So for the folks who might be reading this thread - folks who are actually looking for real advice and want to know whether a damping device placed under their subwoofers or speakers is worth the price tag - I just want to address a couple of things.
First, there are a few people who, for whatever reason, have made it something of a mission to prevent everyone from using damping devices. I've no idea what the motivation for that attitude might be, but I won't be arguing directly with any such people. Their minds are set in stone, and there's just no point in spending the energy in engaging them.
But this all boils down to whether or not we can trust our own observations. And I get where some of the naysaying about damping comes from; we have things like cables and speaker wire and power conditioners. For ages and ages, there have been people who swear up and down that they make audible differences, and people who swear up and down that they don't. Now, the truth in those cases is that they don't, unless there is some sort of design or usage flaw that is altering the signal. But the REAL issue at hand is that there's some pretty simple advice that anyone can follow, which is to listen for yourself and make the comparison to draw your own conclusions.
Now, the problem with saying, "if you're really wondering whether speaker wire makes an audible difference, just go compare and listen for yourself" is that we really are pretty bad at honestly making those sorts of comparisons. When we know that a change has been made, we tend to hear a change if we want to - or even if we don't want to.
But knowing that, it's still a pretty simple experiment for you to simply compare the setups "blind" so that you don't know which is which, or whether any change has even been made at all. In one sense, any genuinely audible difference ought to be apparent without you knowing which setup is which. And in another sense, if this is a matter of deciding whether a product is worth its price tag, you should definitely be able to hear a difference in a "blind" comparison - especially when some of those price tags are ridiculously high!
So the damping naysayers are taking that type of comparison - where we very often cannot actually detect any difference in a "blind" comparison, and yet lots of people will swear up and down that they hear a difference when the comparison is "sighted" and they know which is which - and they're applying that to this topic of damping devices. Understandable.
But there's a big and important difference here.
Sometimes, observable differences are really obvious. Whether you're "sighted" or "blind" in the comparison, the differences are not subtle at all.
But let's say they ARE subtle. We can still do a "blind" comparison. And when running that experiment carries a cost of zero dollars, I think it's pretty reasonable to say, "this is a good candidate for listening and comparing for yourself and drawing your own conclusions."
Listening and comparing for yourself and drawing your own conclusions might easily lead you astray when it's speaker wire or interconnects or a power conditioner under question. If all you do is listen to one, then listen to another, and you know which is which - it's not a "blind" comparison - then you might easily fool yourself into thinking you heard something that you actually didn't. And when you have to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to get that wire or power conditioner into your house so that you can test it with your won equipment, that just throws a whole new wrinkle into the proceedings.
But listening and comparing for yourself and drawing your own conclusions when it comes to damping is not the same situation. Could you still fool yourself into thinking you hear a difference when you actually do not? Sure. But you can mitigate that to a very large extent by doing the comparison "blind". Close your eyes and have a friend play bass sweeps with the subwoofer either in direct contact with the floor, or with the subwoofer atop a decoupling device. And since the decoupling device can be a folded up blanket, this experiment carries almost no monetary cost to it what-so-ever. You don't have to purchase any commercially sold damping device to hear whether damping under your subwoofer or speakers will make an audible difference. The device doesn't matter. Any sort of cushion will do!
So what might the results be? It depends. If you've got a subwoofer with opposing drivers that cancel out almost all physical vibration, you might not hear any difference at all in your blind comparison. Congratulations. You just saved yourself some money by using a blanket and a friend instead
If your floor is already covered in carpet with a nice, thick carpet pad underneath, your subwoofer is already damped in its connection to the floor. And you might not hear any difference at all. Congratulations. Once again, no need to buy anything. Your folded up blanket, closed eyes, and helpful friend just saved you $50.
Now maybe your subwoofer came with some "cone" or "spike"-type feet. And even on a carpeted floor, all of that downward force is now being "focused" into just four tiny "feet". Same pounds, many fewer square inches. Pounds per square inch - that's all "feet" are about. So now you listen "blind", and maybe you think you hear a tiny difference, but you're not really sure. OK. Up to you now. If you're really not sure, it probably ain't worth $50. Again, your blanket and helpful friend just saved you some money.
