Tweaks That Don't Work

This may be the subject of some discord, but a great community service would be to help others not waste money on snake oil.

Please let us know what you've tried that had no impact - or negative impact, even - on your system. Also, if there are tweaks or products that are only useful on some systems for whatever reason, please let us know what kinds of systems do and don't benefit from the particular products.

Some of you out there have tremendous experience trying to squeeze every last ounce of performance out of your equipment and probably have a laundry list for us - let's hear it!
Good spikes on floorstanding speakers do work if the mass of the speaker is great enough to keep them firmly planted(unless your floors are creaky and resonant).
Throw rugs and plush furniture do work to calm a lively room.
Good (not necessarily expensive) power conditioners on things that spin work.
The cost of most tweaks far outweighs the benifit though. Even the tweaks that do work only improve the sound relative to the capabilities of the equipment. Careful placement of speakers can make a modest system sound quite impressive and enjoyable though.
Great question. I'm pretty sure you will get a lot of input and maybe some interesting discussion amongst members. What I have found is that there is a hierarchy of tweaks. Proper set up is kind of a no-brainer but often overlooked. Start there. It's not as easy as it seems but, thankfully, with the internet and this site one can get very close. The next area of concern should be the room, IMO. Temporary acoustic treatments with blankets, pillows and such help get the most out of your system. The next area to concentrate on should be your electrical delivery to components. Without even spending any money of dedicated lines you can play with lifting of grounds to lower the noise floor and plugging your digital source into another circuit. Everything I've mentioned so far falls within the realm of tweaking but these steps are necessary to allow you to even hear any changes other tweaks can make.

I'd suggest that you next audition interconnects starting with preamp to amp. Speaker cables are your next logical tweak. Dedicated lines, permanent acoustic treatments and power cords....

So, I haven't addressed what you really want to know. Is sorbothane better than tennis balls, coupling vs. decoupling, etc.? My point is that you must get your basic system to a point where it is revealing enough to hear what any tweak can do.

It took me so long to realize the importance of the above mentioned basics that most of the smaller tweaking I'd tried before were acts of futility. Even if I heard a difference I can't say that it was positive or negative. It was just different. Now that my system is maximized the smaller tweaks are easily identified as good or bad in my system.

I'll be following this thread closely and hope that I haven't sidetracked what you want to find out with my post. It's just become so obvious to me that many of the naysayers about tweaks in general haven't gotten their basic systems and rooms to a point where any meaningful evaluation can be done.
Two things did nothing for me:

Subaruguru's PC, while a nice kit and still "in" my system, did not do anything I could identify on any component.

Audiopoint speaker spikes. For many months my stock spikes were lost, so I purchased audiopoints merely as a replacement. The salesman told me they would transform my speakers to sound like the "next model up", so that is why I mention them on this thread. Months later I found my stock spikes and did not hear a difference in comparison. The APs have since been relegated to component stand duty. The negative was that with their narrower base left ringed marks on my speakers. Blaming the poor curing of my speakers' wood cabinets, the salesman would not let me return exchange for a model with a wider base.
Aggielaw, I see this as a very rational request and wish that it could be implemented without rancor, but I just don't see how. My latest successfully implemented tweak will always be someone else's snake oil. And I'll likely think you lack perspective or hearing when you tell me that using XXX made a vast difference in your system. I think its enuf to "discuss" the efficacy of each tweak as it comes up and let subsequent subsequent interests in the tweak by satisfied either thru renewal of the thread or thru forum research. This way there can be a more complete airing of opinion, not just a consensus listing, or a listing with allowance for a summary w/proviosion for the numbers of folks who agree or disagree.

And, most importantly, it will give us something to argue about ad infinitum, ad naseum. :-)
Newbee, I had the same thought as you. Ironic that I tried to re-edit with why I did not think they worked, but you posted after me!

Lugnut's post helped set the stage for a great thread which I will also monitor!
One problem will be that if someone discounts any tweak, no matter how ridiculous, 3 others will jump up to proclaim it the holy grail of audio. Say something bad about green pens, magic rocks, Intelligent Chips.... somebody will be get upset and offer that your ears or your system are clearly not "resolving" enough.
Jkring is right. This is a hobby for most of us. It is enjoyable and safer than sky-diving. At the end of the day, when all is said and done... it is just a stereo. A better stereo than the one from Wal-Mart or Best Buy but still just a stereo.

