John Atkinson recently forwarded me an e-mail from reader Daniel Sandmeier. Eight full months after moving into a new home, Mr. Sandmeier had finally experimented with speaker placement. He was flabbergasted by the result.
Last month (click here for previous Fine Tunes) I tipped you on how to check the AC plug orientation for transformer current leakage—the best sound is often found at the lowest voltmeter reading. Roger Skoff of XLO suggests another technique that's worth passing on to you, if only because the imagery is so . . . piquant: Leave the speaker cables hooked up and pull the interconnects from the power amplifier. Turn it on and "stick your head in the speaker," as Roger puts it, checking for the level of hum. (Imagine a pair of bony audiophile legs waving crazily out of the bell of an Avantgarde Acoustics horn speaker.)
Sometimes you have to sweat the details, sometimes they just fall in your lap. Take Victor Tiscareno. Victor's company, AudioPrism, has been making electronics, accessories, and power-conditioning products for quite some time. While he was visiting and installing a pair of his Mana Reference tube amplifiers for an upcoming review, Victor and I got to talking about power---the kind that comes out of the wall. Victor studied electrical engineering and is very au courant in such matters. During these ruminations he shared with me a recipe for what he calls The Poor Man's Dedicated Line.
Now that we've gained a basic understanding of speaker setup, cable dressing and hygiene, and electrical theory, it's time to consider where and how to site your equipment. I've seen all sorts of weird, jerry-rigged shelves and poor component placement, some of the worst in pricey systems whose owners really should have known better. But you can achieve a stunning level of improvement from a haphazardly set-up system---even an entry-level one---when it's rearranged so as to let the components breathe.
So here I am expounding on the tendency of audio components---especially tubes, capacitors, and resistors---to become microphonic, and you're wondering how you can find out if there's any of that shakin' goin' on in your system. And you want to do it easily and for next to nothing. The first thing you do, then, is listen carefully to Victor Tiscareno of AudoPrism. The following is his big idea, and a damn good one it is.
I had an epiphany the other night. (Hope Rabbi Lichtenstein won't be too upset.) Kathleen and I were watching the Antiques Road Show on PBS, and, during a break, I started channel-surfing. I know, it's obnoxious—but I feel compelled to hop around and keep up the sense- and info-pounding barrage we've come to take for granted and, in fact, rely on. In a way, channel-surfing is a perfect symptom of our information-overload society: click Geraldo, click Robin Byrd, click Jazz Channel, click Weather Channel. We're bombarded, we're inundated, we're . . . let's face it, we're overwhelmed. The Internet, e-mail, phone calls—lots of information, and little time to process it.
In last month's edition of this new column, I wrote about those of us whose systems are out in the breeze in the Family Room, at the mercy of wives, Significant Others, curious children, cats'n'dogs, and nonaudiophiles who, for the life of them, can't figure out what it's all about. I met a chap the other day whose wife said to me, "Oh, you suffer from the same audiophile disease." I hastened to inform her that I am the disease, and suggested that her husband was pursuing a noble path for the love of music—no bad thing, in my view. She remained unconvinced.
Time magazine has chosen Albert Einstein as the Person of the Century. As the great man said, everything's relative, so in this installment of "Fine Tunes" I'll cover a few relatively inexpensive tips for homeowners, or those building their own audiophile domiciles.