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June 2002
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
The Freakzoid Tweekaloid Strikes Again
Review by Thorsten Loesch
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Audio Feng-Shui Or Real World Tweaks?

  Recently I discussed a product reviewed with a friend of mine who also happens to sell and import Hi-Fi gear. While he agreed that if this box did what I said it did, it would be easily worth the money. He said "Another box? Not another box in the system. I want things simple." Now you will likely not be surprised that the suggestion of special, matched to his gear for best synergy, feet to improve things drew similar responses. His idea is to have it all build in. While I share his sentiments to some extent, the fact is that short of Mark Levinson Audio (the Harman Company, not the Man), 47 Labs and perhaps Jeff Rowland, few companies make equipment or systems that are complete in themselves and can not be improved by sensible application of what many audio objectivists refer to sneeringly as "useless tweaks" (being called a "tweak" by those guy’s is a real insult).

I think one key question here is similar to that of usefulness Feng-Shui: "Is there a real change or is it all reverse psychology?". On one hand it is fairly sensible to say that by applying changes/tweaks to your system, you change your own relationship with it. The object becomes subject and as a result, even if "objectively", nothing has changed. Still, you may subjectively perceive better sound. To me this is perfectly valid if the expense is not excessive and the result is that you enjoy the music more. Undeniably it is one of the phenomena in connection with tweaks. Naturally, the opposite is true. If one strongly disbelieves (or want to disbelieve as otherwise a whole system of belief requires re-adjusting) then quite obvious "objective" changes may indeed not be heard. So from this you can tell that tweaks are a quite minefield.

I will state here and now that many tweaks have real, often objectively quantifiable effects on equipment while others seem to have no objective effect (even though they have a subjective one). Moreover, I have often found that what makes a difference varies from person to person with our learned response to sound. So audio tweaking does indeed, in some ways, resemble Feng-Shui (the art of Chinese Geomancy that combines solid positive psychology). By changing your environment you change you perception of it and your attitude to it. This may be done with solid common sense and practical suggestions (having the windows and doors in a house facing to the south seems rational if the cold winds come from the Mongolian Steppes in the north. Some of these are esoteric and spiritual on levels not amenable to scientific analysis. And just as in Feng-Shui, the serious and honest practitioners rub shoulders with charlatans who use a given concept and market to extract the maximum gain for themselves without providing something of corresponding value to their customers. It is often hard to tell which one is which, yet I would not consider this a reason to just turn my back on the whole scene. I originally had intended to run a little column under the "Audio Feng-Shui" title, though lack of time does not permit this today.

Audio tweaking requires solid common sense and some belief. To assess tweaks as a reviewer takes more. While the normal customer may like whatever she or he does, as a reviewer people tend to rely on one's judgment for purchasing decisions (as wrong as such reliance may be). Thus, the onus is on the reviewer to be perhaps more cautious in his judgment and most importantly to develop the ability to avoid the reverse psychological effect of "I just made an expensive change to the system so it must sound better." As a former recording and live sound engineer I might have a little more of this sober self questioning and control than others. To me, just moving a microphone by a few inchs with relation to an instrument often dramatically changes the sound, but not necessarily for the better. I had to have the ability to quickly and accurately identify a "change" or an "improvement". Sometimes a sober realization was needed that the new and very expensive microphone (or effect, electronic box or whatever) I had for test or was completely unsuited to the job I had at hand. I am not sure if that makes me a good or bad candidate to write about some tweaks. I guess a bit of both as I am likely to react differently from a normal Audio Enthusiast or Music Lover.

There is one thing I would say here categorically, in a truly dogmatic ex cathedra pronouncement – with the vast majority of commercial and DIY Hi-Fi gear the full sonic potential will only be realized after careful and inspired "tweaking". With my own system stripped of all the "tweaks", but with all serious equipment modifications in place, would not go from "great" to "awful". Instead, if all tweaks where removed it would go from "great" to only "jolly decent". So please use the following as a guide to things that I have found worthwhile, but not as the Mantra or only way. It should server as a pointer into some directions where you might find a good step up in your enjoyment of music for a modest outlay. Often a larger improvement than buying a much more expensive new piece of gear.

