Symposium Rollerblocks

by Ernie Fisher

The Inner Ear Report Volume 12, No. 1

     In an effort to improve the sound of a system, audiophiles and music lovers often resort to add-on "tweaks." We at TIER aren't any different, and when a new "tweak" comes along, we try it in a few systems. This time around, we were approached by a young man who told us about an item under review and claimed that a ten minute demonstration would show that this tweak improves the sound of any audio system. This, of course, is claimed by every manufacturer but we agreed to a demonstration to see and hear if this "tweak" is legitimate.
     The Rollerblocks are manufactured by Symposium, a company located in Wayne, New Jersey, which specializes in resonance and vibration control and currently markets, in addition to the Rollerblocks, three models of shelves: Shelf platform, Super Platform, and Ultra Platform.

     The Rollerblocks come in a handsome wooden box which contains a set of three (or four) chromium steel or optional Tungsten Carbide balls and an equal number of bases or wells in which they are intended to rest to prevent lateral movement. The balls are ½ inch in diameter and weight 0.6 ounces, more for Tungsten Carbide balls. Small stainless steel platforms - Rollerplates - are also supplied and are designed to fit under a component which hasn't a solid bottom chassis.

     To understand a little about vibration control, we must first accept the fact that every component in an audio or video system reverberates after it has been excited by external matter. In audio, sound waves are the main culprits, but there are many other influencing factors. Components with moving parts add mechanically-induced vibrations; transformers in amplifiers develop their own resonances; tube equipment generates additional vibrations; chassis accommodating the electronics "ring." Though the resonances and vibrations are often minute, the audio system will amplify them enough to cause sonic deterioration. Ancient Chinese wisdom states that every object resonates, often corresponding with other objects, propagating intensity in the process. Controlling these vibrations in a listening room with four walls, a floor and a ceiling- all vibrating- is a challenge indeed. The Rollerblocks combine two functions when placed under a component- they couple to the component and decouple the component from its resting place (shelf or floor). This statement may be construed as a paradox but the coupling here is accomplished via a one-point contact area with the bottom of a component. If the bottom structure of the component is flimsy or perforated, the little "Rollerplates" should be inserted between the contact areas to improve structural rigidity. Decoupling is achieved because the floating component never touches whatever it is placed on, thereby eliminating feedback vibration from the shelf, floor or what have you.

The Sound
     In this business, hearing is believing; when it comes to accessories, the only qualifying requirement is an audible improvement. Our Editor has been saying for years that if you can hear it, get it, and if you can't, don't bother. The Rollerblocks offer such an incredible all-round improvement, that the question of hearing them is almost moot. All our panelists heard significant improvements, whenever and wherever we used the Rollerblocks. First, we placed the chromium set under our CD transport and the instantly discernible payoff was an elevated soundstage, resolution across the audible frequency spectrum and tighter, better controlled bass. When we switched to the Tungsten/carbide balls, we realized an even greater enhancement of aforementioned stage, resolution and bass. As well, the Tungsten/carbide balls introduced significantly improved focus and superior spatial information. The soundstage also shot up by about 15 inches with more defined boundaries and more conspicuous front-to-back reach. Our panelists concluded that the Rollerblocks create a realistic, multi-dimensional listening environment comparable to a live performance on a stage. We placed the Rollerblocks under CD transports and players, a turntable, preamplifiers, even a tuner, and their audible benefits were recognized and appreciated every time they were used. All our panelists were surprised as the Rollerblocks were used in conjunction with one of our in-house solid, vibration-suppressing component stands which already addresses resonances quite effectively, but doesn't come anywhere near the caliber delivered by Symposium RBs.

Synopsis and Commentary
     Some accessories simply fulfill their task better than expected and the Rollerblocks are a perfect example of this. Though a "tweak," Rollerblocks should be considered a component with which to improve overall sound. Though audible with all audio systems, the improvements are going to be more appreciable when used with high-end components; and that's because a system which already provides highly resolved information will delineate system changes/improvements to a more conspicuous degree. Of course an audio system can function without accessories and one may think that they aren't necessary. However, some accessories, such as spikes on loudspeakers, are already in place when you purchase your system and it stands to reason that numerous other "tweaks" are feasible. Be advised that all so-called tweaks make an audible difference in a set-up, but the primary objective should be sonic improvements and enhanced musical authenticity. The trick is to separate hyperbole from reality, benefits from overstatements and to understand that sonic modifications aren't always credible. Folks who have invested a lot of money in an audio system are usually experienced listeners who can perceive changes at once; and the Symposium Rollerblocks should be considered by anyone who has already aspired to the high-end of audio. However, those who have modest systems with which they are familiar, will also hear significant improvements, perhaps more so than a new amp or preamp can provide. Thus, the Symposium Rollerblocks function just like a component which can stand the test of time for they will never be obsolete.