Most Effective Tweaks?


Wondering what generic tweaks people have tried that made the biggest difference?    Also interested in how much the tweaks cost to implement and the magnitude say from minimum of "marginal" to maximum of "transformational".

My top tweaks I can think of so far are

1) isolating speakers from versus coupling to floor when needed  (~$100, transformational)
2) Mu metal shield around low level  phono stepup transformer ($30, transformational noise reduction)
3) power cord upgrade (significant, ~$80)
4) acoustic panels (significant, $90)
5) power conditioner (significant, $100)
5) Physically moving components further apart from each other (NC, marginal)
Convert?fit=crop&h=128&rotate=exif&w=128mapman
Room acoustic treatments - as good as a component upgrade
Origin Live belt - significant.

Townshend Seismic speaker bars - significant. 

Power cable upgrade to Missing Link Reference on mono blocks - excellent. 

Hi-Fi In Touch Cryo silver distribution block - ****ing amazing.

Mass loading my speaker stands with sand resulted in a significant tightening of bass. And it is a close to free as you can get.

Speaking of free, and I know this going to sound trite to some, the single tweak that results in the most significant improvement in my personal experience is to simply close my eyes, or listen when it's dark outside (my listening room has windows). Whether we want it to or not, our brains are always at work processing information trying to make sense of the world around us, and I find that every bit of information being processed by any of the other senses reduces my auditory experience. It is not always easy or possible for me to isolate just my sense of hearing, but when I can it makes for the most engaging sessions.
Jerroot good one!
Mapman, what did you use in isolating your speakers?
Auralex subdude platforms under floor standers and Isoacoustics brand pro monitor stands under monitors. 
High Fidelity MCo.5 plugged into the same outlet with my amp
ultrasonic record cleaner made lots of difference to me.
Big fan of mu metal around transformers. I’m also a big fan of double wrapping and implementing spacers between layers. One layer absorbs 75% of the mag field, two layers absorb 96%. I also like wrapping those flimsy little exposed ribbon connectors with mu metal, not to mention Mr. Fuse.  No goats, no glory.
Anyone have a spare ultrasonic record cleaner send it my way.

Agree clean records are transformational.

I have an effective manual process I use but is time consuming and a pain.     A good ultrasonic record cleaner would be welcome.
mapman, lots of people making ultransonic cleaners semi DIY buying ready made ultrasonic tanks and adding stack products that hold a few LPs and spin them slowly in the tank. Total cost ~$600 depending on which frequency machine you chose. Search diyaudio.com for details. 
I haven't seen them yet, but a number of friends tell me results are far surpassing their conventional cleaners including all the usual suspects in vacuum and string-type machines. Cheers,
Spencer
$600 is the right price point but I need it to be fast and easy as well as effective.  Otherwise my manual process cost virtually nothing and is most effective.   I haven't seen one like that yet.  The ones I have seen cost thousands still.
I use dual spindle motor the slow spindle has a pinion gear to fast spindle.
The fast spindle has fan blades and housing directed the air onto the vinyl.
The motor is connected to the frame and belt-drives the large pulley with shaft that can accommodate up to 9 records separated by plastic 'pancakes' with attached on both sides Chevy truck rear-main seals to protect labels. 
After the cleaning process done, the frame is being removed from the bath and the motor is turned at the maximum speed so the fan blades dry my records in about 5...10min

mapman,
I'm unfamiliar with mu metal.
I have a bit of RH hum and have just come to expect it.
I currently have an Esoteric phono amp, but I've had the problem with various other phono amps with the exception of a Sutherland battery powered unit.
How would I shield with mu metal? What kind?
Any advice is very much appreciated. Good thread.
Dave
Huzzah for jerroot.  Turn off the lights, turn off the display screens on your components, put the laptop and the phone out of sight, close your eyes, and freakin' _listen._   Cheapest and most significant tweak ever.

papermill,

There was no noticeable hum or noise prior to adding the step up transformer to better match the MM level phono pre-amp in my ARC sp16 when I bought it.  So I knew adding the step up xformer introduced the hum somehow.

