By Todd Anderson on Feb 28, 2018 at 8:30 PM
  1. Todd Anderson

    Todd Anderson News Editor / Reviewer/ Senior Admin
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    IsoAcoustics GAIA II Loudspeaker Isolation Feet and Carpet Spikes Review

    Manufacturer & Model:
    IsoAcoustics GAIA II Loudspeaker Isolation Feet and Carpet Spikes
    MSRP:
    Isolation Feet: $299, Carpet Spikes: $59
    Link:
    http://www.isoacoustics.com/products/gaia-series/gaia-ii/
    Highlights:
    High-quality compact design created for speakers weighing up to 120 lbs, provides isolation in addition to helping a speaker resist lateral movement, accessory carpet spikes allow the GAIA II isolators to be used in rooms with both thin and thick carpets.
    Summary:
    IsoAcoustics' GAIA Series of Isolation Feet deliver superior loudspeaker isolation via four compact isolators. Using the included hardware, installation is quick and nearly foolproof. The inclusion of carpet spikes allows the GAIA isolators to be used on both hard and carpeted surfaces. Impressionary two-channel testing revealed a cleaner soundstage with impressive clarity and spaciousness.
    [​IMG]


    When it comes to audio, detail matters. And if you’re like me, then you’ve undoubtedly explored various degrees of tweaks and adjustments to squeeze as much detail from your system as possible. Today, we’re venturing into the world of IsoAcoustics and the company’s nifty GAIA loudspeaker isolation feet. These pint-sized high-quality isolators are designed to replace the stock feet and carpet spikes found on larger floorstanding speakers, while tapping into a unique proprietary design that lends to a sharper soundstage and better overall imaging.


    Deep Roots
    IsoAcoustics is no longer a new kid on the block. Over the last six years, the company has grown its market presence from a single stand design (the inaugural ISO-L8R155) to a wide range of products for both commercial and home settings. The force behind the company is Dave Morrison, a seasoned industry veteran that spent several decades working for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). There, Morrison helped design the CBC’s state-of-the-art broadcasting center through the incorporation of technically advanced room isolation standards. His original stand concept was born from experience and observations at the CBC, and his company has flourished as enthusiast ears and industry experts have found success integrating his designs into their setups.

    I first met Morrison at AXPONA 2014 (Chicago) through a bit of blind luck. Truth be told, my entry into IsoAcoustic’s magical demo room practically happened by mistake. But as James Joyce once eloquently slayed the notion of mistakes for those that are genius: “errors are volitional and are portals of discovery.” And while the genius part may not apply in this circumstance, the latter part of that prose couldn’t be truer when it comes to my introduction to Morrison and his isolation stands. It was a moment that piqued my curiosity and most certainly opened my ears.

    IsoAcoustic’s industry validation is impressive, with world renowned Engineers, Producers, and brands jumping on the company’s train. In fact, the GAIA series of isolators (subject of this review) can be found in the control room of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and – as of last October – attached to every piece of equipment that leaves Merrill Audio’s factory. And that goes without mentioning that the GAIA’s are now permanent residents in my own home theater room (perhaps that’s a bit of a spoiler, but it's grounded truth).


    Meet GAIA
    [​IMG]

    GAIA isolators were originally launched at Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2016, presenting enthusiasts with three unique options designed to handle different sizes of loudspeakers. The GAIA III is intended for speakers weighing up to 70 lbs, with the GAIA II and the GAIA I handling up to 120 and 220 lbs of heft, respectively. That diversity allows the devices to be retro-fitted to a wide range of speakers.

    Each GAIA isolator is crafted from machined metal (the top-line GAIA I features machined stainless steel), lending to a great sense of quality in the hand and a sharp look to the eye. The review samples we received (GAIA II, $300 for a box of four) featured an impeccable dark chrome finish that looked stunning out of the box. The GAIA II’s overall size (2” wide x 1.4” tall) is rather negligible, but adds about 1.75” of height to the base of the speaker once its fully installed.

    The bottom of each isolator is a thick rubber footer with a slightly concave base for superior stability (it practically suctions itself to flat surfaces, including IsoAcoustic’s carpet spike accessory), while the top presents a universal threaded attachment point to allow for adaptability to nearly any speaker on the market (included stud sizes are M8, M6, and 1/4).


    [​IMG]
    (IsoAcoustics)


    Internally, each GAIA houses the same proprietary design found on IsoAcoustic’s Aperta stands. That is, the isolator’s innards are crafted to resist lateral movement, keeping the speaker’s alignment in tune with the natural forward and back movement of its drivers. Each isolator ships with the company’s logo emblazoned on its forward-facing side, making installation easy and insuring the isolators are positioned to work correctly.

    As mentioned, GAIA isolators are crafted for hard surfaces, but can also be deployed in carpeted rooms using separately available carpet spikes ($59 for a pack of four). Each carpet spike is a machined metal disc that’s a smidge wider than 2” in diameter with three 0.5” spikes mounted to its bottom side, perfect for a range of carpets including those that are thick and plush. Much like the GAIA II, the carpet spikes exhibit quality craftsmanship.


