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Black Ravioli Pads - An inexpensive tweak to energize your electronics

This is a brief essay about my experience of resonance control and a revisit and follow-up of the original ravioli-shaped pads review I published about three years ago. I have — and still use — quite a few Black Ravioli (BRs) in my systems, but now have the company’s latest additions to the line-up — three models of Big Foot pads (single, double and triple), Sticky Pads 1 & 2 and a Big Pad to accommodate equipment that needs more clearance/capacity. A comprehensive guide in on the Black Ravioli website (

Black Raviolis are the brainchild of Scotland-based Derek Ethell who’s earlier American distributor introduced me to these little pasta-shaped pillows that do not look like anything resembling an audio accessory but, when applied, greatly impact the listening experience.

The subject of resonance and the resulting vibrations is one of my pet audio issues in which I have been interested ever since the introduction of the Mod Squad Tip Toes that came onto the market in the mid eighties. By 1986, I had experimented with various resonance-controlling accessories and even made my own makeshift gadgets to improve the sound of my turntable and CD player. I also experimented with speaker stands and had a pair made for my Quad electrostats a couple of years before the Arcici stands became available. At the time, I chose wood for my two-foot high stands, tiptoed the Quads and — eventually — took off the grilles and braced and dampened the internal structure with strips of foam. Though not very professional, the results were quite comparable with Quad 63 US monitors introduced in the late 1980s, which had better bracing throughout their construction. The bracing prevented the slight fluttering of the plastic cover over the electrostatic panels, thus reducing vibrations and further improving the speakers’ ability to focus imagery and — believe it or not, their bass response energy. I had (still have) a two-position stethoscope that I used for listening to resonating characteristics of various materials used in the audio industry. Though not a scientific approach, I learned that everything resonates, indeed everything audio not only resonates but also picks up and amplifies all kinds of resonance frequencies. In the late 1980s an abundance of accessories focusing on resonance control hit the market — and I had them all it seems. The materials used for these gadgets included metal alloys, wood such as ebony, rubber, plastic, ceramics, air, oil, water, cones, springs and spikes made of various metals, not to speak of clamps, mats and Shun Mook Mpingo pucks — and the list goes on. I soon found out that they all worked, although they all changed the resonance frequencies or channeled energy away from the main component, frequently with amazing, audible effects. However, my research showed that none of the gadgets actually eliminated resonances altogether. Enter, the first generation Black Raviolis that, it appears, completely do away or absorb vibrational stress — an almost intriguing achievement in light of their design simplicity. It wasn’t until a few months ago that I began to understand a little of the BR’s interaction with all things audio. I took out aforementioned stethoscope, put it on a Big Foot that I had placed on top of a pair of speakers and listened to the naturally amplified sound. I was a bit disappointed at first, because I clearly heard all sorts of resonances, all across the audible frequency range. I then applied pressure to the BRs and voila, dead silence. Magic? Not really, but then again, my knowledge of physics is rather limited. All I know is that this branch of science is concerned with the nature and properties of matter and energy that includes mechanics, heat, light and other radiation, sound, electricity, magnetism, and the structure of atoms. All of this relates to and affects anything audio; and the evidence is readily attainable by using the best instrument for the job — the ears.

Of course, an evaluation of a tweak is a subjective nightmare; not only because of the personal taste issue, but primary because system components have dissimilar resonance characteristics — and one tweak accessory isn’t going to be suited for all applications and/or personal preferences.

Here is what I already know: the original BRs work fine under CD players, turntables, amplifiers, preamplifiers, phono preamplifiers, power supplies — well almost any electronic component one may wish to put on a shelf, a rack or on the floor. It is because any surface area will resonate when excited from airborne reflected sound, generated by the loudspeakers. In addition, those feet or cones on the bottom of components really cannot appropriately isolate the chassis from the surface they are on, nor can they quash or cancel the housing’s vibration. In fact, amps and preamps, after having amplified a musical signal, their internal components — especially the transformers — generate their own unwanted signal in shape of hum and noise. A good component shelf or rack can do a decent job; or a solid concrete foundation will help most equipment placed upon it. However, I found that they all pale in comparison to a simple inexpensive shelf (or the floor of the listening room) with Raviolis placed strategically under the components, even when they are already placed on resonance-reducing shelving.

The Sound
Well, actually, the Black Raviolis do not produce sound of their own, but do adjust or revise sound generated by the components within an audio system. As I had done in the past, I began by placing four of the original BRs (the little cushions) under the supporting feet of one of my source components — a Pioneer Elite player, used only as a transport. The result was — as I expected — improved bass response, better, more defined midrange and conspicuously obvious spatial elements on an improved sound stage. When I replaced the original BRs with the new single Big Foot pads, bypassing the transport’s feet, the sound stage became even more defined, bass had additional weight and resolution, and midrange was identical. High frequency information seemed a bit subdued, although I liked how the BRs tamed the edginess and stridency of some of my mass-produced CDs. Another player I had in-house for an evaluation — the Atoll CD 400 — displayed similar improvements, although its chassis and housing is in line with a Sherman tank’s, as it weighs about 20 pounds. The player’s weight worked well with the Big Foot pads and improved not only its bass and imaging elements, but also expanded and defined midrange detail. Where there was a bit of hardness or stridency, the BRs had tamed it without adding pleasing or unpleasing colouration to the sound.