First I determined hum was related to EM field by moving the stepup xfermer around and noticing changes in hum levels at different locations which gave me info about location of the source of EM.

Then I bought enough flexible sheet mu metal foil from an online source (do not recalll which, but a simple google found it at the time) to form a cylindrical container (open on both ends which did not matter in my case) that I could slide the step up xformer into easily to form an encompassing cylindrical shield.

This worked like a charm in my case. The key is knowing the location of the EM source by istening to noise levels as device is moved around, picking an optimal location with lowest noise possible then applying the mu metal so that it shields device from EM source. I can share a picture if desired. Not pretty or elaborate in my case but effective.


if noise is from RF, shielded ICs may help. in my case it was EM noise being picked up by my step up transformer directly. The ICs I use from step up xformer to phono input are unshielded mainly because I like those specific ICs, but using shielded ICs in all cases is probably safest. Each case could be different in many ways so you have to be able to determine the cause.


Hum in a phono setup is commonly due to ground issues. If ground is good, nothing else may be needed. Lower level devices like low output MC carts (a Denon Dl103R in my case) and step up transformers are most susceptible to external noise sources. Higher output MC or MM phono carts and line level devices are less affected. YMMV for sure in cases like this.

mapman,
Thanks for the details!
This has been an ongoing issue for me for years. It's managable but creeps into audibility at higher volumes. I've chased it with ICs, power cords, rack placement, "cheater plugs", medium output cartridges, etc. I think the hum is associated with the placement of my rack in the room (in front of an ornamental fireplace with the furnace/boiler directly below in the basement) and I have no options to move the entire rig. I have the system on a dedicated line also. So seeing your post, I was wondering if the mu metal might be wrapped around my already shielded ICs or some other placement around the rack, or even in the basement.....
Might be worth the experiment.
Thanks again!
Dave
PS: I know there are many Audiogon forums on RF.
  
A good woman and some wine. If she loves the music like we do, then I find having someone there to share the music while sipping on some great wine works for me. At that point, I'm loving the music and thoroughly enjoying how fantastic my system sounds without thinking about the next upgrade, etc.

On the hardware side of things, a really stellar audiophile outlet on a dedicated 20 amp line can make a huge difference. For relatively little cash outlay, in comparison to major components, it can really shock many people. Even if you already have a dedicated line, but a fairly generic hospital grade outlet, the truly excellent outlets are a big step up.
Paper if source is in basement as you suspect then you might be able to place a flat my metal shield between either on ceiling in level below or floor on upper level.   

If if so then you might be able to hear differences in the noise level if affected device can be raised and lowered somewhat while playing.  

I don't mean to step on the OPs intentions but does anyone remember the name of the panels to stick on the sides of large speakers?

Something like "Tek-Sonic" or "Sonic-Tek"?

These were/are from the 90s and are meant to absorb and convert

vibrations into heat. Are they still made?

P.S. How do I get this stinking editor to NOT double skip lines when I hit return? 

Jerroot, I've done the same trick using lead shot (got it from a gun store) and then filling the gaps with sand.  Not as cheap--about 40 dollars per stand, about 35 lbs. of shot per stand.
"
dweller
1,241 posts
02-24-2016 7:01pm
I don’t mean to step on the OPs intentions but does anyone remember the name of the panels to stick on the sides of large speakers?

Something like "Tek-Sonic" or "Sonic-Tek"?

These were/are from the 90s and are meant to absorb and convert

vibrations into heat. Are they still made?

tekna sonic was the company in CA that made those cool looking dampers with black fins for speakers and a larger one for subwoofers. Before that they were Micro Scan. I’m quite familiar with them since Tekna Sonic was an OEM for my iso stands for quite some time. I bought up the last of their stock a long time ago about the time they went belly up. Geez, that’s probably ten years ago.

geoff kait
machina dynamica
no goats no glory



geoff kait: Any idea where I can lay my mitts on some? thx
Filling speaker stands w/copper bb's (didn't want to use lead shot this time) and then adding aquarium black sand. Big improvement. Lately bought a Furatech gold-plated ac plug for $30 for the Arcam's home-made power cord. Noticeable improvement. Finally, did some experimenting w/the Arcam's 10 Int. amp speak binding posts. I found the "B" sounded better than the "A." Why....much shorter metal connection from board to spk. binding post w/the "B" spk. posts. Also, removed the Deltron BFA plugs and went back to bare wire. Much better. Finally, a good cleaning of all contacts. 
 
