Fine Tunes #31

I just love hearing about cheap tweaks sent in by our readers. Here's a corker from Tony (StorybookWeaver@aol.com):

"Greetings Jonathan! I own a music store and audio is my hobby. I repair and mod all kinds of tube stuff. Anyway, I'll pass this tweak on to you now, like I should have done 10 years ago! There's a product I and other music stores stock called Moongel, which is used on drumheads to tweak out the overtones. It works great when placed toward the rim of the head. It filters out the harmonics and leaves the fundamental. It's a curious substance that sticks to a wide variety of materials all by itself, yet it's very soft, not adhesive, and measures about 1/8" by 1" by 2". I use a small portion of it on my Rega RB300 headshell and on the subchassis of my Pink Triangle turntable. This company also has a Moongel Drumpad for practicing that measures about 7" by 1/2" thick, and that sits beneath my phono stage! The pads are fairly cheap—a container of four costs $5, while the pad is a little more expensive at around $30. But the material can be cut with an Exacto blade into smaller sections. Next time you're walking by a music shop (the other kind!), stop in and see if they have any!"

You know I will, Tony!

In past episodes of "Fine Tunes" I've suggested all kinds of cheap alternatives to expensive audiophile equipment footers. So I was intrigued when I spotted a thread on Tweaker's Asylum entitled "Ludicrously Cheap Speaker Spikes." A poster identified as "E" explained that he'd been using discs of cedar wood under his bookshelf speakers, and had found them inferior to metal spikes he'd borrowed and used with a little dab o' Blu-Tack. E continued:

"I bumped into some golf-equipment store and found some tips for holding the golf ball for driving. Some are very high (2-3"), while another kind are like a big thumb nail with the cap reversed. That's the one to use."

E cautioned that some brands of golf tees are mechanically weak, but others are more than strong enough to use as footers under lightweight bookshelf speakers. And they're dirt cheap—as E pointed out, a dozen for the price of a can and a half of soda! He reported that the tees, when used with dabs of Blu-Tack, worked well under his bookshelf speakers and were very close in sound to the metal spikes he'd tried, especially when the tees placed on top of bricks. Cheap enough and worth a try, don't you agree? "Think twice before using them for large speakers!" warned E. Correctomundo, my tweako friend.

Another post on Tweaker's Asylum that caught my eye was from inveterate tweaker Jeff Starr:

"I've tried various pucks and brass cones under my power amp and found it to sound better on its original feet. The amp sits on 1"-thick pressboard covered with Formica and has brass cones between board and floor. I was at American Science and Surplus and bought four #5 rubber stoppers. I placed these under the amp, and while [not] making a world of difference, it still had a positive effect. Total cost was $2 for the four stoppers. I think the various sizes would work just as well as some of the pucks that are available. Heck, for less than $10 you could put these under all of your components. I'm sure they're better than most stock feet."

Oh, stop it, Jeff! [badaBING!]

Then I stumbled across another beauty on Tweaker's, this one posted by "Jeff":

"I have an Ah! Tjoeb CD player; the chassis is very flimsy and cheap. I've put two Ziploc baggies full of sand on top of the unit and it's improved the sound! The bottom end is more solid, and it's reduced some boominess on certain recordings. It seems to have made everything slightly more 'stable' and coherent."

Well-known audio-tweaker-about-town Jon Risch replied:

"Yes, vibration control works wonders on almost any audio component. You could also try placing Ziploc bags 2/3 full (with the air burped out) under each foot on the CD player, and unload the bags you have on top (the sand needs to be able to shift and move for maximum results) down to 2/3 full, and see if that works even better."

The next tweak was posted on the www.audioasylum.com General Forum by John Marks of JMR Music. As Marks described it, this zero-cost, trivial-effort tweak might improve your system's sound:

"If you have any power outlets—in your entire home—that are equipped with GFIDs (ground-fault interruption devices), and there's nothing plugged into them (which is often the case), press the Test button but do not press the Reset button. GFIDs are electromechanical spring-loaded 'deadman' devices. You are supposed to test and reset them every 30 days, believe it or not. As the GFID ages, the tension of the spring can create a sympathetic modulation; in some cases, you can even hear a GFID hum or buzz, although there's nothing plugged into it!"

Good one, John, and just esoteric enough for "Fine Tunes"! John also publishes an excellent newsletter, John Marks Recommends, the archives of which are available at www.topica.com.

Hey, at these prices, it's easy to experiment with tweaks. Try it—you'll like it!

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