August, 2018 SFAS Event – Critical Mass Systems Racks and Footers

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SFAS Members were once again treated to a very interesting and informative event at Joe Hakim’s beautiful home in Soquel.  This time the presentation covered the Critical Mass Systems (CMS) MAXXUM equipment rack and CMS 0.8, 1.0 and 1.5 Center Stage2 footers by the founder and president of CMS, Joe Lavrencik.
 
                    Joe Lavrencik                                                 Joe Hakim
Joe Hakim kicked off the event by reviewing the equipment in his system which includes Ypsilon electronics; EMM Labs DAC2X v2 DAC; Aurender A10 network streamer; Artisan Fidelity modified Technics SP10MK3 turntable with a Koetsu Blue Lace Platinum cartridge; PS Audio P10 power regenerator; MasterBuilt cables and interconnects; Von Schweikert VR-55 speakers; and Critical Mass Systems (CMS) MAXXUM rack and Center Stage2 footers.  Joe H. also talked about the sonic improvements he’s experienced since he’s added the CMS rack and footers to his system including greater resolution and bass response.  Quite an impressive observation considering the top notch sonics his system already conveyed!
                   
The main event, Joe Lavrencik, was up next.  Joe L. first apologized for his jet lag as he and his wife, Joy, had just returned from the Hong Kong High End Audio Visual Show and was feeling the effects of the travel and time difference.  Joe L. talked about how he got started in the business after finding that existing systems did not meet his sonic and construction expectations.  He also spoke to the design concept of the racks which I think are well described by the following excerpt from the CMS homepage: (http://www.criticalmasssystems.com/index.html): “Critical Mass Systems racks are not isolation systems as they do not prevent the transmission of vibration. Rather, the filter system manages the flow of vibration into and out of the component as well as the rack architecture supporting it. Our proprietary internal vibration filtering materials and rack architecture operate together to mitigate vibration in the floor, the rack, the shelf and the component at the same time. This ensures even energy transfer throughout the rack architecture and filter system so your component can retain the “sound” that was intended, revealing the inner detail of the music.
Joe L. then described in general terms the construction of the MAXXUM rack, the types of materials used including solid aluminum legs (yes, solid aluminum, a question which was asked several times by the attendees) and several material types used for the construction of the shelves.  The discussion then turned rather technical with references to materials science along with the 1st and 2nd laws of thermodynamics!  During the discussion there were numerous questions which led to the letter below that Joe L. wrote as a follow up to the event which provides clarifications to the questions asked at the event and includes  a limited time offer for discounts to SFAS members on CMS products. 
 
After a brief break we then moved to the footer comparison.  Joe H. felt that the footers have the greatest impact on the DAC and streamer in his system, so that was the equipment used for the evaluation of the footers.  The CMS Center Stage2 footers were compared with Stillpoints Ultra SS, Stillpoints Ultra 6 and the Magico QPods.  We used three tracks of music to start with, a Stan Getz, Astrud Gilberto tune, a classical piece and an Eva Cassidy song.  All sounded great with Joe H’s system.  We started listening with the CMS footers in place, listened to the music tracks then replaced the CMS footers with the Stillpoints.  We then went back to the CMS footers.  There was a general consensus that the CMS footers sounded better than the Stillpoints with one dissenting opinion.  Next we listened to the QPods under the DAC with Stillpoints Ultra SS under the streamer and then switched back to the CMS gear.  Again, there was general consensus that the CMS footers sounded better.
 

All in all this was another great SFAS event with engaged attendees who were able to experience the sonic qualities of an excellent system.  Sincere thanks to Joe Hakim and his lovely wife, Debbie, for their hospitality and providing the venue for another great SFAS event.

Critical Mass Systems
To: The San Francisco Audio Society
I want to thank the esteemed members of the San Francisco Audio Society for attending my recent discussion about Critical Mass Systems and Center Stage audio footers.  It was a pleasure to meet you and participate in your listening session.  I especially want to thank Joe and Debbie Hakim for opening their beautiful home to my wife and me.  Joe’s system is extraordinary.  The level of playback he has achieved is world class.  The last vinyl Beatles track played was so beautifully expressive and engaging I was nearly in tears.  Experiencing an emotional connection with music is what it’s all about for me.   Again, I want to apologize for my jet lag.  There are two questions I could have answered better.  If you don’t mind, I’ll try to address them here.
1)  What is a dual zone, 6-stage damping system in a MAXXUM?
From the outside, the filter (shelf) appears to be “of-a-piece” but the internal structure consists of 8 to 12 channels through which vibration must travel upwards to the component.  Each channel consists of 3 damping stages on either side of an elastomeric buffer.  The elastomer lowers natural frequency and the damping stages systematically reduce vibration.
Each damping stage is a sequence of hard and soft materials calculated to a thousandth of an inch that pushes certain frequencies to the fore and then converts them to heat.  The lower zone’s 3 damping stages are equivalent to a 14-layer sandwich of 5 different damping materials specifically sequenced.
The 3 damping stages in the upper zone are equivalent to a 22-layer sandwich of 6 different hard and soft materials. MAXXUM filters are “tuned” to the frame that supports them, so that the MAXXUM superstructure and its filters work as a unit to burn off vibration without degrading the performance of the components.
2)       What is the mathematical equation for the ideal border?
Inside a component’s border are varying arrays of parts forming an electromechanical signal processing network.  On the other side of the border is an intensely fluctuating mechanical energy field.   Varying electromechanical pathways and differing forms of energy on both sides of the component’s border is the crux of the problem that drives the many physical embodiments of answers available today.
Center Stage2, Stillpoints and Qpods are border interfaces designed to minimize electromechanical degradation.  The A/B comparisons showed that materials, dimensions, and damping sequences impact sound.  Which one of them provided the best border is yours to decide.
Center Stage2 is an incredibly exciting product for me because it is the most powerful device I have ever designed at a generally accessible price point.  In fact, I am so excited about the product that I am honored to extend a buy 3, get the 4th at no charge offer on all 3 Center Stage2 sizes until October 31st exclusively through Eigen Audio.  Please contact Eigen Audio for details.
All the Best,

Joseph Lavrencik

Critical Mass Systems
San Francisco Audiophile Society

San Francisco Audiophile Society