Filling the void for better sound
Pursuing audio excellence, or what you need to know when filling speaker stands.
To cut high end audio costs, speaker stands can be bought occasionally as empty constructs and to increase performance, need to be filled with something to help diminish there inherent resonances, or ameliorate them completely. Coupling simply isn’t enough to eliminate that metallic ring one hears when rapping the upright with the off knuckle.
So let’s begin.
Filler of choice
Two by four
I’ve read all sorts of information on this ‘filling’ process. Different camps say the use of lead is good, others say simple clean sand is fine enough. Still others subscribe to more exotic materials.
True enough I’ve found is that what ever the materials being used the resultant ‘sound’ or characteristics of the empty space once filled, will definitely be altered. I had on hand simple clean sand. Almost sugar sand in its consistency. Completely dry. It’s been drying for about two years or so out in my storage house. The residual bag from another endeavor.
Unless the filler (that’s you) is stout hearted and in a hurry, this process is best done outside. Of course, if you are in a hurry and have a dynamite vacuum cleaner, or just want to introduce a ‘desert’ esthetic to the listening room, some indoor distribution or packing can be done by all means.
I sought the great outdoors and the vistas of nature to top off my hollow speaker holders.
Armed only with some speculative desire, a 50lb. bag of dirt, er, sand, a large funnel, and ripping off the sugar scoop, I hoisted up both the tall speaker stands and stepped out into the wild. I knew almost instantly I was in trouble. It was a windy day. I didn’t mind the wind. It didn’t mind me. It did hate the sand however, doing its best to prevent the scooped up portions from being dropped into the stands. I had to work faster I thought to myself.
The distinct advantage of using sand is the price tag. One can buy enough fine sand to cover a moderate sized yard for about $4.86… or so. Well, maybe not, but its way cheap.
Bearing in mind different sorts of items slipped into the cavity will change the intrinsic resonance my mind wandered. I got to thinking if there was enough space in there to allow for the neighbors chickens. Especially that rooster with the broken alarm clock. Then there was the other neighbors ‘’Ever Ready’ powered, barking machine. One of my ex girl friends. Or some of my old ties as I was dropping scoop after scoop into these sky scraper like edifices. I thought for a long time about using these ‘out of the box’ solutions, but resigned myself to the more mundane and traditional effort.
Don’t count the scoops! There’s little sense in it in the end.
After 22 scoops I set the stand onto the banister of the front steps and while tilting it over this way and that, I rotated it about to further fill the base supports. I also bounced it up and down a bit onto the handrail just to make sure it was being compacted. I figured I was, so why not it?
Much of this exercise I think is just to make us feel better and provide us some aerobic movement so we can persist with our sedentary and quite critical listening sessions, and prevent our hearts from stopping during those “Oh my goodness!” moments within.
Resting the stand back onto the landing I continued scooping. Adding in another 757 more scoops (note – get a bigger scoop next time), I could see the sand reaching the opening. Great. Almost done. OK. Half done. Peering into the gaping mouth of the stand for a time, I noticed a curious goings on. The sand was slowly receding deeper into the hollow. I must not have done a good enough job forcing the contents about into the legs of the base I thought.
Now a word from our sponsor
If you have attained a stand which you will be coupling to your flooring with spikes, and the whole of its body is indeed empty, do remember to insert the supplied or aftermarket spikes, and level the stand (s) prior to initiating the filling process. Otherwise, you will need lots more sand.
Recovering as much of the now spilled out sand from beneath them as I could, my mind went back to the different stuff makes different sounds ideology, and remembering the 3,437 scoops needed to fill the first one I found the incorporation of the more ‘unusual filler’ solutions fascinatingly more attractive. That and the broken record dog next door again fired up his ritualistic barking motor, as it is prone to whenever a leaf blows by his gaze, or it hears a distant tree branch rustle.
