Tweaks - An Honest Discussion


I know there is a lot of talk about performance tweaks in this forum and the value that can be realized.  I've started this thread because it seems that folks tend towards believing they are either the silver bullet to sonic bliss or conversely simply snake oil.  I believe tweaks are somewhere in between and in most cases, worth about what you pay for (crazy  I know).

I'm open minded to tweaks and have employed many in my system over the years including isolation, fuses, footers, HFTs, cabling, cable risers and attempts at reducing RFI (among others).  While I believe that many of these tweaks incrementally helped me get better performance out of my system I never for a second found any tweak make a transformational difference the way that a significantly upgraded piece of gear brings to the table.  I think many of us have been quite happy with our systems over the years but that doesn't mean implementing a tweak can possibly compete with the benefit of replacing a piece of gear that is well matched to elevate your system. Just because you're happy with your setup doesn't mean a major gear change can't really elevate the experience - surely well beyond any form of tweakery.  

As an example, I've been very happy with a Hana ML cart and how it's performed in my system.  I recently decided to acquire a Lyra Kleos cart - for a $2K increase the change has been transformational in terms of dynamic range and ability to convey detail and imaging.  There has never been a dot I've placed on a wall, carbon platform placed under gear, or RFI shielding device I've ever used that could possibly come close to this equipment upgrade.  Same goes for upgrades to my system over the years in terms of amps, pre's, and speakers.  For anyone to suggest that through tweaks alone you can elevate your system to a level that only gear changes can achieve simply falls flat in my experience.  Some may be shocked to hear that most of the time a $200 tweak truly only gets you about $200 worth of improvement (if any) and not the equivalent of a $5000 gear upgrade. I know there is a certain allure that by simply being smart and applying elbow grease that we can extend the sonic limits of our system well beyond it's design, parts, and capabilities but that's just not true IMO.

What's your experience been?   
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Post removed 
My experience is laid down in writing for everyone to see right here on my systems page: https://systems.audiogon.com/systems/8367

Specifically: "everything matters. Everything either contributes or detracts, and no one single component is any more or less important than any other."

This is based on well over 30 years experience. Which in the beginning I would have agreed the thing to do is upgrade components. The main thing that has changed is the meaning of components. In the beginning not having much experience it was easy to think components are, uh, components. Now I know components are wire, shelves, walls, outlets, insulation, literally every single thing.

My great awakening to this fact goes back to BDR Cones in the 1990’s. For months I would carry a set around trying them under all kinds of components in all kinds of systems. In one very typical experience I went to try out a used pre-amp at a guys house. Decided not to buy but enjoyed listening to his Dunlavy’s. Asked if he would mind me trying the Cones under his CD. He wasn’t interested but said no problem and went off in the kitchen. Few minutes later from in the kitchen I hear him yell is that the Cones man his voice stands out so much clearer!

Got dozens of these. Typically its the husband straining and laboring to hear something while the wife who inevitably seems not to care says yeah honey get the MkIV they’re clearer.

Now here’s the thing. The Cones cost the same $60 regardless of what you put them under. That’s anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars worth of equivalent improvement. For $60.

Clearly one can get better sound with a better CD player. Amp. Speakers. Whatever. Equally clearly it is by far more cost effective to do it with Cones than upgrades. Way more.

So that’s Cones. Which until PPT came along was the all time cost-effective champ. Very nearly as good as those are things like HFT, ECT, PHT, Orange Fuses, fo.Q tape, cable elevators, etc.

One of the more astounding component upgrades of my life was going from the ARC PH3SE to the Herron VTPH2A phono stage. This was so huge my wife heard the difference from the other room and through the closed door. Then when she came in she stood there bug-eyed trying to comprehend how that little box made music sound so much better.

That little box cost close to four grand. The ARC sold so net cost call it three grand.

Okay. So months later I open the speakers, apply TC and fo-Q tape inside, and we are both just about equally blown away. Net cost, less than one grand. Way less.

So my experience is that by far the biggest sound quality improvements per dollar are to be had by these sorts of upgrades rather than buying a whole new component. Its the classic weakest link scenario. I simply see more links than most. They will get there. Some of them, anyway.

Oh, another related experience. Anyone who has ever modded anything knows just how cost effective it is to upgrade a cap or diode. Manufacturers certainly know this. Its why they use better quality parts in their special editions or higher level components.

Anyone who has ever upgraded from patch cords and rubber power cords knows it was worth the upgrade. There really is nothing the least bit controversial in any of this. Its simply learning to see - and hear - all the links in the chain. Not just the biggest most obvious ones.



