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IsoAcoustics: taking Focal & Audioengine to new heights

  • Those setting down (active) monitors on a (work) desk must resolve the issue of speaker height/angle – having each speaker fire sound directly at one’s ears is critical to proper soundstaging and tonality. A similar rationale sits behind in-room stands.

    Getting speakers up off a desk surface has additional benefits: it dials down the interference of the desk’s first-reflections and prevents the desk from vibrating, which can be an impossible distraction. Anyone owning a cheapo IKEA number with corrugated internals will know what I’m talking about: with speakers placed directly on the desk there’s a whole lotta shake, rattle and roll.

    The poor man’s DIY fix is a stack of books under each loudspeaker; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. One things for certain: it’s far from an attractive solution. Booklift aside, (coupling) spikes can help and some pro audio stores even offer (decoupling) foam wedges that isolate the loudspeaker as well as tilt it backwards.

    Offering another solution that won’t break the bank is Canada’s IsoAcoustics, fronted by founder Dave Morrison who once was instrumental in building studios for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

    IsoAcoustics offer a range of stands for loudspeakers of different sizes and weights. A pair of their ISO-L8R now ships with each pair of Dynaudio’s BM MKIII actives. Trust this Danish loudspeaker manufacturer’s pro audio division to get with the programme first.

    In the world of home audio/philes, where audio is less about work and (supposedly) more about ‘fun’ there exists a greater preponderance towards skepticism. That’s odd when one considers the role of the speaker stand with traditional ‘bookshelf’ speakers as nigh on irreproachable.

    In July 2014, curiosity got the better of me. Michael Lavorgna’s positive review over at AudioStream helped seal the deal: I purchased a pair of IsoAcoustic’s entry-level ISO-L8R155 stands. Catchy name, huh? At US$99/pair the risk was suitably low.

    Upon arrival, the ISO-L8R155 were given a brief first run. Interceding between KEF’s superb X300A Wireless and an IKEA desk they returned a “large dollop of low end control” to the coaxially-arranged actives, After which the IsoAcoustics stands were promptly reboxed and tucked back into a cupboard marked ‘Soon’. A cupboard that would later be known as ‘Oops, I forgot about these’.

    IsoAcoustics’ Dave Morrison at Munich High-End 2015.

    Memory jog came almost a year later by way of a visit to IsoAcoustics Halle-based stand at the Munich High End Show where Dave Morrison could be seen conducting live-demos of IsoAcoustic’s new Aperta stands. That name, Italian for ‘open’, is more memorable. The newbies sell for US$199/pair.

    The Aperta’s aluminium frame maintains Morrison’s preference for lighter materials. “Our intention is not to colourise,” he says. An design objective that echoes AudioQuest’s “First, do no harm”.

    In chatting with Morrison I learn that each of IsoAcoustic’s desktop stands are designed to do more than simply isolate one’s loudspeakers from the surface onto which they are placed. Getting them up closer to ear level – and away from the surface below – reportedly mitigates some of the smear caused by first reflections that converge in the centre of one’s desk. The Aperta are also tilt adjustable.

    However, for the Aperta’s Munich show demo there was no desk and no tilt was required.

    “One more thing to note: the Aperta are biased to move in the direction of the transducer,” added Morrison.

    Two pairs of Focal 906 standmounts were placed next to each other on traditional speaker stands. One pair of speakers was elevated further by foam slices and the other by the Aperta. Bringing the A/B swithability was the dual speaker outputs of a NAD C356BEE integrated amplifier.


    Steely Dan’s Gaucho might be as cliched as music choices get in audiophile circles but it’s an album I refuse to have ruined by its audio show ubiquity. I pick my moments. This was one of them.

    And it doesn’t take more than a minute or so of switching back and forth between the Focals to pick the superiority of the Aperta-supported pair, even with the show’s din doing its level best to audibly override Morrison’s demo. I noted a serious uptick inner-spaciousness from the Aperta. In other words, better separation and layering.

    On the ensuing classical piece, a lyric from Tom Waits’ “Time” – “And the rain sounds like a round of applause” – saw itself mentally inverted. The applause as reproduced by the foam-supported Focals connoted rain hitting a metal roof. The Aperta-d pair did not.

    Had I doled out a ‘Best in Show’ for my own Munich High-End experience in 2015, this would have been IT – no question.

    I pictured the KEFs back at home; but this time sat atop the IKEA Expedit shelving that, like many other budget vinyl-philes, houses my record collection. I then transplanted that though to a pal’s entertainment unit where speakers sit either side of a TV. I could almost hear the better-locked image focus brought by a pair of IsoAcoustic stands.

    Back in Sydney with heavier-topped work desk and Audioengine A5+ fresh out of the box, a down home confirmation opportunity presented. The ISO-L8R155 were unboxed and the shorter of the two sets of steel support poles deployed, here front loaded with spacers to ensure a chin-up pose from the Audioengine actives. IsoAcoustics’ intention here is similar to that of their Aperture stands: to free-float each speaker.


    Four rubber, inverted-dome feet on the (plastic) lower frame maintain each stand’s rock solid positioning on the desk’s surface. A similar material configuration found on top of the upper frame does the same for the speakers themselves.

