Reviewed by Steve McCormack, SMc Audio
Hi Paul - I want to thank you again for your support with my Stillpoint standoff trials. With the proper number of standoffs in-hand to fully populate the VRE-1 preamplifier, I decided it was time to give them an "official" evaluation. Let me preface my remarks by saying that the VRE-1 is my statement piece. It is the result of an open-ended project to develop the highest-performance preamp possible, and it was in development for over 5 years while I examined every aspect of its performance. I believe it to be among the finest preamps available today, without regard for cost. Its performance in a truly fine system - like The Lotus Group's "Granada" speakers or the Kaiser "Kaweros" at Hi-Fi One - can be startlingly lifelike...and that was before the addition of the Stillpoints standoff technology.
To be honest, I am really startled by the improvement wrought by your standoffs. I am tempted to call them transformative, but let's not get carried away ;-) All aspects of the VRE-1's already outstanding performance have been clearly improved. Everything that I already loved about it is there to a greater degree - individual instrumental lines are more clearly delineated, soundstage dimensions are more clearly revealed, depth is greater, harmonics are more delicate, dynamics are more incisive, etc. Well, ok - that's all the usual audiophile verbiage, and is more-or-less the kind of thing I might have predicted if I were guessing. The *real* magic is in the beautiful sweetness of the music and its relaxed, lyrical quality. The way musical notes and phrases start, endure, and complete, sounds just exactly right. It's that sense of "musicality" that is so hard to define, but which is so clear when we hear it. Congratulations, Paul - these standoffs are remarkably good.
As you may recall, when I first looked at the standoffs I was left with the impression that the articulated end would have to be able to "float" in order for them to work properly. I was concerned that I would have to radically alter or eliminate my circuit board damping system in order to use them. As you pointed out, this is not the case - their design does not require this "floating" action. Indeed, I was able to simply replace the existing solid standoffs while retaining all of the damping I normally use - I really did not change a thing other than the standoffs themselves. In addition, we both considered the possibility that a finely-tuned design like the VRE-1 might have to be re-voiced to balance the changes introduced by your standoffs. Again, this was not the case - every aspect of the VRE-1's performance simply improved, across the board. No re-voicing needed, or wanted.
Thanks again for making these parts available. I am excited about the prospect of using them in other designs, and in my upgrade work. The next step, though, is to get them into the VRE-1's power supply so that I can hear that improvement. That's right - all of the above comments were made *without* having the standoffs installed in the power supply, and its performance is a key component of the whole system! I can't wait to hear what they do there.