Get your cables cryo'd. By far the most dramatic change of any tweak I have done. My first impression was hyper-detail and a bit hot but, after 10 hours they started to smooth out a bit and after around 50 they were great. Email if you would like the info on the company I used. Didn't really do much to the bottom end but, great improvement in the HF in my system.
The least expensive and biggest benefit in comfiguring a system is an open mind. Remain flexible. It costs nothing. A closed mind can be ridiculously expensive.
From a value oriented perspective, isolation comes to mind. Some fancy wood footers (blocks of Mahogany, Teak, Zebra, etc) were supplied me by another member and WOW you couldn't help but notice the changes to the sound. Each type had a different effect upon the sound, and they can be had for next to nothing. Probably right near where you live.
Getting them in the right place is also a bit of a thing, for me. ONce done the significance of the improvement far overshadows much anything else I've done.
Sometimes an additional item needs be used with the blocks too... like compliant iso materials, stick 'em or post it pads, vibra pods, felt, or even silicone. Usually not though.
Other minorly expensive iso materials can prove vastly important to improving sonics. All sorts. I've used some iso materials from Herbiies Audio Labs with fine success. Tube rings, iso cups w/ebony balls. I've even used particle board and MDF as platforms. Sandwhiched setups which have the makeshift platform in between two different isolating devices with the component atop the upper iso pucks, pods, footers, etc.
High temp silicone O rings can be used in two's or three's as tube dampers.
Drain stoppers. Cutting boards, and Ceramic tiles. Anything is of probable use... if it ain't moving.
I've found sources and pre's more prone to this former construct than amps.
Getting pc's up off the floor is good. Supporting them by tying them off to the rack to relieve the strain is worth the doing.
Past that I'd say passive line conditioning. hearing less of what you aren't hearing now is pretty substantial, and you will welcome it with open arms... or ears. Adding dedicated ckts can be of great help... sometimes.
Room acoustics is now my focus... and as I've found with so many other approaches to accessories, I'd bet this is where I or anyone should start. Not end.
Everything makes a diff. Things you might not think may help, may not. then again, they may.
Keeping an open mind is really the ticket.
You truly short change yourself and your system if peripherals are not addressed. Great components really do improve with supportive accessories.
1. Replacing the brass cones under my maple isolation stands with racquetballs inserted in inch and a half PVC end caps. Made a big difference on my carpet covered concrete.
2. Anything and everything from Herbies Audio lab.
Most of it's junk and voodoo. I do favour the BDR large under my Audible Modulus 3A after trying about 20 types of isolation for it. They make a great difference. Otherwise, the Mapleshade brass footers never fail to make things better. All power cords and speaker cords do not make as much of a change compared to either of these.
Put a few AC caps on your lines then uses Capt369 suggestions.
Send your favorite ics and scs and pcs to Doug at Cryo-Nebraska. If you liked your cables before, you should fall in love with them after. All for about $100 or less.
Replace all external and especially internal fuses with cryo-treated gold-plated ones.
Install cryo-treated audio-grade wall outlets, male plugs, IEC connectors, IEC inlets, etc..
Install double-cryo-treated Romex house-wire from the service panel to your audio outlets.
Install dedicated circuits and lines for your audio components, esuring that your amps have all the juice they need and your digital (cdp, dac, etc..) are on their own dedicated circuits/lines and separated from your tt, pre, amps because of the bi-directional digital noise induced by all digital. (dedicated lines should help but the only cure is bi-directional filtering line-conditioners.)
Get rid of all kitty litter, tennis balls, sorbathane, hockey pucks, sand, mdf, pods, cork, plexiglas, glass, drain stoppers, and all similar junk people install under their components to try to isolate and dampen vibrations and resonant energy. All of these things serve a purpose in life, but should have nothing to do with reproducing superior sonics in a 'high-end' audio system. Any scientist worth his weight will tell you it is against the laws of physics to isolate from vibration. And when you attempt to 'dampen' you squash the dynamics and other aspects of the music and at best it's a complete crapshoot. Instead seek rigidity with mating surfaces in order to create an expedited drain path for all captured resonant energy to exit the components. Rather than trap those vibrations within. Remember, vibrations are captured in a moment in time, but they can only disapate over a period of time.
