IsoAcoustics zaZen I Review
Jay Garrett meditates to the music with this vibration-reducing subtable…
zaZen I Isolation Platform
Given that it's effectively an ultra-sensitive analogue vibration measuring instrument, it should come as no surprise that a turntable is the most vulnerable part of any hi-fi system to mechanical noise. Whether it's from the output of your loudspeakers, footfall or vibrations coming from other components sharing the surface it's mounted upon, record players pick-up unwanted resonances. IsoAcoustics' zaZen platforms are specially designed to isolate them from bad vibes…
Based near Toronto, Canada, the company has been providing consumer and pro audio isolation solutions since 2012. IsoAcoustics is lead by Dave Morrison, who was part of the design team responsible for creating the world's largest multimedia centre in Toronto that now houses recording studios for drama, music, and chamber ensembles, special effects, radio and television shows. If you have not yet experienced the demonstration of its Gaia Series isolation footers at a hi-fi show, I really recommend that you do.
ZaZen is – by all accounts – personal discipline over your seated posture that's necessary for meditation in the Zen Buddhist tradition. This £199.99 platform stands – or rather sits – 30mm tall and has a weight capacity of 11.3kgs, so is said to work well with lightweight hi-fi components and turntables. Alternatively, the zaZen II (£229.99) works better with heavier equipment and is slightly taller at 34mm. Both models are 432x381mm (WxD). As the ProJect Debut Carbon EVO turntable I had to hand only weighs in at 5.6kg it was the zaZen I model that I chose to audition for this review.
The platform is made from a dense fibreboard coated with a black medium-gloss lacquered finish, and fitted with four small, round, black-and-red footers designed especially for the job. The company claims that the mass from the dense platform together with these isolators, “creates a high degree of isolation.” IsoAcoustics won't say what the footers are made of, suffice to say that the company has plenty of form given the success of its Orea feet and Delos platforms.
Given the popularity of Swedish flat-pack furniture in many a hi-fi fan's room, that's precisely what I used as a testbed for the zaZen I, along with that Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO record deck. I must say, the satin blue Pro-Ject turntable sat on the shiny black IsoAcoustics platform looked so much better than when the record player was placed directly on the white furniture.
The zaZen brought clarity to the Pro-Ject's soundstage compared to when the vinyl spinner was sat directly on the Swedish side table.
Instruments gained a fuller presentation, whereas vocals and percussion had greater realism. Separation was also notably better with the zaZen in place. This was most appreciated during tracks such as James and the Cold Gun from Kate Bush's The Kick Inside. During the song, the bass and guitar follow the same pattern through the chorus part, and with the zaZen on duty, the individual instruments were much easier to discern than without. This not only provided better clarity but also increased the song's overall musicality.
Nine Inch Nails' The Hand That Feeds played awkwardly at high volumes without the zaZen. Indeed it antagonised the Pro-Ject deck, and the lower frequencies could actually be felt in the turntable's plinth. However, by merely slipping the IsoAcoustics platform betwixt record player and non-isolated table, the noise floor dropped. It was as if someone twisted the viewfinder and put everything back into focus, the result being that the distorted bass and guitar line no longer muddied the rest of the instrumentation. Instead, there was greater contrast between the overdriven bass and the clarity of the hi-hat cymbals. Additionally, the synths in the middle eight benefitted from the tightening up of the midband. It was a clear win with this isolation platform in situ.
Isolating hi-fi components is an area which can easily and often be overlooked. That said, a good hi-fi rack will improve the performance of a decent system and so can a platform such as the zaZen, albeit on a smaller scale. IsoAcoustics has made its name by protecting hi-fi from unwanted vibrations, and the zaZen achieves that at a pocket-friendly price point.
StereoNET UK’s Editor, bass player, and resident rock star! Jay’s passion for gadgets and Hi-Fi is second only to being a touring musician.
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