Your homemade tweaks?

Having just read bgmyers thread on isolating cables and some of the excellent ideas our fellow audiogoners shared, I thought it would be great for us to compile a listing of all the innovative alternatives and their uses we have come up with to tweak our systems in lieu of buying them from the pricey manufacturers.

I'll start it off with having used tennis balls as isolation devices under components.
Squash balls are great. They have little or no bounce (just try to bounce one), they are much smaller than tennis balls, and have no fuzz. I've cut them in half and use them as footers. They can be screwed on to the component (or platform) or simply placed under it. They can also be used whole with a washer (or something like one) underneath to prevent them from rolling.
The one i most love, and have used for many years is to fill a DAC with black antistatic foam. It reduces the HF grunge. The tweak was originally written in Stereophile years ago, by a guyfrom Holland, and since I installed it, I have sung it's praises, but no-one seems to want to bother with it, and I have even had someone totally bash the dude (who wrote the article) as a 'kook'.
Using a sheet under the cicuit board (I insulated it with a piece of Pepsi carton card) and the filling in the upper part as much as possible, using a thick plastic to shield the electronics from short circuit. I had folks worried it would start a fire. (ahh the DAC is sealed) and generally say it is a stupid idea. I WORKS, and I really do not give a damn about naysayers. So, if you want a better performing DAC, try it.
It can be used to good effect with any digital electronics, but trying to do a CD player is just too difficult, Just to place the foam under the main board.. too much messing around, disassmbling the player!
Gel wrist rests like those used with computer keyboards make effective isolation pads and are fairly inexpensive.
1 1/4" copper couplings over the male, and female ends of upper end power cords - the only areas of most cords not shielded, Seems to reduce line noise and the system is quieter.

Lining my speaker cabinets with Dynamat (from auto parts stores) significfantly reduces cabinet resonances yielding improved clarity.

Replacing all driver steel screws with brass screws - noticeably improves clarity.

Elizabeth, great idea! Where for you find antistatic foam?
Cast off Corian counter top pieces from kitchen installers for amp or speaker platforms or on top of CD player to dampen resonance

Rubber vibration dampers used in industrial settings for equipment footers

Foam rubber playmats wrapped around large cardboard tubes for bass traps

Wheelbarrow tire inner tube in a homemade frame for an air cushion platform
Boos Block cutting boards are the best maple platforms out there at much less cost. Just put any feet you want on them or use blue tak?
To buy antistatic foam: Online electronics, or computer parts supplies sell small squares of antistatic foam. Radio Shack here in the USA have it. For my original DAC foam, I bought the Radio Shack foam. Got about 6 of them.
Recenty I wanted to redo some, and found by Google, places that sell antistatic foam in bigger sizes. A 'blue' foam is also available, but do not use that. The dark grey/black foam in 1/4 to 3/8 inch thick is best. I found a place selling 40 inch by 40 inch sheets @ 3/8 inch thick and I bought two of them. (enough to last me a lifetime!!) It took two months for them to send them!!! (I had given up! and then there they were!) So for the two sheets it was about $60.00 US.
When you stuff the top, connect all the plastic encased bundles of foam together with a bare wire, and cut up the foam so it really fills in the space. Just make certain the plastic you use to insulate the electrical stuff from the foam will not melt! most DACs do not get hot enough to melt plastic anyway.
For under the main circuit board, You will have to take it out put down the foam under with a thin cardboard shield (Pepsi Cola/Coke multi can packs have a perfect thickness cardboard) to protect the underside of the board (I do NOT recomment using plastic under the circuit board, as the bottom of the circuit board is full of pointed bits of soldered stuff, which could pierce the plastic, if you used plastic). Taking the main board off then replacing it is not much of a problem with most DACs. (but a CD player it would be VERY difficult.. And I would not disassemble a CD player to put it under the boards. But on a CD player, you can place the foam to the sides and top of the insde case for a bit of the effect of cutting the internal RFI.
So just Google "antistatic foam suppiers" or the like and find one that can sell you what you need. (some will only sell to other manufacturers, or only orders over $$. (I think that is why MY order took so long, They waited until they had a BIG order, and added mine little one in to it.)
Good luck!
happy-sad balls from Arbor Scientific. Throw away the "happy" balls. The "Sad" balls absorb resonances amazingly well. They squash down, so nothing is needed to hold them in place. All you have to do is drop one to see how effectively it absorbs energy. They hit the floor and stay there, no bounce - apparently the energy is all dissipated as heat. I have not been able to find any source for the raw material.
Thanks for the detailed information on finding and installing the antistatic foam.
To help w/the thin cover on my Rotel CDP I first covered the entire cover (side>top>side) w/one piece of dynamat. I then cut an old Rega plinth to fit the top & after plugging the holes w/filler, put that on top then added some old lead leg weights on the plinth.

