Associated Equipment:
Digital Front End
Amplification
Loudspeakers
Cabling
AC Conditioners
Accessories
 
 

Herbie’s Audio Lab Super Black Hole CD Mat

 


Acoustic Revive RAF-48H Air-Suspension Underboard

 

 

 September, 2012

 


A wordfirst about two products in the same report.

I returned my Aurum Acoustics Integris CDP to its designer-manufacturer Derrick Moss for a minor repair and upgrade. Upon its return, in a spasm of audiophilia nervosa (or geeky enthusiasm, take your choice), I shed my NuForce CD transport, DAC and preamp and replaced them with the Integris (the P of which in CDP means preamp).

Moss mentioned his good opinion of a small vibration-suppression CD mat. He went so far as to call it addictive. I applied to Steve Herbelin of Herbie’s Audio Lab for the Super Black Hole Moss suggested I try. I should mention that the SBH’s fine reputation has been largely established among its users rather than in formal reviews. Whatever, I’m here to rhapsodize.

So what does it do?

                

The difference is immediately audible, no break-in required. The SBH performs extractive wonders. Even with these ancient ears I perceived a diminution of glare and haze. This is one of those situations, common to the experience of most audiophiles, where you’re happy with what you’d been hearing and happier still with, in this case, a tweak’s participation. Glare and haze are ghastly terms. Please understand that I introduce them into this discussion as factors about as ponderous as a pair of chubby molecules. When what you never heard disappears you know you’re hearing something else. For an audiophile, that’s damn near as rewarding as good sex or a good high. (I just took another look at “When what you never heard….” It may be one of the goofier remarks I’ve ever fired off, but it makes its own kind of sense in our curious little community.)

Nuts and bolts

The SBH consists of a laminate of cross-woven carbon fibers on a silicone bottom, the tackiness of which serves as an effective bond. The Integris is a top-loader. I attached the SBH to the transport’s clamp with tiny dots of a temporary adhesive. I’ve not used the SBH in a drawer-type player. “Herbie’s hand-made Super Black Hole is compatible with most drawer, horizontal slot-loading and top-loading CD, SACD, DVD, and Blu-ray players (not recommended for vertical slot-loaders or computer drives).”

This diminutive wonder, and I employ the term absent irony or agenda, goes for $32.50. Imagine, an effective tweak for $32.50! At Audiophilia’s rarefied heights! It’s downright subversive! And I can’t think of a stronger prod.

But wait! There’s more!

In the email in which he extolled the SBH, Moss also mentioned an excellent result he was getting from Townshend Audio’s Seismic Sink, a British-made underboard that operates in part on an air-suspension principle, i.e., an internal air-filled bladder. See www.townshendaudio.com for details.

I must have done something to please the gods. Shortly after my pleasurable acquaintance with the SBH, I was offered the opportunity to write about three Acoustic Revive products: upgrades of the Japanese company’s power-cable insulators, Schumann Resonance generator, and air-suspension underboard, the latter of which I cover here in happy serendipity. The RR-777 Schumann Resonance Generator will have a separate report.

The RAF-48H underboard, a sturdily made, elegantly finished piece of audio furniture, measures 17 by 19 by 2 inches; its inner surface – the one that rises about 3mm above its framework when the bladder is properly inflated – is 15.5 by 17 inches. A nicely machined air-pump fitting is centered on the framework’s fascia. (An air pump is supplied.)

The Integris’s three footers come to needle-sharp points. I rummaged among my audio oddments and came up with three center-indented steel discs to put under the footers to protect the underboard from damage. All is in place. And we’re off to the stationary races.

When new is better

After a couple of days of cohabitation with the RAF-48H, I emailed Moss about the change to his CDP’s support system – a close, if not exact, parallel to what he’d done with his CDP. His response: “I suppose this is like a whole new frontend for you.” Absolutely! This is better sound system, and the difference centers on vibration reduction. The RAF-48H replaces an Acoustic Revive quartz underboard I was perfectly happy with. Note was. I doubt that Yogi Berra ever said, “It’s not better till it’s better.”

The RAF-48H tolerates a 132lb (60kg) load. The Integris comes nowhere close. What I hear, in similar wise to the SBH’s role, is a remarkably well delineated, remarkably lucid, remarkably dynamic and harmonically spot-on– briefly put, more lifelike – soundstage. The aural gauze is gone. The CD mat and AR underboard provide the clearest view yet of excellent recordings, along with the bad and mediocre. Euphonious additions these are not. And given Moss’s part in motivating me thus, I cannot think of them separately, nor would I dream of using one without the other. But that’s why we call it the future. One never do know…. (Yogi didn’t say that either.)

Postscript

The Super Black Hole’s Web page links to test results commendable for their apparent honesty. The graphs demonstrate that the SBH’s effectiveness would appear to be CD-dependent. In terms of micro-vibrations, not all discs are the same. I have no RAF-48H information to offer. Acoustic Revive’s Ken Ishiguro plays his cards close to the vest. No matter. Your reporter’s impressions have naught to do with figures and facts. Numbers prefaced by dollar signs are another story. In that regard, my report is an exercise in startling contrasts. If better sound is the issue, the Super Black Hole is a no-brainer, and the RAF-48H costs what it costs.


***

Super Black Hole CD Mat, $32.50 USD, ordered direct
Herbie’s Audio Lab
240 Cloud Crossing
Cibolo, TX 78180
(210) 658 9439
www.herbiesaudiolab.net
audiolab@herbieshaudiolab.net

***
RAF-48H Air-Suspension Underboard, $2195 USD
Acoustic-revive.com
US distributor, Simply Hifi Ltd.
Mooresville, NC 28115
www.simplyhifiltd.com
(704) 230 0029