Standard disclaimers apply, YMMV, IMO, etc..
Quality power conditioning made the biggest, most audible improvement to my two systems. I use the Ensemble Isolinks and their powercords.
AC caps on the line, as Bigkidz sez. Isolation transformers for digital sources and preamps (and amps if you can find & pay for a big one). Isolation footers.
Vibe isolation like cones or platforms.$1K plus power condtioners (cgeaper ones just are gloiified protection).Heavy stands even for florstanders.Note tha in 80's and 90's verybody who owend B&W's (and the 801 was best selling audiophile speaker of all time) all had Sound Anchor heavy iron stands..Not just monitor stands but Bob Warzalla can sell you bases that add mass and decouple speakers from floors which can have huge improvement especially with wood floors.His stands are great to but many now prefer ones with each shelf having a point and recepticle for each shalf.Still the Sound Anchors can add vibe killing mass andf then you just use cones/points under the hsleves.Willing to try a lo but too much snake oil (bottle of stones ,little clocks or like Shakti Stone or cables that cost insane porices I avoid.Have to keep cost effectiveness in mind.
Acoustic fiber fill wrapped around the whizzer cone in Fostex drivers to stabilize the cone.
You probably already have them, but if you don't, get dedicated lines. I think they are the biggest bang for your buck available in Hi-Fi.
Now for a controversial suggestion - get your cables burned in on Nordost's new Vidar system. I am likely to labled as a sucker for audio voodoo by suggesting this, but I can only say it really works. I NEVER would have believed it, but people I trust told me to try it. They were right - my cables sound dramatically better. Please don't ask me to offer any logical explanation for why running a computer programmed pattern of frequencies through my cables for four days should make them sound any different - they just do.
I have put either Maple shelves (where they would fit) or smaller Maple blocks under everything..... It has made a big difference under some stuff, small differences under others.... All for the better.
- go to your doctor and have your ears pumped. i'm serious.
All of the above suggestions have their effect on the music.
My pet tweek is speaker positioning, and speaker isolation. The more precise the positioning relative to the listener, the more focused the soundstage, and you can tune things by changing the distance to anything, including walls, floor, distance between speakers (especially effective in tuning the amount of center focus). Don't be afraid to find your own inexpensive imitations of expensive tweeks - if you thoroughly understand the working principle, you can have all kind of fun with your own "implementations" of any idea, and some will work very well, indeed.
CAPT369 on 2/20 you wrote...
"Replacing the brass cones under my maple isolation stands with racquetballs inserted in inch and a half PVC end caps. Made a big difference on my carpet covered concrete."
Any chance you could post a picture? I'm picturing the raquetballs cut in 1/2 to accomodate the endcaps. One half at each corner of a stand. Does the rubber hemisphere contact the carpet or the maple isolation stand? I have the same floor situation in my listening area and was thinking to run thin furniture screws through a 10"x10" piece of wood to penetrate the carpet and couple to the cement below. Sounds like you went from coupling to decoupling your speakers??? Thanks in advance for your reply.
Ghosthouse..sorry for not being clearer in what I said. Monitor speakers are on spiked Osiris stands coupled to the floor, I left them that way. I have two amp stands, one for cdp and the other for int. amp. Whole racquetballs are inserted into pvc end-caps. One for each corner. Simply wedge a ball into the end-cap, it will wedge in about half way. Simply turn this concoction upside down so that the flat part of the end-cap rests under the corner of the amp stand and the ball rests on the floor (x4). I did this for both amp stands.
In my case, I have a concrete floor and with spiked amp stand corners the instrument timbre was way off. Piano sounded "plinky" etc. By doing what I suggested, and by decoupling in the manner I described, it put everything right, almost analogue like..
Herbies Audio Lab products further helped do dampen the tube micro phonics in my system and I have a huge and airy sound stage as a result with no loss of dynamics. Worked for me and my ears.
Hope this helps.