Before trying esoteric tweaks at the margins, it is worthwhile to make sure the basics are current. So room set-up and cables should have been reasonably settled before we move on. On the other hand, if your system is full of tweaks and cables bought not because you found them to make an improvement worth having but on others people’s "say so", try taking all tweaks out and wire your system with simple solid core cables. The DNM/Reson (British) "Rainbow" series solid core cables have been long standing favorites of mine. The Mapleshade Clearview Cables seem good in terms of cost and performance, though I have not yet heard any of it. Therefore please take this recommendation with a little caution. I have an upcoming article about very simple, solid core, DIY interconnect and loudspeaker cables as well. It may be worth your wild to wait for that. Then sort the loudspeaker/room interactions out as much as possible. I hope to write another article on this topic at some time, but for now there is loads of stuff on the Internet you can pursue. Then work your way through the tweaks one by one, adding removing and deciding what works best where and how.

One of the first tweaks we will look at costs very little and at the same time it can transform many music rooms. It can do this without risking a relationship break-up when the significant other comes home and on noticing all the Room Tunes, ASC Tube Traps etc. does not fall for the "but Darling, we had these for ages" routine. It’s cheap too, which should keep the significant other quite happy.

 

I Guess I Glued Too Much Felt Over My Ears...

This little inexpensive tweak was discussed (by me) on a German Discussion board and led to perhaps one of the most extreme outings of the long-standing "objectivist vs. subjectivist" debate. While still managing to remain almost civil, the length and extent of the arguing was a sight to behold. Also, it was interesting how those with the least connections to having ever tried anything of the like where the most vocal opponents of the idea that a few dozed 1" diameter felt disks glued onto walls and onto the ceiling in strategic positions could make any audible difference. I had only suggested placing them, without suggesting any specifics of the changes to be expected. When the objectivists had finally been shouted down by suggesting that:

A) the cost was only a few bucks

B) they should not talk down something cheap and simple without trying.

 

Some of those people did try and promptly failed to hear "anything". Many of the less unwilling to believe in voodoo tried it too and heard differences of varying degrees. The most astute and perceptive description of the changes came from the only (?) female member of the board, very interesting. And of course all those who did admit to hearing anything at all where promptly ridiculed by the “sceptics” factions. Nearly a year later the issue still occasionally makes waves, you have been warned.

So what is this all about? The idea is filched straight from those great Combak/Harmonix guys. I read a review of the RFA-78 in the German Hoererlebniss HiFi Magazine and began thinking about the principles behind these devices. Certainly placing selectively sound reflective/absorptive devices in a room will change the acoustics. Within the photos I saw these devices and they reminded me of those white/grey felt disks you can find in any home improvement store to attach on chair legs to prevent the floor from scratching (see picture). In fact you can find them in many colors and they come adhesively backed. All the ones I have tried so far where easy to place and remove without pulling paint or wallpaper off the walls. It may be best to try it first in a spot where it won’t be terribly visible if you are not sure.

So, I dropped down to the local Homebase (UK Home Improvement Store chain) and I walked out with enough of those disks to implement the full-suggested applications of these. I even removed the large wall hanging carpet (backed with acoustic foam) behind my listening couch, which was my previous only acoustic treatment in the room, to see just how big the changes would be.

 

The application is quite easy. You begin by placing three of the disks in each corner of the room, as shown. Treating the corners of the room is the first step. Adding further disks in further strategic positions on the walls and ceilings further improve things, though I suggest starting with only the corners. If you have the pictured wood laminate floor then don’t forget that. After all, it too is a sound reflective surface. Remember, the lower room corners need their treatment as much as the upper ones.

Before you start treating the room stand in the center of the room and clap your hands hard. Try listening to the slight resonant tail (a sort of “brriiiingy” sounding echoey sound). Try again after treating the corners. If your room was rather resonant before, it will now be much less so so. My British living room had, of course, many more corners than a normal boxy room and the effect was very noticeable.

 

The next step is to place further felt disks at points of exactly half the distance between any two corners and also one felt disk in the center of the ceiling. The next set of felt disks goes onto the halfway point between existing pairs of disks. This is illustrated for the ceiling showing the first (green), second (blue), third (red) and fourth (yellow) set of disks. I stopped after the third set of disks on all walls and the ceiling, yet no one stops you from going further. You can even go beyond four sets.

So what are the audible results I hear you asking? Well, I noticed improved clarity and focus for instruments, more natural vocals (the room is also very pleasant to chat in, it just sounds real good) and a deepened and widened soundscape. They do not do much for taming excessive bass, so some form of managing LF resonances is still needed and I eventually did put the wall hanging carpet back as it adds further to the overall absorption in the room. Given the simplicity and cost this tweak is a major league deal.

