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IsoAcoustics GAIA Isolators Listening Tests & Conclusion

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I installed the GAIA I on Revel Ultima2 Salons on a hardwood floor. Associated equipment with the Ultima2 Salons included an Anthem AVM 60 and Benchmark AHB2 power amplifiers configured in dual mono sourced with an Oppo UDP-205, Cambridge Audio CXNv2, Roon Nucleus server, and AppleTV 4K as sources.  The setup was plugged into a Bryston BIT 20 Power Isolation Transformer on a dedicated 20-amp circuit. During my review period, I complemented the Salon2s with an SVS SB16-Ultra and SB13-Ultra subwoofers placed within two feet of the Salon2s—a perfect test of the decoupling prowess of the IsoAcoustics GAIA.

The second setup consisted of GAIA Titan Theis installed onto RBH SVTR Signature Speakers on a concrete floor with a vinyl flooring overlay. Electronics included a Denon X8500H AVR, an Oppo UDP-203, Roon Nucleus server, and AppleTV 4K. The subwoofer modules of the SVTR were configured as subwoofer LFE channels and driven by RBH SA-500DSP monoblock amplifiers. I did not use my Monoprice Monolith 7 amplifier during the review period as one of the amplifier channels is awaiting replacement.

 RBH SVTR and GAIA Titan

The substrate under the RBH SVTR was a concrete floor with vinyl planks on top.

I should note that unlike most Audioholics reviews where we do not engage room correction for listening tests, I did engage Anthem ARC and Audyssey for the overwhelming majority of the review period, though I limited equalization to under 400Hz in both setups (as I typically do).  I wanted this to be a mirror of how I listen to my reference systems day in and day out.  

I played the Revel Ultima2 Salon full range sans SVS subs and at other times crossed over with the SVS subs engaged. I have two virtual inputs set up in the Anthem AVM60 with those two different configurations for easy switching.

When I turned on listening material I knew extremely well for the first time, I was literally stunned.

I listened to the Salon2 setup first and then the RBH setup. When I turned on listening material I knew extremely well for the first time, I was literally stunned. Truth be told, maybe I was expecting a small difference but not an overtly palatable one. Imaging, soundstage depth, and soundstage stability are all an important part of my listening enjoyment—it was those areas where the difference immediately struck me. Vocals were tighter, more detailed and the stereo image was rock solid. The air between instruments and performers was firmly anchored in a manner I had not previously experienced.  

I immediately jumped to YoYo Ma Plays Ennio Morricone and that resonance that I had noticed so many times was gone. 

Yo-Yo Ma Plays Ennio Morricone

In addition to imaging, the effect on bass notes was physically and audibly noticeable. The bass energy that was rattling through the hardwood floor, sofa, and surrounding objects was mastered. But here’s the important nuance to that statement. Bass was mastered without being emasculated. It’s as though the GAIA effectively neutered the deleterious effects of the room and furnishings while letting the music run free. It wasn’t so much room correction as it was isolation. 

Goal number one, did they solve my hardwood floor conundrum? Well, after nearly a decade of fumbling through different solutions on hardwood, the GAIA isolators have indeed become my ultimate solution for speakers on hardwood. Here’s what I found:

  1. The GAIA provided a stable support for my Salon2.
  2. The suction cup design prevented any accidental repositioning of the speakers—even with an accidental nudge or a bit of force. I bumped up against the Salon2 and even put a bit of pressure with my hands against the side of the Revels. In both instances, the GAIA isolators kept the Salon2 firmly in their designated position.
  3. There was no marking, scratching or residual impact on my hardwood floor.  Even after months of use, the GAIA kept my hardwood floor in perfect condition.
  4. Fine-tuning speaker placement or moving the speakers was a breeze. Tipping the Salon2 a bit until the suction released from the floor allowed me to put a towel or rag under the GAIA. From there on out, I could move the Salon2 to play with positioning or move them out of the way for another speaker review. I didn’t need to be concerned about damaging my hardwood floor or going through different prophylactic gyrations.

Goal number one? Check, the GAIA are an ideal solution for hardwood floor setups.

Katie Melua Love is a Silent Thief KetevanGoal number two, did the IsoAcoustics GAIA address cabinet and room resonance issues? You can rest assured that among my first albums to play was YoYo Ma Plays Ennio Morricone. Even before I got to the point in the tracks I was looking for, I was struck by what seemed to be a tighter overall presentation to the music. Textures were cleaner. Instruments even more firmly planted in space and time. And then the “Eureka!” moment: The resonances were dramatically reduced. I simply could not believe the difference. Starting at the 21-second mark of the track Dinner from Lady Calif and culminating at the 57-second mark, the smearing I had previously experienced was addressed and corrected by the GAIA isolators. 

