High End audio presents a range of problems wider than those found in other industries where vibration is a barrier to performance.  Our mission is to transform vibration from a barrier to performance into an integral element in the progression that allows components to suspend disbelief, meaning; a constituent of the means through which electronics make reality come out of your loudspeakers.

You can’t solve a problem until you understand what the problem is. The following statements are immutable and lay the basis for our design work:

  • Sound exists everywhere in a listening room.
  • Sound is vibration.
  • Vibration transfers into mass.
  • Mass stores energy.
  • Electrical systems resonate internally.
  • Only a vacuum (defined as a space entirely devoid of matter) can stop vibration.
  • You cannot create a vibration firewall or a vibration diode when vibration is on both sides of the firewall or diode.
  • The problem is that vibration is everywhere in a listening room and you can’t stop it.

By virtue of the preceding immutable statements, the problem and the solution eventually reside inside the mass and dimension of the component’s elements.

We know the term “push/pull” as it relates to amplification.  I want to use push/pull in a different, very important way because it describes the solution to the degradation vibration causes in stereo systems. Remembering that vibration cannot be stopped, Critical Mass Systems, Inc.s’ architecture (the metal rack or amp stand) is a sophisticated resonance shaping system that delivers energy into a dual-zone, 12-stage damping system. Our metal architecture is the “push” in the push/pull equation. The dual-zone 12-stage damping system represents the “pull” in the push/pull equation. Our metal architecture delivers vibration using alloys of aluminum, titanium and tungsten and our dual-zone 12-stage damping system manages that vibration using alloys of aluminum and copper to develop a balanced transfer of energy into and out of the component.

We developed dual-zone 12-stage damping systems for our Ultra-Platinum, Ultra-Diamond, MAXXUM-Ultra and OLYMPUS-Ultra filters. None are identical.  Each is designed to function exclusively with its associated architecture; damped to tolerances of 1 to 10 thousandths of an inch.  Inside each of the above-mentioned filters are 3 fixed damping stages.  These include the base plate of the filter, the resting area of the filter upon which the component is placed and an interior plate below the resting area of the filter.  Between the fixed damping stages, 8 internal damping stages are divided into 4 zones below and 4 zones above an elastomer.  The elastomer, of course, serves to lower natural frequency.  Each of the 8 internal damping stages are precisely calculated dimensions of aluminum alloy and acrylic damping materials or precisely calculated dimensions of aluminum alloy, copper alloy and acrylic damping material. Finally, the filter system is secured under no less than 500 lbs. of pressure.

Consider how much more complex this approach is than the following standard, rather simplistic, calculations that solve for only noise reduction:

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The reason balanced energy transfer is crucial is because of 2 fundamentals that are often ignored. You can overdamp a component.  Overdamping results in a loss of depth, detail, slam, presence, pace and so on.  Dull and lifeless systems sound like big, expensive, hifi radios.  On the other hand, components can be underdamped.  Underdamping results in annoying, unnatural brittle edges in the presentation which cause listener fatigue. And, worst of all, both abnormal conditions can occur in systems at the same time.  There is nothing worse than a flat, hifi soundstage with glaring edges in the vocals and instrumentation.

The abnormal conditions noted in the previous paragraph occur in audio systems because damping devices are allowing an unbalanced energy condition to persist in the components. Anomalies can be heard in the least to the most expensive audio systems.  To make a point, no amount of room treatment, conditioning or signal shaping can fix constant thermodynamic anomalies occurring inside a chain of component chassis.  You fix signal corruption occurring inside an otherwise pristine signal path by overcoming its exact cause.

Remember that vibration is everywhere in the listening room and it cannot be stopped. To produce reality in a stereo system, the damping system under the component must be designed to maintain the perfect balance of push and pull energy transfer. Zero vibration transfer (the firewall and diode approach) is not the answer because fake firewalls and diodes cause vibration to store up in the component. The objective is to manage the transfer of energy into and out of the component (push/pull) to get the full performance potential of the component.