Lateral Audio – Arena APX Isolation Devices (Disks) by Terry London
I have heard many positive comments in the last couple of years regarding Lateral Audio, a UK audio stand manufacturer that offers excellent performance at very reasonable prices. Recently, they came out with a new product line of isolation devices that had received a lot of praise at some European-based audio shows. It turned out that my dear friend Mike Kay of Audio Archon is a Lateral Audio retail dealer, and he had me contact Brain Tucker of Pro Audio Ltd, located in Tower Lakes, IL, who is the US importer of Lateral Audio products. Thanks to both of them for making this review easy and pleasurable to set up.
I have had a long history with isolation devices, including footers, spikes, blocks, platforms, and floating air bladders. Each designer has esoteric explanations to validate why they use granite or slate stone, carbon fiber, different types of wood, polymers, or metal like brass, copper, or special high-grade aluminum or steel. Furthermore, each manufacturer offers a theory of how such a device works that is often opposed to the theory that underlies other isolation devices.
Here are some of the explanations that have been rendered to explain how spurious/contaminating vibrations that distort the purity of the audio signal are contained or eliminated. 1) Bleeds off internal vibrations. 2) Absorbs the distortion causing vibrations. 3) Captures the offending vibrations and turns them into thermal heat. 4) The device’s material vibrates in the opposite direction, negating the offending vibrations. 5) Soaks up the magnetic field of transformers that negatively affect the purity of the audio signal. 6) Creates a pathway for all internal vibrations to escape but blocks any ground or airborne residences entering the system’s equipment. Also, the price of isolation devices runs the gamut from having footers that cost $20 each to costing over $4000 for each one.
Regardless of price, I have had highly regarded isolation footers in for review that amazed me with how they negatively influenced the performance of my system. These unpleasant changes often revolved around the drying out of timbres/tonality, a slight flattening of image palpability, and producing a “cutting leading edge” at the expense of the body of the harmonic. Yes, these isolation devices did lower the noise floor, often referred to as a blacker background, transparency was higher, and micro-details were more apparent than before their use. Yes, my system was at a higher level of resolution, but now it sounded more like a “stereo system” than beautiful music.
The Arena APX isolation device, each retailing for $160, is a disc that is two inches in width and one-half inch in height. Part of Lateral Audio’s theory is that the Arena APX Discs are made to be put under the feet of the audio component, which is the preferred and correct way to isolate, thereby using the same energy paths initially intended by the manufacturer. The sound is now heard at a much higher performance level by isolating beneath the player’s feet. And yet its style of sound is preserved. This also offers maximum stability. Here is the second part of their explanation regarding the material and construction of the Arena APX isolation devices. The Arena APX Discs use carbon fiber with a minimum amount of damping to achieve a high performance with natural dynamics. Inside is a viscous layer that acoustically controls stray and reflective energies. A soft contact pad then further isolates by removing the damaging and unwanted energies from the surface below.
The Lateral Audio Arena APX Isolation Discs were a superlative tweak/addition to my reference system. When placed under the CD transport, DAC, and preamplifier, the following positive changes were the result, with no downside regarding sonic characteristics usually damaged (dryness/ flatting out images/shaping of the leading edge) by other isolation devices, regardless of the genre (jazz, pop, classical, hip-hop, and acoustic). The first notable improvement was a more pristine/organic picture of individual instruments, voices, timbres, and colors. Another sonic characteristic that was easy to notice was in the soundstage; the space and air between individual players became even more realistic and holographic than before using the Arena APX Discs. Finally, a higher sense of speed/aliveness added drive and PRaT to my system’s overall delivery. Yes, the Arena APX Isolation device added clarity and transparency, but not at the expense of the musicality of my system. Great stuff! No apparent downsides or shortcomings.
Two other salient points: First, when I put the Arena APX Isolation devices under different amplifiers, I heard no change I could discern. Secondly, I tried the Arena APX Disks under solid-state and tube-based gear with equally positive results.
The Lateral Audio Arena APX Isolation Device/Discs are a terrific bargain based on their cost-to-performance ratio. I only experienced positive results: a higher level of pristine timbres and colors, improved spatiality in the soundstage, more speed, and a sense of aliveness in my system, with no harmful sonic faults. If your system is at a level that you are satisfied with, you audition the Arena APX Disks to bring the virtues I described above to a higher level of refinement. I purchased 12 Arena APX Isolation Disks for my front-end gear in my reference system and have put the Lateral Audio Arena APX Isolation Disks on the Stereo Times MOST WANTED 2023 COMPONENTS.
Specifications: Lateral Audio – Arena APX Isolation Devices
Price: $160 ea
Terry’s Associated Equipment:
Mark Levinson 31.5 transport
Pro-Ject reference CD transport & Linear Tube Audio Power Supply
CEC-3 belt-driven transport
Pass Labs DAC-1
Reimyo TUKO DAC
Coda # 16 amplifier
Coda FET 07x preamplifier
SPL Elector preamplifier
SPL S1200 amplifier
AricAudio SET 300B amplifier
AricAudio Motherlode MKIII preamplifier
NSMT Loudspeaker Model 100
NSMT Loudspeaker System Two
Tekton Design Ulberth
Black Cat Cables – Digit 110 AES/EBU – 3202 XLR ICs
Kirmuss Audio Adrenaline speaker wire
Krolo Design reference rack & footers
Lateral Audio – Arena APX Isolation Device (Disks)
Puritan Labs conditioner & circuit grounding system
Audio Archon power cords
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