Audio Equipment Review By: SoundStage, Marc
Silent Running Audio VR
Series 3.0 isoBASE underneath a Lamm ML2 mono amplifier...
Sound Greater "ease and focus" -- "the Silent
Running Audio isoBASE helped my Lamm electronics maximize
their performance in these areas and in the process sound
even more lifelike."
Features "Built specifically for the audio isolation
component that will rest atop of it, taking into consideration
both the distribution of the audio isolation component's weight
as well as the resonance characteristics of its chassis";
"work not only as resonance sinks but also audio isolation
Use "Given that the VR 3.0 Series isoBASEs fit the dimensions
of my components perfectly, I have only good things to say
about the way they look, which is smashing. "
Value They justify their cost with good looks and improved
For many of us audiophiles, the racks and bases on which
our audio components sit were chosen for functional and stylistic
reasons, but we also acknowledge that equipment platforms
can affect performance. The right base will improve the sound
of a turntable especially, but the performance of tube electronics
and CD players is not beyond such enhancement either. Over
the years I've used various products from Bright Star Audio
and have been very pleased with them. In fact, the single
oldest item that's part of my reference system is a sand-filled
Bright Star Big Rock base, which I've owned for over ten years
and have used with a number of CD players and transports.
It improved the sound in every case.
So it was with more than a little curiosity that I began
my evaluation of Silent Running Audio's VR 3.0 isoBASEs, which
claim to make up "the world's only custom-built isolation
and resonance control system." Taking its name from submarine
terminology, Silent Running is the creation of Kevin Tellekamp,
an audiophile with a professional background in acoustics,
sound abatement, chemistry, and electronics. In addition to
creating equipment bases, Tellekamp produces equipment racks
as well as the funky-looking audio isolation products the
and isoCRADLE cable elevators.
He has also partnered with various hi-end audio companies
to help them solve their resonance-control issues in addition
to offering full machine-shop, painting and silk-screen services
on an OEM basis. And if you need a custom-made base or rack,
he makes those too. Just be sure you have a few minutes while
you're on the phone placing an order because Kevin takes his
work seriously and will have many questions for you. Just
have a look at the "Request for Quote" area on the
Silent Running website for an idea of what I'm talking about.
Each VR-series isoBASE is built specifically for the component
that will rest atop of it, taking into consideration both
the distribution of the component's weight as well as the
resonance characteristics of its chassis. A VR isoBASE begins
as pieces of high-pressure proprietary laminate with thicknesses
These are fashioned into slabs that are either 2" or
3" in total thickness, not including the separate 1"-thick
"pre-base" isolation platform that rests beneath
certain isoBASE models that will be used on carpet. The thickness
determines the platform's model designation, 3.0 for 3"
platforms and 2.0 for 2". Spike footers are made of HY-80
high-tensile steel, and steel cups into which the spikes fit
are provided as part of the system.
What's inside each isoBASE? Put your thinking cap on! Above
and around each spike is a hybrid blocked (meaning that its
reaction has been chemically stopped) thermal reactive copolymer:
a substance that can change its darometer (hardness and softness)
in a pre-calculated fashion, and very quickly.
The spikes are rather like shock absorbers whose range of
motion is governed by the copolymer -- and ultimately Kevin
Tellekamp, which is why he asks so many questions about the
equipment to be used with his bases. All air must be evacuated
from the isoBASE housing before assembly; this is accomplished
via a nitrogen-filled "assembly tent." Each VR isoBASE
is said to effectively isolate down to 9Hz. Thus VR-series
isoBASEs work not only as resonance sinks but also isolation
The isoBASE's gray marbleized outer coating is a catalyzed
blend of rubber and cyclonically exploded glass used to help
limit static electricity, EMI, and RFI. I found the coating
attractive, and given that the VR 3.0 isoBASEs fit the dimensions
of my components perfectly, I have only good things to say
about the way they look, which is smashing.
VR-series audio isolation component prices start at $300
USD and go up to $785, with the VR 3.0 models I received for
review coming in at $575 and $485 for the Lamm ML2 amp and
L2 preamp bases respectively. As part of the L2 makeover,
Kevin also sent along a pair of thick chassis-damping appliques
for the inside covers of the control unit and power supply.
These cost $25 each and are normally used with the isoDOMEs,
where they are said to work far better than mass loading.
I used the bases separately before applying the appliques;
I wanted to know the effects of each on my audio system.
...and beneath a Lamm L2 preamp.
Setting up the VR 3.0 isoBASEs for my Lamm electronics was
easy. The amp isoBASEs came in two pieces: One simply fit
into the other, and then both were placed on the floor of
my listening room, the spike feet piercing the carpet and
pad with ease. The isoBASEs for my Lamm L2 preamp are single-piece
affairs and separately made for the control unit and power
supply -- to account for the different weights and resonance
issues. On the bottom of each are more spikes that fit into
included cups as part of the setup. Once the bases are in
place, with their SRA logos facing forward, I placed my electronics
My reference system consisted of the aforementioned Lamm
ML2 mono amps and L2 preamp, Wilson Audio WATT/Puppy 7 speakers,
Wilson Audio WATCH Dog subwoofer, Mark Levinson No.39 used
as a CD player and transport, and a Bel Canto DAC2 digital-to-analog
processor. Interconnects and speaker cables were from Analysis
Plus (Solo Crystal Oval and Solo Crystal Oval 8), Shunyata
Research (Aries and Lyra), or Stereovox (SEI-600 and LSP-600).
