A minor rant

Prologue: this is a minor rant. It will not be tediously long, and it will not attack anyone. Proceed only if interested in reading a short diatribe on reviews about tweaks.

Almost all serious members of our hobby have tried various tweaks over the years – some successful, some not. Infact, tweaks are so much a part of our hobby that dedicated audio enthusiasts are often referred to as “tweaks”. I’ve tried a lot of tweaks myself over the years, and most proved of dubious value, but most were also fairly cheap. Many of us indulge in tweaks in the hope they will get us closer to audio nirvana. I think, however, that the variety and price of tweaks has reached the stage (like interconnects) that, as Monty Python might say, they are “silly” (envision John Cleese doing his bit as the Minister of Silly Walks…).

During lunch today, I strolled down to the Tower Records in the University District (a block or so from the Univ of Washington campus) to browse for a few CD’s, and wound up buying the current issues of “Listener” mag and “Audio Musings” mag. The copy of “Listener” contains a subscription ad with a picture of a coiled pile of feces sitting next to a can of Shinola wax, with the caption: "Read ‘Listener’, and learn the difference”. Did this ad inadvertently contain an editorial statement about the very tweaks that were the subject of their review article?

There are two tweak products reviewed in the mags: the Rollerblock Symposiums (which sell for $300 for a set of 3 steel balls, with their blocks – and for only $75 more, with tungsten carbide balls) (I once knew an Army drill sergeant with a pair of those, but that’s another story…), and the Aurios “Media Isolation Bearings” (MIB’s), which sell for the same price.

“Audio Musings” has an equipment review of the Aurios bearings, which the reviewer tested under a Parasound 1500 power amp (also the subject of a full review). To determine how effective the isolation bearings are, the reviewer placed not one set, nor two sets, not even three sets under the amp. He eventually placed 5 SETS OF BEARINGS (3 bearings per set) under the amp. That’s $1500 worth of isolation bearings under a $995 power amp!! Here’s a quote from the Audio Musings review:

“I switched amps to the Parasound 1500. After getting used to its sound, I placed three Aurios under it. With just the three Aurios MIB’s, there was a slight but noticeable improvement. With each addition, the level of improvement was noticeable. Then I put 6, 9, 12, and then 15 MIB’s under the amp. With each addition the level of improvement was noticeable. Boy, was I surprised. This raised the level of performance to quite a degree…”

Let’s set aside the issue of whether the reviewer suffered from “audio delusions” working as a possible factor here. Does anyone in their right mind actually spend 50% more than the cost of the amp (or other component) on isolation tweaks? What kind of improvement would be realized by getting a $2500 amp with regular feet, vs. a $1000 amp with $1500 feet? At what point does improvement from adding more MIB’s reach a plateau? Could an actual human being hear the difference between 15 MIB’s vs. 30? Or 45, etc. If these isolation bearings offer such "noticeable improvements", why has no component manufacturer seen fit to make them standard on their products at a fraction of the $300 cost (for one set)? (Would you buy a $20,000 car with $30,000 tires?)

This kind of asinine reviewing is what contributes to “normal” people seeing audiophiles as strange at best, and maybe clowns or dupes at worst. This review really aggravated me, and I appreciate having a place to vent to my fellow ‘philes. Thank you – I now return control of your computer to you.
Sd, you aren't the only one who's noticed this irrational behavior on the part of reviewers. I'm sure we've all noticed many times that a component under review is "tweaked out" with accoutrements that are vastly out of rational proportion to it's price. I'd like to know what a component sounds like bone stock before lauding it's performance decked out with tweaks equal in value to the unit under review. Stereophile reviewers do this very often, making scant mention of the stock performance level.
Judging from the Forum, most of us have extensive experience with resonance tweaks and how the tonal balance of a system can be altered with different materials and/or support configurations under the component(s). I have found the schools of thought to be transmit the vibrations out and/or absorb them. The inexpensive tweaks listed in the Forum provide a good starting point for experimentation. For the more expensive methods, I strongly suggest "Try Before You Buy!". No one can predict exactly what a particular resonance control product will sound like under a given component for each unique setup. I currently prefer an expensive 'transmit out' method, but that does not make it appropriate for every system and budget. I dismiss the offending review as sensationalism at best, poor taste at worst.
All things aside, I would buy a $20,000 car with $30,000 tires, then again I am a little weird.