I have commercial absorption/isolation stuff underneath & the combo of everything together vs. nothing at all has helped lower the noise floor, which has resulted in letting me hear a little more detail & layering plus a slightly bigger soundstage.

I've done some stuff inside the CDP too but just the weight on top by itself at the very least keeps my somewhat large DIY PC from moving it off the Herbies grungebuster balls.
I have a Technics SL1210 turntable. Out-of-the-box the turntable has an upper midrange glare, variously attributed to the servo frequency, platter ring, motor noise coming up the spindle, etc. etc. It's none of the above, but rather the resonant ringing of the tonearm tube, which has no foam or physical damping matter inside.

I wrapped mine in Teflon pipe thread tape and it cured it. You can get a roll for about $1.00, which will wrap a lifetime of tonearms. On mine I even wrapped the knurled twist collar that attaches the headshell.

This *really* cleaned up and smoothed out the sound, and the midrange glare disappeared.

Any hollow tonearm without foam stuffing should benefit from this.
What great ideas people! Let's keep them coming!


Stereophile had a column called Fine Tunes , that ran for years , till J10 left . It was about no or low cost tweeks , I learned an amazing amount about tweeks and how to separate the good from the bad . Best column they had . I sill use there formula for mixing sand and lead .
Just one word viscoelastic. Like a tube in a signal chain insert anywhere and get the benefit.
My homemade tweak is using cardboard toilet tissue rolls as lifter for my speaker cables. These have been emptied the old fashion way. Which works like a form of burn-in for the cardboard rolls. So when they are used up naturally they are totally burned in. BTW I lay the cardboard rolls down so they can roll. The weight of your cables will keep them in place. My experience is that they do not work at all if you stand them up. They are called tissue rolls for a reason, so let them roll. One caveat with this tweak, make sure the insert is plain cardboard with no shiny coating on it. Avoid the whitish looking cardboard insert with the plastic laminated coating at all cost. It smears the sound. Some might think that I am full of #$%& with this post. But I do use this and it does work well in my system.
I have used paper towel rolls for cable risers. I cover the tube with clear packing tape, then cut it with an exacto knife. amd add V notches with a scissors, And if one painted them before taping.. whoo hoo. Could sell then for $$$.
I use VIVA paper towels.. (they make the best risers.)
Viva has too much resonance - go with Brawny.
I prefer Scott they made great receivers in the 1960's and 70's.
Another good use for the cardboard tissue rolls is as a spacer for separating interconnects from power cords and speaker cables. Just cut the tissue roll in 1 or 2 inch sections like a sushi roll. The trick is not having the cardboard much wider than cables. So one tissue roll could be cut in half, but the standard cardboard tissue roll works without any drawbacks. Cardboard paper towel rolls had a negative effect in my system. My guess is they are to long, to thick and to hard (insert joke hear). BTW unlike toilet tissue rolls, paper towels inserts vary greatly in there diameter. So there you have it the pros and cons of cardboard toilet tissue inserts over cardboard paper towel inserts. Gotta luv it.
Why not use any readily cut tubing, such as garden hoses. Indeed you could block RFI etc by stuffing in some ferrite like steel wool to surround your cables. Patent Pending TM protected copywritten etc. Then of course put some viscoelastic somewhere.
I started a post relating to changing the wiring order in a biwire setup. As I stated in the thread, I'm not sure it qualifies as a tweak, since it's really just changing the leads around and thus altering the signal flow. But it's easy, free, and I heard improvements.