Hahahah Tvad you nailed it post of the year so far in my book! :)
If you consider correct speaker positioning,turntable isolation,and room treatments as mere 'tweaks' I would have to disagree.Those three things will definitely 'extend the sonic limits'.
That’s anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars worth of equivalent improvement. For $60.
Apparently one of the great things about being a tweak guru is being able to extract thousands of dollars of better performance from a piece of gear that the designer/manufacturer should have included for mere pennies of incremental cost.  That makes the tweak guru orders of magnitude smarter and of more value to the audio community than a gear designer/manufacturer. 
@millercarbon are these the BDR cones you used?
https://www.audioasylumtrader.com/ca/listing/Accessory/Black-Diamond/-quot-stuff-quot/-see-pics/2093...
Worth the asking price?

Yes and that is a deal!
The three Cones alone will set you back $60 at Music Direct. The square Things are early versions of what became Round Things, both the same material but round is slightly better. Anyway doesn’t matter neither one is made any more since DJ died and so get whatever you can.

Basically the square Things are made of an extremely stiff, dense and highly damped carbon fiber/resin composite. They’re threaded 1/4-20 and this set has studs so the Cones screw into the Things. Then what you do is put three Things under the component with the Cones pointing down, and three Things under the Cones.

Same as I have with my turntable, amp and phono stage. https://systems.audiogon.com/systems/8367 Very effective. Only mine are Round. But if you look close you will see some square just like these. On the very bottom under my amp. BDR is so good it doesn’t come up often. Also those look to be thick. There were two versions, one a little thicker than the other. Thicker is a little better, especially under heavier components. Jump on it.
Tvad......+1. I'll bet MC never found a tweak he wouldn't try. I used to be tweak crazy till I realized I was obsessing and now just have some Herbie's under components and speakers. It's hard not to get caught up in the tweaking syndrome when there are so many manufacturers preaching.

three_easy_payments "Apparently one of the great things about being a tweak guru is being able to extract thousands of dollars of better performance from a piece of gear that the designer/manufacturer should have included for mere pennies of incremental cost. That makes the tweak guru orders of magnitude smarter and of more value to the audio community than a gear designer/manufacturer."

Yes they see themselves as bold, brave, defiant, enlightened masters of audio, confidently proclaiming Truths that evade other people of reason, promoting their concepts, theories, and strategies as that chosen by those who are wise, experienced, and expert.  Often they will conceal little things into they're explanations, such as extreme political references, obscure insults that require visiting extremist sites to "decode" special abbreviations, and then there are the posters who invent entire "truths" such as the guy who says audio is based on 'embeddings" the guy who promotes "Tru-Fi" and the one guy who I will not name who always puts a link to his system but if you click on the link it looks like what Americans I believe politely call a "cathouse" so yes there are some odd people hear!
I've had great results with Mapleshade boards and cones, buy used and easy resale if you don't like...I'm glad they're not part of my original equipment as not all my shelves have the space required...
Its been a while, but I still recall how it was back when I was as smug in my ignorance as tuberist and tvad. One of the first tweaks I tried that began to change my mind was a phone book under the CDP. Which is a pretty poor tweak and barely audible. But the thing of it is, it shouldn't be audible at all! Not even a little! But it is.

So I tried a whole bunch more things. But here's the thing. Its like, when you are learning to drive a car one of the interesting things you learn is there is an optimal tire pressure. Way too high and the car responds super fast but skitters and slides with little traction. Way too low and the car responds slow but sticks with lots of traction. In between is a very tiny little zone of only one or two psi where both responsiveness and traction are optimized. 

You tell this to the average person they look at you like, well like you guys who can't hear are looking at me right now. Only maybe not as bad since they just can't drive while you can't hear or drive. But whatever. Point is these things do indeed matter, and work, and after a while you don't even need anyone to tell you, you actually know just by looking at the car if its a bit over or under inflated, and by driving it know if it needs a little more or less air. 

So back to tweaks. Some of them work great. Some are crap. My all time overpriced tweak is the Shakti Stone. But that's only because in spite of the smugly ignorant superiority complex guys opinion I have indeed found the tweak I wouldn't try. Its all of them. I only try them after multiple proven good listeners have established enough consistently good results to make me feel reasonably confident in doing so.

Why? How do you guys do it? 
"Apparently one of the great things about being a tweak guru is being able to extract thousands of dollars of better performance from a piece of gear that the designer/manufacturer should have included for mere pennies of incremental cost. That makes the tweak guru orders of magnitude smarter and of more value to the audio community than a gear designer/manufacturer."

Its not like that at all. The flaw in the logic is so glaring I need to stop and apply SPF 60. And sunglasses. There now. That's better.

