Grand Prix Audio is the maker of fine turntables and equally fine equipment tables. However, GPA’s products require a financial commitment that puts its products beyond the reach of many. Its new Apex isolation system goes some way to redress the balance by distilling the essence of GPA’s innovative stands into a footer that can sit beneath a loudspeaker, or even an equipment table.
The Apex footers use either a hardened steel or silicon-nitride ceramic ball interface (depending on usage within the system) with a dual-purpose isolation/dissipation support. The external, structural elements are pressure-formed from carbon composites, the void within the cone is then filled with a proprietary polymer first used in the aerospace industry. The polymer’s outstanding energy dissipation properties effectively decouple the upper element from the base. The precision moulded cup offers optimal surface-area contact for the ball, for ideal energy transfer into the carbon cone and then, via the cone’s large internal surface area, into the polymer. The cones come in three sizes – mini, regular, and XL – and we tried a set of the big ones.
How the system works is simple. GPA provide replacement threaded bolts with a cup at one end and a nut to lock off the bolt. These are used in place of the spikes provided by the manufacturer of the loudspeaker or stand. The cup at the bottom of the bolt sits atop the ball at the, er, apex of the Apex footer. You simply need to tell GPA what thread the spikes on your loudspeakers or stands use and you are good to go. If you have a speaker or stand with no threaded spikes, adhesive pads with cups are provided with the Apex.
Levelling an equipment stand or loudspeaker is always a good thing, but it goes from being ‘a good thing’ to being ‘absolutely vital’, and you will spend longer than you might expect fine-tuning your system to ensure it is absolutely, completely level. This pays dividends no matter what, but using the Apex makes it almost impossible not to go for absolute level accuracy. It’s like hugging your inner obsessive. And remember, slow and steady wins the race.
I expected the usual ‘lowering of noise floors’ and I wasn’t disappointed, but that wasn’t all. Using the footers beneath a Quadraspire stand did markedly improve the performance of anything that rested on it. It made the system seem more focused, tauter, and yes… it had lower background noise. The tauter part was uppermost, though. It didn’t change the nature of the electronics seated on the table, but it did seem to push the influence of the stand out of the way. Interestingly, that influence is more prevalent and noticeable than you might expect, because when you put the Apex in situyou hear the system become more precise and when you take the Apex out of the equation, that precision drops a few notches. Interestingly, if you empty the equipment stand and just perform a quick tap test of the shelves and uprights with a metal rod, the table seems to dissipate that energy quicker while resting on Apex.
The tap test also plays a significant part when you try the Apex on loudspeakers, and it’s perhaps here that most people will have their Damascene conversion to Grand Prix Audio. Loudspeaker cabinets that are already known for their absence of resonance still seem to respond less to the knuckle-rap test with Apex in place. The cabinet goes from a dull ‘thud’ to an almost spooky ‘pa’ as so much of that stray energy is getting put in its place.
We don’t listen to knuckles on cabinets (hopefully) but the performance shines through on any piece of music played through a pair of loudspeakers. The cabinet’s job in most cases is to be a deadened space from which the drive units can operate, and Apex makes that deadened space more dead. Transients start and stop faster, the voice is more articulate, the shape and texture of musical instruments better defined, and the loudspeaker appears more dynamic – even a Wilson Duette 2, which is pretty much as dynamic as its possible to get in a small room, seemed to grow in stature.
All of this happens with no downsides, aside from perhaps raising the tweeter-line of the loudspeakers very slightly higher than usual. OK, if you use a system that deliberately works on resonance as a function of its performance (such as the diminutive and fun Kiso loudspeakers from Japan) then the Apex might detract from the euphonic presentation. This might also be the case with some of the more lush sounding valve amplifiers, but frankly I’m reaching here… what Apex does, it does well and it does universally.
The Apex footers have two obvious benefits. The first is to apply to loudspeakers what Grand Prix Audio users already know applies to equipment supports, and this means GPA power users can bring their speakers in line with the rest of the system. The second is to Grand Prixify an existing system, by transforming someone else’s equipment stand. While the Apex isn’t the same as a full reference class Silverstone or classic Monaco system, it gets you on the same road. The footers and shelves put you in the pace car, and the full stand system is like getting a hot lap with Lewis Hamilton. The footers in this second case become – depending on your take on these things – the calling card or the gateway drug to a lot more Grand Prix Audio.
The goal of the Grand Prix Audio Apex is the management of spurious energy, whether that energy originates from within the supported component, or is transmitted by the structure that supports it. It completes this task admirably, showing far more of what those components are doing by showing far less of the contributions of the world beyond. Just beware that its performance jump is addictive and it might not be the last Grand Prix Audio component in your system. You have been warned!
Prices and contact details
APEX XL: set of three with silicon nitride balls – £1,800 inc vat
APEX XL: set of four with silicon nitride balls – £2,400 inc vat
APEX Leveler/Adjuster Interface 10mm ×1.5 thread: £150 each inc vat
Manufactured by: Grand Prix Audio
Tel: +1 970 247 3872
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