Katie Melua’s “Love is a Silent Thief” from Ketevan is another torture test. The GAIA once again reduced the extreme vibrations from the song’s rich bass lines from reverberating into the room’s substructure.

As I went on to other artists and albums, the absence of my room interacting with my speakers became noticeable to me. I spun up Adele “Send My Love (To Your New Lover).” Adele’s vocals were somehow cleaner, more refined—more lifelike in space and time. And when the bass lines kicked in, their impact was still there but the cacophony of physical vibrations I had previously felt in the couch and surroundings was simply not there. Chest punch? Yes. Destructive floor vibrations? Gone. The same was true of the next cut. Drums on “I Miss You” had a clean punch and dynamics but the transference I had previously experienced into the room’s physical structure jus wasn’t there. 

Gladiator soundtrackBass drums on “Fanfare for the Common Man” by the Minnesota Symphony Orchestra conducted by Eiji Oue was the same effect. “Clean” I wrote down about the bass drums. “Detailed.” “No lack of Punch” I noted. The experience was moving and majestic. This wasn’t like a veil being lifted off the speaker. No, it was as though the interaction of the room with the speaker had indeed been mitigated. From there it was on to “Journey to the Line” from the “Thin Red Line.”  When Zimmer’s bass bombs kick in around the 4:17 mark, it was simply clean, clear, impactful output.  I went up to the Salon2s and put my hands on the surrounding floor. It was that the GAIA completely eliminated transferring vibrations into the floor—on the contrary, I could still feel the room shaking but there was a reduction in the amount of bass I felt reverberating into the floor structure itself without necessarily impacting the quantity of the bass performance. From there it was an all-out bass quest. The opening slam of “To Zucchabar”; the awe-inspiring track, “The Might of Rome”; to the slam to open “Imagine the Fire” from The Dark Knight Rises soundtrack, this was perhaps the best I’d ever heard these tracks from my setup. The bass on Lore’s “Royals”? Clean, tight, textured. All the while Lorde’s vocals were pristine, snaps crisp, and choral elements clearly articulated. Bass lines on Sade’s “Soldier of Love” dropped like precise bass grenades. Subsonic bass on Bonnie McKee’s “Trouble” rattled me to the core.

Maggie SaidLest I give the wrong impression that the difference was solely with bass, let me simply call your attention to Sarah McLachlan’s “Love Come [Piano Version]”, Natalie Merchant’s “Maggie Said”, and Lana Del Rey’s “Mariner’s Apartment Complex.” In each instance I perceived the overall presentation of those songs to be more focused, detailed, refined, and controlled.

For those of you in apartment complexes, I don’t want to give the misimpression that the GAIA are somehow your answer to stopping bass transference between rooms or apartments. That’s not what the GAIA will do. 

I’ve lost track of the countless hours of music I’ve spent listening with the GAIA in the mix on the Salon2 and SVTR over months. I could write pages on my positive impressions. Nevertheless, I perceived a difference in both setups in the overall musical presentation that was more pleasurable with the GAIA in the mix than previously. The difference was more pronounced with the Salon2s on hardwood than the SVTR on concrete.  Did the GAIA address speaker-room resonances and interactions? Yes. 

Goal number three: Did the GAIA alter the sound by sucking out the bass experience? I think you already know the answer to this one. The answer is a resounding “no way.”   

Goal number four:  How did the GAIA work across different flooring substructures. For me, I perceived that the GAIA isolators made a less dramatic impact on the music through the SVTR Signature Towers on the concrete substructure than the Salon2s on hardwood. 

That doesn’t mean I didn’t sense a difference. I did indeed perceive that the soundstage and the bass tightened up. The sensation is as though the SVTR Signature Towers cabinets became more inert. The quantity and quality of the bass output from the SVTR Signature Towers is simply body blowing and anything I’ll write will fail to convey the experience of these speakers. Nevertheless, introducing the GAIA to the equation improved the perceived performance of the speakers in my room. 

Conclusion

Holy Grail Monty Python

The quest continues, but I think I'm getting closer to the Holy Grail!

The reality is that optimizing my speakers in my rooms is certainly some lifelong quest. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get to the ultimate destination, but the lessons learned along the journey can only enrich it. As the science behind speaker-room interactions continues to mature, we’ll learn new things, develop new tools, and adapt methodologies.  

The one thing that my months-long experience with IsoAcoustics GAIA isolators taught me is that decoupling the speakers from the flooring substrate and dampening the resulting vibrations plays a role in improving the perceived soundstage, imaging detail, and improves the overall experience of the music. Moreover, isolation most certainly needs to be part of our conversation of optimizing speaker-room performance and as far as I'm concerned now belongs as an essential part of our optimization toolkit. 

In every instance the GAIA isolators improved the top to bottom performance of my two reference setups.  

