Eliminating of resonances is an old phenomena in audio business. Audiophiles are still arguing about absence and importance of resonances in the high-end audio system.
There are many approaches, but are they all effective? In my twenty some years in the high-end audio I have seen numerous solutions and exploitations of the subject and nonetheless music lovers. Some of them worked O.K., some didn’t work at all and few really excelled. For some specific situations I still recommend the wall mounting of any isolation platform. It’s the most efficient and proved way of eliminating unwanted resonances, but this is not always available due to many different factors, be it lack of space, too distant from other components, aesthetics etc. Do note, that even wall mounting needs a proper platform.
In the past few years some companies and individuals have approached resonance damping, elimination and absorption with scientific methods. We tend to trust our highly refined instruments of perceiving music (ears) and that’s the most important thing, but as I’ve seen over the years; science, right measurements, technical knowledge and most importantly with implementation of all mentioned methods can drastically help in achieving the wanted result in favour of music reproduction.
In recent dialogue with Robert Koch we discussed a few points about impact of resonances on the behaviour of electronic components and parts in the matter of sound changes. This in no magic or time bending. It’s science and it’s measurable. You can actually make an audio recording of this anomaly and Robert did it while designing his masterful Takumi (check the latest posts for the short article about this here)
Dealing with audio and resonances is a very delicate matter. Many top high-end manufacturers invested quite a lot of time and research into non resonant enclosures of their state of the art products. Some went even that far and isolated the separate audio modules inside of amplifiers. This is great for both addressing both mechanical and audible anomalies that happen within the listening conditioned occasions.
Meet the Alto Extremo
Alto Extremo manufactures some of the most exclusive absorbers in the market and many ultra high-end systems incorporate them. The company invested several years of research and funds into their absorbers and it shows on the first eye sight déjà vu.
NeoFlex absorbers are unique creatures. They are based on the principle of magnetic repulsion with the use of extremely powerful neodymium magnets. Built like tanks and with apparent Made in Germany quality, they are striking and really massive. I really loved the wooden box packaging and refined approach that is kind of mandatory in this price range, yet many times left out of the picture by many companies.
Neoflex absorbers are designed for direct placement under the high-end component. They are adjustable and this helps with any uneven surfaces for proper placement. I did try Neoflex in combination with few isolation platforms (Solid Tech, Pro Audio Bono, etc.), but they perform the best when used directly under the power amplifier, preamplifier etc.
Isolation products can be divided into the basic groups. As mentioned before one group uses the principle of direct mounting on the wall, the second uses a self standing rack systems and third where mostly Neoflex falls into, is in direct contact with the floor. I have seen some crazy huge marble blocks that acted as absorbers and they are using similar principle, but their price, weight and practical installation is almost out of this world. Neoflex is more than a substitution for those giants. It cleverly uses contemporary approach to the resonance damping and absorbing.
Alto Extremo Neoflex installation was no brainer and it doesn’t take any specific technical knowledge or skills. Their effect acts immediately. One can surely experiment even with set of three to the great result, but two pairs will give you long term flexibility if your amplifier falls into the heavy weight league. Four of them also offer a fixed stability and prevention of bumping disasters.
Alto Extremo Neoflex Magnets holds the weight of the high-end component up to the 15 kg per absorber and 60 kg when using the set of four.
The basic principle of the Neoflex is transforming and elimination of the energy that is air born (speakers, room reflections etc) or produced by components itself.
Is it a joyful experience to levitate your cherished gear with the help of magnetism?
You betcha and it looks mighty. But seriously Alto Extremo Neoflex approaches the phenomena of resonances and energy absorption with an effective and modern way. The whole principle might look simple (and in a way it is, but hey, don’t all of great solutions use simplicity in their core), but with closer look one can understand the time and effort spent into making them.
We have seen the use of magnets in many contemporary turntables designs. Some of them managed to “exploit” this natural force with great impact and other just promoted the use of magnets and charging big time.
Alto Extremo? Fair solution! For this review I really have to take an extra effort and time to do it properly. Why you may ask. Well, it’s easier to hear the difference with speakers, preamplifiers, amplifiers etc.
In use and real word effect
I have seen many of “serious” audiophiles neglecting the importance of dealing with unwanted resonances.
Neoflex is a product that refines your system and adds extra touch to the balance of your “rig”. It’s effective and will show the real potency and synergy of your carefully combined set of components, gloriously called listening system. I wanted to see the real effect of Neoflex and tried them with 500 eur integrated amplifier and similarly priced CD player and turntable . Man, I stretched my ears and patience, but with result. The difference was real subtle. It’s feather like and it took me hours of listening to write down my conclusions. Wasted time? In no way. It shows that perceiving of differences is evident, but it take proper time and specially late night listening when everything is closer to the optimum.
What does it Neoflex do in the high-end “noble” society of components. It adds, subtracts and makes its presence evident. How does this translate into audible terms?
Alto Extremo managed to find their presence in many audiophile’s homes. Damping fetish? Highly unlikely! Their addition showed more audible changes when used with more complex components.
For turntable I would still recommend other solutions of dealing with resonances. Why? Dealing with resonances in vinyl replay is a real wicked and specific hard work. There are too many problems to deal with to be approached with an easy solution and they depend on so many things.
For amplifiers, preamplifiers, DAC’s and CD players do dare to try Extremo’s. I think that combination of a bit more massive enclosure from solid materials and Extremo’s design make honorable impact within their so called limitation. Let’s be honest. We’re dealing here with small increments, but then again aren’t all high-end refinements like that. Let us not forget how small things add needful improvements to the balance of every audio system.
Sonically... I won’t go into audiophile jargon. I’m a music lover and O.K. evidently an audiophile I guess. Any methods and conclusions should be in a servitude manner to the big master of music. Alto Extremo’s could be called a focus addition in a zoom like way. No worries, no magic here. They simply incorporate the right things to shape those nuances of refinement that helps music to flow and get more lively imprint. They kind of handle the music ride of any bumpy musical road with more controlled and focused experience. They help with realism with acoustic instruments and helps tighten the aspects of rhythm. More bass? Thanks God no. I love bass, but a healthy one. High-end audio should be a quest for natural bass and not a boom box competition like many wants it. Extremo’s serves the purpose of controlled lower frequencies. No extension, rather valued focused improvement.
Alto Extremo moves in the high-end. They’re not hiding it and it’s respectable. Let me use understandable analogy from guitar making and playing. All the small details matters and make all the distinction. It’s quite the same with high-end audio. I would not called Extremo’s accessories , but rather components. Their role is still too important to not treat them as a remarkable part of system.
With the development of technology we cannot simply overlook all the tools and methods that help carving our perception in reviewing. Any serious, so called audiophile, high-ender or music lover will not overlook either listening or measurement method.
When those two combined vigorously, great product might evolve. Alto Extremo Neoflex absorbers are exactly that. A brainchild in a favour of music.
If you spend your respected and hard earned money as an investment in to the high-end audio system, do take a chance and try adding Alto Extremo Neoflex. For some gaining even few percents is a great sonic triumph and in high-end this is reality.
Technical information for one absorber:
Stainless steel body
Special metal cap for no magnetic flux leakage
Stainless steel platform
Air damping system
60 mm high
78 mm diameter
0.5 - 15 kg per absorber
Set of three: 739.- Euro
Set of four: 985.- Euro
Matej Isak: text
Mono & Stereo high-end audio magazine
March 2011, All rights reserved