Manufacturers design to a price point. Tweakers don't. Got it? No? Not surprised. Let me explain.

When a tweaker puts a set of $60 Cones under a $500 component, or swaps out a $20 cap, or $10 diode, or whatever, that's it as far as the tweaker is concerned. For a manufacturer to do that, wholesale cost $60 becomes $600 at retail, now its an $1100 component. There's just no way. 

If you don't understand that then you don't understand economics- not even the niche segment of economics that makes actual sense.

Now I if I wanted to be snarky I would say something like, "Apparently one of the greatest things about ignorance is you can make fun of just about anything, for any reason, or none at all! You don't need to know anything when you're ignorant. In fact its an advantage! It makes the ignorant orders of magnitude smarter than the informed!"

Yeah. Nailed it. Again.
@millercarbon

If I had not tried so many tweaks with an open mind, while also admittedly realizing some gains, then sure you could call me ignorant. I'm a guy who has fully embraced tweaks and believe they have a legitimate place in enhancing our audio experience.  My point is that the value of these tweaks generally match about what you paid for them. A $60 tweak is not going to yield thousands of dollars worth of gains. I use BDR cones and I think they are a good value - at $60.  i would never pay 5x-10x that amount for what these bring to that table for instance.

To address some other comments by others, speaker placement isn't a tweak - it's using speakers correctly by experimenting with position so you get the most from them in your room. Speaker manufacturers instruct you to do exactly this.

Acoustic treatments are not tweaking your equipment, they are improving the acoustic characteristics of your room.  Room treatment is of high value and should be done first before investing heavily in audio gear and beginning to apply tweaks like footers, fuses, tape, goo from a tube, etc.  While I have heard subtle improvements by using HFTs, dollar for dollar my GIK treatments are far more effective in the same room.   
A trolling we will go. A Trolling we will go. Hi ho the dairy-o a trolling we will go 🕺🏻
Speaker placement is totally a tweak. Its literally the definition of tweak!
Heck I just looked it up, so as to avoid even the slim risk of appearing ignorant, and Miriam Webster first definition of tweak "to make usually small adjustments in or to, especially fine tune." 

We all get to have our own opinions but we don't get to have our own facts. Adjusting speaker placement is tweaking. That's just a fact. 

Now it may well be that in your experience you were always able to find a component for only $60 more that sounded exactly as good as one that cost $60 less but with Cones under it. That seems about as likely as finding a definition of tweak that rules out adjustments. But let's say you did. In your experience and opinion you have found tweaks are exactly as good as .... they cost. 

Then why would you "embrace" tweaks? I mean, if in your experience and opinion tweaks are only worth exactly what they cost and no more, why would you add the complexity? Why wouldn't you just go shopping for the next component every single time you want something better?

Also curious to know, in your experience, all the tweaks you tried, they were always worth exactly what you paid? Not a one of them was worse than a component upgrade? Not a one of them was better?

Really? I mean, not even all components are equally good value. Yet you are saying tweaks always are. Worth exactly what they cost. You have to admit it does seem rather unlikely.


I’m not going to going argue about whether defining speaker placement as a tweak or simply an adjustment according to manufacturer instruction. I agree it’s highly important if you want to get the most from them.

Not at all tweaks perform exactly on their price point. The point I’m trying to hit home is that in my experience not even the best tweaks approach providing multi-thousands of dollars of value while replacing transformational upgrades that component upgrades can provide. If 99% of the market could realize the gains of a $5K amp upgrade through buying $60 cones wouldn’t that be the worst kept secret on earth? Tweaks have their place and it’s typically around their price point. Like most things in life, you get what you pay for. Yes, some items represent higher value for sure but these categorical assessments that you can employ tweaking in lieu major gear upgrades is simply over the top and overstated.
OP, love your take on tweaks and agree totally, do employ them through out my main system and my headphone system to great effect but they are not or have not been the game changers as some say. I come from a racing background, motorcycles, since the age of 12 till late into my 50s and follow some the same protocol of setting up my sound systems as I used setting up a new race bike. I just follow the basic rules of setup that make sense and these are usually simple and straight forward. The thing about this process is that in racing you get to prove the improvements on the track against the competition but in audio, you have to trust your ears. With that said I would very much like to hear your take on the Hana ML as I am considering one for my headphone system. Enjoy the music
@geoffkait LOL

Everything makes a difference.  Some more than others.  It simply comes down to cost and effect.  IMO you probably already know - changes can be more meaningful in other areas.  But that is just me.  You have to experiment for yourself.