    And like that which I witnessed in Munich, this less costly model easily lives up to the marketing blah-blah-blah. Decoupled from the desk and firing upwards towards this fella’s noggin, the presentation is more holographic, better separated and more immersive.

    Think you can get the same result from a DIY solution? By all means have at it.

    Put simply: applying an improvement of greater magnitude than a really good loudspeaker cable upgrade, hearing first hand what the IsoAcoustics stands can do, listening to desktop speakers without them borders on the intolerable. Enough said, ey.
    Owners of speakers both larger and smaller than the Audioengine A5+ are covered too. This Canadian company offers 130 and 200 variants for US$79.99 and US$149.99 respectively.

    Indispensable stuff.

    Further information: IsoAcoustics






    John H. Darko

    Written by John H. Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has also contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram


    1. AE makes their DS1 desktop stand that works very well. It relies on tilting the speaker up or down rather than elevating it.

      • Having owned both the Audioengine stands and the IsoAcoustics, I can attest to the clear superiority of the IsoAcoustics. If you do not wish to spend the money for IsoAcounstics, I do recommend placing the Audioengine stands on inexpensive foam yoga blocks for better positioning and acoustic isolation. These will help a lot, but only about half as much as the IsoAcoustics do. Place a pencil under the front and another under the rear of each Audioengine stand between it and each yoga block for further isolation. If you have the Audioengine A2 speakers, I do not think that even the smallest IsoAcoustics stand will accommodate them.

    2. I have had a pair of these under my X300a’s for a year now. They are as good as John says. I was thinking about buying a few more pair for my more expensive stand-mount monitors in my main two-channel rig, such as the Usher Be-718’s or Platinum Audio Solo’s. They are particularly useful if the tweeters on your stand-mounted speakers are a few inches lower than optimal. Why buy new stands when you can raise them up on these sound-absorbing platforms? Highly recommended.

    3. John,

      Is the above issue a jitterbug and an Lightspeed USB cable into Invicta DAC?

      Thanks for the timing of the article, as I had been asking for speaker options for just such a use; on a desk, next to a computer.

    4. Great piece! I’ve been using and recommending these stands for about a year after discovering them on a pro music supplies website. Use under studio monitors on the floor (stands in 8-inch high position with tilt back) time-aligns the speaker and delivers nice bass reinforcement off the floor without destroying imaging or muddying the midrange. I also use them in the low and level position on the floor under larger speakers. They’re reasonably priced, easy to position, non damaging to surfaces…and they work!

    5. I have a pair of the stands reviewed on my desk supporting JBL LSR305 monitors, having transitioned them from two foam yoga blocks per speaker several months ago. The yoga blocks were decent and really cheap, but the IsoAcoustics made exactly the improvement they claim, namely more precision in the bass so that resonances don’t obscure the midrange or the lowest frequencies, and optimal positioning. I wouldn’t want to be without them.

      I do wonder if IsoAcoustics stands combined with conventional speaker stands would allow one to buy less expensive stands and get the same or better acoustic benefits as top-flight stands alone afford. Shoot, I’ve put these stands on matching wooden chairs for a conventional hifi setup and gotten spectacular results. If I were putting “bookshelf” speakers on an actual bookshelf, I’d definitely employ IsoAcoustics.

      • “I do wonder if IsoAcoustics stands combined with conventional speaker stands would allow one to buy less expensive stands and get the same or better acoustic benefits as top-flight stands alone afford.” <--- That's the way the Munich show demo was done but I couldn't tell you how it compared to the floorstands running solo due to foam (yoga blocks?) on the other pair. The chairs idea is great! You could extend this thinking to pretty much ANY piece of furniture. I'd have zero doubt that the IsoAcoustics stands would bring an improvement to the party. 🙂

    6. Great write up, John. I don’t have a desktop/computer audio set up but am now wondering how a pair of appropriately sized IsoAcoustics stands might work sandwiched between my speaker stands and Totem Acoustics Mani-2 Signature speakers.

      One question: Do the speakers just rest on the stands, relying on the weight of the speakers to hold things in situ, or is there a way to ensure a more secure connection between base stands, IsoAcoustics stands and speakers? Whilst it wouldn’t be an issue in a desktop setting, I’d be worried that a decent bump would send the speakers toppling over in my lounge room…

      • The weight of the speaker meets with the inverted rubber dome surface found at each of stand’s four top and bottom corners. That’s it. However, they DO NOT slide around and a fairly hefty knock would be needed to unseat even the Ae 5+.

        Next up onto these stands will be a pair of LS50 driven by some Red Dragon Class D monos. A bit of overkill for the desktop but what the heck. 😉

        • Interesting. Given their success under speakers, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they also work a treat under electronic components that meet the appropriate weight criteria (pre-amps, hefty CD players, power amps of the non-back breaking variety) . Worth a quick test? Pretty keenly priced too, particularly when you consider the megabucks you could pay for four aftermarket footers from the likes of Nordost, Finite Elemente et al.

    7. I’m using hockey pucks to stabilize floor standing speakers on a laminate floor as the layer of foam under the laminate can cause some instability. I’m sure the IsoAcoustic product will bring further sonic improvements either with or perhaps in place of the pucks.

    8. I can also recommend another solution – K&M make great microphone stands, and their desktop stands also accept metal flat monitor plates that just screw on top . A 200mm high mic stand is just the right height for a desktop setup.

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