    Out of the Box
    [​IMG]

    IsoAcoustics scores high marks for packaging, delivering each set of GAIA IIs in high-quality boxing that presents well and is thoughtfully designed. The isolators are sold four to a box, internally nestled in thick form-fitting foam that’s easily extracted. Once the isolators are removed, a second layer of foam is revealed. Here, owners are presented with associated hardware, including threaded stud posts, additional M8 nuts, and a wrench – all of which are neatly arranged in rows that perfectly match an included hardware description sheet.


    [​IMG]


    Boxing for the carpet spikes is less dramatic but equally effective, consisting of a lightweight box that slides open. The spikes are held in place by a solid square piece of foam. No frills, but in this case no frills are necessary.


    [​IMG]


    You can watch the complete unboxing process by clicking on the video below.





    Installation
    [​IMG]

    The GAIA II’s were installed on a pair of SVS Ultra Towers (my reference home theater speakers). The process of replacing the Ultras’ stock carpet spikes was simple (taking roughly 10 minutes), and required the use of the provided M8 threaded posts. After twisting on the isolators and confirming they were facing in the correct direction, the speakers were situated on the carpet spikes.

    Easy as pie.

    It's worth mentioning that IsoAcoustics offers a range of stud sizes beyond what's included in the box. At the time of publishing this review, the company reported stocking nine additional sizes for the GAIA I and 17 additional sizes for the GAIA II and III, addressing compatibility requirements for speaker models made by Tannoy, Thiel, Revel, B&W, Wilson, and more. IsoAcoustics can be contacted directly for complete sizing information.

    Associated gear for this review included an OPPO UDP-205 4K Blu-ray Player, a Marantz SR-7012 AVR, an Emotiva XPA5 amp, and a complementary array of SVS Ultra Center, Surround, Bookshelf, and Prime Elevation speakers, in addition to dual SVS SB16 and Power Sound Audio XS30 subwoofers.


    The Sound
    [​IMG]

    My evaluation of the GAIA II was purely impressionary, ear-based, and simple: listening to intimately familiar music and movie audio on a system I know well. Prior to evaluatory demo sessions, I selected a range of CD music (from Norah Jones’ Come Away With Me to The Car’s Greatest Hits and Jon Bellion’s Human Condition) and listened to it in two-channel fashion with the Ultras on wood blocks that, for all intents and purposes, accurately approximated the height of the GAIA II’s when added as feet (speaker toe-in and position was kept constant using painter’s tape as a guide).

    The initial listening phase (wood blocks vs standard carpet spikes) sounded familiar without surprises. Once the GAIA IIs were added, however, the audio experienced appeared to changed (and for the better). Those of you old enough to remember the smell of a freshly pressed school assignment pulled from a Ditto machine will appreciate my analogy: the introduction of the GAIA II’s was similar to your grade school teacher adjusting the classroom’s projector lens, luring the day’s film lesson from a slight blur to a cleaner image. My ears experienced a soundstage with seemingly tighter focus and larger expansiveness. Airiness appeared to be kicked up a notch. Imaging was graced with greater clarity and the overall separation of sound became more apparent. My listening sessions were fun, but fascinating, as my old familiar tunes were revealed under a new light.

    To summarize with one word: beautiful!

    Days after unleashing the GAIA’s influence, I introduced the entirety of my 7.4.4 speaker array for some multi-channel movie fun, bathing my ears with the likes of Gravity (Blu-ray, Atmos) and Baby Driver (4K Blu-ray, Atmos). While sounding stunning, the addition of 11 channels of sound made it more difficult to discern the same pinpoint differences my ears experienced during two-channel demos.

    Back to music and the sound continued to be mesmerizing. Consider my two-channel interests re-invigorated!


    Conclusion
    IsoAcoustics has a great product on its hands. The GAIA II’s are simple, elegant, and easy to integrate. In fact, appearance-wise, they look better than factory. But where they truly shine is in the sound department, introducing noteworthy focus and forcing an uptick in soundstage clarity. Simply superb!

    As hinted, the GAIA IIs are now permanently affixed to my Ultras; purchasing two sets was a no-brainer move. If you have an opportunity to experience IsoAcoustics at a show (the company will be at AXPONA 2018), then spend some time in their demo space and let your ears forge an opinion. Or better yet, try a pair on your own turf. My money says you’ll be impressed.


    [​IMG]


    IsoAcoustics GAIA Series Specifications
    [​IMG]
    (IsoAcoustics)

    GAIA I
    Size: 2.5" x 1.6"
    Weight Capacity: 220lbs (100kg)
    Included Studs: M12, M8, 1/4-20


    GAIA II

    Size: 2" x 1.4"
    Weight Capacity: 120lbs (54kg)
    Included Studs: M8, M6, 1/4-20


    GAIA III

    Size: 1.7" x 1.2"
    Weight Capacity: 70 lbs (32kg)
    Included Studs: M8, M6, 1/4-20
     
    #1 Todd Anderson, Feb 28, 2018
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2018
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Comments

Discussion in 'AV Equipment Reviews' started by Todd Anderson, Feb 28, 2018.