Happy Listening.
@tooblue Thanks...and I agree there are many analogies outside of audio that apply to tweaking in terms of realistic costs/benefits/value.

w/r/t to the Hana ML I see Fremer posted a recent review here: https://www.analogplanet.com/content/high-performance-high-value-hana-ml-and-mh-cartridges

Fast, timbrally neutral, non-mechanical-sounding, transparent and delivering levels of detail usually heard from more costly cartridges, the Hana ML is in every way an impressive sounding and performing cartridge.

 


1- What people call "tweaks" are only one by one, each of them, some elements of some set of parameters in one of the 4 dimensions of the embeddings of any audio system... ( mechanical resonance, electrical grid, passive and active acoustical fields)

2- Sometimes not knowing these 4 dimensions of the embeddings, people call "tweaks" some crazy or less crazy inventions, simple or less simple device, most of the time not so cheap device, even costly...


3- Not knowing these 4 dimensions people dont work systematically in function of them and dont experiment the powerful transformation of their audio system linked to each of them...


4-Unconscious of the power of this 4 embeddings, people act and work on their system erratically and very approximatively and without being conscious of the powerful potential linked to these "tweaks" or various parameters of the embeddings ...People dont realize that these dimensions are complementary and works together toward the peak potential S. Q. of any system...


5- These dimensions I worked on them always with some homemade and very cheap materials... No "tweaks" I use were bought, except I use some cheap materials and electronic components I modified myself(10 bucks each for example for Chinese Schuman Generator) to linked all 4 embeddings...
Dont buy tweaks, replicate them , retro engineer them, invent your own....It is more simple than you imagine... I am in no way a very gifted manual worker....

6- The results is not a more or less slightly modified audible sound mostly but a complete transformation.... Calling that "tweaks" dont do any justice to the works and dont describe at all the way and method each one of us must takes to embed any audio system....

7- Experimenting and playing with these 4 dimensions is more fun than buying finished products and way more self gratifying....

8- No audio system sound at his top level out of the box and located in a non treated room... NONE...

9- Most people has never listen to their own system at all.... They dont know what their own system can deliver in quality....

10- 90% of any electronic component upgrading is not necessary, and if necessary is not made in a rational way or in a judicious way....It takes me 7 years to learn that and I pay the price.... My best to all....
@three_easy_payments, thanks for taking the time.
Like everything else some are good some are useless. Some are free  and some are expensive. Some are real and some are fake. Some make sense and some don’t.




@millercarbon
In the mid 90's I made an arrangement with the late D.J. Kasser (great guy) to bulk purchase and include sets of his BDR cones with my Timbre Technology TT-1 D/A converters.  They were quite good and good looking (believe there were two types #3 & #4--buyers could try and choose which worked best in their systems)--still have a few sets tucked away somewhere. Even showed with him once in Vegas using his nice Carbon Fiber rack. The company has been continued by a relative.  My new company manufactures pneumatic isolation footers, totally different principle and pricing, showing there is room for improvement and multiple technologies at all levels to solve vibration issues.
I agree that everything makes a difference. However, a difference is not necessarily an improvement.
My hana el acquisition did more for my system, analog wise, than any form of tweak. It was a nite and day difference compared to my prior cartridge. 
This is a question that I have had:  If relatively inexpensive tweaks, such as $100 for a better power cord or $60 for the aforementioned cones, make a significant difference, why wouldn’t equipment manufacturers include them with their products?  I assume that they want their products to sound as good as possible, as they are competing with other manufacturers.  So the modest price increase seems like it would be worth it to audiophile customers and to audio equipment manufacturers, as reflected by higher sales.

If I understood MC’s point, if an equipment manufacturer included cones with their equipment, that $60 extra cost would balloon to $600 by the time it is priced at retail.  I would think the opposite should occur:  The retail customer is purchasing one power cord or one set of cones or cables, but the equipment manufacturer would be buying in quantity or making the items themselves, which would be cost savings over what the individual would pay.  I would think the added cost of $100 for a better power cord paid by the individual purchaser would add less than $100 if the cord was provided with the equipment (same for cones, audio cables, etc.). The only thing that makes sense to me is that more profit is derived by companies by requiring customers to buy each piece as separate purchases. 
...personally, I prefer a 'twerk' over a mere 'tweak', but that's mho....;)

I'll stand with three_ easy on major upgrades on 'bang for buck', But one doesn't need to raid Ft. Knox to do so....

I finally got to 'scratch an itch' with a 'purpose built 'puter'....all audio all the time, with no 'fat' trashware....

Now, That's a 'tweak' in my little omniverse....;)
My best tweak was finding and fixing the listening room.  The next biggest one was spending more than $400 on a cartridge (I bought my Technics 1200-mk2 brand new for about $400) The 3rd was learning how to setup the cartridge and tonearm.


