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andreaeffe 5th July 2013 01:29 PM

IsoAcoustics ISO-L8R 200

I'll start this long review of a little item with a triple disclaimer:

A) I have NOTHING whatsoever to do with the IsoAcoustics company and am not associated with them, this is a first hand and honest user review;

B) The reason the review is long is because I'd like it to be as detailed, informative and helpful as possible, and given the very nature of this product it takes a lot of words to describe what's going on with it;

C) I am generally very, very wary of and unresponsive to "snake oil" claims & sellers, and e.g. no, I do not believe superexpensive 220V mains cables will revolutionize your mixes or cause "night and day" differences, in fact I am also very not fond of the abuse of these colourful exaggerations of the web and on GS, such as "converter A pisses all over converter B", "this preamp/converter/monitor was life changing", "the difference was night and day", "dramatic/awesome/stellar/etc" - you get the picture.

As my friend Adrian Breakspear said, if I'm not mistaken, "if you have to think about it more than the time it takes you to blink once to notice the difference between daytime and nighttime, then no, it is not a night and day difference".

The reason I specify this is because what the IsoAcoustics ISO-L8R ("isolator", geddit? although some may cynically point out it reads more like "iso later", which might not be a good idea) does for your studio monitors is quite remarkable, readily noticeable, and extremely useful indeed.
See, I've avoided the words "night & day difference", but it IS a difference even your mum would notice, and it is... well at least a high noon to sunset difference!

What you get in the very neat and sleek box is two sets of stands, neatly packaged with some instructions, a lot of informative info in English and French on the neat packaging box. I stresss this because many similar products do not come in pairs, which is useful if one is buying stuff for a multi-monitor surround or editing suite setup, but makes some direct price comparisons skewed; and, also, many similar products come packaged or freely bouncing around in a lot rougher, storeroom type cardoard boxes that often scream "Cheaply made in a Far East shack" from afar.
I purchased and tried and use the ISO-L8R 200 model, there are smaller and larger ones available, too, depending on your monitor speaker size & weight - the manufacturer's informative website has a chart with brands & models of speakers clearly stated, no guessing and no mystic.

Also, the website has a couple of demonstration videos with company founder Dave Morrison attempting to audibly proove the difference his invention makes.
Mind you, I say "attempts" only because demonstrating anything audio related, let alone coming from out of a speaker cone and not a line cable signal via Youtube is a tricky, hairy business indeed - but, in fact, he makes his point and it is quite clear even from the videos - see for yourself.
These same videos in conjunction with recommendation from a bass player friend who spoke wonders of his ISO-L8Rs, and price comparison with other speaker isolation & decoupling products available, made me decide to buy them, I hadn't heard them before.

It takes a little DIY/Lego/Mecano type fun time to assemble them, but it's easy and playfully enjoyable.
The stands are made out of a plastic base and upper support, both fitted with four hefty rubber stubs/shock absorber type inserts at the four angles of the plastic construction. In these one has to fit the provided metal tubes, available in two lengths, shorter and longer. So the reason for your aforementioned DIY is, apart from packaging space saving reasons, the fact that you can choose which stand height suits you better, and that you can use some combination of the tubes with the also supplied 2 different size plastic inserts to achieve some useful inclinations and configuration for your stands - again, the website shows these quite clearly.

I tested my ISO-L8R 200s with all the nearfield monitors I mostly use, both in my own mix room and elsewhere: Yamaha HS80Ms, Focal Solo 6BEs, Tascam VL-X5s (which I think would actually require the smaller size stands), Genelec 1031s and Yamaha NS10Ms.

