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April 2011
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
Tweaking Without Limits
For your special April 1 celebration.
Article By Jeff Poth

 

  Sometimes, dear reader, we hear of tweaks that leave us scratching our heads- how could anyone be so foolish? The HST, or Head Scratch Threshold varies by person- some would lump cables in here (not me!) and some would say that the quantum effects touted by some are totally legit. Many times, perhaps even most of the time, these tweaks are as phoney as a stuffed mermaid. But in some cases, it is simply a lack of understanding that leads to dismissive attitudes. With audio cables, for example, we see an extremely tiny signal, one which crosses the 0V point repeatedly. Due to this tiny signal level and lack of an absolute bias, dielectric absorption and mechanical resonance (microphony) are much larger issues than they would be in a larger scale signal transmission.

The purpose of this article is to identify a few really real tweaks that may at first seem ridiculous, but are effective in creating a more satisfying sonic experience. Some proposed mechanisms by which these tweaks are improving your signal are also proposed. Please retain an open mind. As the great Falors Lopi once said; "Perception is false in both directions, trust not your mind as it will tell you that truths are untrue as well as convince you that falsehoods are reality." With that wisdom in mind, let's dive in!

 

Tube Rolling
While you may have compared different tubes to one another in a given piece of gear, or even applied dampers to the glass, have you ever done anything to the insides of the tubes? These are very old in many cases, and even in the most recent builds, they have stresses from the assembly. Cryogenics is often considered for tubes, but this process is expensive, and you have a better stress relief option available to you:

Ball

As you can see, it's a simple concept- take your tubes and roll them between your hands. I've found that going about 1 forward motion per second creates the best result, a more open sound resulting in more dynamic flexibility. Too fast and you wind up with a confused, dizzying sound, and too slow and there seems no efficacy. I believe the centripetal force releases some tension in the mechanical joints and structures and decreases overall entropy within the assembly. Simple no? And free to try!

 

Tape Tweaking
As I alluded to in the first part of the article, cables are a finnicky business, and respond to microphonic effects. There's a very simple way to help alleviate these nasty vibrations, and it's another easy, nearly free, tweak to apply. First you must get some clear tape, the regular style, not the ones with more aggressive adhesives. Next you cut off a 3.5" section- this length is important. Once you've done this, apply the tape to an interconnect cable- you'll want to use 4 sections per cable, and only 1 cable of a pair gets the treatment. You want to essentially make a tab by wrapping the tape around the cable and connecting the adhesive faces together, making a little flag. Be careful to align the edges properly. Once you've done this, make snips every 3/16" down one side, going 2/3 of the way through, and starting at the edge of the flag. Then cut out the 2nd (from the flag top) , 4th, and 5th (and 6th, if present). There should only be a small section of joined tape at the bottom, and then an "F" shape.

There, easy as pie! Repeat until you have 4Fs on one cable of each interconnect pair. For digital cables use 3, and video cables only 1. The idea here is to create a light, well-damped "vibration sink". The vibrations flow into the tape, and the layers of soft material dissipate it as heat, without any "stable" shape to support vibrational modes of its own.

 

Shoes?
We don't need no steenking shoes!

Yeps, it's that easy. Pop your shoes off! Not only can this make you more comfortable, but there's a more complex mechanism involved as well. You see, your feet have a huge number of nerve endings in them, and these are connected to different systems within the body. Most importantly amongst these, for our purposes, is a group called the "fopil salor", which is a complex auditory-related system. This is the set of nerve endings that picked up on sound transmitted primarily through the ground, but also, to a lesser extent, airborne sound. This was a valuable threat assessment, in evolutionary times, and we see behavior from animals today that still is related to these. I'm sure we've all heard of "Animal ESP", well, the "fopil salor" accounts for the ability of various animals to pick up on tectonic plate activity via the low-level, low frequency vibrations in the sound.

Our hearing mechanism is used to incorporating this feedback, but shoes create an unnatural barrier to this, and your hearing mechanism recognizes that something is wrong, which creates a perception of unnaturality. This has been proposed by some Hi-Fi Gurus (including my own sonic mentor, Lirap Losof) as a mechanism by which LPs are preferred to CD. The LP rumble provides excitation to the feet, as at extreme LF the shoes are ineffective barriers. This provides some of the excitation of the feet, but is not as complete as the removal of shoes. So, give it a try, you may find that your CDs sound much more natural and "analog" with your darned shoes off!

 

That's It For Now
While I have a number of other interesting but controversial tweaks to divulge, there are deadlines here, and my lovely prose takes time! Probably in a year or so I'll kick out another group of these, so be on your lookout then. Be sure to give thanks to Falors Lopi, Lirap Losof, and your own "fopil salor" groups, when you're enjoying these wonderful tweaks. And remember the 4/1 rule- 4 "F" flags on only 1 IC of the pair.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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