Three Big Foot triple pads worked best under the heavy Bryston 7B SST Squared amplifiers. The powerful Brystons’ sonic personality didn’t change, but with the BRs bypassing their supporting feet, deep bass became firmer with additional harmonic structure above fundamentals. Midrange information seemed more liberated as detail and spaces emerged on the sound stage, considerably adding to the system’s tonal refinement.

Three double or four single BR pads placed under the integrated Magnum amplifier provided similar results —an all-round sonic improvement of I’d say 20%.

Each preamplifier I had in-house demonstrated a clearer, more transparent performance when I placed four single pads with spacers under the supporting feet. However, when I bypassed these feet with three double Big Foot pads placed under the heaviest parts of the chassis, I also noticed a marked improvement in the high frequency domain. This arrangement resulted in a noticeably smoother signal flow, which helped to refine the sound from around 650Hz (upper midrange) all the way to 5kH (the beginning range of upper highs). Additionally, sound stage dimensionality, space and focus on instruments and voices also improved, though by a variable extent, depending on the preamp’s chassis construction. In earlier tests, the only preamplifier that didn’t benefit from single BR pads was the Wyetech Labs Opel and, later, the Ruby models; these components feature a ¼ inch steel case and one of the industry’s best chassis. Nevertheless, with the new, more elaborate single Big Foot pads, even the Ruby’s sound improved by adding subtle refinements to its tone/voice. The most surprising sonic improvements — and I admit to my incongruous approach — was when I squeezed some of the original pasta between the preamps’ and CD players’ RCA connectors and my auditioning speakers’ terminals. I used six BRs in total and reached an advanced state of sonic stability, that didn’t change the sound, but drew my attention to resolution, focus and the sound-stage’s dimensions and spatial elements. The sound had taken on an element of calmness and composure — a feeling that all is right in musical terms.

Synopsis & Commentary
Most if not all vibration control accessories work by channeling resonance away from one part of a component to another area that —hopefully — is less problematic. It can be achieved with materials known for their absorbing capacity or the ability to change the resonance frequency; changing the energy into heat is another commonly used method. The technique employed with the Black Raviolis is a little bit of magic inasmuch as there are no documented material specifications; and while I can’t properly explain how, my stethoscope actually revealed that they do work well under anything audio.

You should know that too many BRs might dampen the sound of certain components, diminishing the energy in top frequencies. Therefore it is important to follow a logical plan, whereby the overall system sound must be taken into consideration. If your system sounds bright, additional damping may well be what needs to be done. On the other hand, if your system sounds dull and/or sluggish to begin with, carefully placed single BRs pads would improve the sound quality, but not actually change the fundamental makeup of the system sound. Single pads will add space and focus on the sound stage, allow cleaner, lower bass response and recreate better-defined dimensions, especially in the front-to-back scope.

CD players coned with ceramic sounded best with the Raviolis placed under the cones, while metal coned players sounded best when bypassing the supports altogether and placing the chassis directly onto three double BRs which are sandwiched between what appears to be a corian plate.

For heavier equipment such as power amplifiers, I found that three or four Big Foot pads did a great job by adding weight and resolution to the bass as well as improving focus and spatiality to the image on the sound stage.

I believe that the most effective all-round improvements can be achieved by placing the BR’s under the preamplifier, elevating it enough to clear its own supports. Though many high-end preamplifiers have pretty good supporting feet, they will not sink vibrations from the housing enclosure whereas three or four Big Foot and or double BRs achieve just that. In my setups, I tested the BRs with three preamplifiers including the recently reviewed tubed Allnic — and every one of them clearly rendered sonic improvements, although with varying degrees of accomplishment. What I am trying to say is that the BRs must not be considered a band-aid solution/remedy for a poorly designed component — in fact, I believe that they will enhance quality as well as inferiority. However, with premium electronics, especially in the very high-end, the use of the BRs is an organic tweak that does not change the sound of a great system; rather, it augments the components’ performance. I believe that the use of Black Raviolis will enhance all (high-end) systems with a more relaxed musical performance, adding additional spaciousness, better-defined imagery and focus. This is pasta to behold and a real effective way to improve everything audio — and don’t forget BRs also work for video.

Black Ravioli Sticky 1 & 2
Black Ravioli Big Pad

Black Ravioli Resonance and Vibration Control Pads Black Ravioli/KM Audio
Ranging from $38.00 (each) to sets at $399.00  
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