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Of all the special racks and platforms available for use with your precious audio gear, none is as important as the stands necessary for so-called bookshelf speakers. Their first function is to raise the speakers to an appropriate height--usually placing the tweeter at ear level--and thus many manufacturers recommend certain stands for use with their speakers. However, perhaps just as important as the height of the stands is how they support the vibrating boxes that sit atop them. In this regard, a speaker stand should act as both rigid foundation and resonance sink, killing or filtering off as many bad vibes as possible. And it is in these last two functions where merely good speaker stands are separated from the great ones, the improvement in the sound that the speakers produce being the ultimate measuring stick.
Osiris Audionics is a new company that thinks it has the ideal formula for making the best speaker stands you can buy. Its Osiris stands begin as heavy pieces of steel and end as a heavy and elegant-looking pair of stands. The top and bottom plates are 1/2"-thick pieces of steel. While the top plate is completely flat with rounded corners, the bottom plate on which the support pillars rest is semi-pyramidal in shape. Michau Jay Yuen, the president of Osiris Audionics, explained that this shape was chosen over others because of how it dissipates energy--acting like an inverted cone and ultimately providing greater isolation and resonance transfer for the speakers. The Osiris stands weigh 40 pounds each, and the two round pillars, 3.5" in diameter, that connect top and bottom plates can be filled with sand, lead shot, or a combination of both to add mass and control resonance. I used sand exclusively and found that each pillar holds over 10 pounds worth, which makes the stands weigh over 60 pounds each--even more if you use lead shot. Osiris Audionics makes 19-, 24- and 27-inch models of the Osiris stands, and these heights should accommodate a majority of the bookshelf speakers currently available.
Osiris Audionics has obviously created the Osiris stands very deliberately, and it seems that they haven't missed a trick. The stands are solidly built and come with a number of accessories that either help make setting the stands up easier or improve their performance with your speakers. Included are a printed guide that covers setup, a paper funnel to aid in the sand- or shot-filling process, and even a few black dots that you can put over the fill holes in the top plate once you're finished. The stands also have the most substantial and user-friendly spikes I've seen--solid brass, 7/8" round, 2" tall, and nicely threaded. They screw into and through the bottom plate, making adjustment and leveling an easy task: just slip a quarter into the notch on top of the spike and turn. No fumbling around while you try to twist narrow spikes that sit under the heavy stands. Very nice.
In Addition to...
The sand-filled Osiris stands, 24" in height, were used exclusively in my budget reference system along with Merlin TSM speakers (follow-up review coming). I used a CAL DX-2 CD player as well as electronics from Mesa, Joule Electra, and Clayton Audio. Cables were from DH Labs. I used stock power cords (gasp!) most of the time, although I did experiment very successfully with power cords from JPS Labs and Audio Power Industries.
I used a matched quad of Fun-Tak blobs to couple the Merlins to the stands, but before I even attempted this I leveled the stands to make sure the speaker drivers would fire perfectly straight ahead. Don't take this step for granted--a slight variation in angle at the speakers can lead to a large anomaly in tone at your listening seat, so take the time to level the stands, and then ensure that the speakers themselves are also leveled once they're seated on top of the stands. Your ears will thank you.
The Sound of...
Before you ask the question yourself, I'll ask it for you: how does one evaluate the sound of a pair of speaker stands? A good question, especially when you combine it with the fact that I had no access to other speaker stands of the same or similar height for direct comparison. Hmmmm. Well, I'll say right here that this review is by necessity a work in progress, but there are a few aural conclusions that I was able to draw. First, the Osiris stands are incredibly rigid, and this attribute helped couple the Merlin TSMs solidly to the weight of the stands and, of course, the floor below, reducing the speakers' susceptibility to internal and external vibration. This seemed an especially easy conclusion to draw given the midrange of the TSMs, which, like that of the Merlin VSMs and VSM-SEs, was very impressive. Wonderful clarity and transparency were mixed with just a touch of sweetness. The price of the TSMs and the Osiris stands is $2579, and I don't know of a pair of speakers in this price range that equals the way the TSM/Osiris combination re-creates voices, which just sounded distinctly there.
Another salient feature of the Osiris stands is their ability to damp unwanted vibration and resonance, keeping these away from the speaker cabinets and thus the drivers, which have enough to worry about. If I touched the cabinets while the music was playing, I obviously felt vibration from the sound. If I touched the top plate of the speaker stands, the vibration was almost nonexistent. But if I touched the sand-filled pillars, even near the top plate, there was nothing. Although the sand certainly has a lot to do with this, I can't help but think that if the pillars were smaller in diameter and thus held less sand, the vibration would have more of a chance at turning the entire stand into a vibrating mass that would certainly affect the sound of the speakers. It only makes sense.
All in all, I had nothing to fault with the speakers that would lead me to believe that the stands were somehow responsible. On the contrary, I always had the sense that the impressive sound had something to do with the solidity of the Osiris stands.
In the End...
The Osiris speaker stands have been a great success when used with the Merlin TSMs, and I suspect that they won't disappoint with other speakers as well--the ProAc Response 2s and 1sc models come quickly to mind. The Osiris stands are heavy and incredibly inert, but even so they are surprisingly easy to set up, including the dreaded duty of filling them with sand or lead shot. And they look like a million bucks, the perfect complement to the uptown Merlin TSMs. I can just see the two of them together in a Manhattan loft, in front of a long wall of pickled-oak bookshelves and flanking a glowing rack of fine ancillary equipment. Ah, the good life.
Only as other speaker stands show up for evaluation will I know the full measure of the Osiris stands and their contribution to the stellar sound I get with the Merlin TSMs. It's only fair, however, to give at least some of the credit at this point to the Osiris stands--their function may be simple but the sound they help produce is complex and involving. Perhaps the best way to sum things up is to convey the thoughts of Merlin's Bobby Palkovic, who loves the Osiris stands, believing that they outperform his previous favorites with the TSMs, the Target R4s (which cost $250 more). There's opinion and then there's truth.
|Osiris Audionics Speaker Stands
Price: $479 USD per pair