Skylan stands, "Q-Bricks", Grille removal tool
I guess I'm risking HUG-1's wrath here, but I promised Noel Nolan of Skylan that I'd report my experience here, so here goes...
I have been using Skylan stands for the last 9 months or so with my Compact 7ES-3s. The whole mass-loading with kitty litter thing seemed like voodoo to me, especially after seeing the pictures of Alan's test setup in the spare bedroom where the 7 was developed. He certainly doesn't use anything fancy. So I never bothered to fill them with anything. And they always sounded great to me, although I always thought they were a little shy on the bass. For that reason, I installed a small REL T-5 subwoofer, which helped a lot.
Some 9 months later, I called Noel about some stands for the P3ES-Rs that my wife uses in her small library. A week or so later, he called to say that my stands were shipping and that there were a couple of extras in the box that he wanted me to try out. One was a little 90 degree piece of steel some 5cm long on each side with very strong magnets attached on one side. This is the new Skylan grille remover for Harbeth speakers. I typically listen with the grilles on, since Harbeths were designed to be used that way, but should you want to remove your grille for whatever reason, Noel's new tool makes it a snap. You simply place it on one corner of your Harbeth grille, pull gently, and the grill comes right off. See photo below.
As a part of my conversation with Noel, I mentioned that I had just recently filled my Skylan stands with kitty litter and that it made quite a difference. I don't want to be overly subjective here, but what I will say is that after doing so, the additional bass generated by the REL subwoofer began to annoy me greatly. I dialed it quite a bit lower until I found it tolerable. I have heard people say all sorts of things about mass loading stands improving focus, imaging, etc. I didn't notice anything like that, but the bass started to be too much to handle after I "installed" the kitty litter.
Noel acted as if I wasn't telling him anything new and said that the heavier stands simply keep the speaker in place more firmly, so energy isn't wasted by the speaker itself moving. With the heavier stands, he said, more of the speaker's energy is being used to move air rather than the cabinets themselves. I don't have the training to evaluate that theory. All I know is that, for the first time, I was being annoyed by too much bass and had to dial back my sub.
The other little extra that Noel sent were these little things he calls "Q-Bricks". You can look at the photo below to see what they look like. I don't know what they're made of, but you simply place them with the little silicone dimple facing down atop the threaded insert that holds the Skylan's internal support rod. The speaker just sits on top of them. See photo below.
When I put the Compact 7s back onto the stands, the bass even with the REL subwoofer dialed way down was even more annoying. I finally just turned the thing off altogether. With the REL off, bass now seemed in balanced proportion to the rest of the sound. Without going into a bunch of subjective Stereophile-type mumbo jumbo, all I can say is that I no longer use the REL sub with my Compact 7s because they produce all the bass I need on the Skylan stands filled with kitty litter and these little Q-Brick things of Noel's.
** NOTE: I must emphasize that this was my experience with my electronics in my room with the music that I listen to. You should experiment to get the sound you like with your own environment, your own ears and your own preferences. It entirely possible that mass loading the stands and using Noel's Q-Bricks caused some interaction with my room that I do not have the tools to detect, causing the effects I heard.
Finally, I want to say the dealing with Noel at Skylan was a great experience. He is a friendly fellow, always willing to spend time to make sure you are pleased with his product. Ordering was easy and my order shipped promptly. And he accepts PayPal, which I find to be the most safe and convenient method of payment since it provides a layer of abstraction between online vendors and my credit card.
Top tip: I was always afraid that my cat would jump onto the speakers and knock them over. My wife happened onto a nice solution for this. Put a sheet from a roll of that sticky stuff you use for lint removal from your suit on top of the speaker. Place your cat on it so they learn what it is. They hate anything that sticks to their paws and when they see it atop your speaker, they'll avoid it.
Well done JPLaurel. I bought Skylan stands for my P3's and as you stated Noel is a pleasure to work with. His stands make wonderful companions for Harbeth speakers. Cheers!
I have Compact 7's and was using Foundation stands originally, but as I had heard so much positive commentary on the skylans, I thought I would give them a try. 15kg of kitty litter (non-clumping of course...) with the new q-bricks, the sound is fuller, most likely due to better reproduction of the bass. As far as removing grills, when I first saw pictures of used Harbeths for sale, people had removed the grills, and to my eye, they looked ugly, and turned me off from contemplating purchasing a pair. Needless to say, I very wisely and happily overcame my grilless (is that a word?) dislike, listened to a pair and instantly purchased them, with grills on of course. And Nolan is a man of his word, I needed the stands shipped out in a rush as the packers were coming to move me overseas, and the stands arrived in time to get packed and shipped - 5 days cross country, with a shipper caused delay to boot!
I own C7's with Noel's stands filled with kitty litter. I've owned mass loaded stands before so I wouldn't even try them without the kitty litter in them. These stands are the best I've ever owned. They work wonders for my room. I can't wait to try the Q Bricks. Thanks for the review jplaurel.
Acoustic properties of of various kitty litter brands
Just kidding! I'm sure HUG-1's blood pressure rose a few points reading that subject line!
Seriously, here's another Top Tip:
My lovely wife found some very good kitty litter for use in speaker stands. No, kitty litters don't have different sonic characteristics ;-), but if you're sensitive to strong chemical odors here's a good choice:
"Litter Purrrfect" - Costco sells it at the mother ship here in Kirkland, Washington, but I'd assume it's available throughout North America. It comes in big green 30lb plastic containers. It's "all natural" - just clay and a very slight lemongrass essence scent. Safe for your creatures and nice to know your stands aren't filled with whatever noxious chemicals they put into some of the other brands. Very inexpensive, too.
Noel had mentioned that he was going to send me some Q Bricks to try out. I'm very interested to see how they work out. I spent two weeks with Herbie's Big Fat Dots under my C7ES-3's. For the life of me I can't understand why I had them there for so long. My wife and I couldn't understand what happened to the sound we loved so much that we had heard while listening at our local shop. Well, last night while listening to Toot's Thielemans 'The Brasil Project', I removed them. My wife got up out of her chair and both of our jaws hit the floor. That sound we loved so much had returned. The dullness was gone and the sound stage opened right up. We lost a little on the bass end but well worth the trade off. Based on your review of the Q Bricks, you didn't lose anything musically but just gained some bass. I hope that I have the same experience. I don't have a very good ear, but what I experienced last night was flat out amazing. These Big Fat Dots are only 1 1/4" and I had 4 of them under each speaker.
I am not too familiar with the Dots - are they of rigid material? With 4 of them, the speaker would be touching the stand only through these, after taking them out, the entire speaker base would be resting on the stands?
Originally Posted by Don Jr
Assuming that the answer to this is yes, I would be very interested in hearing from someone in Harbeth their assessment of why this dramatic difference would appear in the heard sound.
Stands in the UK for Harbeths
Aren't we UK bods lucky Something Solid and their XF "space-frame" stands do it all and more - the best I've heard for thin-wall speakers in general - Why let Skylan have all the fun ;)
Kumar. No. The stands come with very small (10 mm) clear round rubber nubs (two on each corner). With the speakers on these small rubber nubs, the sound is very open and lively. The Dots are a hard rubber and are slightly flexible and are about 32 millimeters in diameter. I was extremely surprised at the difference. I wonder if the increased surface area of the Dots is what created this difference or if it has something to do with the materials?
Don, I have asked the question of Alan in a new thread he has started today, let's see what he has to say.