.
I agree with jtcf. Tweaks in room setup can make or break system performance. Speaker positioning, chair positioning, room treatments, dedicated 20 amp circuits, and more. These are the things you want to have done before thinking about new gear
There are a lot of great tweaks. There are also a lot of doubters. My advice is to try this one inexpensive tweak: Ayre's 'Irrational But Efficacious' System Enhancement Disc. If this doesn't cause a serious paradigm shift, then nothing will.
brauser, does one have to 'listen to' the 'IBE' disc?

Brings to mind those subliminal images and subsonic 'suggestions' that folks got subjected to in theaters awhile back....

"....you will like your stereo more.....", repeated X times is bound to jerk neurons about in some fashion....*L* ;) 
The mud looks great so I'm jumping in to wallow with the other lil piggies. I believe I'm in the "physics tweaker" camp.   E.g. filling or partially filling a hollow metal tube will reduce resonance. Sold! I'll take two with fries and a milkshake. When the physics get iffy; cable elevators, magic rocks, super fat speaker or power cables; my wallet weighs in. If I can pick up a sexy speaker cable for an extra 15-40% over your basic Amazon/eBay bulk cable. SOLD! If it is an extra 200+% I don't give a rats ass what it proposes to do. It won't do it on a platform of my hard-earned dollars.

All that said; If anyone else wants to shell out cash for dubious gains, go for it!  I'm no Jimmy cricket sitting on your shoulder. Contemporary science still does not fully explain how the brain works and it plays a big part in how we hear. So just because I can't hear that your latest tweak improved SQ by 1.67% does not mean that you don't.  Cant take it with you, right?
...and on a CD, Who Knows what else is 'in there'?

(Damn....I ought to give it a go....."Jerrys' Aural Audio Advantage Arrangement, the disc designed distinctly and definitively deemed to definitely driving disappointing devices onto dazzling displays of...." )

It's free! Only 50$, S&H!  Get yours tomorrow....
(Use our 1st time buyer code: 1di0tm3 for the 10% discount!)


I wonder what it would be like to become the Banksy of audio?

Deviously Tempting, that....
‘A fool and his money are soon parted’
Thomas Tusser

Don’t mean to offend and I confess that I have been guilty on occasions in the past of wasting too much money on tweaks and quackery. For a science / engineering-based hobby we should be more objective and wary of the un-provable sonic benefits of certain tweaks, especially with large price tags. 


I've tried a fair few tweaks, I include the free stuff like speaker positioning in there too and I'm also in the camp that everything matters to some degree. How much difference is going to be tweak and system dependant.

Some tweaks can deliver huge benefits for relatively low cost and some are punching about their weight, there are others which deliver much less bang for the buck.

The value proposition is always a personal one. 

Equipment manufacturers always offer a range of gear , they manufacture to a price and they want to have a clearly audible difference between their entry level, thier 2nd tier and subsequent tiers (if they go that far).

In my opinion some tweaks can close the gap in equipment tiers and in some cases eliminate that gap totally.

If your total system budget is tight there are still loads of low cost/free tweaks you can do that will deliver bang for your buck. See Mahgister's system.

If your happy spending many 10s of thousands of dollars for you system then many more of those tweaks become cost effective, but for some folks they will never be happy until have the top tier equipment in their system (and in many cases that means they are paying a premium in my opinion).

Personally I really enjoyed fine tuning my system with tweaks. My system is low resolution source material but it sounds incredible (3D soundstage, PRaT, microdynamics, accurate tonality)

For reference my total system cost is about £10500 ($13000).

Cabling, fuses, clean power, and resonance control £3500.

Speakers £2000.

Amplifier and source (mine is 1 box streaming amp and it takes care of my room to boot with dsp) £4250

Source Apple TV 4th gen £160

Etherregen (audiophile network switch) £660

Enjoy the music everyone.




+ebanksms
Ear/brain systems differ and while technical measurements may be identical, experiences often are not. I’ll try to contribute a little to what millercarbon is saying. Imagine a system that has three removable or tweakable components that add similar noise and/or distortion to an underlying ‘true’ audio signal. Remove component #1 and listen. Hear no difference? Not surprising because the effect is masked by the additional garbage introduced by components #2 and #3. The overall signal/noise ratio hasn’t changed. Add #1 back in and remove #2 – same result. Now change all three components together and wow! All the garbage is gone because the overall signal/noise ratio has increased.


