it's physical dimensions would suggest.  Yet, it is obviously quite rigid.  If the cost weren't so low, I'd be thinking it was filled with exotic composite fabrics and resin, but this product is relatively affordable, so it has to be something more mundane.  Someday someone is going to cut one of these up just to find out what is inside. I'd guess they'll find balsa wood among the mix...:-)

Setting up the Neuance:

You'd think setting this up would be as simple as lifting off the old platform and replacing it with the Neuance. Not quite but almost. The light-rigid Neuance is placed directly over my four adjustable support cones of the steel rack.   Ken described a "tuning" process where my four adjuster screws will place tension against the unloaded Neuance.  Tension is tested with a light knuckle rap at all four corners.  The object being to get the same tonal "thump" at each corner.  All the while, level must be maintained.  I used a spirit level from a Starrett machinists combination square set I have.   A bit 'tweaky', this process was, but I got the tone of the rap fairly close four ways.  Next I carefully positioned the Teres directly on the Neuance platform and began playing vinyl.

The Sound of the light-rigid Neuance:

The users guide suggested that a breaking in period is needed for this platform.  However this may not always be the case if the platform does not encounter any substantial changes in altitude during shipment.  Apparently the product is pressure sensitive and would require a time period for the individual laminates to return to natural form once the arduous journey is over.  Interesting.

At first play I was struck by the absolute "sameness" I heard from this platform.  There was virtually no detectable change in sonic output from what I had heard previously with the "heavyweight".  All the qualities I've come to expect and have described above  were at play.  Just as good, I thought.  I considered this to be promising in light of the stated break-in period.  The best should be yet to come.  

Listening to the Neuance I can offer that Low frequencies are solid with good slam and kick while offering loads of detail and timber information.  No muddiness or bloat.  Mids were still liquid smooth and sweet, natural.  Highs crisp and snappy with no roll off.  The natural richness of vocals, still there. Transients are still fast and that one piece, "Departure" from the Moody Blues "In search the Lost Chord" still raised the hair on the back of my neck.  I like it when that happens.

 Miles Davis' "Teo" from a Columbia 2-eye stereo Lp, "Someday My Prince Will Come", still had the bite and pinch to his note delivery that works so well on this album.  Ditto Coltrane's tenor sax, dissonant and raw, I can hear the wood of the reed that made it work that day.    Kelly's piano, clean articulate notes hanging, lingering except when damped, then shorter and abrupt.  'Don't know if it was Cobb or Jones on the drums for this track but the sharp crack of the drum stick against wood block ricocheted off the walls life-like in this listening room setting up a slightly aggressive and tense pace.  The performance is very close to coming to life.  The neat thing about old records, they're like small time capsules taking the listener back to the moment of their creation.  

The Boston Camerata, Nonesuch H71315, "A Medieval Christmas".  Ancient Christmas music from the tenth through fourteenth centuries performed on period instruments.  Even though this performance was recorded at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the presentation takes on a stone chapel ambience.  The sonic of this record offers vivid imaging, startling, immediate presence and a --very-- three dimensional sound stage.  Played on the Neuance, I was not let down in any way.  Chimes, bells, lutes, recorders, a harp, shawms...?, vocals in the correct language, this performance takes us so far back in time as to seem otherworldly. At one point a recorder solo is so startlingly real it appears in the space beside me as I stand between the NHT's.  Shivers...!

 Ten days had passed when I got the itch to try the old heavyweight platform again.  Chosing to do an A-B comparison, I replaced the heavyweight platform and gave another listen.  There was a difference.  With the "heavyweight", the sound was just a bit more solid, with more presence, aliveness and kick.  Thinking this must be a trick, I put the Neuance back up and listened again.  The Neuance delivered the same sonic performance I'd become accustomed to, no change.  Then,  putting the "heavyweight" back in position on the rack  and listened once more.  There..., it was back, a more solid, alive sound than from the Neuance.  I would have expected the reverse.   

Further experiments are seen at photos 5 and 6.  With the Neuance supported via three brass acorn nuts above the "heavyweight", the perceived difference between the two platforms is lessened.  It's possible to effect changes to favor the Neuance by careful placement of the three acorn nuts to arrive at a more rigid footing. 

Conclusion

It's difficult to have an absolute preference between these two platforms.  Differences perceived over time were slight.  Presently I am using the platform in photo 5 and 6 configuration.  The additional isolation from the wall rack this method offers seems appropriate, yet there is no obvious sound choice here.  To the credit of the Neuance, it did isolate better against background noise when placed directly over the rack stud mounts compared to the "heavyweight".  It did not need the addition of the lead plate isolators to achieve a quiet background (see photo 4).  Yet, there was no substantial or apparent 'other' improvement  when listening to it as the turntable support.  I was anticipating a huge revelation when first auditioning this Neuance isolation platform.  This it did not do.  On the other hand, it did not detract (subtract) in any way and I am currently using it per photos 5 and 6.   It sounds just fine.

 

Model Pictures:

 

photo 1

 

photo 2

This Neuance platform weighs 4 lbs on the bathroom scale, yet is surprisingly rigid.  It feels "space age".

 

photo 3

The "heavyweight" platform is really just 4 layers of 3/4 inch Medium Density Fiberboard bonded together with construction grade contact cement.  Alone, it weighs fifty pounds...!  The Teres weighs in at thirty pounds complete with motor pod.  The rack weighs a mere seven pounds.  Better not forget the lead isolator pads pictured in photo 4, they're one pound each,  times four. Total weight hanging off the load bearing 2 x 4's adds up to 91 pounds give or take a gram or two....;-)

photo 4

Note, (photo 4) the "heavyweight" platform needs this lead isolator pad to eliminate a slight low frequency rumble.  The Neuance rests directly on the support tips with no apparent sonic drawbacks.

photo 5

date:1/31/03, Trying a 2-tier configuration with three brass acorn nuts supporting the Neuance up off the "heavyweight".

photo 6

Update below:

photo 7

Photo 7 shows an updated configuration.  As of 4/25/03.  The granite by itself was an improvement over anything heard prior.  The addition of the Neuance laid flat on top of the granite yielded further improvements.  Most notable are bass slam combined with improved detail in timber and texture of bass. I perceive no coloration of mids or highs. Compared to listening to just the granite, the Neuance/granite offers a quieter background and better low frequency detail. Best I've heard so far.

 

Associated Equipment for this Review:

For pictures of the audio system reviewed, click link:  user510

Amplifier: Classe' CAP 151 integrate stereo amplifier, solid state 150 rms wpc 

Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): none

Phono Preamplifier: Wright WPP100C preamp with Wright WPM100 MC step up transformer

Sources (CDP/Turntable): Teres model 135/ Expressimo-RB250 fully modified tonearm, Shelter 501 type 2 MC cartridge.

Phono Cartridge: Shelter 501 type 2 moving coil cartridge.

Speakers: NHT 2.9

Cables/Interconnects: Cardas, (continuous from cartridge to rca plugs), Audioquest Jade, Monster speaker cable

Music Used (Genre/Selections):  

Room Size (LxWxH): 30 ft. x 12 ft. x 18 ft.52902_kweb.jpg (61917 bytes)

Room Comments/Treatments: wall to wall carpet, upholstered furniture, vaulted ceiling, no apparent accoustical problems

Time Period/Length of Audition:  10 days

Other (Power Conditioner etc.): none

End of Review:

notes: Neuance shelves are sold direct through the manufacturer.  Contact can be made through the website at:

http://www.neuanceaudio.com/Documents/HowToOrder.html