Ansuz Acoustics Darkz S2t & T2
When I visited the Audio Group Denmark last year Ansuz Darkz S2t resonance controllers were one of the first things they demonstrated to me, and they made a deep impression. The guys at Ansuz have done a lot of research into the resonant characteristics of different materials, specifically metals and their primary finding has been that aluminium does not sound great when used in audio components. Given that this is the material chosen for casework by 99% of high end manufacturers this is a pretty radical statement and the reason why sister brand Aavik’s casework is made of a wood based composite material.
In the Ansuz Darkz range of resonance controllers which act like feet for the most part but can also be used on top of electronics, only the entry level C2T is anodised aluminium, the Darkz S2t is stainless steel and higher up the range you find titanium and zirconium, with the top Z2 Signature having a proprietary coating that’s applied in the most complex fashion possible at the Danish Technological Institute.
The Darkz S2t is a relatively straightforward resonance controller formed of three stainless steel rings with six titanium interlayer balls between them and a threaded coupler in the middle to keep everything in place. Darkz are 45mm in diameter and 25mm high and loosely held together by the coupler. Darkz can be placed directly underneath the chassis of a component or loudspeaker in place of existing feet, alternatively you can use receptor feet that screw into a component in place of the feet and allow extra three titanium balls to be used between them and the Darkz resonators. All Aavik components have this type of foot in order to be upgraded with Darkz devices.
Darkz T2 are the same thing in titanium with a glass blasted surface which looks very nice as well as benefitting the sound according to Ansuz. These also have titanium balls in between and are said to produce “a truly holistic soundstage” by absorbing “vibrations that are not directly related to the signal path”. It’s a different approach to the nail it into floor or shelf approach of spikes, ditto the damping system used for the feet on most components and many aftermarket options. However Darkz do seem to be sonically beneficial in most applications.
The Darkz S2t sound
Darkz S2t were tried under a number of components without the receptor feet and in every instance, well nearly every instance, they opened up the soundstage, improved timing and reduced the noise floor. These results were experienced with source and amplification components that were sited on glass and wooden shelved racks, each of the racks being isolated from ground borne vibration by damped springs. In other words the various components shouldn’t have been dealing with too much energy in the supporting surface to begin with, yet the benefits of the Darkz S2t were consistent and repeatable. Which means that they are tuning the energy going in and out of each piece of equipment in a way that allowed it to perform more optimally.
Initially there were glass shelves on the Townshend Seismic Stand and even here three Darkz S2ts were notably better sounding than the rubber feet of a Rega Saturn CD player, opening up the sound whilst calming the slight forwardness of the player without losing musical energy. This really made albums sound like better recordings even when using the Rega as DAC with a separate streamer. They added depth to the soundstage and made instruments sound more real.
With a more upmarket component in the Lumin P1 streamer the Darkz S2t pushed the noise floor down, revealing low level note decay and the pulse of a cymbal that had previously been obscured. The effect is a clear increase in precision which benefits transients and thus improves timing on what was already a pretty impressive piece of kit.
With the more substantial weight of a Moor Amps Angel P6 power amplifier it seemed wise to use four Darkz S2ts, the result was however very similar to that found elsewhere, with a tighter, cleaner sound that had greater dynamic impact and improved separation between musicians. This is usually the result of reducing the noise floor. It’s different to the results that were heard when using ethernet cables that keep out more noise, here the sound becomes more relaxed and analogue in nature. I guess with these components the signal is analogue already but it’s worth noting that aim with Ansuz resonators is to reveal the life and the energy of the music by controlling the resonances that get through to a component rather than trying to stop vibration with damping.
The Darkz S2t seem to work under every piece of electronics I tried them with, including a Melco N10 server where the result via a separate streamer and DAC produced a close your eyes and relax quality that was not previously evident. It’s really quite strange. The only occasion where these feet failed to bring an all-round upgrade was with the Naim NSC 222 preamp/streamer/DAC where the result was much as heard with the components above but the timing lost some of its magic. Naim are particularly hot on timing of course and will have tuned this piece using the standard rubber feet supplied. Yet Naim’s Fraim equipment racks use stainless steel ball and cup style interfaces between layers, so they are on broadly the same page when it comes to resonance control.
As a long time user of sprung and damped isolation these results are a bit of a surprise, how can a stack of steel and titanium bring a distinct benefit to the sound of components that are for the most part supplied with rubber feet. I guess rubber feet are the least expensive option and they don’t mark the supporting surface, they are a pragmatic solution, but not it seems one that necessarily benefits the component in question. I put this to Tim Narramore who makes the Moor Amps power amp I use, he realises that rubber feet are a compromise and is looking into oak as a possible alternative that will work with the majority of shelf types and won’t add too much to the price of his amp. The message is getting out it seems.
My final experiment was to fix Ansuz receptors in place of the standard feet on a Rega Planar 10 turntable, so three Darkz S2ts with a layer of three ti balls on top were used to support the record player. This proved to be a very worthwhile move, it brought a clear increase in realism and precision, voices became stronger and the harmonic character of acoustic instruments was clearly richer. Rega used to offer solid aluminium feet for the RP10 (which preceded the Planar 10) so this undamped approach obviously appealed to them, but I suspect that the results achieved with Darkz S2ts are in a different league. With acoustic material they enhance engagement, bringing out the ebb and flow of the music and contrasting the light and shade to a much clearer degree. This turntable is already very open but the Darkz showed that there is more available with oodles of detail presented in a totally coherent fashion.
Darkz T2 sound
The Darkz T2 are a rather more serious proposition than the S2t with titanium rings clamping the ti balls. I tried three under an AVM CS 8.3 Black Edition streaming amplifier and was gobsmacked at the extra spaciousness they brought to the presentation. Suddenly the music was filling the room, the music became live and direct to the extent that it felt like the band was in front of me. The Darkz T2 bring out power in the bass rather more effectively than their stainless steel brethren, which brings a solidity and presence to the imaging that is clearly next level with a product like this AVM.
Under an Aqua La Diva CD transport the Darkz T2 are less dramatic but very good at extracting low level detail because the background becomes quieter, this in turn makes the music more involving and subtle. It’s not just a groove thing, it actually makes the musicians seem more expressive themselves and the music itself more sublime. The last step was to try the Darkz T2 in place of the S2ts under the Rega Planar 10 turntable. Here it was immediately obvious that the bass had grown in power and strength, bass lines being better defined so that timing was likewise enhanced. The more vinyl I played the more this became apparent. The Planar 10 is pretty strong in the bass in its natural form but the Darkz T2 really raised its game.
Putting the Darkz T2 under the heavy Moor Amps Angel 6 power amp proved beneficial as well, here it did the opening up trick whilst making the presentation clearer and more transparent to the source, both apparently achieved by virtue of a noise floor reduction.
Both the Darkz S2t and T2 prove that Ansuz are onto something interesting with their range of resonators, not least that damped or spiked isolation is not the only way to enhance the sound of audio components. These are both high priced devices by the standards of the market they inhabit but they raise the performance of components that are already extremely good and provide an upgrade for almost anything in the system.