There's no arguing against the fact that in situations where speakers must be mounted on a shelf or table, a well-designed isolation platform will result in a tighter-sounding bass end and a better sense of focus in the mids. Designs and prices range from shaped foam blocks, such as the Auralex MoPad, through clever lightweight designs such as the IsoAcoustics Iso range to the steel-topped monsters offered by Primacoustic. The Auralex ProPads fall between the extremes in terms of both price and weight.
Using a three-layer construction, the ProPad has a base layer of Auralex's 'Platfoam', similar to that used in their MoPads. This is topped by a 20mm, black, melamine-finished MDF slab, to which is bonded a very dense, rubbery layer, around 8mm thick. I'm pretty sure this top layer, on which the speaker sits, is made from reclaimed car tyres which, if correct, is good news on the recycling front. A further foam wedge, which can be placed beneath the platform, is included for situations where the speakers need to be angled up or down. The standard ProPad is eight-inches wide by 13-inches long and 2.125-inches deep, making it well-suited to many two-way, near-field monitors. For larger speakers, an XL version offers a 19- by 13-inch platform of the same depth.
The combination of resilience, damping and added mass helps prevent vibrations travelling from the speaker cabinets into the furniture on which they're supported, while the platform mass and friction against the rubbery surface also inhibits the speaker-cabinet movement as it reacts against the woofer-cone movement.
Tested with a pair of seven-inch monitors mounted on the raised rear shelf of my studio desk, the difference in sound was very noticeable. There seemed to be a little more low end but, more importantly, the bass sounded tighter, with note attacks and kick-drum hits being clearer than before. This tightening of the bass also affects the way the mid-range is perceived, as a flabby bass can partially mask important mid-range detail, leading to a lack of 'focus'. Here, the mids definitely sounded better defined after fitting the platforms, but whether this was due to some direct effect on the mid-range or simply that the cleaner bass got in the way less, I'm less certain.
If you already have a set of Auralex's foam MoPads, you can upgrade them to create a similar platform by sticking a heavy floor tile on top and then mounting your speaker onto the tile using four blobs of Blu-Tak — but if you haven't yet invested in speaker platforms, I'd suggest you go straight for ones with a rigid platform such as these and give the plain foam ones a miss. The performance increase is noticeable! Paul White
£85 per pair including VAT.
$99.99 per pair.