I have to remember how seriously audiophiles follow Stereophile. Reader David Zappardon's (firstname.lastname@example.org) e-mail to me began with "Hello, my friend." But I have to admit to feeling some guilt when he yowled that he'd wasted two fruitless hours of his time looking for the silver-bearing conductive grease I'd mentioned in the October 2000 "Fine Tunes."
Thanks to all the "Fine Tuners" out there who filled the room early on Sunday morning at the Home Entertainment 2001 Show in May for my "Fine Tunes Clinic." And thanks to Victor Tiscareno of Audio Prism/Red Rose Music for the "technical stiffening." I applaud all your intelligent curiosity, questions, and tales of woe and success. Let's do it again.
Last month I wrote about lasers of various pedigrees, so useful in marking walls to the sides and behind the listening position to ensure that your loudspeakers are toed-in, level, and equidistant from the sweet spot for best soundstage, imaging and focus. Using small Avery stick-'em labels makes this a snap. I've converged the tweeter axes of my JMlab Utopias somewhere about a foot into the wall behind the rearmost of our two listening chairs, and use two Studio Traps and a single Argent RoomLens between the speakers to cancel and damp the near-rear-wall reflections. With just a jiggle of the chair back or forward, suddenly I'm there.
In the September 1998 installment of "Fine Tunes," I wrote about the benefits of using nearfield listening to minimize your room's effect on the sound of your system. What you hear at the listening position should be first-arrival sounds from the speakers rather than chaotic reflections—in-phase and out—from the room. Allen Perkins of Immedia, importer of Audio Physic speakers, has written a white paper entitled "Principles and Techniques of Speaker Placement." It's provided to all purchasers of Audio Physic speakers. Essentially, it's a primer on nearfield loudspeaker placement (footnote 1).
This episode of "Fine Tunes" is mainly about the care and feeding of speaker drivers. Before I launch into some of the tweaks—a few fairly wild and wacky—sent in by readers, here are two from my own experience.
Checked my e-mail and a message from one Thomas J. Zukowski (email@example.com) caught my eye. I sensed something...friendly. The subject line was "Re: August & September Fine Tunes." A reader, great, and on my birthday no less.
"Hi, Jonathan," Bob Matthews began his e-mail to "Fine Tunes" (firstname.lastname@example.org). "I enjoy reading your column every month, and enjoy hearing from other people about some of their cheap tweaks!"
Sometimes tweaks take on a life of their own. Take the one of using Armor All to keep speaker surrounds from drying out, which you can read all about in the November 2001 "Fine Tunes No.41" I recently got another e-mail on the subject from Dan Mazza at Arizona Hi-Fi, who agrees with Mark Gdovin's objections to using Armor All. (Read Mark's comments on the entire issue in the readers' letters linked to "Fine Tunes No.41.").)
In his first e-mail to "Fine Tunes," Rafael Teodoro (RBT@wolfenet.com) addressed a subject that Mark Gdovin, that faithful frequenter of the Stereophile soapbox, had already brought up. Mark had gone so far as to give readers sage advice from his brother, a materials engineer, regarding the dangers of applying Armor All to speaker cones and surrounds.
I've touched on loudspeaker placement in irregularly shaped rooms several times in the last few "Fine Tunes," but reader Peter Machare (Peter.MACHARE@usda.gov) wants more information about setting up L-shaped and other nonstandard listening areas. Here's how he describes his layout: "I have an L-shaped room. The speakers are at the bottom of the L and point up the long part of the L. Not all of us are perfect rectangles, you know."
One audio maintenance chore I dislike is getting down on all fours and cleaning the system's connectors—interconnects, speaker cables, and power cords. It's tedious, but the results can be spectacular. If you live in a relatively clean, dry environment, you might consider doing it every six months or so.