When Audio Suspension sent me their latest offering, the Brunel Speaker stand, for me to review my eyes lit up and I
smiled. There were several reasons. Firstly Isambard Kingdom Brunel is my all-time life hero, other than Kenny Everett, and secondly because I love Brighton, which is where these guys design and put together the gear. Also, as a female, the thought of something shiny and acrylic and easy to keep free of dust was music to my ears. Literally. And having a pair of speakers effectively caught mid-air, rather than at the end of a tower of metal tubes, also meant that my living room was looking tidier. SpeakerS1small

These shores are renowned for producing suspension equipment. Maybe it’s because Britain is balanced precariously on water at the edge of Europe, or maybe we are surreptitiously getting ready to protect our music from all the tremors when we start Fracking. Whatever it is, we have been doing it all pretty amazingly on these shores for many years. The variety of styles and techniques to holding up our prized hi-fi and loudspeakers is as varied as the British weather. Whether it is metal tubes on spikes, sitting on springs or balsa wood, we have tried everything, and we all offer our own explanations as to why ours is the best, just like those party political broadcasts. Happy to be convinced that this was the best thing since the last best thing, I put aside the sand-filled pipe organ Atacama stands I use for my LS3/5a’s and began to listen.
Like a lot of audio companies Audio Suspension was formed by a long-serving professional sound engineer, who in this case is also a D.J. playing around Brighton, supporting the likes of Gilles Peterson, Craig Charles, Norman Jay and many of the live Funk and Soul acts. He also has a radio show on Brighton’s local station Radio ‘Reverb’ and his talents also reside in London, including Brixton’s iconic Dogstar. He got into DJing in the early nineties where he also did a lot of the PA engineering and did an audio engineering and music production course. After selling the bar and restaurant in Brixton he had owned for five years, he moved down to Brighton with no intention of owning another one. When he bought himself a place in Brighton which had wooden floors he decided his Gyrodec turntable had to go on the wall but found that most of the wall shelves were pretty ugly so after several prototypes he came up with the ASU-100, a platform held in place at an angle by a pair of wires fixed to the wall above, like a ‘draw-bridge’ or the parcel shelf at the back of your Astra. Several of his friends, who are also into hi-fi, asked if he could make one for them, which then made him think he could well now have the basis for a business. Hence, in 2012 Audio Suspension was born, and the ASU-100 turntable wall mount has earned high reviews ever since.
The choice of Acrylic was not by chance;
“…a friend of mine is a graduate of Imperial University and we did several tests with various materials used in stands and racks with a vibration meter and found the 20mm acrylic to be the most inert so in that sense it is ideal. Also I love modern design though my old CDT teacher might have said different! And I just think acrylic looks fantastic and contemporary”.
Indeed, Audio Suspension decided to build their stands using high-grade acrylic because they found it perfect for reducing the effects of unwanted micro-vibrations and rumble that can muddy audio quality.
The Brunel is so called because it is shaped like a Brunel Suspension bridge, with its beautifully curved 20mm hand flame polished sides, rather than because it is suspended, unlike their award winning ‘draw-bridge’ ASU-100 turntable wall mount. The only suspension in this device was the blu-Tack that came with the screws and feet which is used to hold the speakers to the acrylic top. Whilst some designers, such as Max Townshend, work to suspend the sources/speakers from the vibrating floor, Audio Suspension have come from the other end, literally. They want to create a low-resonance platform to damp the source from the floor. A very important consideration, especially if you have a wooden floor, and incidentally, equally important if it is concrete. Designed in conjunction with graduates of Imperial University and the Royal College of Art, Audio Suspension passionately sought to bring both aesthetic beauty and audio clarity in their Brunel Speaker Stands. The stands use the same high-grade 20mm acrylic as used on the award winning ASU-100. Whilst Adam Billingham from Audio Suspension has considered building speaker stands where the speakers themselves are indeed suspended, it is a young and small company and therefore experiments like this are presently pipe dreams.