For those who really think jars of rocks "work" I have some really big jars and some beachfront property for sale.

Have fun and enjoy the hobby.
I don't understand the point here. If you try something and it doesn't work, does that mean snake oil? For example, shakti stones placed on my Levinson 20.6's do nothing but on the transformers of my SET they make a not-so-subtle positive improvement. Yet there are those who snicker at the very mention of these things. I have tried different power cords with no effect - does this mean I'm deaf or that the rest of you are crazy? Placing brass cones under solid state gear yields to me a positive - but under my tubed gear a negative. If I had just my tube gear, I would scoff at those who claim a benefit of these things. How many times have you read a review or took the advice of others and then set the thing up in your room and scratched your head wondering what the fuss was about?

The effectiveness of these tweaks are, from my experience, dependent on what gear you have. Arguing X works but Y doesn't - with only a limited frame of reference - is steering the conversation towards how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Again, I don't see the brass point.
What has worked to some degree or another in my system, did not always produce the same result in my two other audio buddies systems. The list includes some NOS tubes, component isolation air bladders, speaker wires, etc. My buddies Richard Grey unit did not work for either of us. Differences in ICs and power cords were heard in all systems like the Elrod EPS-3 and 3 sigs.

The idea is to try different tweaks as suggested above to get you system sounding the way you like your music. There are a ton of DIY tweaks from bike inner tubes, tennis balls, etc. Some older model cables can be tried and resold for the cost of about $10 to ship them.

It is all about play time anyway. Happy Listening.
I had the ELCO Static 10 or 15 or something or other power cord. It was as thick as a boa constrictor. It had no effect on my system either positive or negative. I have plenty to say about tweaks that DID work if anyone is interested in a thread like that. For instance, I've yet to hear a Blackgate cap or Tantalum resistor I didn't like. I also can't explain why CD's polished on the Nitty Gritty CD cleaner always sound a bit more open and natural?
Two tweaks that did not work FOR ME (I'm sure many of you found them to work for for you, so take it easy):

1. Shakti Stones--tried them on my Forsell transport, without effect, and on the transformers of my Jadis JA 80 amplifiers, negative effect, actually made the sound a little harsher. Had the same result on the Jadis with a VPI Magic Brick, guess the Jadis doesn't like tweaks around its output tranny. At least the Brick worked positively on a solid state amp of mine, the Sonogy.

2. Shun Mook discs--a gentleman put them on my Forsell transport (which, by the way, seems to be more affected by tweaks than any piece in my system) in a number of different configurations, and was stunned when I couldn't hear any difference one way or another (for those of you who like blind testing, I wasn't watching what he was doing while listening). Guess I didn't know what to listen for.

And then there's the Shun Mook record clamp, which I can't tell you did or didn't make a sonic difference, because at the end of the first record side my cartridge (then the wide-bodied original Transfiguration) bumped against the wide clamp with such a horrible noise through my speakers that I promptly gave it back to the guy who loaned it to me with a polite no thanks.

None of these tweaks are necessarily snake oil, but in the applications I mention they just didn't seem to work for me.
Lugnut made some very relevant comments, and I'll make only one addition: I think that one's ability to judge the improvements made by tweaks decreases as one gets older, due to diminishing ability to hear high frequencies. I have noticed over the past 10 years (I'm 62 now) that some changes to my system, including tweaks, are barely noticeable, and may just be different rather than better.

That said, there are two tweaks which I have found to have made no detectable change/improvement in my system (and thus may be equipment dependent):
1. replacement Hubbell-grade electric outlets;
2. after-market power cords (AudioQuest) for my Bryston electronics.
Other forum members may have experienced different results than I, but your mileage may vary and I'm sticking to my version..

This could be an intriguing thread...

Scott C-
All: "snake oil" was a terrible choice of words on my part. I was going in the direction of the subsequent language in my post about tweaks that didn't work in your system, or only worked under certain conditions. You guys are absolutely right - just because something didn't work in your system doesn't make it "snake oil".