In my case it was going from no chassis damping, a good but inexpensive Sch**t DAC, Amazon RCA cables, and a garden variety Furman power conditioner. Added a steel and Sorbothane platform and cones – no change. Removed the cones and switched to a Berkeley Alpha DAC, definitely some change but for a high cost (plus it’s really a component, not a tweak). Changed back to the Sch**t and switched out the RCA for a balanced Synergistic Research active-shielding cable, no change. Went back to the Amazon RCA cable and switched the Furman out for a popular AC regenerator, no change. Very disappointing; nothing worked.


But then I decided to put in all of the new stuff and live with it for a while before selling it all as useless. I was puttering around a day or so later looking for a new novel to read and I had some background music on. Suddenly the music reached out and gripped me! It was [insert glowing audio jargon here] shockingly different and so much better, visceral. Every component mattered; no single change made the difference.


Aside: My example above is also an illustration of why I believe that as we get closer to the bleeding edge of system performance improvements, A/B testing becomes increasingly less reliable and essentially meaningless because of masking effects. The stimulus response function is just too weak. Double-blind testing with a small sample size of untrained subjects and a weak stimulus response function is the quickest way I know of to produce a false negative. But that discussion belongs in a different thread.

@discopants
My system is low resolution source material but it sounds incredible (3D soundstage, PRaT, microdynamics, accurate tonality)
Accurate tonality & dynamics from low res source matl -- that is exceptional performance indeed!


Back to tweaks: how about a 200euro ($230) one that yields multiples? DIY sound absorption panels to bring the low frequencies back into the sonic picture?

Everything must be tweaked. You know, if you’re interested in high performance. If you’re not interested in high performance that’s OK too. There is room for all kinds in this hobby. 🤗

“When Bob Gilliland made the first flight of the SR-71 on December 22, 1964, engineers were still tweaking 379 items on the aircraft. That didn’t deter Gilliland, who took the airplane to 50,000 feet and Mach 1.5. At a 2010 talk in Ridgecrest, California, Gilliland recounted that he ignored the one error message he saw in the cockpit that day: “Canopy Unsafe.””

https://www.airspacemag.com/flight-today/blackbird-diaries-180953373/
I would argue that the valid approach is: build your "perfect" system and THEN optimise it by any number of tweaks. The snake oils are not meant to replace a component upgrade but to complement a keeper. If one still contemplates a component upgrade, the tweaks, since most of them are system dependant, are money / time wasted.  

But once everything is in place and the big job is done, I see no harm in trying lifting cables, controlling vibration, trialing different cables and any other number of "tweaks".

I am in such a place. I could afford to go further but I can only have so much in a small room. A decent integrated, a decent DAC, a decent pair of bookshelf speakers. It's not the "ultimate" system but one I am happy to live with and I have no need / desire to upgrade any of the components in the near future.

I am now playing with Stillpoint racks, power cables, network switches and other snake oils not to "upgrade" or "improve" my sound but to OPTIMISE my system, to allow it to perform at its best, unhindered by a number of known issues.

And yes, all of the above make a difference. Good, bad, worthy or not worthy of your money - only one way to find out. Most of these things can be trialled and dealers are more than accommodating, particularly now.

In my book, since this IS my system, anything that makes a positive difference is a keeper and money well spent. And "positive" can be a very subtle thing. People argue about speaker cabinet resonance but the more educated ears can actually hear the rack resonance and, while dealing with that can costs ridiculous amounts of money and the difference is not night and day, I would argue that removing that subtle distortion, wherever it strikes, bass, midrange, treble - depending on shelf material / build, is worth my money, even if it costs as much as my amp.

And that is the point of tweaks. Your system performance is negatively affected by a number of issues - physics, your room, your mains etc. The added benefits of dealing with vibration, bad power, EMI etc can be a cleaner, clearer, undistorted sound, better tonal balance, a lower noise floor, a sound that flows better, more like the real deal and less like a stereo system and which can be enjoyed equally at any volume. Not extra power, not hearing more. Not transforming a NAD into a DD or a Benchmark into a dCS. 

Some of the better (read expensive) components deal with these issues directly because high end manufacturers have the budget for better, heftier cases, better isolation, better power supplies (those amps you can't lift with massive transformers / capacitors etc) so I would say that in fact many of these tweaks benefit cheaper components more. 
reven6e

The snake oils are not meant to replace a component upgrade but to complement a keeper ... I am now playing with Stillpoint racks, power cables, network switches and other snake oils not to "upgrade" or "improve" my sound but to OPTIMISE my system, to allow it to perform at its best, unhindered by a number of known issues ... all of the above make a difference.
I think the phrase "snake oil" is overused in this forum and here's a fine example. By definition, if a product fulfills its promise and makes a genuine difference, then it isn't snake oil.
@reven6e  

But once everything is in place and the big job is done, I see no harm in trying lifting cables, controlling vibration, trialing different cables and any other number of "tweaks".