View the thread
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01-02-11: Audiofeil
I installed windmills to get off the grid.
Does this give you an airier soundstage? Dynamics that ruffle your hair? :)
I have used caulk to minimize vibration between capacitors(and other non heat producing components) and circuit boards(let it dry). A world of difference. Of course, chassis isolation(damping sheets,etc.)as well.

Was the rope caulk that you used called Moretite? I saw in a McCormack DNA .5 Deluxe FS some time ago on another site that had rope caulk on the corners of the amp on the inside as well as on the caps on the output boards.
Jedinite24 Although I have used rope caulk on many projects like the ones you mention, the caulk I speak of is the builders caulk used for doors and windows, or kitchen and bath use, found at your neighborhood Home Depot. I use the squeeze tubes, rather than the tubes used with guns(you pay more for less this way, but the squeeze tubes are more manageable). This tweak has been around for many years. It is quite popular in use in speaker crossovers. The difference (to my eyes (dvd players) as well as my ears) is remarkable in every project and piece I modify.
Thanks Mrdecibel for specifying. That builders caulk is easier to find at Home Deport. I asked some of the associates about Mortite or just plain Rope caulk and they had no idea as to what I was talking about.
I thought the Boston Audio Design TuneBlocks might be a good tweak but couldn't afford them so ordered some high density graphite rod - cut to my specs - from an industrial supplier in the USA. I ordered some ceramic balls (I liked the colour) from another supplier, used a drill bit to cut a depression, sealed the graphite with kitchen counter sealer and, voila, almost the real thing.

Are you saying you squeeze the caulk out on the pcb and caps? Could you elaborate?



Check out the pics of the McCormack DNA .5 in this thread. About 1/2 way down.

Caulking tweak example

I think this is the caulk tweak that MrDecibel is talking about.

As for myself I won't be putting caulk around the PCB and caps. I don't trust my handyman skills to something like that. I may do the caulk in the corners.
Loctite is one of the manufacturers that produces rope caulk. It's very easy and safe to use. All home improvement and hardware stores sell rope caulk under one brand name or another. Once you see it, you'll understand why it's so popular for damping purposes. This stuff was all the rage twenty or thirty years ago. I still use it on my equipment rake to reduce ringing.
Corazon, I apply caulk to the cap and the pcb, so that they are both "attached" together. Interestingly, I learned this many many years ago from a tech I knew who worked at Nakamichi, but later found that this was done on many speaker crossover assemblies. I have been doing it ever since, and I will tell you, it has been drastic in the improvements. The caulk is removable if you ever wish to remove it. It is critical that the caulk is given enough time to dry, as to not short anything out. I did have a Citation 12 blow up on me because I lacked patience(again, a very long time ago).
I have looked at the photos, and the caulk I prefer to use is not the rope caulk, but that in the tube. My recent projects have been using GE Silicone 11, clear, available at the Depot. Rope caulk never completely dries and is harder to remove. It also will capture dust. Rope caulk is very useful in the corners and such, though, but I prefer the tubed stuff all the way. My biggest success with rope caulk(besides room air conditioner seal)was the underside of direct drive turntable platters. However I need to point out that several turntables used a magnetic tape head underneath, so caution is advised.
That was my McCormack for sale. Please notice that the Moretite on the caps is around the bottom, where they attach to the board. This helps bond them to the board without glue and makes their physical placement firmer and more stable, resulting in less vibrational movement than without that bonding. Of course you could also use glue, but then good luck ever getting them out again.

As for the chassis, well, that's obviously a place to dampen things, expecially the top and bottom panels with the biggest surface area. If you look close you will also see a blue piece of EAR Isodamp under the transformer. Transformers are an obvious source of vibrations and damping it in any way possible should reward the effort. Some better units also use damped standoffs for their board mounting. They have little rubber-like grommets to do this. I know my Audioprism Mantissa preamp has those on it.

Is all of this audible? Individually, I doubt it, but combined all together I think you will hear an improvement.

Each and every step you take is audible. I agree, the transformer is a great place to isolate vibrations, as well as the boards themselves. Years and years of trial, error (HK12)and patience have brought things to another level. Many of my friends and associates agree. These tweaks are not snake oil.......