Low-Cost DIY Speaker Isolation Pads
Experts claim that decoupling a speaker from the surface it is on has a positive effect on sound quality, tightening up the bass response and improving the stereo image. The basic idea is that speakers should impart their energy to the air, and not to the surface they are on. This can be achieved by offering some sort of cushioning at the base of the speaker to help absorb unwanted vibrations and suppress resonance.
Propriety products, such as Auralex MoPAD Isolation Plinths and Primacoustic RX7 Recoil Stabilizers, use foam of a special density and elasticity to help absorb and prevent vibrations from reaching the surface the speaker is on. However, some people may resent even paying a modest price for something that, in the case of MoPADs, selling at around £30 a set, seem like nothing more than pieces of cut and shaped foam, let alone £80 each for Primacoustic RX7 Recoil Stabilizers, that seem like a bit of foam with a metal plate on top.
By chance I came across a whole forum on the Internet talking about low-cost alternatives to propriety isolation pads. I don't remember which ones the contributors claimed worked, and which were simply offered as possible alternatives worth trying, but all the ideas were just a fraction of the cost of the real thing.
The suggestions included such common, easy-to-get-hold-of items as:
- Felt pads used on cymbal stands;
- Blu-Tack (used to stick posters on walls);
- Mouse pads (the old type - neoprene covered by fabric);
- Foam used to pack hard drives;
- Pencil erasers;
- Squash balls cut in half.
While in a DIY store I noticed some special gel squares, designed to be placed under furniture to absorb shocks from earthquakes here in Japan, and wondered if these would work as speaker isolation pads. At just a few pence each they would certainly be worth trying. Also I might be able to find out if decoupling a speaker from the surface it is on really does make a noticeable difference to the sound. And so, with a gel square at the four corners of each speaker, resting between the speaker and the stand, I was ready to put both isolation pads, and the squares, to the test.
The result: impressive! The stereo image was so much better, and the sound, in general, was noticeably clearer. Isolation pads, of any type, probably won’t work wonders with bad speakers and poor room acoustics, but with a reasonable system and adequate room acoustics, expect to hear an improvement.
I don't know how well the other suggestions for isolation pads listed above would work, but it's certainly worth experimenting. Considering the fact that my gel squares worked, I’m sure brand name isolation pads would work too… possibly even better!