Capt369 - I got the picture now! I have not tried any isolation for my tube amp or CD player. They are both just on shelves in a Custom Wood Design cabinet. The amp is on the very top of the cabinet. The CD player is inside on the first shelf. Your "concoction" sounds like something to try. Got to visit Dicks and Lowes to see about the parts. Thanks.
I apply a household anti-cling product to top of CD's and all cables about once a month. It reduces/eliminates static. Makes audible difference.
All my components are suspended from rubber bands my speakers are suspended from wire cables. My tt has lead filled containers. wow wow wow. I have not heard a better system then mine since these changes.
Drink 2 beers or like beverage and enjoy the music.......
thats a sure fire tweak.
I look at a tweek as something I can do to improve my audio system that lies 'outside' the source to speaker chain. Some think tweeking is foolishness but then, I'm an audiophile (or is it fool?) By this def cables and cords don't count (they are as important as component selection IMHO). Neither does capacitor changing or tube rolling - these are component improvements. Just my way of organising the universe.
Some of my comments have already been noted but i'll repeat just to add another viewpoint. However I do want to comment on the alcohol (or cannabis) tweek. This can blow both ways - you might find yourself 'fixing' your system only to discover later that you were inebriated! : ) Enjoy the music anyway you like but avoid messing with the system when you are tired, irritible, upset or chemically enhanced.
In no real order and not meant to be exhaustive - just off the top:
1. Position speakers carefully in room with respect to the listening postion and reflection points: a 'free' tweek that pays big dividends
2. Vibration control in general. What's best here is highly system specific. This weekend I've been listening to CDs using Herbies Audio Lab's new Black Hole. I'm blow away by them. As has been said - Herbies stuff is very good. With a 90 day return policy plus great pricing an easy recommendation.
3. Contact cleaning and enhancement: Walkers contact enhancer is great, others might be also. Craigs DeOxit and Kontac for cleaning have worked for me.
4. Dedicated lines and/or power conditioning/regeneration. OK, by my above def this is borderline. But important and highly system dependent as to what will work best. YMMV
5. Echo Busters have really helped me, particularly corner and bass busters. Put this in the category of room treatment. Essential tweaking.
6. Clean - I mean really clean - LPs. I've not had the same experience with CDs: perhaps better but I would not stake my life on a blind choice. But for vinyl if you don't clean well you won't hear well.
7. I concur with cleaning your ears. And I would add protect your hearing.
8. Wires off the carpet: I've not subjected this to any extensive a/b testing but my subjective impression is improvement, perhaps due to vibration control.
I could likely come up with more if I thought about it longer. But off the top these are the areas of "tweeking" that have help my system move ever closer to peak performance.
great ideas here - I have used most of them in some way, shape or form
for me its all about the cumulative effect - each tweek adds something, but it is the sum of the parts that makes it all go.
for me the biggest deal is a tie between power and room treatment
then on to the isolation and damping - pick your poison here, my only comment is use brass with wood not stone
and I am a big fan of the hifi fuses which bring ease and sweeteness to everything I have put them in but a sub.
Which fuses do you like?
If you can't do dedicated AC lines, (I can't) putting in an Oyaide AC receptable (Male end alse feeding a romex extension) was a Massive and cheap upgrade in sound quality.
I like the HiFi Ceramic ones from Germany - " Hi-Fi Tuning Silver Filament Gold over Silver Plated Ceramic Fuses..." haven't tried the others
Open you CD-player, and remove all the plastic from the caps. After that you can also grease linoil on the caps. It give a naked, detailed sound with a big room. Very effective! You can also do it on the preamp or poweramp, with good results.
turntable = wall mounted shelf
room = areca palms in corners
overall = experiment with speaker placement and seating &
clean ac power (it powers everything)
Vibrapods for CD players (I have two CD players) and PS Audio Power Ports to replace your cheap in wall electrical outlets. Be sure to purchase the correct Vibrapod model for your source components. It goes by weight of the unit. Both tweaks have made a significant difference in the sound coming out of my systm (Marantz, NAD, Rotel, B&W).