dweller
1,243 posts
02-24-2016 9:48pm
geoff kait: Any idea where I can lay my mitts on some? thx

no, sorry, long gone.
mapman,
Thanks for the details!
This has been an ongoing issue for me for years. It’s managable but creeps into audibility at higher volumes. I’ve chased it with ICs, power cords, rack placement, "cheater plugs", medium output cartridges, etc. I think the hum is associated with the placement of my rack in the room (in front of an ornamental fireplace with the furnace/boiler directly below in the basement) and I have no options to move the entire rig. I have the system on a dedicated line also. So seeing your post, I was wondering if the mu metal might be wrapped around my already shielded ICs or some other placement around the rack, or even in the basement.....
Might be worth the experiment.
Thanks again!
Dave
PS: I know there are many Audiogon forums on RF.


Mu mu metal does not address RF issues. It’s a high permeability magnetic alloy used primarily to absorb the low frequency magnetic field produced by transformers, the toxic magnetic field that would otherwise degrade the audio signal anywhere in proximity to the xformer. In some cases audible hum is produced by the 60 Hz transformer but it can also be produced by other causes such as low level signal wires being too close to AC cords which is not an RF issue either.

Yep, as mentioned several times above, hum is most likely ground and/or EM related due to close proximity to transformers and the ilk.

RF is typically higher frequency noise, not unlike the noise other than hiss one might hear listening to FM stereo radio. Older digital gear, microwaves, light dimmers are just some of the more common culprits.
I realize this will probably come across as argumentative or beating a dead donkey, nevertheless what I’m actually referring to is not EM or RF. I’m referring to the induced Magnetic field from the transformer or in some cases from adjacent AC cords. That’s why wrapping mu metal around a transformer improves the sound, because the mu metal absorbs the magnetic field. Mu metal has nada to do with shielding RF or any such thing. It’s also why it’s a good idea to avoid parallel runs of any cables or cords. In some cases the 60 Hz hum is due to the physical mechanical vibration of the transformer.

Most Effective Tweaks?

Fuses are the most effective tweaks.....   price/gain ratio  is by far the best. 

the music you play #1
room acoustics positioning  and treatment DYI mostly.  transformational
speaker cables significant
speaker stands, points,  proper coupling and isolation (I use both right now) significant to transformational
Green pen the edges of your CD's center and outer edges (very significant to transformational) $3.00
Acoustical damping components (marginal to significant.
Arcicci Levitation rack, Billy Baggs rack significant.
Acoustical damping front wall between speaker   dense tapestry  Significant
acoustically damping components  DYI marginal but noticable
Closing eyes and darken the room significant 
then going deep into music nirvana  HUGE!
a good contact cleaner.
and probably (not yet fully tested)  tweeter diffraction (felt etc) , rings etc
AND HUGE IS PROPERLY WARMED UP GEAR!!! (both tube and SS!!)
and I am voting with Synergistic Research or this; Sun spots take you sound down a whole bunch of notches,
my experience, when I lived in Seattle, is that in damp cold fog  your system will sound dead and flat.


Tube dampers another effective and inexpensive tweak.


Mapman wrote,

"Tube dampers another effective and inexpensive tweak."

Yes, they are. As long as they’re Herbies tube dampers. I have tried all the others, including the very dear Swiss tube dampers from Ensemble and while it took me a long time for it to dawn on me, they all subtly hurt the sound. It's a case of it just seems like such a great idea, of course they couldn't HURT the sound. All of them save Herbies. It’s a lesson in how easy it is to over damp things. And for my prized ’52 Badboys and ’42 Tung Sol rectifier two Herbies were the cat’s pajamas, one on the glass at the location of the getter and one on the base, even though it should be pointed out the cost of the dampers can approach or exceed the cost of the tubes.