My arm now weary, my eyes filling with the fine grit, I wondered…. Is anybody home over there? I haven’t used my brandy new ‘chopper in a hopper’ yet either! I began to whistle, and lowly murmur “here boy, come here boy….”
Naturally I dismissed the nefarious notion and thought more about duct tape and super glue. No. Not for the stands… for the pint sized irritant from Hell next door. Don’t they make glue in meat flavors?
With spikes firmly set, I repeated the process with the second unit, albeit a mite faster this time as I am now, just as Jimi Hendrix once asked, ‘Are you experienced’, yes. Indeed, I am. The task was near done..I thought. More tamping was sorely needed, as I would soon find out.
No pain no gain.
Shifting about the stands revealed some settling of the contents was going on within. Without, some unsettling was going on in me. Enduring the wind, the mechanical mutt from across the way kept up its annoying yapping, and now this? Super. OK. No more Mr. Nice Guy!
Vibrations were in order. The bigger the better.
Take a breath here… we don’t want to scar up the stands, or alter their shape by forcedly pummeling the stands in haste. My first thoughts were to just loft the stand and let it down quickly enough to compact the millions of new residents so I did.
I lifted the now much heavier apparatus a foot or two and dropped it straight down onto the wooden floorboards. One would think this a really simple matter. Pick it up drop it down. Compaction occurrs. Mission accomplished! Great idea.
Just how experienced are you with pain?
You have absolutely no concept of just how sharp spikes really are until one from a sand filled mile high stand has found its way onto the top of your bare foot after plummeting from some immense height. Especially when it is on a hot, windy, critter chattering, sand flying everywhere, Audiophile sweating, day!
Well, either take my word for it, or if you are the curious type and more addle minded than able minded, see for yourself. If not, then add steel toe boots to the preparatory materials list. If so, add Epsom salts and gauze.
Or take a wider stance.
Thereafter, I chose the most readily available tool, my fist. I’m not gonna say I regret using my fist to beat on the first uprights top plate to settle the contents. Not until after the first 63 swats, punches, and slaps. I merely regret not having a rubber mallet or paint can shaking machine. Gratefully fewer bandaids and far less blood letting, was involved this time around.
I kept at it tirelessly until it was completed entirely.
Right there however, leering silently, near ominously …then there stood the second stand awaiting it’s turn at me. Super. Well, I’ve been blessed with two hands so the choice was simple enough. While the right hand was slowly recovering from the throbbing within, I got all ambidextrously mid evil on the remaining tower.
Me thinks it’s in these minor sacrifices we pay our dues for the Audiophile card we carry with such pride. Sorry… but I told ya I went all mid evil.
With spikes in place, the bleeding stopped and the filling method now a pat routine, tamping down a matter of course, and a new thought on that last matter arose. A hand towel folded over a couple times, and a two by four did a fine job meeting out the remaining prerequisite punishment to lay in the residual fill.
Moderate thumps only are needed for this ‘rudimentary tool in hand striking’ technique. Not following this path will also aid you in taking some added steps.
Notably, the steps needed for going and getting a long screw driver to prise the now embedded spikes from the wooden flooring. Man! Them spikes are sharp.
Unailing the once attached stands from their new mate and dusting them off the job was now done. Using a moist rag e.g., see hand towel above, did a fine enough job to render the now ready to go speaker supports suitable to enter the home once again..
Once filled to the brim one last precautionary step is in order. This one meager practice will be of immense benefit to the uninitiated. Cover the filling inlet with duct tape if there was no plug supplied. I mention this only to reduce the apparently ever increasing aerobics of this affair to a minimum.
Directly after the additional hour or so I spent vacuuming and consequent refilling, I set the stands in place. I’ve also since decided if repositioning is required, I’l just move my chair.
Many items intended for use by people ihn general, are designed in such a way that a 13 year old can manage them. I would submit when it is required that some added measures be taken to physically embellish or tweak, some prized audio artifact to greater capacities, one seek out said teen ager to continue the pursuit…. Or just buy things that ain’t hollow.