Another useful trick with these felt disks is to make a simple, cheap, and easy to fit/remove version of the kind of diffraction control devices for tweeters. If your loudspeakers use normal dome tweeters they will almost invariably have an off-axis response that is emphasized in the upper midrange. This may make the sound a little brighter and harsher than true and can also confuse the imaging by causing too many early reflections.

Taking in this case a set of dark grey or black felt disks with a diameter similar to that of your tweeter dome (or slightly larger), stacking two pieces on top of each other and adhering them to front of the tweeter bracket as shown in the little sketch (tweeter black, felt disks dark grey). This can give your soundscape better focus, depth and width while also making the sound more relaxed and warm. There are felt disks only on top and on the sides as a music room should really have a thick carpet on the floor, at least between listener and loudspeakers. If that is not possible, add a fourth double height felt disk set on the bottom of the tweeters faceplate.

Please note that I make no claims for my felt disk tricks to be the equal in principle, effect ,or performance to the use of the not at all inexpensive Harmonix RFA-78 originals. What I tried worked well for myself and quite a few others. Depending upon the current offers and prices ,you can treat yourself to a much better sounding room for perhaps $10 to $20 and an hour time. Are you game? And more importantly, can you really afford not to try it out?

 

Have You Been Huffing Lacquer Again...?

After this escapade with the felt disks I guess some of you will ask that question. And as it so happens, I have been huffing lacquer big time recently. But not for narcotic reasons mind you. Strictly in the pursuit of being better able to enjoy the music. The lacquer under question is the often controversial C37 from the Austrian violin maker and acoustic researcher Dieter Ennemoser.

Rather than repeating and paraphrasing Mr. Ennemoser's fundamental theories I’ll point to the relevant web-pages and would indeed suggest that you buy and perhaps read his book The Character of Sound. You can find two pieces on the basic C37 theory at the following Links:

C37 Theory part I

C37 Theory part II

 

Sufficient here to say that the C37 theory does not exist to explain what the lacquer does and to support its sales Rather, the lacquer is part of a whole system of working with and designing electro acoustic devices for music reproduction. The German Brockhaus encyclopedia in 24 Volumes found Mr. Ennemoser’s book worthy enough to mention under “Tone” as the most recent relevant work of notion... along with such well known works as Mr. Helmholtz’s 1913 publication Die Lehre von den Tonempfindungen (“The Science of Sound Perception”).

By now you can purchase a range of different C37 principle based loudspeakers. Fact is, a number of companies in Germany and surrounding countries modify equipment using the C37 principles and in some cases new designs include C37 Theory based features. Perhaps most prominent and well known in the USA and the UK are Alesa Vaic’s directly heated triode valves, some of which have their glass and internal structures modified in accordance with the C37 Theory. This includes their mesh anode 2A3 output tube. A surprisingly large number of applications are found in the normally ultra conservative Pro Audio/Sound Reinforcement industry.

Very little of all this C37 influenced gear has made it outside the German speaking countries, never mind into the UK or USA. Occasionally a positive press comment or two have appeared in show reports. But, the really good thing is that you don’t have to wait for finished C37 products to appear in your nearest Hi-Fi Emporium. Of course you can use C37 AVVT valves too. I have yet to get my hands on any for test, sorry. Therefore no comments from me on these. But that is about it.

This is where the lacquer comes in. It has the interesting property to change the resonance behavior of whatever it is applied to. Okay, now any lacquer or surface coating will change more or less strongly the resonance behavior of whatever it is applied to. The claim made for C37 lacquer is however that it rather reliably and strongly changes this resonance behavior to one that is more consonant with the way we hear. The result, more musical sound... or so at least it is claimed.

I encountered Mr. Ennemoser’s lacquer first more then a good while ago and have been using it since then, commented about it in on-line discussion groups and the like, but never really wrote a formal review. The reasons are manifold. While it can justly be argued that C37 lacquer is an audio-component it’s very nature makes a formal, structured review with assignment of absolute scores and the like difficult.

When I first heard about the lacquer over four years ago I was as skeptical as anyone I could think of. I did take the time to read his C37 Theory (and later his book). At the same time I was researching the relevance of harmonic distortion patterns to how we perceive distorted sound (this triggered by working with SE Valve Amp’s). I had come across a medical reference that described the ear as not really being able to perceive a wide range of tones, instead in each octave only a limited number of narrow bands are being physically perceived. This sounded so close to Mr. Ennemoser’s C37 Theory, I simply had to try the lacquer.