~Tim The Tire Guy
sd: coincidentally, i looked for "listener" this past weekend at our local mag emporium, based mostly on megasam's thread on tweaks reviewed in the latest issue. i noticed, first, the "shit-from-shinola" ad. i thought it was fairly clever in a gross "animal house" kinda way. it reminded me of "the jerk," one of steve martin's overlooked movies; remember his black dad (he was adopted unawares) taking his character out for a leaving-home goodbye and pointing out the difference between shit and shinola? i then skimmed a couple of the "reviews" of tweaks, including the one re: mpingo discs. this is scary stuff. i've not read the article in "audio musings," about multiple bearings, tho it seems apparent that the "reviewers," unlike those in their subscription department, shine their shoes with fresh horse dung, not recognizing the superiority of kiwi polish.. -kelly
tierguy: is that $30K PER tire or for a set of 4 or 5? either way, on which $20k car would you put them? understand, i'd shod a porsche 949 with 230k miles on it with any tires it said it wanted. -kelly
Depends on the automobile kelly, if it was american or asian I think that 30k per set would be adequate, however if it was European I could justify the 30k per tire expense. Maybe one of those old mini's with the 10" wheels on it that could handle like it was no ones business, have some custom 10" pirelli p-zero made, now I am starting to get excited. who do I make the check out to?
You guys are certifiable... and I should know!
SD: I am with you on this, there was a discussion much earlier on an issue about speakers with cables. The example was like speakers list $8,000. with $20,000. cables. So it's funny what Tim used as an example because that's exactly what I used and some anal dude got upset with me because I used cars and tires with it, probably because he drives a $500. car- oh well. But me myself, I would rather spend say $8000. on one hell of an amp with the BALLS inside to drive my system than to spend $2000. on an o.k. amp with $6000 of steel rollers under my amp. I rest my case. p.s. Maybe that old dude will get back on here and get mad at Tim the tire guy and me for talking about auto's...
I doubt you could fit $6000 worth of steel bearings (or even carbide ones) under an amp, at least not in a plane...
I consider tweaks to be in large part a DIY thing, requiring at least some enginuity and resourcefulness. As far as I'm concerned, once you start spending on the certified, pre-packaged audiophile product, you're getting further and further from tweaking.
Scott-That was more than a minor rant!
Sdcampbell as usual, you are 100% correct. A $2500 amp is ALWAYS smarter than a $1000 amp with $1500 feet. The most astonishing thing is how many in this hobby actually end up with the latter. No matter what those feet are made out of, they can never take the place of superior power supply, passive parts, wiring, circuits, output devices, build, and even connectors. Perhaps people get overly attached to their equipment. They think that by doing much of this gimmickry, they can turn that $1000 amp into something better than the $2500 amp. Wrong. While it is nice to improve something, you can not turn a Jolida into an AirTight. At least, not with the kind of tweaks that most people get into. We see it all the time though. It usually starts with the, "This $1500 Brand X amp sounds as good as anything under $5K" statement. Oh yeah? While it may be a good(even great) value, that is normally not seeing things as they really are.
Some great, funny posts. Or should that be riposts. I've even gotten a couple of private E-mails from members who are equally turned off by some of the irrational reviews of products. Anyway, thanks for letting me vent -- and you're probably right, David99: it wasn't a minor rant, but I sure feel better.
Wow, i'm going to go get some balls right away. Them ones with tongue stan car bide should work real good under my Bose amplifier and make it sound like a live show. Huuweee, I could even charge folks for listening !!! Round these parts steel balls would get kinda rusty I reckon, but then the misses says them there balls must be rusty by now anyway. Say, where do youall get that Listener book cause I reckon they must know more about balls than anybody else.
See what you started Scott?? Now *the* weird are coming out!
SD of course you are correct about the absurdity of using
$1500 of bearings under $1000 amp, it may even be silly to use $300 (1 set) under $1000 amp because of high relative cost ratio. One set of standard MIBs can support 1000lbs, and I doubt if any major benefit comes from using more than 3 MIBs from my experience with these.

I like the cover of Listner tweak issue, with medeval doctor
boring hole in some fools head and inserting a funnel, could this be symbolic of the average audio mag reviewer?

BTW I do believe bearing devices are quite effective for certain applications, but only if it makes sense cost wise with a balanced system.
Hi, Megasam. I agree with you that these type of bearing devices can be useful, and would reinforce your comment that the bearings have to be seen in the context of the overall system. One set of bearings might be supportable (no pun intended) with a component in the $1500-2000 range (to pick an arbitrary dollar figure), but doesn't make much sense in the context of a sub-$1K component. On the other hand, where the hell does the audiophile catechism say that things have to make logical sense?
Something in SD's orginal post choked me up more than obvious stupidy of the review(er): The implication that if I don't read Listener magazine, I likely don't know *&#@^!. Call me sensitive, but I find that insulting. I don't subscribe to any audio magazines (although I'll buy the odd issue once in a while) since I find them all to be full of pointless, self-serving drivel, but if I had a subscription to Listener I would be registering my complaint along with my cancellation...

