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Krakow Sonic Society
Krakow Sonic Society, meeting #82:
Paweł Skulimowski and his Franc Audio Accessories

Contact:
Paweł Skulimowski
Franc Audio Accessories

e-mail: f-franc@wp.pl

WWW: f-franc.com

Text: Wojciech Pacuła
Pictures: Wojciech Pacuła | Paweł Skulimowski
Translation: Krzysztof Kalinkowski

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Date of publication: 01. March 2012, No. 94




“I founded Franc Audio Accessories brand thinking about the demanding audiophiles who want to improve the sound of their systems. The products are addressed to people valuing modern and uncommon design, putting it on par with the highest demands posed to the hi-end.”
This opening paragraph welcomes every visitor to the web page of the Polish company Franc Audio Accessories. Its owner, Mr. Paweł Skulimowski, belongs to the creators (because audio is a combination of engineering and artistry) who try to think about every detail when introducing a product to the market – really each and every detail. I do not want it to sound like an advertisement but I cannot help it –Franc Audio Accessories products are “complete” in the sense that they look brilliant, are ideally made and packaged, and they are backed up with solid engineering and long years of testing. Blood, sweat and tears.

Voodoo?
Paweł Skulimowski’s products are all kinds of mechanical components used to reduce vibration – in electronic devices, loudspeakers, as well as cables. Esoteric? Voodoo? I would like everybody reading this text to feel free and speak out loud what they think about that. Freedom of speech is an important achievement of democracy and it should be exercised. But before we laugh and swear I would like to ask you for another effort: please, think if your knowledge is based on authentic, personal experience; did you try repeatedly, in controlled environment, the products of different companies specialized in controlling vibration, and is THIS the basis for your judgment? Or maybe you just f..k all that does not conform with your idea of reality? If it is true (I mean f..ing), then there are two options: the first one, easiest, is to click the small cross in the top right corner of the page. This will take care of the issue permanently – you will be protected against gibberish and I will be able to execute MY right of free speech. Or try it for yourself – this is the second solution. For only after personal experience, after fulfilling all the conditions mentioned above it is worth talking. Because there will something to talk about.

What does the science say?
The case of protection against vibration and its influence on sound is not well researched. At least formally, by widely accepted measurements and their interpretations. The problem is that it is not fully known what to measure (I am talking about a common consensus), how to measure and, most of all, how to interpret what we have measured. These are still loose puzzles, waiting for somebody to put them together. And it will not be the first instance, or the second, or third, when official science is behind the audiophiles. The most pronounced case in the last years is that of digital jitter. The companies did not see it as an enemy, ignored it, because they could not measure it. The audiophiles quickly identified the problem of CD’s bad sound and pointed to jitter, the irregularity of clocking the digital signal, as one of the main reasons for this. Shortly afterwards, the current chief editor of “Hi-Fi News & Record Review”, Paul Miller, designed and made a jitter meter, which is now a standard accessory in most audio related laboratories. And there are many more examples. In the area of vibration and micro-vibration concerning connection lines (power, loudspeaker and interconnects cables) – research is conducted by companies like Vertex AQ and Nordost. The results of their research will be widely available soon.
Anyway, it is important that “hard” evidence often follows what is audible. What everybody, really everybody can hear – you, the other lady or gentleman – given a proper chance. That is why the only currently binding research we can conduct in case of vibrations and their influence on sound is research by inspection – a listening session.