The Brunel is a beautifully engineered piece of work with hand flame polished acrylic to give a mirror surface with tapered edges, and an etched logo in the base below an inbuilt spirit level, so you can make sure the structure is as vertical as Brunel himself would design his own railway and canal arches. The unit comes with a rather basic instruction booklet which tells you to go and find a friend and offer them a cup of tea before attempting construction. Whilst my brain isn’t lacking and I have many friends I would have preferred a diagram for assembly rather than just a list of parts. At £550, a glossy colour leaflet would be for me the minimum I would expect. However, Acrylic is not cheap, and the profit margins after manufacturing the parts can easily substantiate the high cost of this unit. It is a work of art, and in my living room with LEDs close by made it all look a million pounds. Their Modular Reference Rack is one of the most beautiful pieces of hi-fi furniture I have ever seen.

The Brunel comes complete with the beautiful spikes made by Track Audio and is available with different top sizes. The standard 18cm x 18cm unit I had was okay for 35kg and should be adequate for most bookshelf speakers. My Graham LS5/9s were a little too big, so I auditioned the stands with my petite LS3/5a’s, aged Audiomaster Image 2’s and B&W 805s. For an additional £120 you can purchase a set of 8 spike shoes, also from Track Audio, and Adam kindly put those in with my parcel for review.SS2Small

I was pleased that I could put aside my long-loved and sand-filled Atacama 6 stands, with their pipe-organ tubes that needed to be filled in order to reduce the inevitable resonant microphony. Audio Suspension’s manifesto is to start immediately with a perfect science so that listening could begin without having to cure the terminal illness of tubular microphony. There are a myriad of tubular designs out there all needing to be filled with sand (or Atabites in the case of Atacama), and which can otherwise sound bright or punchy. At the other end there are wooden stands which can give a wonderfully warm and emotional midrange, but lacking in extremes. The Brunel gave for me both speed and emotion, and an enlightening soundstage particularly on the B&Ws. Where the well damped LS3/5a’s gave a very well behaved performance that sounded better with the Brunel than my own stands, the Audiomaster , despite being damped and braced, still internally vibrate like the soundboard on my Steinway. This would be a real test to show just what acrylic can do to stop resonance. Playing through my Class A/b Slee monoblocks, the powerful kettle-drum rolls in “We Fight Not for Glory” (Testament, Randall Thompson, The Turtle Creek Chorale and Dallas Wind Symphony Orchestra) vibrated like Rampant Rabbit and far more than through my sand-filled Atacamas. OK, this wasn’t really fair, as most speakers today are leaps and bounds better in their damping design, but I really wanted to test this. The acrylic acted like blotting paper absorbing the vibrations, and whilst low frequency vibrations went as far as the base of the unit, what was not expected was just how improved the sound was. These aged speakers can sound rather muddy, but in this test the speed of decay and top frequency detail was far better, as was the stereo spread, and I with my hand on my heart really did prefer the Audio Suspension Brunel. An immediacy of extended bass through the aged bextrene bass unit and crisp and accurate top end through the Son Audax tweeter was something I hadn’t experienced before in the 30 years I have owned these speakers. Through the better-braced B&W, ‘Walking on the Moon’ (Yuri Honing Trio) had greater dynamic range, allowing the Saxophone to let rip with ease. In the beautiful ‘Voi che Sapete’ (‘Le Nozzi de Figaro’, Mozart Weiner Kammerorchester), the vocal had more space and the double bass in Diana Krall ‘All or Nothing at All’ showed no sign of stress or stand influence. The bass was tight, and rhythm and dynamics were vibrant.

So, how do you conclude a review on four pieces of very expensive plastic, which actually do resonate. This was a surprisingly good piece of equipment, from a new cottage industry from Sussex, and I really did like the Brunel. But, it all comes at a price. For me to give it a really high appraisal there needs to be a better system of damping at the source end. Where the ASU-100 used Silicone rubber to help to ensure damping, I feel there should similarly be four inset silicone rubber feet in the top plate rather than using blu-Tack, despite how valuable this cheap commodity is. This is for the hi-fi addict who also values the look of their living room and doesn’t mind paying the price to get it.
Sound Quality – 8.4/10RECOMMENDED LOGO NEW
Value for Money – 8.1/10
Build Quality – 8.4/10
Overall – 8.3/10

Janine Elliot

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1 Comment

  1. Thanks for the review. Just to let people know after listening to comments we now also put silicone isolation pods, as an alternative to the provided Blue Tack for damping, in the box.

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