Over the years I have experimented with various types of audio isolation system, with a view to eradicating the unwelcome effect of mechanical vibration and microphony on various parts of my audio set up. I have tried everything from squash balls cut in half (less mad than it sounds), through Sorbothane in various thicknesses and shapes, Black Ravioli, steel cylinders using ball bearings and recently a glass shelf that ‘floats’ above a base full of magnets. To that list I can now add Vertere’s Iso-Paw, which arrived in a box of four pieces, and which Vertere themselves recommend for use under their Phono-1 cartridge preamplifier or indeed (as a trio) under their own DG-1 turntable. I don’t currently have any Vertere equipment here but I do have the Gold Note PH10 which I have been using for some time. I like it because it sounds great and is very easy to configure.
Vertere describe the Iso-Paws as “utilising an Acetal support with felt underside for coupling with the support surface and Sorbothane dome top for decoupling and supporting” the device which stands on them. I looked up Acetal – it is a high strength, low friction engineering plastic apparently. What may not be totally obvious from the pictures is that the Iso-Paws are quite small (25mm diameter), and do not draw attention to themselves at all when placed underneath a piece of equipment.
I tested them by simply playing some records on my LP12, whose Ittok arm is currently fitted with a Dynavector XX2 moving coil cartridge. First I played them with the PH10 standing on its own feet on a shelf of my Quadraspire XL rack and then playing the same music with the Iso-Paws under the PH 10’s feet. Installing them is very simple and the felt pad stops them slipping about on the wooden shelf once they are in place.
The initial playlist was an eclectic selection of music that I know well. Pink Floyd, Love, Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Dexter Gordon, Dave Brubeck, Dire Straits and Yo-Yo Ma were all in the initial play pile. Without the Iso-Paws the presentation was always engaging and half a day passed quickly before I turned off the PH 10 and carefully placed an Iso-Paw under each of its own rubber feet. A quick check with the spirit level and I started again with the same records, in the same order.
The difference with feet in place was usually quite subtle but definitely audible, particularly in the lower registers. Bass felt more solid and better defined, more tuneful if you like, but the definition of every instrument within the mix was improved and every recording seemed more lifelike. The soundstage also gained in height width and depth. Yo-Yo Ma’s cello, for example, seemed to really come alive on his recordings of the film music of the great Ennio Morricone. The rasp of the bow on the strings, the sense of his instrument as an organic entity was definitely enhanced and became even more compelling.
It was the same story with record after record, including one which has only recently arrived, Paul Chambers Bass On Top, on the recent Blue Note reissue. The sound quality of this pressing is exemplary, and the music within its grooves is glorious. The double bass sound, whether bowed or plucked, is sensational. I have no doubt that the Iso-Paws have had a material effect in protecting the PH10 from energy in the equipment rack.
It is very easy to recommend the Iso-Paws without any reservation. The reduction in microphony which they achieve allows the delicate electronics of something relatively light like a phono preamplifier to be heard at their very best. Given their diminutive size, and the use for them suggested by Vertere, they are clearly not designed to be deployed under heavy pieces of kit such as amplifiers. However, towards the end of the review period I did move them from the PH10 to stand under my Lyngdorf CD2 player, which is only a little heavier than the PH10. Once again I heard an improvement in the sound quality of the subsequent music playback, although it was less noticeable than on the phono stage. I could imagine that something like a streamer would benefit from Iso-Paws too. In fact any source device, providing it is not too heavy, would be appropriate and I think the sonic benefits more than justify the relatively modest outlay. At around £30 a foot, I genuinely believe that Iso-Paws represent good value for money. Touraj Moghaddan, who set up Vertere after many successful years at Roksan, is one of a gifted audio engineer and designer, and relentless in his search for ways to improve the sonic performance of his designs, and once again he has delivered the goods here.
I also tried the Iso-Paws on a couple of components, the first was a Rega P10 turntable where the Paws went between the P10’s three feet and a glass shelf. This record player is notably lighter than the Vertere DG-1 so may not be so well suited but there was a notable damping effect that brought a greater degree of focus to the sound. With a Tom Evans Groove SRX phono stage the benefit was a clear opening up of the sound which increased the sense of contrast within the music. So I have to agree with Chris, in the context of these relatively pricey components the Iso-Paws do indeed offer good value.