Methodology
Saturday, cold as hell – below -20°C, and yet Mr. Paweł Skulimowski comes from the far city of Elbląg (with a stay in Warsaw), and brings four heavy packs to Rysiek, the host of our meeting. Then he and his platforms thaw out, during which process water drips from the platforms and Paweł slowly vaporates. I say “Paweł” as we already introduced each other. It is so cold outside that some of our Krakow Sonic Society members do not arrive…
In these packs are only goodies, including some new products. Because there were a lot of them, we had to decide which we would listen to and in what order. We chose four products, with which we could create a certain logical sequence. They were:

  • Ceramic Disc Slim anti-vibration feet: 1000 zł/4 pcs.
  • Ceramic Disc anti-vibration feet: 1500 zł/3 pcs.
  • Composite One Slim anti-vibration platform: 3000 zł/pce.
  • Composite One Fat anti-vibration platform: 4000 zł/pce.
Oops – the price hurts, doesn’t it? Well, these things are not cheap. They are just plain expensive. And they are only accessories, aren’t they? (I will tell about “accessories” later…). When Paweł told us how much those things cost I saw long faces around. He said that this is the cost of such classy finish, such precision, know-how, etc. Quality has a price. Especially when we compared the Franc Audio Accessories to products from finite elemente (CeraPuc) and Acoustic Revive (RAF-48), which are even more expensive. Leaving the sound aspect aside for now, I need to say that Paweł’s products look much better than both finite and Revive. And although finite elemente is a very good company, one glance at the Franc Audio Accessories products, one touch and we know that they are one step further, that the bar has been raised another notch.

As I said, our first step was to work out a sequence in which we would examine the Franc products. We agreed that first we would exchange the CeraPuc feet under the player, and then under the amplifier. Then we would listen to the Fat platforms under the electronics – first the SACD that stood on the Acoustic Revive RAF-48 platform, then the amplifier, standing directly on the rack. The second part would be to listen to the Slim feet, and then the Slim platforms placed under the loudspeakers. As you can see we decided to cumulate the effects, not to listen to the components “solo”. Experience taught us that such components, coming from one manufacturer, work best in a system, adding their characteristics in a way that cannot be so well heard otherwise. For the listening session we used four tracks from four CDs (each of us proposed one, from a CD brought by himself and known very well):

  • Harmonie Universelle II, Jordi Savall, AliaVox, AV9839, CD.
  • Audiofeels, Uncovered, Penguin Records, 5865033, CD (2009).
  • Massive Attack, Heligoland, Virgin Records Ltd., 94662, Limited Edition, CD.
  • Sonny Rollins, Saxophone Colossus, Prestige/JVC, VICJ-60158, XRCD.

The system used for the listening sessions:

  • power amplifier – McIntosh MC275; review of the Commemorative Edition HERE,
  • SACD player – McIntosh MCD301,
  • XLR interconnect – Tara Labs ISM The 0.8; review HERE,
  • loudspeaker cable – Tara Labs The 0.8,
  • AC power cable (amplifier + player) – Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9100; review HERE,
  • conditioner (only for the player) – Nordost Thor,
  • loudspeakers Dynaudio Sapphire.

SOUND

Ceramic Disc instead of the CeraPuc (under the SACD player)

Ryszard B.
I have a problem with what I heard – different impressions with each CD. Most important however is – which as I could see shocked everybody – that the changes are huge. And so, Rollins with the Franc had much better bass control. The cymbals were also better, “thicker”, better “visible”. The saxophone was a bit more withdrawn, a bit further inside the mix. Massive Attack –much better with the Franc. Better focusing, readability, differentiation, everything was livelier, better, more dynamic. Similar was the Audiofeels, where the voices were more natural, bigger. Savall’s viola da gamba – nicer and more rhythmically differentiated but my impression is that here the CeraPuc showed more harmony, and somewhat nicer (I do not say better) overall sound. In general – recommendation for Franc but not in 100%.

Rysiek S.
I also have a problem – the problem I had before with the lengthy bass, vanished – we talked about that when you arrived. The problem appeared when I installed the Ayon KT88sx tubes – they are splendid in every other aspect, but bass is better with the EAT KT88 Diamond. Now with the Franc under the player the loudspeakers sounded like high class bookshelves – with a coherent, brilliantly controlled bass. But there was less of it. My verdict is split 50/50.

