Fine Tunes #35

"J-10, tweakoman," began the e-mail from one of Stereophile's Web mavens and a contributor to "Industry Update," the estimable Barry Willis, "hockey pucks are the cure for what ails you."

I wondered where he wanted me to put 'em.

"Yes, plain old generic black-rubber hockey pucks. Forget the spiked feet under the speakers. Take 'em off and slip three or four hockey pucks under them instead. Haven't tried 'em as footers under other gear, but their density and vibration-damping qualities seem equal to or better than most expensive tweako materials. My local discount sporting-goods outlet sells them for $1 each. A buck per puck: it's an audiophile bargain!"

Golden Sound DH Squares (2" by 2" by ½"), made of graphite-based composite, are also said to reduce the vibration of your components. I use them with ceramic DH Cones, as the Squares seem to disperse vibrations faster than other materials. Graphite is only one of several materials used in the Squares, so they're not as hard as solid graphite; they've got a bit of "give" to them. While not a buck a pop, they're only $40 for a set of four, or $30 for three. As you'll see in my review this month of the Lamm L2 preamp, I used three stacks of three DH Squares each under the Lamm's separate tube power supply, to excellent effect.

The Golden Sound Super Pad (19" by 17" by ½"), made of the same material as the DH Squares, costs $250; their "regular" Pad (17" by 12½" by ½) comes in at $150. They work great, but my "Fine Tunes" Pledge to find you tweaks that cost little or nothing requires me to point out that Edmund Scientific sells 12" by 12" Sorbothane mats for $19.95 (part number CR37-000) that can be cut up into 16 3"-square footers—enough for four components. But they're only 1/8" thick, so maybe more than one layer is necessary for the best effect.

Curious if anyone on "Tweaker's Asylum" had tried the hockey pucks, I did a little diggin' and came up with another use for them that bowled me over. A poster calling himself "bobbeanbags" described how he'd carefully marked the center of a hockey puck for drilling, made a 1/16th pilot hole, then a ½" hole right through. Then, on one side, he drilled a 3/8" counterbore about three-quarters through the puck. Then he popped a record on his Rega Planar 3 turntable and pressed the clamp down on the spindle, small-hole side down. He reported that this added some damping and smoothed the sound.

Another respondent to the thread, worried about getting the hole in the exact center, pointed out that the extra weight could be a problem for some 'tables, which it might be. But he had me rolling on the floor when he described his own home-brew record weight: the lid from a Miracle Whip jar that he'd drilled to the exact size of the spindle and pushed down on top of the record. He reported that it worked well (I dunno how), but at least he didn't describe the sound as "creamy"!

While poking around on Tweaker's Asylum I found another interesting footer system worth sharing. This one's from "Snkby," who reported that it kept him smiling until 3am! Here's his recipe (you'll need a heavy-duty vise or press):

Take three discs of Teflon, Zytrel (a reinforced plastic), Nytrel (a thermoplastic elastomer), or a similar material, and a buncha ball bearings, the largest 1½" in diameter. Start with the smallest-diameter bearing and press it into the material until a slight dent forms—creating a "pilot" cavity, as it were. Snkby suggested gradually increasing the indentation's radius until you reach the largest bearing size—bound to be difficult because of its large contact area (thus the use of a vise or press). After pressing your bearings off, as it were, drop three of the same-size smaller bearings into the dent you've made and put 'em under your components. Total cost: three bucks. Nifty, huh? As for the sonic results, "You name it and it got positive." Snkby described sweeter vocals, and trumpets that, instead of harsh, sounded "like singing, very cool." He promised to make another three dented discs and "sandwich" the bearings to see how that affected the sound.

Speaking of ball bearings...Andy Bartha's Whatchamacallits are lead shot mixed with silicone and molded in a muffin pan, and are cheap enough to make it into "Fine Tunes" with room to spare. There's just enough silicone to bind the lead shot, which sticks out of the outer surface like a dimply blancmange. Don't worry—the EPA requires a coating of inert antimony on any lead shot sold today. Just don't munch on 'em. Typically, three small Whatchamacallits ($8 each) are placed under a component, with a medium-sized one ($12.50 each) placed on top. They're said to work really well. Large round Whatchamacallits are available for $35, larger squares for $40. Available from Andy Bartha directly; give him a call at (954) 583-7866.

Then there was "Snert," who posted another good 'un on Tweaker's Asylum. His suggestion for making eight footers for practically nothing was to cut up a Fellowes gel wrist pad. As he pointed out, they're not the most beautiful things in the world, but as footers are used under components, you don't see 'em—and you can't beat the price. "rjm" explained that the best raw material is one of those full-length wrist rest typically used in front of one's computer keyboard, rather than the smaller gel pad. "It's a booger to cut, but it works. I don't have anyone such as a wife to please, so I do what works," he trumpeted.

Ah, bachelors and their systems...

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