Mapleshade Speaker Plinths:
2” thick 15 x 18” with carpet-piercing footers = $495 pr.
2” thick Center Channel Bedrock for speakers up to 25” x 12”, with carpet-piercing footers = $240
With radiused footers, $40 extra Mapleshade 871 North Howard Street Baltimore, MD 21201 1-888-236-2753 www.mapleshadestore.com
I realized that I was probably going to be using my Von Schweikert speakers for a very long time and slowly added a number of tweaks to them to try to improve their sonics. Mapleshade, who offer a large number of audiophile tweaks—some of them in direct contradiction to standard high-end audio thinking—says that spending a lot of money on room treatments and equalization addresses the wrong problem. Which is that tile, concrete and modern plywood/laminate floors cripple the sound of loudspeakers and that is usually the primary cause of “room problems.” Their solution is to drain the vibrational energy of speakers not into the problem flooring, but into rigid and heavy maplewood bases rigidly mounted on the floor with their heavy brass footers. (They also suggest replacing the spikes or feet on your speakers with their various massive brass footers, which I haven’t yet done; but which are on the speaker in the first photo.) Pierre Sprey—Mr. Mapleshade—is a highly-experienced audio expert who runs an honest business, though at odds with some high end “rules.” He has found that granite, slate, butcher-block, over-damped space-age materials, constrained layer damping and other laminates will harm the fidelity and not achieve the sonic improvement that air-dried maple blocks achieve. I put one under my SOTA turntable years ago and the improvement was major.
I got a custom size pair of plinths for my left and right frontal speakers, actually 19¾” x 13”. Mapleshade suggests that the plinth extend about 2 inches all around the speaker base. They also have a Ne Plus Ultra version at a much higher price, which increases the thickness of the maple base to 4” and uses four huge Mega-Mounts locked under the base with thru-bolts tightened from above.
My Von Schweikert center channel speaker is designed to be used in either a horizontal or vertical position. I first used it in the vertical orientation, sitting on three brass footers, but that sounded too far away from the screen of my 55” plasma display and didn’t sound that good. I purchased a Sonus 22” metal center speaker stand for it, and then had a proper orientation with the voices on the screen. However, some of the bass end had disappeared and the speaker was directly in front of the sensor of the HDTV, so I had to raise my arm high in the air to clear it when using the remote control.
The Mapleshade Center Channel Bedrock is just one of the many speaker bases they offer. It enabled me to keep my speaker in the horizontal position, although they also make several bases which tip small speakers up on end vertically with one footer under them on the base. There are small brass stops fitting into the rear of the base which prevent the speaker from sliding backwards. And coming in the Deep Rosewood finish, it perfectly matched the other two speaker plinths as well as my Von Schweikert speakers.
The first thing I noticed was a greatly improved bass end from the smaller center channel speaker—superior to what I had gotten either with the speaker in the vertical position or horizontally on the Sonus stand. It had improved clarity and focus and the sounds seemed to originate from the screen just about as well as they had with the Sonus stand directly under the screen, when seated in my usual sweet spot on the sofa. I had reviewed the extremely expensive and adjustable Von Schweikert Center Channel speaker, but couldn’t possible afford it, and now my very basic center channel speaker had gone up a grade or two and blends more perfectly with the left and right front speakers. The mid-range and treble seem to open up with great clarity. In fact, the three-channel SACDs from Mercury, RCA and Everest now sound better than they ever have.
The general effect of the three bases is to raise the fidelity of the three frontal speakers considerably and achieve a smoother crossover from my little nearby subwoofer to the main speakers. You have to get used seeing the center speaker sitting pretty much on the floor, but it does work. The increased height due to the 2-inch bases matters not a bit in the overall sonic improvements. There is a richer sound from all three speakers that clearly outweighs the cost of the three bases. The definition has improved. I think I could have been just as happy with the simpler clear-finished bases which actually are not that visible under the tower speakers, at a savings of quite a bit. Now I’m seriously considering switching my expensive vacuum-cleaner-hose-size bi-wired speaker cables for the alternate small, minimally-insulated Mapleshade speaker cables, and to eliminate the bi-wiring using the Mapleshade copper jumpers I already have on my surround speakers—the double speaker cabling has always seemed to me something of an audiophile gimmick.