My assumption was most of the tweaks mentioned would, over a series of posts, show a pattern of conditions where the tweak has or has not worked. That would make for a great guide for others considering which tweaks to try down the road.

I posed the question but didn't add my own list! Mine aren't so much "tweaks" as "accessories". Here's the list:

Basic Powercords - tried it for both amp and preamp, and heard no difference in my system.

LAT International AC-2 PCs: I currently run these to my amp and preamp. I'm not sure I've heard any difference at all, because I made too many changes in my system in a short period of time, but I remain a skeptic that power cords make any difference sonically.

LAT International SS-1000D speaker cable: I hear *very* little, if any difference between these and my Kimber 4PR speaker cables. This surprised me, since the LAT cable is much thicket gauge than the Kimber. I thought treble would be more laid back and the bass tighter and stronger, but that doesn't seem to be the case at all. So I'm still looking for speaker cable to tame the highs on my nOrh mini 9.0's (which use the Vifa Scanspeak 9700 tweeter). I'm thinking of trying the 8TC next, since by all accounts it does what I expected the LAT to do.

Fine tuning shelves: My component racks have wood shelves that sit on four brass cones which attach to screws that come from the frame. I have spent hours trying to ensure each shelf is a perfect plane with no wobbling, and on the rare occasion I actually achieve my goal, I hear no sonic difference. This makes me a skeptic of isolation devices like cones and pods, but since they're cheap and I'm a sucker I'll try them anyway. :)

I've tried several tweaks that I thought worked, which I'll post later in the thread someone else started about cheap tweaks that work well. That thread, I believe, started in 2001 and is still getting new posts! Good stuff. :)
AudioPrism AC purifier (yes, that square box that plugs in the AC outlet mains) - no change to these ears.

hockey pucks for $1 - tryed them under all components and speakers. dulled the images and shrunk the soundstage made my hifi a no fi system. but i only wasted a few dollars.

the best system tweaking for cheep is my jon risch diy acoustic panels and bass traps. he is on the diy/tweeker asylum.
Like several other posters, I've had a variety of PC's that didn't do anything or even worse, had a negative affect. I have some now that I like but only after doing the DIY thing for a few years.

The other tweak that at first I thought made a huge improvement was the audiophile price tag tweak. At first I thought the difference was huge but it turned out to be just something in my head.

Maybe I didn't give it enough time to completely break in & of course when I replaced some gear, I didn't modify the tag to reflect the change.
Hi Flg2002, not sure about which AudioPrism AC purifier you are talking about. Is it the Quiet Line thingy? I am using a few of the Quiet Lines. The thing is that I plug one into my PS Audio power bar, my Changlight Speed and even my Power Wedge. You should hear an audible difference. I'm using the Power Wedge for my computer set-up. Immediately, you can see the color difference on the monitor. The black is blacker and the colors are much richer. If you plug it directly into the wall, you must find out which outlet has the most noise. If not, you will not hear any difference in your system. Hope this helps.
A different approach is to redefine "tweek".
Used to be tweeks were things one could do for free or nearly free that improved ones listening experience, now, most tweeks are packaged, pimped, and overpriced.
I really cannot see the value of most of these prepackaged things, as some other thing, (that is nearly free) will work just as well.
This 'comment' is in regard to footers, cones, shelves, bags, dampening devices, unused RCA jacks covers, etc. (and NOT in regard to cables, which are a whole different ball game, but also have home-made variations that are inexpensive and sound great)
IME you're all wrong. Those things worked, just not in my system.

I will share with you my most effective tweak. To define tweak, to me its an improvement that is not part of the signal chain. Well my tweak has enabled me to listen to my system for longer periods of time, with a greater level of comfort. When I listen, I always wear underwear and pants two sizes larger than I wear otherwise. It makes the music 28% more enjoyable.
When someone says something like, "the black is blacker", etc., my first thought is: specifically, how much? I'm not criticizing the words we have to use to describe such things but making things measurable would be a good start. Impossible, I know.
Great stuff so far, very interesting.