In all cases, the result is the same: wow, and thank you, Dave Morrison.
No "snake oil" here.
Without exaggeration, the extremely efficient decoupling that these little stands perform, dramatically reducing transmission of low frequency energy to my analogue console's meterbridge or to a purpose bulit workstation type of stand, and even to large and heavy metal speaker stands, very, very audibly translates into extremely reduced resonance and low end and/or low mids buildup and cloudiness, and thus has the three results of much improving the "speed" or rather transient response and punch of your woofers (now doing much less struggling and dispersing precious energy into whatever structure your monitors are perched on, as they move to reproduce bass notes & hits), plus for this very reason giving the impression of more sub-bass energy, and for both these reasons apparently improving your midrange imaging - it's not like the stands directly affect your monitors' midrange, it's just that there is less junk happening below it so you are free to notice it more clearly.

This is true with & for ALL the above stated monitor speakers, sitting on the already mentioned different stands and surfaces, and in different listening environments: my own reasonaby treated but constructionally fairly unexotic mix room, and a fully treated, word class acoustics studio control room.
They even surpass really heavy, purpose built and sand filled metal speaker stands for the Genelecs, and indeed give a marginal but audible improvement when placed between the speakers and these stands!
Mind you, none of these monitoring systems was or sounded "bad" before, and of course I have worked on them a zillion times and one gets used to or "learns" just about any monitor speaker and system and environment... but it is a clear fact that they all just sound BETTER with the ISO-L8Rs, as in more revealing, more helpful to clearly hear what you're doing when mixing and tracking, and even subjectively more enjoyable.
The differences obviously vary from monitor to monitor and situation to situation, some being more extreme than others, but the nature of the benefits is always the same: it's the three above stated things.
Actually, I'll add in another two - speaker angle and precise tweeter alignment with your ears, be it upwards from a desk or workspace or downwards from a console meterbridge, are made easier and much improved, which in turn lessens comb filtering effects from reflections.

For placement and height and taste reasons I wanted to have my Yamaha HS80Ms on my console meterbridge placed laying sideways, horizontal instead of vertical.
(yes, I am aware of the better phase correlation aross a wider space using them vertical as they were built, but I do sit alone at my console at the dead center & sweet spot of them and I just like it this way)
I thought that given the speaker's rectangular shape and larger sides than bottom perhaps the stands, too, might need to be placed sideways as their base is rectangular, too, to better match the weight distribution and surface they are supporting. But I also wondered if perhaps they had been designed with vibration direction, transmission and damping in mind to be specifically placed only as usually shown, with the shorter -and logo- side facing you.
There was no info to be found about this, so I sent an email to IsoAcoustics and a copy of it to their Facebook profile. Within less than 10 hours I got a reply from Dave Morrison himself, explaining that:
You are asking an important question regarding the orientation of the ISO stands, and indeed they are designed to have the logo oriented towards the primary listening position. The isolators are biased to manage the on-axis moment while resisting oscillations in other directions.
The stands will work very well in the other orientation, but the performance will be compromised to some extent. I have been using HS80’s for years and on many occasions have placed them horizontally, but always with the stands turned with the labels towards me.

So that's what I did, and, truth be told, the stands have NO problem whatsoever supporting the speaker weight in any orientation, and I didn't notice any hindering of the improvements they brought when placed sideways - if there is any, it is a lot, lot more marginal than the massive and obviously audible benefits they bring to the table.

So, compared with some foam products I have tried before, if I were to put it in figures in my opinion and to my ears it is a 4:1 win, at least 300% better.
I'll go so far as to say that the effect it has, and the satisfaction it gives you, is comparable to say spending at least 1000 Euros more on some even higher class monitors, or spending several thousands more on some acoustic improvement of your control room or workspace.

If there is a wishlist or if really fishing for a "fault", one could argue that more available colours might make users even happier, to keep things fancy and colourfully creative (I have noticed IsoAcoustics has now begun advertising these stands also in some kind of silver/metallic finish); and that more height and angulation options might be welcome, either by some intermediate sizes of the metal tubes, or say 5 or 6 different inserts sizes instead of the now available two.
But it still doesn't change the bottom line: this is a great product for a reasonable price (I got my ISO-L8R 200s purchased in EU and delivered to my home for a little over 130 Euros).

I'll say it again: thank you, Dave Morrison.