Completely agree with this and it has been my approach.  The tweaks get me the last bit of goodness allowing well designed gear to work its best.  Through experimentation I've noted benefits from raising speaker cables off the floor (haven't found a benefit on power cords though).  I have adjusted speakers, added footers, added cones under most components, added HFTs to improve imaging a bit....etc.

But at the end of the day NONE of these tweaks ever were transformational enough to claim any one was the equivalent of a multi-thousand dollar component upgrade.  Not even close....tweaks are rewarding, allowing you to be hands on and get even more engaged in the hobby, train your ability to hear subtle differences, better understand what sonic qualities are most important to you, etc...but let's not pretend we have a choice on either spending $5K for component upgrade or putting some tape on a tonearm or putting some cones under your DAC and realizing the same benefit.    

I experimented with Stillpoints in the past. I liked them under my DAC but I hated them under a Devialet Premier.

Melco S100. Not going to start an argument. I know ethernet switches are a snake oil, a con, bits are bits and idiots are idiots. But it has an obvious effect on a streamer (and dCS at that). I heard several people complaining that it sounded too "soft", that it had a "sugarcoating" effect on their system, robbing it of some impact, of some drama. I like mine.

Some swear by conditioners, others by regenerators. And then there are plenty who say: best conditioning is a dedicated ring.  

And so on. One man's Nirvana is another man's disappointment and wasted money. I will continue to call all of the above snake oils not to take sides but because, as per my original post, I think most of these products are system dependant. There is no one size fits all and there is no guarantee that they will work FOR YOU.

The main components are generally a certainty. Double the amount you have spent on your DAC and anybody can hear the improvement (hopefully). Upgrade from a slim class AB or D integrated to class A mono blocks and everybody and their dog will notice the difference.  

But an AQ Nirvana? A Melco S100? Tornado vs Hurricane?
Isoacoustic vs Track Audio vs Townshend vs anything else you can think of under your speakers? Unknown quantity. Hic sunt leones. Your very personal adventure.   
S.Q. increase in the 3 main embeddings with a relatively optimal tweaking in place in my own audio system :

20% mechanical(resonance-vibrations)

30% electrical grid

50% acoustical field of the room


Remember that this % is only an indication and can be qualitatively misleading...

For example vibrations resonance problems are less impactful than the acoustical non treated field in a comparative S.Q. scale evaluation...But in a treated acoustical field, an audio system with a non adressed mechanical problem will be less tone acurate with a more blurry imaging, and there will be a spectacular increase in S.Q. when the right tweaking will be implemented to address it...

Then all methods or tweaks are important, and these % ratios are only an indication of the relative importance of the 3 dimensional embeddings TOGETHER ( or 4 if we distinguish the passive way to treat room and the active way via S.G. or various active resonators or Helmholtz bottles etc )


Fine tuning an audio system implicate a systematic overview of these embeddings and of their mutual complementary interactions and feed back in the S.Q. audible effects "measured" by the learning and experimenting brain-ears...It is fun, cost me low cash, and I bought almost nothing except USB cheap S.G. (10 bucks each), all other materials is cheap and homemade except stones and crystals bought in China at low price...


Today with what I have learned, my audio system will cost : Amplifier, Dac, speakers, + all materials for treating the embeddings around 1000 dollars...


To upgrade with a significatively better one will cost me around $16,000 + all my controls methods for the embeddings which is the most important thing... I think that this upgrading is not necessary now because my actual system being very good as it is....Then when I read that someone has bought only a dac around 16,000 bucks, today I can smile without any frustration or enviousness, only the curiosity to listen to it if possible with a grain of skeptic salt about the Price / S.Q.  ratio.... :)


There exist only 3 possible sources of joy in audiophile hearts:

1-Buying the most expansive and at the same times best pieces of electronic components there is for your audio system...With no systematic controls means of the 4 embeddings because they dont feel the necessity after having bought the best products... 



2-Creating yourself the best possible at a ridiculous price....

3- Buying the best because they can afford it and knowing how to embed it in the optimal way... ( the rarest among these crowds)


I dont have money but I am creative and my only possible source of joy is 2...


Navigating audio forums gives me the idea that most are in the 4th rung...


4- buying relatively hyped for the mass products and using them with almost no embeddings controls means... Being frustrated at the end and after one year upgrading in a cycle raging urgency to live Hi-Fi experience without having any ideas how to makes it happen....

With over 30 years of obsession in Hi-Fi I have tried out quite a few recommended system tweaks. Looking back I have no idea why I wasted so much of my time on them.