    1. tripplej

      tripplej AV Enthusiast

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      Thanks for another great in-depth review.. Nice video as well. Lots of great info here..
       
    2. Matthew J Poes

      Matthew J Poes Staff Writer
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      Great review Todd. They look like well made isolators.

      I wonder if they would ever consider making an isolation foot for audio stands that includes wheels.
       
    3. Todd Anderson

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      Meaning: a replacement for wheels?
       
    4. Matthew J Poes

      Matthew J Poes Staff Writer
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      I like to be able to move my subs and racks around on wheels. The wheels are not acoustically great. With subs they even sometimes make noise from the vibrations shaking the bearings. I'd love someone to make an isolation wheel for subs and racks. Maybe even one where the wheel can retract and a foot pushes down. Such a thing exists for commercial tables, but not as a basic caster, let alone acoustic innert purpose built audio caster.
       
    5. Todd Anderson

      Todd Anderson News Editor / Reviewer/ Senior Admin
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      For your subs, you could add the feet and then use plastic moving coasters... they work great on carpet. If you're hard wood, them make felt moving coasters.
       
    6. Matthew J Poes

      Matthew J Poes Staff Writer
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      Well behind the screen is actually raw cement with a cork/rubber sheet. Unfortunately with the subs weighing 100-200lbs each I don't think felt would slide across that rubber and cork mat well. I also have trouble removing the glides once in place.

      More of this need actually comes from my audio rack. My rack is a modified version of a cheap Pangea rack using silicone isolation pads and E-A-R isolation bushings. The rack was designed to reduce the effect of vibrations on the equipment, primarily the turntable. It sits on spikes right now and I really want to replace the feet with casters but I am worried about the stability and vibration isolation of the casters. Also if the bearings vibrate it would be picked up by the phono cartridge and amplified.
       
    7. Sonnie

      Sonnie Senior Admin
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      Thanks for the review Todd. Wayne and I both (and I believe Dennis did too) clearly heard a difference in sound at Axpona last year... and it was an improvement in sound, despite our skepticism of something else going on in that room. It was convincing enough for me to want to try a set, although I have yet to do so. I really want to get a set and do some A/B testing in my room with two pairs of the same speakers, which wouldn't be too complicated to do. If we set up two pair (staggered L/R on each side) so that all is the same for both pairs while in the main listening position, they should sound the exact same when switching (Van Alstine AB Box) from one pair to the next. Then add the feet and see what we hear while switching. It would be an interesting experiment for sure.
       
    8. Todd Anderson

      Todd Anderson News Editor / Reviewer/ Senior Admin
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      Well, I found my impressions to be interesting, but they didn't have the benefit of A/B testing. I knew that going into this, tho. Your room is larger than mine and it definitely could accommodate that.

      I wish there were a hard and fast way to measure imaging - that's where my ears called a difference. I certainly didn't notice any change in "response;" meaning: deeper bass, or anything of that sort.
       
    9. Todd Anderson

      Todd Anderson News Editor / Reviewer/ Senior Admin
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      I need to checkout this set up... Matt, hats of to you for taking your room to the limits for great sound!
       
    10. Sonnie

      Sonnie Senior Admin
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      Yes... as best I can remember, the biggest difference we heard at Axpona was an improved sound stage and imaging. Those could be measured to an extent. If you have a pair of speakers that are frequency mismatched, imaging will likely be poor or amiss, and this could be measured. The difficulty might come when both speakers are frequency balanced and then you hear a difference.

      I applaud you for having the courage to review something like this, that might garner doubt from others (as it has elsewhere), especially from those who "refuse" to review them because in their own "opinion" they make no difference in the sound. They may not make a difference to everyone in every situation, and even the manufacturer has stated this... however, that should not be sufficient reason to completely discount them and disrespect others who review them. It truly shows their unprofessionalism in the industry. I don't disrespect others who believe they hear a difference in amps or cables. We even went to the expense and trouble to do a very large high-end amp testing session to see if we could hear a difference in amps, although in my own "opinion" I did not think I could hear a difference... and I didn't. That certainly does not mean I think others cannot hear a difference... it simply means I can't. At any rate... kudos to you!
       
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    11. Todd Anderson

      Todd Anderson News Editor / Reviewer/ Senior Admin
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      I'm completely open to giving anything a whirl... can only report my impressions ;-). There's certainly a level of subjectivism... and, as you point out, there's a lot of factors that can influence perception. I wouldn't discount those factors, no matter what your ears tell you.
       
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    12. Matthew J Poes

      Matthew J Poes Staff Writer
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      I'll happily show you next time you are in Chicago.
       
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