By Lam Seng Fatt
For the past few years, I have been using a pair of generic steel four-pillar speaker stands with felt pads stuck on the top plates to decouple the speakers and sheets of Dynamat stuck on the bottom of the top plates to dampen vibrations.
These served me well till I encountered the TAOC speaker stands. What happened was that I was at Perfect Hi-Fi in IOI Mall, Puchong, to return the Sonus Faber Venere 2.0 speakers (see http://www.av2day.com/2015/02/sonus-faber-venere-2-0-a-veritable-source-of-good-sound/) when I spotted a pair of KEF LS50 speakers and asked Andy if I could review them as well. And since Andy is now also selling TAOC products, a pair of TAOC AST-60HB speaker stands was also passed to me for review. To cut a long story short, I ended up paying my hard-earned money to Andy for the TAOC speaker stands which I will use as my reference stands from now on.
The stands are 23 1/2 ins tall with spikes and footers. The top plate is made of aluminium while the bottom plate is made of cast iron. The oval-shaped pillar is also made of cast iron and it is filled with cast iron powder. Why cast iron? Because it has excellent vibration damping properties. TAOC is made by Aisin Takaoka, which is a member of the Toyota group of companies, Aisin Takaoka is one of the world’s top casting companies and is the largest producer of cast-iron automobile parts in Japan.
According to its website: “The common driving force behind all TAOC products is cast-iron. Our focus is on the damping effects of the graphite contained in cast-iron and we have been producing high-end audiovisual accessories since 1983 for audiophiles around the world.” Thus the TAOC designers are experts in using cast iron for vibration damping.
Over the years, I have used open-frame mild steel speaker stands such as those supplied with Harbeth speakers by Sam Chan of Tropical Audio and the matching ones that came with PMC speakers, wooden (actually they are made of MDF) ones which came with Sonus Faber and Acoustic Energy speakers, and of course the generic 22-inch four-pillar mild steel one that I own.
At home, I quickly connected the KEF LS50 and placed them on the generic four-pillar steel stands. The sound was very clear and detailed to the extent of being analytical and the bass was rolled off and a bit ‘plummy’. The upper mid band was highlighted which made the speakers sound bright and brittle.
The TAOC speaker stands were already assembled when I picked them up from Perfect Hi-Fi in Amcorp Mall. So it was a simple matter of screwing in the spikes (they are actually not sharp-pointed and have rounded-off tips) and adjusting the footers and levelling the stands.
I placed the KEF LS50 speakers on the TAOC stands without any decouplers and played music at the same volume level. Immediately I noticed several things – the music was louder and everything became much cleaner as if the TAOC speaker stands were some kind of sonic washing machine with ‘detergent’ that removed the ‘dirt’ and ‘grime’ from the songs and played them refreshingly clean.
The difference was amazing. Not only did the sound become cleaner, but the bass region filled up with extended and tight bass. Bear in mind that given the size of the speakers, you will not get tummy-moving bass, but whatever bass there was sounded convincing enough.
I also noticed that there was no need to turn up the volume control to hear details. With the generic speaker stands, I had to turn the volume knobs (plural because the Lamm preamp has two volume controls) to the 10 o’clock position before the music ‘solidified’ into a coherent soundstage. With the speakers on the TAOC stand, I could get the same effect at the 9 o’clock position. I can only guess that the TAOC speaker stands have such excellent vibration damping properties that they remove the unwanted and unnecessary resonances and vibrations from the speakers and leave behind only pure music.
The TAOC speaker stands are excellent for low-volume listening as you will still hear the clarity even when the music is soft.
It was the first time for me that speaker stands made such a day-and-night difference in sound quality. Normally, the better ones will improve a bit of this and a bit of that, but the TAOC improved the entire sonic spectrum. That’s why – sigh – I am broke again and waiting impatiently for my next pay cheque.
TAOC products are available at Perfect Hi-Fi outlets.