A question was recently sent to us that almost drove me insane. Before I read the opinions of others on audiophile forums, I had already written and sent my answer.
Let’s just say that I was not surprised to see professionals from that crew draw opposite conclusions from the same facts. Audiophiles are not the same people as us.
It was confusing until I understood where they were going wrong. It was a frustrating experience that helped me find the right answer to my question. It is deeper and more complex than the initial email exchange.
What do Speaker Spikes actually do? Are Speaker Spikes Worth Using?
As much as I think about how my studio sounds, so do I. While they look good, I still have foam monitor isolation pads. I found out that speaker spikes are a popular choice. They look incredible!
However, nobody can explain exactly what they do and how they do it. It seems like magic thinking. These are legitimate or just another audiophile fantasy.
Sean, I think that’s an excellent question. And, I agree, no one in the audiophile community seems to be able agree on what these spikes do. You also have the men who used spikes that cost $10,000 and were made from brass with a pure-gold core. There are also those who sold their expensive ones to save money.
SUMMARY OF ONLINE CONVERSATION
For the benefit of all readers, let me first summarize the online conversation. The speaker spikes are tiny cones that separate your studio monitors and entertainment system speakers from the object on which they rest.
This is done to separate the two structures, so vibrations don’t pass between them and can’t affect the quality sound coming from the speakers. This makes sense because decoupling is very isolating, which is why spikes are designed with that purpose in mind.
These spikes look like cones with a broad base that then decreases to a point bearing or a ball bearing. The purpose of these spikes is to reduce contact area between the spikes, the speaker, and the spikes.
You would normally use four to make a solid base. However, some people swear that using three or less is better than having them all. It sounds even better if they are made from compressed magical pixie powder.
Audiophiles claim that speaker spikes are used to connect the speakers to the desk surface or stands. They support this conclusion by using analogies like football cleats which help players get a better grip on their field.
You can probably see why this is a bad analogy. If your goal was to attach the monitors to stands, you would want to increase their mass while increasing their contact area. The rubber bands could then be placed around them and concrete stacked on top.
I am not laughing either. To avoid vibrations, there are many legitimate and effective ways to attach speakers to a structure. It’s easier and more cost-effective to remove them. That’s why speaker spikes are made and have the shape they do. They are designed to be as effective at preventing vibrations from being passed around like foam monitor isolation pads.
This leads to two points of confusion when it comes to spikes for audiophiles.
THE CONFUSION ABOUT SPEAKER SPIKES
So the reason these spikes are so popular is actually twofold.
- They believe speaker spikes are the exact same as speaker stands spikes.
- They don’t know that speakers are wired to their cabinets and meant to vibrate.
Audiophiles swear spikes make their speakers better. Heavy cabinets are used to protect the speaker from vibrations caused by the woofers.
Decoupling results in a more powerful bass response and better stereo image. Speakers are made to absorb their own vibrations. The days of coupling are gone.
Speaker stand spikes, which go under speaker stands to prevent them from decoupling, are designed to facilitate coupling. This is how it makes sense. This is why people get confused.
These spikes for speaker stands are intended to be used underneath speaker stands that are on a floor.
The carpet spikes accomplish two things. They are longer and more sharper because they dig through carpet to make contact with the wooden floor below. This prevents the speaker’s recoil from rocking the stand.
The wobbling can cause problems with stereo imaging due to doppler effects and phasing. They can also be incorporated into the floor to link the stand to your overall home structure (like the cleats example).
Because there was carpet padding and carpet under your stands, your stands were not connected to the floor. This allowed sympathetic vibrations to travel back and forth between your speakers and your stand. They transmit these vibrations to the floor by simply spiking them to it. It is a kind of electrical grounding.
However, spikes are not used to boost speakers’ volume! They are used for the opposite purpose. People will put spikes on concrete floors or place coins or washers underneath their spikes to prevent them from piercing wood floors. This defeats the purpose and helps decouple.
THE TRUE PURPOSE of SPEAKER SPIKES
It was a lengthy, complicated explanation to clarify the confusion within the audiophile community. “Spikes for speakers look exactly the same as those for stands, so they must perform the same thing.” WRONG!
Speaker spikes are a way to achieve the same results as foam isolation pads, but in a different manner. Foam pads are placed between your speakers and your desk or stands to separate them and collect any vibrations.
The foam webbing works in the same way as acoustic treatment with rigid fiberglass. It oscillates and converts vibrations into heat, so they don’t make it to the opposite side. Spikes perform the same function, but instead oscillate, they reduce the contact area to an infinable amount to prevent vibrations from passing through.
Because the tip of a cone or sphere is so small, no vibrations with long waveforms and high amplitudes can pass through it. Take a look at the image below to get an idea of this concept.
Spikes placed under speakers are intended to separate them from the next surface. Spikes under your speakers are used to attach them to the floor, anchoring into it.
Your stands or desk can be large enough to attach to another structure. However, your speakers will “float above” the structure through decoupling. This means that no vibrations can reach your speakers from the ground and through your stands. They are too heavy to vibrate even from low-energy music or movies at a high volume. It doesn’t need that much mass.
Studio engineers can pour playground sand into stands or mount speakers directly to the walls. People have been known to pour liquid concrete into their stands and let it set.
After you have achieved decoupling of the speakers from their stands that are attached to the floor, the only thing you need to do is to identify any resonating surfaces in the room and apply acoustic treatment on the corners and walls.
This is the last reason audiophiles hear different results even with the same equipment. They then argue endlessly about it. They don’t consider the impact of their acoustic environment on how they listen to music. They have different rooms, so they only need acoustic treatments.
Answering your final question, speaker spikes can be used as long as they are properly explained and applied correctly. Also, you should use them with other efforts to improve your acoustic hygiene so that you notice a difference.
It’s still a bit confusing. Please let me know if you need more clarity.