I first heard about the Ardán Audio stands from a member on the TírNaHiFi.org forum – he had seen a piece in a national newspaper about new start up businesses. Starting any business is risky -starting one in the current climate could be considered foolhardy! But nevertheless, that is what Brent Smith from Ardán Audio has done.
Reading the piece in the daily newspaper certainly fired my interest. Ireland has no indigenous audio engineering in same way as the UK, for example. Even the fact that Sennheiser make most of their earphones here is more or less unknown worldwide. So such news as this was worth noting and indeed following.
A visit to the Ardán Audio website gave more information. The EVP-M1 stands are designed for bookshelf/standmount speakers and aim to satisfy both the home audiophile and the studio market. Brent’s idea is that up to now, many stands had isolation, or physically supported the speakers in a certain way etc, but none could do both positioning and isolation. And so began an idea that became the Ardán Audio Elevation Pro EVP-M1 Speaker Stand.
Brent spent over 2 years in the design phase of the stands. Achieving the combination of isolation, pan and tilt can not have been easy – which is probably why nobody else has done it before. I can imagine the number of prototypes that would be required to bring a product like this to market – and especially one that looks as good as this one. Unboxing the stands only fills the user with confidence. The stands are individually boxed, and then packed in a heavy double thickness outer cardboard liner. I imagine these boxes would survive the most savage of couriers.
The stands require a minimum of assembly after unboxing – really just fitting 2 support arms to their receivers. After that it’s a case of adjusting the stands to support your speakers, and placing them on a suitable surface. I had this done in the space of about 15 minutes, and that included time taken to read the pack inserts! However, that is the easy bit……. expect to spend some time adjusting the pan and tilt settings on the stands to achieve the most from what these stands offer.
I decided to test these stands using a set of unusual bookshelf speakers. They are single driver full range speaker using the highly regarded Jordan JX-92s driver, based on a Japanese spiral horn design. I have heard these speakers with a range of other equipment, and the sound is always smooth, open, revealing and refined. Bass doesn’t rattle your trousers, but is plentiful enough to satisfy, and more importantly is very tight and tuneful. I settled on a 3-way test. First off, the speakers were placed on very ordinary wooden stands, second on some Ikea “lack” coffee tables, and thirdly, using the EVP-M1 stands on the lack tables. There was a height different in all 3 of these, with the plain ply stands and the EVP-M1 being closest in height.
Sitting the speakers on the lack tables first, I noticed a distinct disimprovement in the soundstage compared to what I had remembered (even though sonic memory is a fickle thing). It was all there, but just not as good as it was. After listening to my usual testing material (a sampler disc from the 3 blind mice label and a wonderful album from the Japanese artist Cornelius entitled “sensuous”) as a benchmark, I moved on to put the speakers on the EVP-M1 stands. Right away there was an improvement - More stereo less mono. Knowing the adjustability of the stands, I set about spending some time adjusting tilt and pan. Now this brought about fairly large improvements. The soundstage opened up, no doubt due to much better alignment of the drivers with my ears and consequent better perception of the highs. Bass remained solid and tight but with a little extra snap. To complete the 3rd leg of the test, I put the speakers back on the wooden stands. After much careful adjustment of toe-in I managed to keep most of the soundstage, but it stayed more between the speakers than outside them.
So having been left in no doubt about the sonic benefits of using the EVP-M1 stands, I had to reason out how they did what they did. They are certainly well made, but isolation from whatever they are sitting on is down to a rubber supporting mat plus a neat fibre tube filled with what feels like fine lead shot. Future experiments should include using the stands without these parts just to see their effect, but in reality I think that the reason they work is simply due to the massive range of adjustability. Never before has it been possible to adjust your speakers over 360deg in this way. Toe-in, certainly, but tilt is generally only achievable by the crudest of means. It really is an eye-opener that taking this level of care with position and directivity can give such an improvement.
Are there downsides? Only 2 that I can think of! First, the obvious one, cost! There’s no getting away from the fact that these items don’t come cheap. The second though is a bit bigger gripe for me – I’d love to have these in a version for a floor standing speaker. However, if you have already invested in a really good pair of standmount speakers and intend staying with them, then the EVP-M1 is well worth looking at.
I’m coming back to these stands after several months and decided to try them out with a more conventional (if vintage) set of speakers I’ve just completely reconditioned. These are a set of Castle Kendal speakers, the height of fashion and sound in about 1979! So how do they sound today? Well, surprisingly good, but it’s clear that modern tweeters (even those in full range speakers) have made many advances. These speakers on the ordinary wooden stands give a pretty decent sound but it’s very much all between the speakers, and a fairly homogenous soundstage. If I can put it another way, I would say it’s like listening to a very nice system from way back in a room or next door. You can hear all the detail, bass, mids, treble, but the wow factor of the soundstage is just missing. I thought these would be a good test of the EVP-M1 stands. Like before, I set them up on the Ikea lack coffee tables (not ideal, but the base of the EVP-M1 stands is quite large so they won’t sit on any existing stand you might have). Again, playing with the pan and tilt settings brought rewards. Not nearly as much as with the fullrange speakers used earlier, but improvements nonetheless. Also, these speakers are quite a bit bigger and heavier than the smaller fullrange ones, so that may also have an impact. Still, it was a case of 2 out of 2 wins for the EVP-M1.
I feel I can’t let this review go without mentioning how user friendly the EVP-M1s are. Each support is individually adjustable so that you will never have a problem feeding cables etc, indeed there is actually a built in cable tidy on the EVP-M1s. Also, the pan and tilt settings (and indeed all parts) are graduated, so that setting up one EVP-M1 exactly the same as another is a breeze. Likewise, it’s very easy to adjust them slightly and know by how much you have adjusted them. This is not something you would miss until you get used to it – very handy feature indeed.
To conclude, the EVP-M1 stands will make a very nice addition to anyone’s listening pleasure provided you are using standmount speakers and have some kind of support to hold them (regular stands won’t do this) and of course you have the dough to buy them. The EVP-M1 stands are available in Cloney Audio and Big Bear sound in Dublin, and Studiospares in the UK.
Since the time of this review I have learned that Brent has now completed the design of a new floor stand that will take the EVP-M1. The floor stand will come in a range of heights to suit most speakers/listening environments and are due around February/March 2012. The Ardán range will also be available in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, with Brent having acquired distributors in these areas. More information about the EVP-M1 stands and future products are available from http://www.ardanaudio.com