In general, I am always skeptical of anything that appears to have no basis in science. Even those which have theoretical physical effects, but which are not easily measurable, I am usually willing to consider. I have heard audible improvements from nearly every change I have made to my system over the years, and most have been for the better. In my experience, changes in power delivery (AC conditioners/filters/re-generators, Power cords, dedicated lines) to all pieces of equipment have been the most noticeable.

One thing that is difficult for me to discern much difference on is bi-wiring my speakers vs. a single wire with the binding post jumpers installed (Martin Logan "Ascent" driven by Krell FPB-200, AQ "Crystal" speaker wire). I haven't done a bunch of experimenting between the two, but I can't say that I heard much, if any, difference when I first made the switch. However, I like the sound of my system with the two runs of cable, so I have left them connected that way.
Are you sure that it's 28%, seems on the low side to me. My guess is that your underwear is not 100% cotton. We all know how synthetic fibres in the carpet can misalign the electrons coursing through your cables. Obviously you have synthetic knickers-in-a-twist syndrome. You need natural fibres for a more natural sound. Glad I can be of help around hereĀ…
pbb I have never agreed with you before, but I only wear natural fibres, except for a couple of biking shirts.
One thing I tried that seemed to have no effect whatsoever, was the "Magic Foil" by Peter Belt Systems.

They offered a free trial, and even though I was severely skeptical, I tried it out.

The claim was that it "calmed the inherent stresses that result from having electronic equipment in the room, which excited our prehistoric fears".

Needless to say, this was "over the top", but after reading some things where people said it worked, I tried it for free.

I can say that after applying the product as directed, I noticed absolutely no change in the sound whatsoever.

Perhaps my skepticism stopped me from receiving the true benefits of the product, I don't know for sure.

A few tweaks that did not do anything in my system: CD mats, Walker Audio Vivid CD enhancer, PS Audio Ultimate Outlet, and Cardas RCA covers.
Peter Belt's Rainbow Electet Foil works in my system. I would say that that is his most effective tweak. Just stick two short lengths on a CD. Audible. That said, some of his other tweaks offer no immediate significant audible difference. His position is use the tweaks for a period and then remove them. You should hear a degradation in sound.

I have use the PS Audio Ultimate Outlet on my DVD player and TV set. The colors are much richer and opaque. Perhaps Nzera should try his on his video setup and see if there's a difference.
I didn't try the foil on a CD, because I only use LP records.
Maybe that was the problem.

I did cut the recommended sizes and shape, and put them on each item in my system.

I left them there for a year. After removing, no difference noticable.

Oh well.
TWL: You may need to reapply the foil, being sure to ignore any protests from your components. Most commonly reported? A barely audible murmuring that sounds something like "Curses! Foiled again!!"
I'll be posting more about Richard Hardesty's work on other subjects, but he had just a short bit to say about tweaks. Generally, I believe his position was most tweaks are not worth the money spent (I assume directed at commercial tweaks), which mirrors a comment made in this thread. I believe he also infers that most tweaks damage the sound (or the accuracy of the sound, at least) rather than help it.

If you agree with Hardesty's theories - and particularly his position on tweaks - then most tweaks are useless or worse, harmful.

PS: when I say "he had just a short bit to say about tweaks" I'm referring to a segment in his "Audio Perfectionist Journal," not referring to an actual dialogue I have with him.
I replaced my nearly 50-year-old wall outlet with a cryo'd Hubbell hospital-grade one (my entire system is powered off this one central plug) and tested it against another original outlet that was left as-is. Verdict: no audible differences I can detect. (For those who care, I do hear differences in power cords and 'conditioners'.) But the new outlet is much more heftily built and grips tighter, and it didn't cost a lot.

Russ: Yes, Shun Mook disks are "necessarily snake oil" in my book :-)

Tom: Maybe it's that in your, shall we say, somewhat unusual living/listening environment, you are subliminally subjected to a confoundingly high background level of real 'prehistoric fear excitement' at all times, which swamps that of the artificial variety introduced by your audio system...or maybe it's just that 2 solar watts simply ain't scary enough for that stuff to work! :-)