At the January 2020 NAMM Show (which seems like a lifetime ago) the New STAGE 1 Board Combo was one of the cooler things I saw. It’s really simple; an amp-sized heavy-duty ABS polymer plastic board with four integrated mini vibration isolators on the bottom. At NAMM our friend Paul de Benedictis had a re-amped guitar track going to two identical guitar amps with an A/B switch – one to the New STAGE 1 Board, and the other to the amp just sitting on the floor. It was immediately apparent how much tighter sounding the bottom end was from the amp on the New STAGE 1 Board – enough so that I carefully checked the settings on both amps to make sure I wasn’t getting duped. We got two of the New STAGE 1 Board platforms out at Panoramic Studio right before the COVID-19 lockdowns hit. Recently, we’ve carefully resumed sessions with small groups, and have been using the IsoAcoustic platforms in our amp isolation boxes, with favorable comments from our engineers.

I was recently able to get into the studio to run some tests on these platforms myself with a re-amped guitar track through our Silvertone 12-inch combo amp. I love the sound of the Silvertone, but it can be a bit muddy in the bottom end. It was pretty easy to hear that by placing the New STAGE 1 Board underneath the amp, the bottom end became a bit tighter and less rowdy. The primary advantage of the re-amped looped guitar track was consistency, so I was able to put a spectrum analyzer on a stool in front of the amp and measure results both with and without the New STAGE 1 Board. The analyzer verified what I was hearing – nothing huge, but tests revealed a solid 3 to 5 dB of reduction below 500 Hz with a slight overall decrease of transient energy across the spectrum. I also ran tests with an A-weighted SPL meter, both inside and outside of the studio.

We are a residential studio in a house, so in addition to the benefit of a tighter sounding low end in our amp iso boxes, I’m always happy if I can reduce the leakage that might spill out to our neighbors. There was much less of a difference with the SPL meter (maybe 1 dB), but the results on the spectrum analyzer outside the house were very similar to the readings I was tracking inside (3 to 5 dB reduction below 500 Hz). Bass carries, so that’s a neighbor-friendly result! If you record guitar amps and want to get it right at the source and also want to keep your neighbors (if you have any) happy, the New STAGE 1 Board is an affordable piece of gear that will immediately work for you. And at $99 each, you could buy two, then put them under your monitors for mixing when you’re done tracking and get twice the mileage out of these handy boards.

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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