The price point of the GAIA lineup is not for the faint of heart or wallet. In fact, implementing a stereo set of GAIA isolators into your setup may end up costing you somewhere in the neighborhood of 5%-20% of your speaker's MSRP.

Nevertheless, my experience with the GAIA was so overwhelmingly positive that I’m going to do something that I don’t often do with review gear—make it a permanent part of my personal setup going forward. This road with the GAIA was more of a personal journal than a formal review.  Therefore, I highly recommend you take GAIA for a spin yourself and draw your own conclusions. But something tells me we just might find ourselves walking together on the same path to audiophile nirvana. 

The Score Card

The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:

Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating

Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.

Audioholics Rating Scale

  • StarStarStarStarStar — Excellent
  • StarStarStarStar — Very Good
  • StarStarStar — Good
  • StarStar — Fair
  • Star — Poor
MetricRating
PerformanceStarStarStarStarStar
FunctionStarStarStarStarStar
StabilityStarStarStarStarStar
Build QualityStarStarStarStarStar
Ergonomics & UsabilityStarStarStarStarStar
Ease of Setup/Programming/IntegrationStarStarStarStar
Fit and FinishStarStarStarStar
PerformanceStarStarStarStarStar
ValueStarStarStarStar
About the author:
author portrait

Theo is a serious audiophile and home theater enthusiast—a passion he's enjoyed for over 20 years. He heads up many of our speaker system and receiver reviews as well as covering the latest in streaming technologies and Ultra HD video.

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Recent Forum Posts:

dutchholic posts on December 22, 2021 21:41
Mojo Navigator, post: 1525132, member: 87741
I'm confidant that anyone can match the performance of this snake oil product for under $30 using common objects everyone can afford.

Theo's review was pretentious at best.

What is this based on? Your gut feeling?
Mojo Navigator posts on December 15, 2021 12:23
I'm confidant that anyone can match the performance of this snake oil product for under $30 using common objects everyone can afford.

Theo's review was pretentious at best.
mdinno posts on December 15, 2021 07:03
Acoustic Field channel has video's on this. Getting your sub completely off the floor.
TheoN posts on December 08, 2021 13:28
ryanosaur, post: 1523165, member: 86393
IsolateIt says on their site that sorbothane does contain a plasticizer, and this is what is responsible for marking wood. Their 50-duro bumpers are available with a urethane coating which will protect a finish.
I am surprised that in your case, Theo, the coating (assuming you used their product) failed. I talked to them about the differences and use cases and they told me they put a sample outside and left it for over a year with no degradation… *shrugs
Regardless, I agree that sorbothane bumpers are not a great solution, especially on a very heavy Speaker. The upper cabinets of my Phil3s are isolated using sorbothane hemispheres and the have completely pancaked and stick slightly to the lower cabinet.
And I can attest: they absolutely leave a mark.
Yes they left a Q-shaped marks on the cabinet. The packaging was specific about marking potential and I suffered that.
Is there a specific 50-during product available for speakers? The ones I’m seeing are for truck bumpers. If there is that may be something worth sharing for others. The 50-Duro look like they would be a fabulous solution for a custom isolation platform.
ryanosaur posts on December 08, 2021 11:45
TheoN, post: 1523141, member: 68072
Van Halen brown M&Ms right there. I skimmed a few posts and it’s just responding to the other person. The Sorbothane one made me laugh because:

1) Sorbothane is NOT a non-marking solution. I’ve tried Sorbothane on my turntable with simply excellent results as I mentioned in a previous post but it marked my cabinet!!
2) With heavier objects the Sorbothane product I had expanded out and would not support them and the top cracked.
3) I’m not currently aware of any Sorbothane solution that is integrated into speaker feet as a threaded option that allows you to reposition the speaker easily.
4) Someone can go right ahead and slap the Sorbothane feet down on the floor and then try to toe in the speaker or making adjustments. Good luck with that with a 200+ lb speaker and make sure you have a good chiropractor.

Great solution for certain applications and an amazing product, but not something I felt was applicable in a 125 pound speaker on hardwood.

My signed Gordy Howe hockey puck looks better on my mantle than under my speakers

52099
IsolateIt says on their site that sorbothane does contain a plasticizer, and this is what is responsible for marking wood. Their 50-duro bumpers are available with a urethane coating which will protect a finish.
I am surprised that in your case, Theo, the coating (assuming you used their product) failed. I talked to them about the differences and use cases and they told me they put a sample outside and left it for over a year with no degradation… *shrugs
Regardless, I agree that sorbothane bumpers are not a great solution, especially on a very heavy Speaker. The upper cabinets of my Phil3s are isolated using sorbothane hemispheres and the have completely pancaked and stick slightly to the lower cabinet.
And I can attest: they absolutely leave a mark.
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