Power conditioning was provided by a Shunyata Research Hydra
or a Sound Application XE-12S with 20-amp Elrod Power Systems
power cord. All other power cords were from Shunyata Research:
Taipan, Anaconda Vx, and Python.
The VR 3.0 isoBASEs for my Lamm amps sat on the floor between
the speakers, while the L2 preamp isoBASEs rested on the top
shelves of a pair of Target T-4 racks. My basement listening
room is 12' x 24' with carpet and pad on top of a cement slab.
While the VR 3.0 isoBASEs looked very polished, potential
buyers will want them to do more than look good, and in this
regard, they don't disappoint. Their contributions to the
sound of my system fell into two categories: ease and focus.
While my reference system doesn't lack either of these things,
the Silent Running isoBASEs helped my Lamm electronics maximize
their performance in these areas and in the process sound
even more lifelike -- a nice enhancement to be sure.
Ease is not simply the sense that an audio system is easier
on the ears. It's an indication of how closely a collection
of equipment comes to the overall effect of live music, which,
when properly produced, doesn't display nasty artifacts of
the reproduction chain. Dave Moore's countrified folk on Breaking
Down to 3 [Red House Records RHR CD 132] punched out from
my Wilson Audio speakers with ultimate naturalness -- no hash,
grain or grit -- and rhythmic pace. "Mr. Music"
begged to be turned up, so I did. You think SET amps can't
go loud? Not so the Lamm ML2s, although the 92.4dB-sensitive
Wilson WATT/Puppy 7 speakers had a hand in it. With the Silent
Running platforms under my electronics, I could turn things
up as loud as my amps would play, a real treat.
Image outlines were more distinctly drawn, more crisp and
lifelike. Jacques Loussier's series of recordings on Telarc
are notable for their plush sound, but the Silent Running
isoBASEs tightened them up a bit -- increased focus. The bass
on the most recent recording, Handel: Water Music & Fireworks
[Telarc CD-83544], is potent -- subwoofer territory. The Lamm
amps do a fine job down low, and even more so when sitting
on the VR 3.0 isoBASEs. The effect is rather like giving a
screw another half turn when it needs it -- imparting in the
case of my audio system greater low-end stability and detail.
What all of this leads to is more realistic sound, which
heightens involvement and makes for longer listening sessions.
During a good part of the review, I was putting together a
demonstration CD-R for the upcoming CES, and this required
picking useful tracks from a number of CDs. Thus I was listening
to a lot of music, but instead of playing only the tracks
from the CDs I had singled out, I was sampling entire discs
or listening to them from beginning to end. In some cases,
I even chose different tracks because they were more instructive
than the ones I had initially picked. One of these was "Biloxi"
from the Mobile Fidelity remaster of Ted Hawkins' The Next
Hundred Years [Mobile Fidelity UDCD 702].
I used to own the standard-issue CD of this wonderful collection,
but the MoFi remaster is much more open and detailed. "Biloxi"
begins with a countdown that will have you thinking that some
power chord is about to come. But instead there's soft strumming
and some full bass lines followed by Hawkins' communicative
voice. I remember thinking as I sat and listened, taking into
account nothing about my audio system, that I was incredibly
lucky to be there late at night enjoying such a private concert.
Of course, I can't lay all of this at the feet of the Silent
Running isoBASEs -- my electronics and speakers were involved
too -- but their contribution was audible and important.
What's also important is keeping things in perspective. So
often I read reviews of equipment stands and racks that would
have me think such products are in the signal path and bringing
forth the sound themselves. I've talked about the VR 3.0 isoBASEs'
contribution to the sound I heard, but I don't want to imply
that what they do contributes more than the electronics themselves
or that they can cure bad sound. Instead, the isoBASES helped
my electronics sound more like themselves, maximizing their
potential, not transforming their performance. And I don't
think I can give these Silent Running products higher praise
than this while remaining grounded in reality.
I've noted the sorts things I mention in this review about
my reference Bright Star Audio products, some of which I reviewed
long ago, but the Silent Running isoBASEs make such attributes
even more apparent. I keep coming back to the more lifelike
quality of the music -- the product of greater ease and focus,
which may well be due to my electronics operating at peak
performance. Once I switched back to the Bright Star Big Rock
bases I use under my amps, for instance, the sound was not
bad by any measure, but it was not the same as with the Silent
Running isoBASEs -- less engaging, more bland. I can certainly
live with my audio system sounding this way -- I have for
years -- but once I hear something that's better, even by
a little bit, as is the case here, it's hard to go back. I
now wonder what a VR 3.0 isoBASE could do under my CD player.
While we audiophiles often want our equipment racks to look
every bit as impressive as the components they support, we
also know that high-quality audio equipment can benefit sonically
from products that help control resonance and micro vibration.
On both counts, the Silent Running VR 3.0 isoBASEs that I
used with my Lamm electronics were a success. Greater ease
and focus were obvious enhancements, but ultimately my Lamm
equipment seemed to sound more like it was supposed to, and
this is no small consideration given its high price. That
the Silent Running audio isolation products are tailored to
the equipment under which they'll sit and look very good doing
so are just icing on the cake.
If you have a reference-level audio system, you should seek
out these reference-level support products from Silent Running.
They justify their cost with good looks and improved sound.
Silent Running Audio VR 3.0 isoBASE Equipment Platforms
Prices: $300-$785 USD depending on size and
Silent Running Audio
325 Hubbs Avenue
Hauppauge, NY 11788
Phone: (631) 342-0556