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April 2014
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Tweaking To Beat The Band
Tweaks made especially for the April Fool in you!
Review By Rick Becker


  One of the things I learned early on in the days when I was trolling Rec.Audio.High-End was that many, if not most audiophiles prefer to listen to music in the dark... or at least dim light. It heightens your aural acuity and makes you feel a little bit invincible... like Batman. It also gives birth to one of my biggest pet peeves about this exalted industry. For all the concern about quality and perfection on the part of manufacturers, many, if not most of them pay little heed to the visibility of the knobs on their gear under such low light conditions, not to mention the paucity of back-lit remote controls. Once in a great while someone will put an LED on a knob so you can determine the position of the volume control from the listening chair, but I can't remember the last one I saw. Some don't put any indicating reference marks, dimples, lines or even tactile grooves in their knobs.

Lots of knobs, like the Analog Disk from Harmonic Resolution Systems by Mike Latvis have a brushed surface on the face of the knob. With the Analog Disk turning at multiple revolutions per minute, this brushed surface reflects what little light may be in the room and informs you that the LP is spinning, which is very useful information when changing an LP. But on a relatively stationary volume control, the brushed surface doesn't convey much information.  The world class Stillpoints LPI record weight by Paul Wakeen achieves a similar effect by virtue of their logo being etched into the face of the LP Isolator. Kevin Hayes of VAC uses two beveled edges which create an "arrowhead" channeling the eye to a small dimple on the face of the knobs of his volume control — just in case you can't see the point from a distance. But many manufacturers just go with the ubiquitous dimple. Even Israel Blume, on the Statement Line Stage which resides in my reference rig uses only a barely visible dimple. From the distance of my listening chair, gentlemen, this doesn't cut it.

I suppose I could have gone to the local Hot Topic store at the mall for some black nail polish to drip into the dimples, but I'm not sure my aim is good enough to do the job neatly. Besides, my cataract surgery converted my extreme nearsightedness that was perfect for such tasks into 20/20 vision that is better suited for spotting babes at the beach than cuing up an inner track on an LP. But putting a dot on the face of a dial is not the optimal solution for me. My preamp is located waist-high, so what I really need is a marking on the side of the knob so I can see it from above when I stand in front of it — quite necessary since I have the original Statement Preamp and Phono stage designed for real men who get up out of the listening chair to adjust the volume.

It was a perplexing problem in need of a serious 'Ah-ha!!!' moment. As many such moments are, this one came out of the blue, quite literally, but I didn't recognize it at first. Let me digress. For those who don't know, Wegmans is a Top 100 employer that runs the finest grocery store chain in the Northeast. Anyone who lives in Rochester, NY, or has visited a Wegmans absolutely raves about the quality and selection of the food and the superior service they provide. As I was walking into Wegmans, I was greeted by one of those friendly A-Frame signs proclaiming "Lobster @ $5.99/lb." What can I say... sometimes luck happens. I must have stood at the lobster aquarium for five minutes studying the herd. "Let's see, do I want Frankie and Johnny? Or Bonnie and Clyde?" I was determined to make the right decision and finally returned home with Orville and Wilbur. Flying into the kitchen, I put on my best John Lee Hooker, proclaiming "We got da pot on 'n 'da gas up high!"  Twenty minutes later after the deep water came to a boil, Linda brought Orville to the table in the clutch of her tongs and suddenly it hit me.

"Ah-Hah!!!" I proclaimed.

"Ah-ha what?" she asked.

"That's IT!!!" I replied.

"What's 'it'? This is a lobster," she said, dropping Big Red (formerly Orville) on my plate.

"This is what I need," I exclaimed.

"No, this is what you need," she said, handing me a pick and a nut cracker that had been in my family for at least two generations and had cracked the shells of many more generations of lobster. But my eyes were fixated on the thick rubber bands binding Big Red's claws. I might not be at the top of the food chain in Yellowstone or the Tetons, but I sure had Big Red under control... even after I carefully slipped the wide rubber bands off his formerly powerful pinchers.

After cleaning up the remains of the two crustaceans I washed off the rubber bands and retired to the listening room. It was a bit of a stretch, but soon they were ensconced on the perimeter of the twin volume controls of the Coincident preamp. Beautiful! A little swish with a fine point Sharpie and I had a reference point I could see from a standing position. Life was good.

But being an audiophile, "good" was not good enough. As I sat in my listening chair I became increasingly restless and began to think about improving upon the lobster bands. I visited other grocery stores, and even stopped for a meal at Red Lobster and Eat at Joe's. I especially liked Eat at Joe's because in their upstairs aquarium they have a Great White shark to whom they feed all their Asian customers who ask for shark fin soup.

Soon I had a small collection of lobster bands…enough to allow me to slip into "designer" mode.

Should I use a pair of red ones or a pair of green ones? Or maybe a red one on the right channel and a green one on the left? I can always remember to turn right on red. Or maybe I should let it all hang out and use the yellow ones that identified the "wild lobster/product USA". Wait a second... wait a second! I've got a B-52's album around here somewhere. Rock Lobster! Everybody get up and dance!














































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