Since I started lacquering the PCB of a DVD player I have had time to apply C37 lacquers of the varying temperature grades (IMPORTANT – make sure the lacquer is for the right temperature range, like 22 Centigrade for loudspeakers, pickups and tonearms; the 28 Centigrade stuff is suitable for most source electronics, hotter running gear like valve amplifier’s or "Class A" transistor amplifiers. The C37 is available up to 45 Centigrade operating temperature for all sorts of items.

At current the lacquered items in my system include the Tannoy 15" coaxial loudspeakers (just done recently) and previously used loudspeakers including the enclosure. All my cartridges had the housings lacquered and small amounts of lacquer carefully applied to the cantilever. All my own tonearms are lacquered. The DVD player I used as a transport is lacquered internally to quite a serious extent. My Behringer digital equalizer was recently lacquered, with excellent results. I have C37 treated cables, little wooden "Shim Mick" disks that sit on valves after being lacquered with 45 Centigrade C37 lacquer or on equipment after being 22 Centigrade lacquered. I have solid pinewood platforms that are lacquered and sit under gear...

As you can tell, I’m really fond of the stuff. And no, it’s not because of the sweet smells (the latest nitro diluted lacquer smells pretty foul actually). No, it is what it does for my enjoyment of music. I am known to often modify gear substantially or even to build and design it myself, but what I get from applying C37 lacquer is nothing like what, for example, changing capacitors, valves or op-amp does. Such changes can make the sound warmer, more detailed, leaner, etc..

While C37 lacquering does change the tonality to one that is generally more dynamic, warmer and more pleasant. The biggest change is on an almost subliminal level. The C37 lacquered gear sounds more open and detailed as before, but most important – it sounds more listenable and more capable of communicating the emotion in the music. Perhaps one receives less signals of "it’s artificial" from a C37 treated system? The key difference between a system with C37 and one without is not a bit of tonality, or more detail or less exaggerated sibilance, or a wider soundstage, or other such easily described and quantified audiophile issues. It is a difference much deeper. It is one between more musical realism and a simple canned music.

On an emotional level it works a similar magic as single ended valve amplifiers, non-oversampling DAC’s, vinyl records, high sensitivity speakers, a ‘lil tot of Glenlivet or a glass of good Claret. It makes listening to music more involving. It makes me want to listen more. It makes listening easier. I concentrate more on the music, on the phrasing, on the emotions and I simply forget to listen to the “Bass’s” and the “Trebles” and the “Soundstage”. I listen instead to the notes, the musicians, the silences between the notes, and the sharp rasp of the bow on a string all these things. Applying C37 to your system humanizes the perceived sound. When I have too much non C37 treated gear in my system I badly miss the effect.

The effect of C37 lacquer is greatest (obviously) with transducers (pickup cartridges, loudspeakers, CD player clock crystals, etc.) and electronics closer to the source. So lacquering for a taster only the dome tweeter in a normal pair of loudspeakers and the dustcap of the woofer as well as the DAC chip and the crystal clock of the CD player will give you a good idea of what this stuff does. For such things a 10ml each of 22 Centigrade and of 28 Centigrade (or higher if your CD player runs very hot) lacquer can be had from the local distributors. The cost will usually be a little over $120.

This seems expensive for two little bottles of lacquer, yet I would say that given its effect this price is a small one to pay. In the USA Richard Vance’s Art & Audio is the distributor, in Germany Clockwork Audio. The distributor network is still rather patchy, so C37 lacquer can be had in somewhat larger quantities up to serious OEM quantity half litre bottles directly from Mr. Ennemoser’s C37.net on-line shop.

I can not recommend C37 lacquer enough, but obviously some sense should prevail. While six coats C37 lacquer will improve a $5 radio loudspeaker it is unlikely to convert it into the equal of a $500 Lowther, AER or similar driver. Yet applying $150 worth C37 to said $500 pair of Lowther drivers (you’ll have loads left over if you buy 50ml) can give you the most significant improvement possible other than a really good horn loaded enclosure.

So get down to huffing lacquer yourself. What do you have to loose? The monetary equivalent of a few CD’s. A lot of auditory ballast in your system which dampens your enjoyment of the music. Oh yes, and the illusion that simple solid electronic and mechanic design guarantees good sound... should you still hold to it.