Paweł Skulimowski - Franc Audio Accessories
Let me first say that I did not want to speak up, because I cannot be objective. Firstly, because I tuned these components (yes, they are “tuned”) to my conception of good sound, and secondly – because they are my “children”, so… But since Wojtek told me that I MUST comment what I hear, then OK.

I have similar impressions as Rysiek S. – this is simply a better control of sound, nothing is blurred. At the same time we have smaller sound. With finite the sound was warmer, sloppier, but also bigger, more “to the front”. Recognition of the sounds was much better with the Franc. For me the Franc were a bit better, but with restrictions.



Ceramic Disc instead of the CeraPuc (under the amplifier)

Ryszard B.
A big change, very big! It was biggest with the Rollins CD. Unlike with the player, the Ceramic Disc under the amplifier made the saxophone open, mature, and saturated. Much improved was the aura around the instruments. Maybe the bass lost some control, but really only a bit. The Franc showed well what the Massive Attack recording is all about, they showed much more of how things were done. Viola da gamba was darker, more massive, more mature. In general – only positive changes, many things happen.

Rysiek S.
This is a step in the right direction; that is sure 4:0 for Franc. It is interesting, why such a difference – maybe because the player is supported on an air platform, while the amplifier on a rigid base? Or maybe because the amplifier is heavier and the feet work differently below it. I started to understand what is going on with the Massive Attack recording; that it is a kind of “rolling”, perfectly carried out rhythm. Without this such recordings “do not work”. A step in the right direction.

Paweł Skulimowski - Franc Audio Accessories
I was afraid of the sound diminution, because the Ceramic Disc below the player did not combine well with the Acoustic Revive platform in my opinion. But it is good, really good. The hi-hat – I am a drummer, so I am especially sensitive to that – became darker. On the Rollins CD the selectivity was much better, the saxophone full. Audiofeels – I am buying this CD! When the bass voice enters on The Sound of Silence, I felt goose bumps… It is much better.

Ceramic Disc + Fat platform (below the player and amplifier; under the player additionally the Acoustic Revive)

I will compile all the answers in one. Because it is about a series of tests in the sequence: the Fat platform under both devices and the RAF-48 under the SACD → the Fat platform under the amplifier, the Slim platform + RAF-48 under the player → the Fat platform under the amplifier, the Slim platform under the player → the Fat platform under the amplifier, the RAF-48 platform under the player. In all cases the devices stood on Ceramic Discs.
It seems that the SACD player did not react well to the platforms. It sounded much nicer with the RAF-48. After some discussion and thinking our conclusion was that the bright character of this McIntosh and its not fully resolved sound need some “cover”, which was very well done by the RAF-48 and the CeraPuc feet. However, under the amplifier the Fat platform performed brilliantly. This was a finish of what the Franc feet did; the finish in the direction of even more saturation. The sound appealed to Rysiek so much that now he does not think about going back to another platform, or no platform at all.

The Slim feet under the loudspeakers

When Paweł Skulimowski saw what supports the Dynaudio loudspeakers, he said immediately that he does not see it well. It happened somehow that Rysiek never exchanged the standard, rubber supports for spikes. And the Slims are designed in such a way that the spike should be placed exactly in the middle of the foot, in a milled out spot. But this was a test, so we did not presume anything. The loudspeakers stood on marble platforms.

Ryszard B.
For me, the sound went a little dead, some emotions disappeared, as if harmonics disappeared, and only the basic sound remained. As if I said farewell to somebody. This was not a good exchange. The thing is that the difference was not big, quantitatively speaking.

Rysiek S.
I did not experience it negatively. Or positively. I caught some nuances I had not heard before, but the change was small.

Paweł Skulimowski - Franc Audio Accessories
For me the bass was now a bit bigger, stronger. The sound was a bit closer than before. But I lacked some detail in the midrange, and that was the drawback.

