Last year, I upgraded the pair of Ultimate Support MS-45B2 monitor stands (Tape Op #49) in my personal studio to the current, second-generation model in Ultimate Support's studio lineup, the MS-90/45B. For months now, I've been planning on writing a review, but I couldn't find the words. What do you say about a product that sets up easily, sports a refreshingly neutral look, and works so damn well that you pretty much forget it exists? I looked back at my MS-45B2 review, and everything positive I said about that stand is still relevant when describing the new MS-90/45B. The one negative I wrote about? Well, Ultimate Support fixed it! The old stand had a compact triangular base, and I was a little nervous that someone would knock it over. The new stand has three legs and is much more stable, even with a heavy ADAM Audio S3-A monitor (#33) on top.
There are other improvements too. The stand still utilizes a single extruded column with three channels, one each for a power cable, an audio cable, and high-mass filler (e.g., metal shot or sand). But unlike the old model, which required a plastic trim piece to close off the cable channels, the new one has fully enclosed cable channels for better RF shielding as well as a cleaner look. Additionally, the stand now offers better decoupling from the floor. Not only are there big rubber decouplers on the top plate for your speakers to sit on, but there are also rubber gaskets between the top plate, the column, and the bottom plate. All this reduces the possibility of the stand itself resonating and transferring that resonance to the room, which in turn could hurt clarity and imaging.
The rubber decouplers, by the way, are optional - they pop off easily if you'd rather place the speaker directly onto the top plate. Also optional are rubber foot caps to cover the spikes at the end of each leg. If the stand is used on a rug, definitely forgo the caps and let the spikes go through the rug to the floor. You'll want to experiment to see which configuration gives you the best performance in your particular room. (In my room, I settled on the spikes capped, no decouplers between monitor and top plate, and sand in the filler channel.)
Like the first-generation offering, two heights are available - 36'' and 45'' - as reflected in the model name. The taller one works for me; the drivers of my ADAMs are at ear height and positioned behind the console so that no first reflections off of my console's top surface reach my ears and wreck midrange accuracy. As much as I loved my first-generation Ultimate Support stands, I love my second-generation MS-90/45B more.
Also in the MS series are the MS-80 and MS-100. The former is an ingenious, angle-adjustable decoupling platform for positioning monitors on a flat surface (e.g., a desktop, shelf, or meter bridge). The latter is the same adjustable platform married to the MS-90 column stand. The "direction" that you position the platform below the monitor determines if the monitor will angle up or angle down as you turn the platform's tilt knob. The decoupling material upon which the monitor sits is a thick, molded layer of closed-cell rubber. I tried the MS-80 with ADAM Audio P11-A monitors (Tape Op #33) pointing down from the Raxxess RB-60M bridge (#77) above my office desk as well as with Bag End M-6 monitors (#50) in my living room. The MS-80 significantly reduces sympathetic resonance in the surrounding furniture and gear (I verified with a mechanics stethoscope), but I prefer the sound of these monitors on Primacoustic Recoil Stabilizers (#62). None of the Recoil models are adjustable, so if you need precise control of angle, the MS-80 is certainly worth checking out. (MS-80 pair $149.99 street, MS-90 pair $239.99-$249.99, MS-100 pair $399.99; www.ultimatesupport.com) -AH