There is one MAJOR point that you folks are missing. The more "tweaks" ( cones, bearings, pods, etc...) that someone puts under a component, the more it is coupled to the surface supporting it. As such, instead of having the surface area of one set of 3 bearings "isolating" it, the amp now has FIFTEEN bearings "coupling" it. That means that there is a 500% increase in contact / transfer area as compared to one set. I bet if he would have put that amp right on the supporting structure, it would have sounded REALLY great... Sean
Duh. Additionally, it seems that isolation would be more practical beneath something other than a solid state amplifier. Like a piece of tube equipment (to negate microphonics)... Or CD transport. I wonder if the bearings placed under the speaker wires would help? Now THAT could get expensive, depending on the run of cabling.

For the amount of cash that some of us kick down for our passion, it seems that building an anechoic chamber, with a hole in the middle for our head would be just as practical as any other "tweak". Pour a concrete slab to place the components on, and isolate the "headroom" with about 6" of concrete and 3' of earth.
I think Tireguy has the right idea--$20k for a car with $30k wheels sounds like a steal! Of course I would immediately turn around and sell those tires to Tireguy for $20k, effectively making my purchase price for the car nil. ;-)

I understand SD's point, but consider a slightly different angle. If the reviewer simply intended to judge the effectiveness of the tweak, I don't see any problem with taking it to the nth degree (insane as it is) to see if it still offers benefits. Car reviewers put cars through maneuvers that would land most of us in traffic court in an attempt to see how the car handles at extremes. But if the reviewer were suggesting consumers should do the same as a permanent option instead of, as SD pointed out, investing that money in a better amp, then I would seriously question his judgment.
I think you guys are missing the point. Since 15 bearings show improvement over 3, then one would think that 30 would be even better. 60...well, audio nirvana. The trick is that 60 bearings simply won't fit under this puny amp, so next month's review will be for the Aurios ABE - Amp Base Extender - allowing you to place up to 120 bearings under any sized amp. Suitably priced for the budget minded at $399 for anodized aluminum, or $599 for polished aluminum which provides optimal contact with the MIB's and is much shinier.

Frankly, I just don't see what you folks are so worked up over...

Hifiho, do you have a schematic for the anechoic chamber? I'd like to build one. My question is if I stick just my head in it, won't my head be too low for the optimal listening height? Perhaps we can design a special listening suit we can wear into the chamber. Just a thought.
I read an article at one point about an audiophile who was building a new house from scratch. This, of course, means that his listening room is built from the ground up with immaculate acoustic design I'm sure. In fact, his whole house may have been built around the listening room...but that's another matter altogether. With regards to isolating his speakers, he was obviously not content to simply spike them into a concrete floor. What he ended up doing was sinking concrete PILLARS into the ground all the way to the bedrock, approximately 30-40 ft. down. These pillars, in turn, did not touch any point of the house. So, in effect, his speakers were not only completely detached from the surrounding environment, but also diffusing all vibrations into the earth's crust. Pretty serious stuff...
And you say this like its a bad thing.

Now, where'd I put my saws-all...
Now this is fun! The kind of post and the witty responses taht I keep coming back to audiogon. Too funny!!! Keep them coming.
Sean: if I follow your logic on this, the ultimate objective is to totally couple the audio component to the supporting surface. Since ball bearings and cones leave a lot of area that is not coupled (being circular, they leave gaps between themselves), then the logical extension of the argument is to take the feet off your components and epoxy them directly to the shelf/rack/wall/ceiling/floor (only if solid concrete), etc. Of course, it will be a pain in the rear to move components, but it will sure cut down on the need for isolation tweaks. Why the hell didn't I think of this years ago?
Coupling? Decoupling? Tweaking? This is beginning to sound less like an audio discussion and more like a Ron Jeremy Film :)

