Review: IsoAcoustics Stage 1 Board

This is a relatively affordable means of achieving an overall sonic enhancement, and it’s easily portable too.
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Professional engineers and even semi-pro home studio recordists have long understood the benefits of isolating studio monitors from the structures beneath them, thereby eliminating vibrational transference and resulting in a clearer, more articulate sound.

Vibrational isolation is IsoAcoustics’ forte, and this Canadian company has been making award-winning engineers and producers like Eddie Kramer, Cenzo Townshend and Greg Wurth happy for years with products such as the ISO-Stands, ISO-Pucks and Stage 1 isolators.

While the ISO-Pucks and Stage 1 isolators have been used beneath traditional guitar amps in the studio, IsoAcoustics has now taken things a step further with the Stage 1 Board, a 25 x 10 x 0.8–inch board made from ABS thermoplastic, with a carrying handle cut into one edge and mounting positions for four Stage 1 Isolators on the underside. 

While the board itself is a simple thing, the Stage 1 Isolators are the key to the package. Each pod-like unit has an aluminum “cup” in which sits a sprung, dense-rubber “foot,” providing efficient vibration absorption while together supporting up to 200 pounds of gear. The set knocks together easily using the 16 included mounting screws, and the board itself is extremely light.

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Can it possibly work? Indeed, it most certainly does. I tested a modified tweed Deluxe-style combo and a semi-open-back 2x12 Germino extension cab fed by a 50-watt Friedman Small Box head. I began my test by playing through each amp without the Stage 1 Board in place, to reacquaint my ears with their familiar, stellar tones. I then tried each amp with the Stage 1 Board underneath, and voila! 

There was a noticeable improvement in clarity and note articulation with each amp, and what I perceived as a slight “sweetening” of the overall frequency spectrum and a tighter, punchier low end.

After playing for a while with each amp to become familiar with its newly enhanced tone, I removed the board to see if the improvements were just an illusion, and - wow! - this is where the difference really became apparent. Without the Stage 1 in place, each rig sounded a little muddier, woolier and more slurred. 

Of course, some players who like to have their amps contact the floor for the bass boost it produces might hear less bass with the Stage 1 in play, but I hear it as a tighter, punchier, better-defined low end, with less boominess.

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So, yeah, the thing works, which, as I noted above, is something many studio engineers could have told us to begin with. That said, it was enlightening to discover how such a seemingly simple device could achieve its impressive goal.

The difference that the Stage 1 Board and IsoAcoustics system makes to your own rig might depend on your ears, but I believe it will be noticeable to most players, and dramatically so for some. Those who focus on the nuances and obsess over the myriad details contributing to their overall tone are likely to be impressed with the results.

Whichever camp you’re in, it’s worth noting that this is a relatively affordable means of achieving an overall sonic enhancement, and it’s easily portable too. Better still, it should help you achieve greater consistency of tone from venue to venue by taking the vagaries of stage construction out of the mix. And that’s something plenty of gigging guitarists can appreciate.

SPECIFICATIONS

Stage 1 Board
CONTACT
isoacoustics.com
PRICE $168 list (Stage1 Board, $39; Isolator feet, $129 for pack of 4)

KUDOS A simple solution for providing enhanced clarity and articulation and low-end punchiness and more consistent gig-to-gig sound
CONCERNS Another inch or two in width and length would accommodate more amps and cabs

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