But then we come to another common scenario. You listen to the bass sweep the first time, and your window clearly rattles, or you hear a buzz somewhere, or you actually feel a vibration in your chair. Then the sweep plays a second time, and all of those buzzes and rattles go away, or they're really obviously reduced. "What the heck?" you ask yourself. So you have your friend run the sweeps again. Sometimes, the buzzes and rattles are really obvious, other times, they're almost completely gone. You keep track, and so does your friend. And after you've run a whole bunch of sweeps, you compare, and you discover that 100% of the time, you heard the buzzes and rattles when the subwoofer was just sitting directly on the floor, and you did not hear or feel them when the subwoofer was on top of the blanket.
Congratulations. You just confirmed that using a damping device - in your particular situation - will be worth while. Does it need to cost $50? Nope. Any cushion will do. But if $50 seems reasonable to you, at least it will get the job done.
Now, should you ignore all of that and just be told, "no matter what, you cannot trust your own senses. No matter how obvious the difference might seem, some guys measurements say they don't exist!" Well, that's just silly. When there are obvious differences, there are obvious differences! Things rattle and buzz in one scenario, they don't in another. It's consistent 100% of the time. And I can easily observe it "blind" without knowing which was which. At that point, if the measurements don't correlate, then there's an error in the measurements, not in the observation. That's part of the scientific process, too. Observation - with human senses - does still count for something. We don't need to get ridiculous about it.
But all of that, ALL of that, still might not be the best reason to try a damping experiment. This time, go and sit in the room next door to where the subwoofer is located, or in the room above or below. Get your helpful friend to play bass sweeps while you are in one of these adjacent rooms. Observe. Keep track of whether you really hear the bass clearly "coming through the walls" or if it sounds much more muffled, or even silent. Have your friend keep track, too. Then compare.
If 100% of the time, the bass easily "came through the walls" when the subwoofer was in direct contact with the floor, and 100% of the time, the bass sounded way more muffled, or even silent, when the subwoofer was on top of the folded up blanket, then congratulations, you just found a way to not bother your neighbors so much. That could easily be worth $50 - or at least a couple of dollars to find some sort of cushion
And if you don't hear any difference, or the difference is really, really small and not even worth while, then now you know that, too.
So what I'm saying is, I really don't care whether you believe me. But don't just blindly follow this silly "damping doesn't work at all, ever" naysaying. Like I said in my first post in this thread, it's extremely easy to understand how putting a cushion of some sort under a vibrating object can reduce buzzes and rattles and prevent that sound "leaking through the walls or floor" into other rooms or neighboring apartments. These claims that speakers and subs don't vibrate in a way that can transmit energy into the surrounding structure - well, that's just flat out not true. I mean, heck, put your hand on your subwoofer while it's playing - you can feel the darn thing shaking! Although I guess that's human perception, too - haha.
But anyways, it honestly doesn't matter whether you agree that subwoofers and speakers vibrate when they play or whether you believe the crazy people. Believe me, don't believe me, totally doesn't matter. This is a case where you CAN believe yourself. Frankly, when the difference is super obvious - like things rattling vs. not rattling, or hearing bass coming through the wall vs. not hearing it come through the wall - I really, really don't think it's even necessary to compare "blind". But do it "blind" anyway! Take that variable out of the equation.
The experiment is easy and free. The results will either be clearly obvious or not. If you don't hear any difference - either in your own room or in any adjacent room - then don't bother with a damping device! Boom. Easy. Done. But if you DO hear a really obvious difference, then why the heck would you drive yourself crazy questioning whether you REALLY heard a difference or not. Observation counts. And we don't have to get so silly about this stuff. Listen to your two different cables. Do you honestly hear an obvious difference? I mean really. If the only things you can claim are super subtle, maybe you ought to question that. But rattle vs. no rattle? Bass "bleeding" through the walls vs. not? We're not talking subtle here. So yeah, you can trust your own damn ears with something like that. Let's not be so ridiculous.
- Rob H.