But seriously folks, in my experience decoupling, i.e. ball bearing, cones, tiptoes, etc. etc., Works better when high frequency vibrations are troublesome, such as with a CD transport. On the other hand, coupling works best on amps and turntables. I heard of a guy that went so far as to get a 12" thick hunk of tombstone granite under his turntable! HA!
The multiple couplings may not be the same as gluing the base of the amp etc to the bedrock... The balls and whatever may be modifying the basic harmonics flowing through the amp chassis in a very different way. I would probably think the "expensive toy" mods could be duplicated with some good ol' junk store tweakers' savvy. (And I have BFGoodrich KDW's 215Z50 mothers on my ride, an SVT. certainly not $30,000. tires but well worth the price of admission)ADDED:(and what tires cost $30k??? 747's??? land speed recordholders', B-1 bombers tires? some earth haulers?)
well actually there are some tires in our base billing guide that cost me $45,000ea.!!!!They are big ass goodyears used on those earth haulers, they are roughly the size of your house and like 90ply tread with a mere 80 ply sidewall. Personally I run Nokian NRV's(225/55-ZR16) on my car by no means 30k but also worth mentioning, then again I suppose my rig was more then 20k so I suppose I am dumb to waste that much on a car and put 'cheap' tires on it. Oh by the way most all big plane tires are the same and not too expensive, in relation to the price of the plane that is, there is an airport down the road from my shop and every now and again we do a whole lotta tires for them, they go by how many landings rather then mileage(good idea)so after so many landings they have to replace the tires(rednecks like using them on there trailers/wagons for runnin through the woods). That is enough tires for an audio web page. Over and out.
Reading audio magazines is like reading Playboy, Motor Trend, or The Wine Spectator. The whole point of the magazines is to keep people dreaming of that one complete system they could die for. You know, the one with the big tubes. Most of the magazines are full of subjective, goofy, adjectives that do little of inform the reader of how any particular component is designed to function in the real physical world and whether it lives up to these designs. The only numbers they publish are prices. Go to a shop and listen to something new. Take an extra shift and work a little more so you can save up for something better, or at least get a book and learn something rather than sitting around reading this mind candy. One magazine I have found that actually does contain some interesting material is Audioxpress. Though they may be too technical sometimes, you will not be pummelled to death with syrupy adjectives.
Reading audio magazines is like reading Playboy, Motor Trend, or The Wine Spectator. The whole point of the magazines is to keep people dreaming of that one complete system they could die for. You know, the one with the big tubes. Most of the magazines are full of subjective, gooey, adjectives that do little of inform the reader of how any particular component is designed to function in the real physical world and whether it lives up to these designs. The only numbers they publish are prices. Go to a shop and listen to something new. Take an extra shift and work a little more so you can save up for something better, or at least get a book and learn something rather than sitting around reading this mind candy. One magazine I have found that actually does contain some interesting material is Audioxpress. Though they may be too technical sometimes, you will not be pummelled to death with syrupy adjectives.
The next time I build some custom cabinetry for someone I think I will make it out of conctrete, with ball bearings for reinforcement and charge accordingly...
OK.I listen to audio equipment 8 hrs a day in the hi fi shop /CD store where I work.I fail to hear 98% of what mag reviwers and even you guys here out there.Yes when I switch from the Krell AB to the class A I hear a dif.But so many grades/prices for wire?All the isolation tweaks?Please!!!A good set of stands might be worth $300 but marbles?You've lost yours if you think that it's worth it.Hey I just sell the stuff.But a decent set of wires and stands has much less to do with the sound than the room and floor (back to stands again).Some tweaks do work but many of them can be way overpriced.Even with wire.Different does not always mean better and even with a 20K stereo I find $500-1K meter wires to be really stupidly priced/purchased.If your system needs toning down yes but at what cost?Think of where else the same money could go for a better COMPONENT!There.I've said it.Heresy all!But hey it's all pretty weird to the folks who are happy with a whole system costing as much as a set of cables or rack.Now I will proceed top contradict myself with questions and debates with you guys about the very things I said are BS.Shoot me.
A follow up.Just like the bone-headed reviewer who would place $1500 worth of balls under a $1k amp many folks will get all those tweaks goiing and not do soemthing primary like put points and a heavy base on an old wood floor etc.
Seen it all the time.Trees form a forest type thing.
Let us go back to us audiophiles. Are we the ones whoes system cost much more than the software it plays? Say 10k softare played on 50 K hardware. Now that would be stupid to non audiophiles or come to think of it even us audiophiles. "Tweak less,Enjoy the music"
Pill, I take some exception to your comments. Although I have a sizeable LP and CD collection, I find that I listen to about 150 (or about $3000 worth)of my favorites over and over again on my >$70k system.

Is this stupid? I'd bet it is closer to the norm.

I enjoy the music but will my 150 favorites sound just as good on a $3k system?