A lot of it was down to reading popular writers of the day. Here in the UK Jimmy Hughes was the standout pioneer tweaking champion. In those days he was seen as a maverick, an amusingly controversial advocate of unusual audio advice.

He proffered advice such as turning your speakers to face the rear wall, replacing your speaker cables with twin and earth mains cable, removing the LP12 power switch etc. Later others jumped on the bandwagon, the most famous being Peter W Belt who really pushed the tweaking incredulity boat out into the already murky waters on both sides of the Atlantic.

He advocated stuff like putting bits of paper under just one foot of your speaker stand, amp or CD player, using silver foil stickers and a whole host of strange suggestions, many of which could be bought from his own company.

As crazy as it seems now, I fell for a few of these tweaks myself. I mean they were cheap and easy to reverse if nothing happened, so why not?

Yes, indeed why not?

Well, for one they were a major distraction from actually enjoying music. A doorway to audio neurosis.

Secondly the cost of the tweaks increased over time. Tweaks can now cost more than entire systems.

Thirdly some of them actually led to damage to your equipment. Anyone remember being told to tighten your cartridge head shell bolts (also speaker driver bolts, speaker stand bolts etc) to high heaven? Headshells got mangled and cartridges snapped and eventually we came to our senses.

There were also those ghastly upturned spikes upon which to place your beautifully veneered speakers - but that was a definite step too far for me.

Finally there was the small issue that none of them actually worked. Ever.

It’s true that there usually seemed to be a difference at the time but this ’difference’ usually evaporated into the ether in a matter of hours or minutes.

So nowadays I regard my tweaking days as truly behind me, a two decade lapse of audio sensibility. Why did I fall for such obvious nonsense? Was it greed, a simple irrational desire for bargain price upgrades? I don’t know, but whatever it was, it was stupid.

Even those brave determined souls who succeeded in making their Rega 1s sound as good as say, a Rega 5 usually admitted afterwards that the cost involved meant they had saved precious little from not having bought a Rega 5 in the first place!

Similar things now happen to gamers who wish to upgrade their budget PCs to higher spec than off the shelf models (other than a graphics card, RAM and SSD) and then discover there’s very little money saved - especially if your time is precious to you.

If it isn’t now, trust me, it will be one day.

So am I against all tweaks?

Not quite. I believe there might just be something worthwhile in the realm of mechanical isolation, especially for loudspeakers, eg Herbie’s footers, Townshend isolation stands etc.

However I can’t swear to it, and no credible explanations have ever been put forward to explain this effect apart from some resonance graphs for loudspeakers.

If I ever want higher sound quality in the future the now obvious answer is to find and pay for a better pair of loudspeakers.

As simpe as that. Forget the ridiculous shortcuts. The tweaks didn’t work, not for me.



cd318
Later others jumped on the bandwagon, the most famous being Peter W Belt who really pushed the tweaking incredulity boat out into the already murky waters on both sides of the Atlantic.

He advocated stuff like putting bits of paper under just one foot of your speaker stand, amp or CD player, using silver foil stickers and a whole host of strange suggestions, many of which could be bought from his own company. 

>>>>Tweaks can be heaven or hell. That’s the way things go sometime. 😩


"....It’s true that there usually seemed to be a difference at the time but this ’difference’ usually evaporated into the ether in a matter of hours or minutes....."

That's been my experience as well. I've made changes/tweaks that provided a perceived improvement in sound quality only to find, days later, that the system actually sounded better in the original configuration.

Hey Millercarbon,  change out your BDR cones, for Nordost sort cones. Just a suggestion.
Frankly, it is a sad state of affairs. Just look at your e mail box in the morning. One scam after another. Most people do not have an extended scientific background thus are open to believing stuff that a person with the right learning would laugh at. None of us can know everything.
Audiophiles are easy targets because of the manner in which we perceive sound which is extraordinarily complex and open to interpretation by that thing sitting in between our ears. I'm afraid there are an unlimited number of scam artists willing to take advantage of this.
Go here  https://www.thecableco.com/ and check out the accessories section. What  party of garbage. My favorite is the Bybee Quantum Clarifier. Dig this. A 2" square chunk of wood that you attach to the back of all your drivers right to the magnet. $100 dollars each. That would be $600 for your average three way speaker system. Buyer be ware is the old adage. If you make the choice to buy something it is not theft even if the item is severely miss represented. There is not one item on those 5 pages I would even be remotely interested in. This does not mean that there are not some great products out there but the vast majority of "accessory" items would fit better in the category of "garbage." So, from a statistical perspective you are more likely to buy junk than a useful item.
My own approach to this problem is to stay away entirely. I would much rather buy music.