To couple, or not to couple, that is the question

There seems to be a fundamental difference of opinion between those who would couple their speakers to the floor (e.g., with spikes), and those who would decouple them (e.g., with springs). I’ve gone both ways, but have found that I prefer the latter; I’ve currently got Sorbothane feet attached to my tower speakers, so that they wobble or "float"—much like the Townshend Platforms videos show for that similar, but more expensive, approach. My ears are the final arbiters of my listening experience, so they rule my choices. But my mind likes to have a theoretical explanation to account for my subjective preferences.

That’s where the question comes in. A very knowledgable audiophile friend insists that what I prefer is precisely the opposite of what is best: that ideally, the speaker enclosure should be as rigid and immovable as possible so that the moving cones of the drivers can both most efficiently and most accurately create a sound front free of the inevitable colorations that would come from fighting against a moving cabinet. He says that transients will be muddied by the motion of the cabinet set up by the motion of the speaker cones. And this makes perfect sense to me in terms of my physical intuitions. It’s perhaps analogous to the desirability of having a rigid frame in a high-performance vehicle, which allows the engineers to design the suspension without having to worry too much about the complex interactions with a flexing chassis.

Am I just deluded, then, in preferring a non-rigid interface between speaker and floor? Or does it depend on the kind of floor? (I get that most advice seems to favor decoupling from a suspended wood floor, and coupling to a slab; my floor is hardwood, but not exactly "suspended" as the underflooring structure is very rigid.) Or are there trade offs here, as there usually are in such options: do I gain something (but what, and how?) even as I lose something else (i.e., clean transients, especially in bass tones)?

The ears will win this contest, but I like to have my mind on board if possible. So thanks for any input you may have on this question.


Even with springs, damping and resonances play a role in the effectiveness.  Robert's points, Max's springs, Herbie's elastomers, or the NHL's pucks will each perform differently wrt the transmissibility, amplitude, and frequencies of vibrations from one system (the speaker) to the other (the floor), or the other way around.  The audibility and effect on the resulting sound of an audio system will be unique to each system and room.  It is no surprise that there is no consensus here on what sounds best.

It is isolation that alleviates this. 

Yeah, I keep my speakers in the media room and listen in the garage.

Unless speakers are suspended via a silent air column, they are not 'isolated'



Didn't see any 'proof'...

With well-designed speakers, if there is no acoustic data conveyed through the cabinet, so why is there some "decoupling" need?  This is an aesthetic marketing tool.  It is expected.  On the flip side, nothing is perfect, so there remains some sound transmission no matter how good the cabinet is.  So then isolate the floor.  My drivers float on a gasket so the front wave is not a problem, but as it is a monopolar closed box system, the backwave is.  Despite the "Acoustic coffin" cabinet design, that is with no backwave sound escaping, I still isolate the floor. Does it make a difference?  No. 

I've tried many floor standing speakers that I have owned, using both soft isolation footers and hard spikes to the floor. I have found that ,for me, large floor standers benefit from spikes, while stand mounted book shelf speakers, sound better with sorbothane or blu tak coupling to the stand.