The Slim platforms under the loudspeakers

Ryszard B.
Yes, yes – we have to finally drop marble and granite – these materials suck the life out of sound! I do not know what you think, but I was cured from that a long time ago. Here the change of sound with the Slim platforms instead of that marble under the loudspeakers is colossal, absolutely positive! Everything is better, each aspect of the sound – from the basic ones to the emotional ones. Earlier I was a bit skeptical about the Slims when it was under the player, now I hear the reason for its existence. Aura, reverbs – everything was super! Away with granite to the cemetery!

Rysiek S.
I agree completely, amen to that! For me the most important was that I could hear more of nice bass. This is probably the biggest change. When we placed the Ceramic Disc under the player, then the bass diminished – do you remember? Now it improved to a large extent, as if somebody placed an extra nice layer on the amount of bass that was there before.

Paweł Skulimowski - Franc Audio Accessories
Ryszard said everything that was needed to say. The bass was warmer, better – and I am saying it frankly, I am trying to control my emotions. I lost the micro-details a little, which was a bit better with the Slim feet. Now the background was black, as Nergal’s soul :) I could catch a lot of new details.

Conclusion
As you can see, each change in a well balanced system must be thought through. In Rysiek’s system the Franc feet and platforms under the SACD player did not perform well. In this case the combination of Acoustic Revive RAf-48 and finite elemente CeraPucs was the best and resulted in the best sound. In case of the amplifier however, the improvement was dramatic; it showed that under a heavy component the CeraPucs give a darker, less differentiated sound. They are still splendid anti-vibration feet and I am happy with them (I have them under my Lektor Air). The thing is that the Ceramic Discs are much better.
In case of the loudspeakers it is also 1:1. The Slim feet have to work with spikes, otherwise there is not much sense using them. On the other hand, the platforms are better than plain marble. Everything is better with them – definition, saturation, detail, dynamics – it is GOOD.
This is of course only a partial evaluation, because we did not have the Acoustic Revive RST-38 platform for comparison. But this kind of match will happen at Janusz’s who was sick this time and could not participate in our meeting. I will try to write something about that when it happens.
But I have to say that the change in the sound with the components from Franc Audio Accessories is big, and usually goes in the right direction. Their price is very high, but the craftsmanship, the looks, and the sound quality seem to justify it.
However I would warn you before treating the anti-vibration components as “accessories” – they are full-fledged components of the system, changing the sound as much as a change in electronics, and sometimes even more. With their help we can polish the sound we’ve got, but we can also change it, shape it. I am happy that we have a company in Poland that makes these products, based on their own technical knowledge, in an ingenius, ideal way.

Post Scriptum
As I mentioned, during the meeting a few people from KSS were missing, including Janusz, at whose place we had listened to the Acoustic Revive systems – and most of them remained at his place. Comparing the Franc with the AR was inevitable. I did not take part in the meeting, so I only refer for you what I heard from people doing the comparison. Most of all they confirmed that you need to choose the Franc Audio feet for your own components, because they can be badly combined and the system will sound worse than without them. On the other hand, when we connect everything well, it will be ideal.
And so at Janusz’s the Slim feet under the loudspeakers spikes proved themselves well – in his case under the stands spikes. And he had there expensive, really nicely working Acoustic Revive supports! Yet the sophisticated design of the Slims brought a significant sound improvement, in all its aspects. So they stay there. The second thing – the Fat platform combined perfectly with the mains conditioner. It will also stay. The design of the Base rack did not allow for testing under the DAC and the amplifiers, but under the player neither the Fat, nor the Slim (platforms) could outperform the RAF-48 air platform.

Post Scriptum 2
Shortly after the meeting I received from Paweł pictures of his newest design – an enclosure for the Ancient Audio Air (Prime) player … Please have a look at them in the “Gallery”… This is only the first step, an enclosure for the already existing player, but if things go well, the enclosure will be designed without considering the already existing solutions from Ancient Audio (in terms of chassis, shape, etc). However this requires making many prototypes, comparing their sound, improving them, comparing, etc. A real ordeal…

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