 

Having A Bad Case Of Digititis?
Step Right Up - Get The Antidote Here...

Okay, no more far out crazy and esoteric tweaks that have so far been eliciting shouts of "voodoo", "bunk", and "make-believe" from the objectivist benches. Not that C37 and felt disks cannot make a dramatic contribution to getting the most enjoyment of the music from your existing Hi-Fi. Not to say that either of these items has no real effect (they do). Or that is it indeed measurable (if you measure the right things), and not to say that these things are just reverse psychology that make you believe you heard something. They are absolutely not such. They are very real and in my not so humble opinion very relevant things to do in the context of most music reproduction systems.

Our next "tweak”" is firmly rooted in the classic domain of electronics and it has a defined and quantifiable operation. It’s patented too. Again, it is an item that I have been familiar with for a good while and which I have in a home-grown, DIY version used for a good few years. What I am on about is Tony Taddeo’s "Digital Antidote. More precisely, the pretty new passive version of his Digital Antidote II. With the passive Digital Antidote II things have come full circle.

Around ten years ago Mr Taddeo designed the original passive Digital Antidote and started to market it. It was intended as inexpensive, effective cure to that illness often called "Digititis" (a malaise that seems even now to be present with most CD replay gear). You hear Digititis best when comparing good LP replay against CD. First, listen to perception of the acoustic space, then concentrate on instruments like cymbals and the sibilants in human voices. It will be quickly clear what “Digititis” is. A more technical explanation and pretty graphs of the problem included can be found on the manufacturers website.

Back to those heady days in the early 90’s... In those days’ reviews of the passive unit showed inconsistent operation and an often noticeable treble roll-off for the original unit. It seems the passive unit was subject to impedance variations in the partnering gear (something I have also observed myself with my DIY unit) and generally was not the success it should have perhaps been. Still, when Wavelength Audio’s Gordon Rankin turned me onto this passive unit as a good tweak sometime in the later 90’s I tried a DIY copy of it and liked what was heard.

Yes, the unit assembled based on the circuit in the patent did cause some modest high frequency roll-off, but the gains in naturalness, air and soundscape extension and definition made it well worth my time. Over the years I also noticed the possible problems with interactions in the impedances of source and receiving device. In most cases there where no problems. But in some, especially with CD-Players having a very high output impedance and/or amplifiers/preamps with a very low input impedance colorations and sometimes substantial high frequency roll-off was observed. What the DA did do was to make CD sound much more analogue, much more like what I got from Vinyl than without the DA. When over the year’s people where impressed with the sound from CD in my system, often part and parcel of this where cables with a box along each, filled with a copy of the original DA.

Coming to the end of the 1990’s Tony Taddeo only manufactured the active version of the Unit, with a price that in recent years went up to nearly 1,000 Dollar. While the acceptance in the market for boxes that go between CD-Player and Preamp and are not DAC’s has increased (watch the proliferation of tubed and other buffers, transformer interfaces etc) at this price the active unit does not necessarily appeal to all that many. Moreover, to justify a $ 1,000 accessory the CD-Player or DAC should be of pretty high quality.

Well, good news – in this new and brave millennium Mr. Taddeo has brought the passive Antidote back, updated in circuit and operation based on the research over the last decade and at a price lower than ever! Yup, a decade ago the original passive DA would have set you back $170, now with plenty of inflation added the passive DA II is yours for only $99.

Having had the passive DA II around now for a good few weeks I had the chance to burn it in well and to try it with a variety of gear. I have also (obviously) compared it to my old DIY Unit. In fact, to my shame I must admit to having build another Copy Antidote, going all out on component quality and making this balanced as most of my system is moving towards balanced connections nowadays. It has seen service with the tube output Heart CD-6000 I’m reviewing right now, with a heavily modified late 1980’s Philips LHH-1000 DAC, a modified Marantz CD-67 player and even my set-top digital TV box.

Sonically, the passive DA II has a much smaller "footprint" than the older passive version. I could not detect any subjectively audible high frequency roll off, though a very modest such is still present according to my measurements. In general the sonic effect of the DA II is a little less obvious than the older version, a good thing in my view. With the Heart modified, tube output Marantz CD-6000 the passive DA II improved both soundscape width and depth while making cymbals less splashy and vocals a little smoother and more natural. My friend Jon summed it nicely when he said "This is much easier to listen to" comparing the system with and without the passive DA II. The new passive DA II also seems a little more tolerant of higher than normal source impedances than the older unit.

