The Shun Mook Affair JS page 4
How do you tune these things? As Andrew Chow is a master tool and die maker, I wasn't surprised when he asked me for a hammer and a sharp nail. He then took each Mpingo Disc in the system (save those in the SCK brackets) and marked them for directionality. According to the brochure, the orientation of the inscription is in line with that of the Disc during its special treatment process when working the Mpingo wood. The trick is to squint at the Chinese characters (which translate to "Divine Wood") laser-etched on one side (if you look carefully, you'll see a small "SM" toward the upper right of the logo). Draw an imaginary line straight up from the SM and mark the side of the Disc at that point. I've tried using markers like pencils, purple marking pens, etc., but Andrew seems to have the best idea: line it up and whack! After this you've got an easy-to-see alignment point on the Disc's side. Neat, huh? Normal positioning on equipment would be logo face-down, marked at 6 o'clock.
The literature says that, with the SCK, adjusting your room can be as easy as "taking your vitamins." (I never knew monks were so funny.) Start by placing one Disc atop each speaker---in its "control area." For box speakers this will be the top of the speaker; for dipoles and panels, it will be the top surface of the speaker-base/pedestal located on the speaker panel's rear. According to the boys, the locations of the Discs in the "control area" will affect soundstage presentation, while the orientation of the Discs at any location within the "control area" will affect the tonal balance. Hey! Down in front!
Begin by placing one Disc at the approximate center of the "control area" on each speaker (oriented to 6 o'clock), and move them around as you listen. Moving the Discs to the speakers' outer edges will widen the soundstage, while moving them toward the rear edge of the "control area" will recess the presentation. If you move them too close to the outside edges, you may lose your focus, so keep your ears perked! Want your sound up-front and immediate? Move the Discs forward.
Once you have the soundstage locked in, set for tonal balance. From the 6 o'clock position, rotate the Mpingo Discs slowly---to about 7 o'clock on the left, 5 o'clock on the right---and listen. Keep adjusting the "time" on these speaker-mounted Discs until the higher frequencies are just right. The 5 and 7 o'clock positions are correct for most systems, but rotating these Discs for more toe-out (8 o'clock left and 4 o'clock right) makes for a more natural sound with fewer highs. For more highs and excitement, turn them in to 5 and 7 o'clock, or even tighter. It'll depend on your room and system. "Some rotate more one way or the other," Dr. Tan said. "Like in a restaurant---more or less salt on your dish!" In a French-influenced, food-oriented household like mine, dinner-table analogies work---pass the Gray Poupon.®
Now to the floor-mounted Discs: To move the lower part of the soundstage forward or back, move the three-Disc bracket forward or back in very small increments, perhaps 1/8" to 1/4" at a time. Resist the urge to make gross movements of the blocks---we're talkin' fine tunin' here. Moving the floor brackets also controls focus, so move them in equally small increments, closer to or farther away from the speakers' sides, until you've got it sharpened up---female vocals are perfect for this type of tuning. Think of it this way: By adjusting the Discs on top of the speakers and those on the floor, you're adjusting the upper and lower part of the soundstage to match, so it doesn't narrow back to a point or wind up wider at the top than the bottom. It's a trapezoid thing, man. Move the Discs around until the soundstage delivers a rilly rilly big shew, then back and forth for soundstage positioning and good overall frequency response. The Mpingo against the rear wall is used to move the image a little to the left or right as needed, rather like a balance control.
"The power of moving the image around with these Discs is very exciting!" Dr. Tan said enthusiastically, nodding his head even more furiously than before, a gigantic smile lighting up his face. His passion is contagious.