Doug Blackburn
The Noisy Audiophile

September 1996

Andy Bartha's Whatchamacallits

Having had my head royally messed with by hearing how much better components sound on AudioPoints, then better in a good rack with AudioPoints, then even better in a Clamp Rack with AudioPoints, I was pretty sure that getting even more improvement in sound quality from the system was pretty unlikely. One thing high-end audio teaches you real fast... expectations don't often have much to do with reality.

When you don't know what it is... Whatchamacallit. When it resists all attempts at being named... Whatchamacallit. When it looks alternately edible and poisonous... Whatchamacallit. When it makes your system sound better... Whatchamacallit. These foots is crude. These foots is cheap (sorta). These foots is gonna surprise you. They simple. They versa-tile. They work. Whatchamacallit.

[WHATCHAMACALLITS]Take a muffin, whack off the top. The part that is left is shaped like a Whatchamacallit. Muffins come in different sizes. Whatchamacallits come in different sizes. Smalls, mini-muffin size, are $8 each. Use them under most components including amps. Mediums are $12.50 each. Use them on top of most components. Large round ones are $35 each (getting more expensive) and the bit larger square one is $40. Where and when to use these larger sizes is best recommended by Andy. You can reach Andy at 954-583-7866.

Whatchamacallits are made of lead shot mixed with silicone, molded in muffin pans and allowed to set-up. There's not too much silicone in the mix, just enough to hold the lead shot together. The outer surfaces have semi-exposed lead shot and are not fully silicone-covered. Lead shot you buy today has EPA-required antimony coating. Antimony, particularly, because it is an inert metal. When the lead falls in the duck pond, it just sits there, protected in its antimony shell for eons. The antimony keeps the lead off Andy's hands and yours. However, I would keep them away from gnawing rug rats of both 2 and 4 leg varieties.

Typical use for Whatchamacallits is 3 small ones under the component and 1 medium on top. I found this formula very nice for the following components: modded CD player; modded laserdisc player; Audible Illusions Modulus 3 tube preamp; modded surround decoder; center channel amp; modded surround amp. I like them with the larger side towards the component.

I also ended up with 3 mediums under my turntable. The amp was something else. I am still experimenting with it. I've explored suggestions Andy had, tried a couple of my own ideas and tried a couple things others had passed on to Andy from their experimentation. I'm not sure I have the ideal setup on this amp yet -- but it sounds pretty darn good. I have 3 mediums under the amp, all in a straight line right down the center. 2 are near the transformer, towards the front of the amp, 1 is at the rear. This would normally be pretty wobbly, but I also have a large square one on top in the center and the amp is firmly clamped in a Clamp Rack. It isn't going to be doing any tipping NOW. I also have 8 additional mediums on the amp, one on top of each of the 8 heat sinks to absorb air-induced or signal-induced or chassis-induced vibrations that make their way to the heat sinks. This was QUITE a surprise to me. I'm a little worried about the reduced air circulation, but the amp is getting a lot more air from the bottom and sides now that it is sitting a few inches higher on the medium Whatchamacallits, so I'm going to call it a "wash". I really don't want to listen to this amp without the heat-sink damping now.

Initial Whatchamacallit experimenting was done with all the components just sitting on shelves, not Clamped. I tried Clamping them using small Whatchamacallits for feet and a medium Whatchamacallit on top. Very, very, nice. The BEST foot available? Hmmmm, I haven't heard ALL of them, but I have heard quite a mix of soft feet, hard feet, stacked feet assemblies, plastic feet, metal feet, rubber feet, ceramic feet. Whatchamacallits do sound better than anything else I've tried. DAS likes the Black Diamond Racing Cones which I've not auditioned -- could be an interesting shoot-out subject.

Buuutttt whhhaaaaattttt dooooooo theyyyyyyy sound lie-ke, you are probably whining by now. Well, they sound like... nothing. They don't DO much really. Now stop screwing your head side-to-side like a corn-fused puppy, this is a very good thing. What these feet do more than any other foot I've tried is to create silence. Music emerges from wonderful silence, from rich blackness, from... nothing. One instant there is silence, the next beautiful sound. How is this different from other feet and from what manufacturers put on their components? By comparison, stock feet and other accessory feet do little to remove background noise. I'm going to call this noise "signal modulated noise" because the louder the audio signal, the more noise fills what should be total silence... fills in the space between notes and the space around notes. If you "listen" to your system while it idles with no signal, it probably seems quiet. This "idling" level of quiet is not affected by different feet or Whatchamacallits. Apply and audio signal and you get music... and noise in the background that you may not even realize is there until you hear it removed. But once you hear how much more musical and natural the sound is with the background noise (signal modulated noise) reduced to low levels, you will never be satisfied having to listen to it, knowing it can be eliminated. You begin to realize that even during Ode to Joy, Stairway to Heaven, Stardust, Stand By Me, Take the A Train, or Graceland there should be silence BEHIND and AROUND the notes. Whatchamacallits let you experience the silence behind and around the notes. This may seem trivial, but I've never done anything to my system that made this silence as silent as Whatchamacallits do. I want to remind you, hearing this much background silence is high-end heaven. Detail is all audible without annoying rising top-end response and without being in-your-face, a very natural presentation. "Textures" of the notes and of the instruments have life and dimension because the flattening noise is not present. You hear harmonic content that was previously masked by the noise. The system SEEMS more dynamic but this is probably imaginary, an artifact of identical spl levels rising from quieter silence.

A couple of closing comments... I can't tell you that these feet will be the best thing for every component in your system. They are definitely worth experimenting with. Get 3 or 6 small feet and 1 or 2 medium feet and move them around to different components in your system. You may find they help every component or that they only help certain components. If they work with everything, order more. Andy likes it when you call back and order more (954-583-7866). What's cool about these feet is that if you are using make-do shelves or tables for your equipment instead of an audiophile-approved rack, they can make your system sound a lot better (if your components like Whatchamacallits of course). If you do have a fancy audiophile-approved rack they can STILL make your system sound better. I'm not going to tell you there aren't other things that can/do work. I'm still looking forward to trying some of the Bright Star Air Mass, Big Rock, & Little Rock isolation and damping devices and other products of this type -- additional levels of greatness are possible. But these simple and cost effective Whatchamacallits are impressive.

A really final comment... tweaks like these should be explored before considering buying a new component. If you are into modifying components... try some stuff like these feet to utterly fascinate yourself with how much nicer your components can sound... improvements that are not possible by electronic tweaks and maybe not even by buying a 2x or 3x more expensive preamp or amp or whatever. Seriously important stuff, these isolation / damping / tuning devices like Whatchamacallits, Clamp Racks, etc.

....Doug Blackburn


Andy Bartha's Whatchamacallits
Price (in USD): small-round $8.00, medium-round $12.50,
large-round $35, large-square $40

Available Direct from Andy Bartha - (954)583-7866