From experience I know that the Digital Antidotes do not in general work with CD-Players having Digital Filters with an action similar to the DA, namely those with Wadia’s Digimaster filter, those with Denon's Alpha processing, Kenwood’s D.R.I.V.E. and Pioneers Legato Link filters. Also with the non-oversampling DAC’s I tried (not commercially available units) I did not find the DA useful or desirable. But Mr. Taddeo gives you 30-day money back guarantee should the DA II not work for you.

Well, if I had not been using something very similar to the DA II for years I’d give you rave now about how much it has changed my enjoyment of music. But I did that a long time ago. Today homemade Devices based on Mr. Taddeo’s designs are to me simply part and parcel of my system, take them away and the music looses things that consider essential. The new passive DA II not only overall improves on those homemade things, it is readily available at a VERY reasonable price and will make a very substantial improvement for most affordable and mid-priced systems.

 

Foot Worship And Other Kinky Stuff...

Another classic stone of contention are the various equipment feet offered by the industry. Products range from very inexpensive items to extremely costly pieces made from all sorts of strange materials all the way to major investment air or magnetic suspension systems such as Vibraplane's, Clearaudio Magix, SAP Relaxa or Max Townshend’s air suspended equipment racks. I have played over the years with all sorts of things extensively, tried some of the really high priced stuff as well as cheap or free stuff.

What I have learned is that it is important to use your own ear and judgment. No two pieces of equipment react the same way to a set of feet. The problem is that what we do is to change (again – see also C37) the resonance behavior of a given piece of equipment. Using footers and various things to place on top of gear will alter the microphones, the way mechanical resonance energy is drained from the chassis and so on. So the only solution is to have a lot of different things at hand and to try them all. Some equipment pieces benefits from isolation, others need rigid coupling still others need a mixture.

The second thing that I have learned is that items that are based on the same functional principle generally react alike, though differences in material and execution give rise to differences in sound. Yet the cheapest “cones” that I have give me much of the sound of some of the most expensive of such to cross my path. The biggest difference was between the various metal cones and those made from ceramic (DH Labs), in the end I could not really see the point of spending the extra money and stuck with what I had.

So, below I’ll not give a blow by blow account of how each of the footers I have around sounds with the various pieces of gear I have around (this would be a huge article). Rather, I mention the in my view cost effective items I keep around and use regularly.

One of the key things that can drastically influence the sound and that are easy to find are equipment platforms. Of course, you can go and get the boutique stuff with the high price tags and some of those are really good (especially Symposium) but the outlay is high and often the results are not as predictable as one would like. I suggest haunting your local Superstores for Marble "pastry" cutting boards and getting equipment sized pieces of 18mm Spruce or Pine wood (solid boards, not plywood) cut. I personally have found myself by far preferring the natural wood boards, C37 lacquered over marble. But I can equally see things go the opposite way.

 

To couple the equipment to the platform many options exist, I use the “Shim Mick”, little wooden disks our editor Steven R. Rochlin send me ages ago, they are from Basketville (802) 387-5509, 1077 Wooden Wheel part number CWY00282. I normally lacquer them with C37. With Marble Platforms ceramic of metal coupler work well, but again the wooden disks can weave their "magic" there too. Of course, depending upon the piece equipment on top of the platforms any others of the discussed footers also feature occasionally.

The Platforms sit on all sorts of feet or other items. At the moment I have a pinewood Platform on which rests a Heart CD 6000, supported on the platform by three sets of two each of Steve’s wooden disks. Under this platform I use my latest discovery. These came out of a parcel from Amazon.com, bringing me my latest acquisitions in music, namely Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory on vinyl and the Spiritual Life Music sampler on CD. Packed in where air cushions branded Cell-O from Free-Flow Packaging International. These differ from other air cushions I have come across by their small size and the material, a much stronger Mylar that looses air pressure much less than the more common types. Anyway, Flopac suggests re-cycling these things, I guess I get a good Boy Scout sticker for that one. These air cushions float the platform on air while keeping dynamically very stable. Highly recommended.

BTW, prior to finding the described arrangement for the CD 6000 I tried rigid coupling with cones (bad, made the bass a little tighter but the sound became shrill), and I found that the best simple commercial footer under the CD 6000 in my arsenal where the Final Labs Daruma 3-II ball bearing thingies. I have found them in recent times consistently very good under CD-Players and transport, where they often give a more tuneful, tight Bass with more weight and impact as well as opening up the sound in general. They are in the end not as effective as the air suspension under the Heart CD-6000 yet under my Pioneer DVD player (which is also used as CD transport) they clearly are superior to even air suspension, giving a tight bass slam that turns a little  soft with air cushions. For the cost of $99 per set of three they are likely a must-have unless you already have other, more expensive items that work on the same principle (Aurios, Symposium) which may very well be better. I simply have not been able to try them yet. Anyway, under a CD player the Daruma 3-II work great! I liked them less with valve pre-amplifiers where air suspension again usually clinches it.

Another type of footers are cones. They work great under Speakers and many other items farther back in the chain. My large Tannoy Corner York's are coupled to the floor using three large Michell Tenderfeet Aluminum cones. At a cost of £10 ($14) for a set of three they are certainly at bargain basement prices for footers. At these prices you can afford to buy a large batch. I use them also under a large and heavy laminated glass plate which forms my amplifier stand. The smaller cones can work well under smaller equipment pieces and are even cheaper.

The amplifier is on my amplifier platform, however it sits on a mixture of fixed height brass cones (no idea where they came from) and a four piece (two per amplifier) set of a height adjustable Goldring Perfect Sound spikes. The combination of the amplifier’s own large weight, their rigid coupling to the large and heavy glass plate and in turn the rigid coupling of this to the floor result in tight, impactful bass while cleaning up the midrange somewhat. As I use for the amplifier’s four suspension points at least one such must be adjustable to ensure the rigid coupling. The Goldring Spikes (or something equally adjustable) are absolutely needed for my amplifiers.

Goldring makes a range of spikes and cones, all adjustable to aid the leveling of equipment. I have not found much about them in the US, but they are effective and inexpensive. The larger Spikedampers make a good figure under CD players or Amp’s if not as good as Final Labs Daruma’s, giving a measure of decoupling and a rigid suspension of the item. I now use three of those under the stand alone motor unit of my Turntable to make sure the motor is smack bang level and has no real freedom of movement. At the same time the motor does generates vibrations. Using simple adjustable cones lead to some slightly rough sound, Spikedampers into the breech and all was great. Goldring Cones and Spikes also feature on my equipment rack, which being British is Metal and Glass, somewhat like Mana. I replaced the squishy things between the frame and Shelf with various Goldring cones and spikes, glued a square of sorbothan to the centre of the shelf and adjusted my spikes and cones until I got the shelf level and until I got the clean, quickly decaying ring from the shelf with no rattling, again much like the adjustment procedure for a Mana Rack. Doing this a long time back resulted in a much more open sound, better pace and timing. I never really felt any inclination to upgrade my equipment support since. No, it is likely nowhere nearly as good as the Mana Stands, but it only cost me altogether something like $ 200 in all and manages to genuinely make gear placed on it sound better.

I think this will have to conclude this round of the freakzoid Tweekaloid, no doubt I’ll be back soon, as I have more tweaks around and to mention that work well and don’t break the bank. Just before I go though a quick link to a French web-page that shows another no/low cost tweak that I use daily and find it to work great. Even if you don’t speak French, the pictures tell the story:

Le CD-Flop - une grande innovation française

For a translation of sorts into English try the Babelfish on-line translator:  

http://babel.altavista.com

All I can say is that I’ll be damned if I know why the CD-Flop does what it does, but I tried it both with disks that had data on them and with bulk erased ones – the bulk erased disks had little or no effect, those with data did make a pretty solid improvement and have since sneakily made their way throughout my circle of friends and acquaintances. To quote for a change one of those, well known Audio-buddy Adnan Arduman (he has loads of interesting HiFi Systems on his website) on the effect:

"Thorsten shared with me a very interesting tweak of his own (no it isn’t my own, blame Thierry Foucher for this one - Thorsten) consisting of the inner magnetic disc of a 5.25" old style floppy disc (which should be cut to exactly match the diameter of the CD). All you need to do is to place this floppy disc on top of your CD. The on-and-off testing clearly showed that when the tweak was in place the sound had more presence, more inner detail, more air and more depth. And the improvements were far from being subtle. Back at home I tried the same tweak on my Marantz SA-1, but this time the differences were much subtler. So I recommend to try it on your own CD players as the tweak costs nothing.”

Okay, till another time I leave you with a lot of tweaks to try and I hope they help you to really start Enjoying The Music.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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