Okay, let's return to the power grid. In the February installment of "Fine Tunes", we learned that typical domestic 110V AC supplies are derived from that 220V transformer out on the pole. The center-tap 110V supply is unbalanced, but if you take 220V service, you're getting balanced power. One thing you can do is take 220V down to 110V with a step-down transformer. George Cardas swears by it. He's also experimenting with a Statpower Technologies Prosine 1000 Full Square Wave Converter hooked to a big mutha battery to power his front-end components.
What fascinates me about the High End are the electric personalities behind it. Manufacturers typically invest so much of themselves in the products they make. It's a divine madness—they do it because they have to. They're driven to it with a real sense of mission and excellence. But God forbid you criticize any of their offspring...ooo-la-la!
Bill Gates would have you believe we live in a plug'n'play world. Apple has proselytized same since day one. But I'm here to tell you it just isn't so for high-end audio. The orientation of a component's AC plug—even the quality of the wall receptacle itself—affects the sound! Oh no, Mr. Bill, not something else to futz with! Will it never end?
Let's talk cable dressing. Make mine vinaigrette! (And you thought I'd go for French . . . ) Cable dressing is actually a rather delicate issue that requires a certain leap of faith. The concept is so simple that even I can explain the science to you. But the leap occurs when you realize how the positioning of cables and interconnect can make a real difference in the sound of your system. In spite of this, I've seen power cords and interconnects tangled up in a hopeless mess at the back of some pretty serious components.
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.
Over time I've successfully used a variety of tuning devices to refine the acoustics in Kathleen's and my listening room. But I've always suspected that Acoustic Science's Tube Traps might be a good way to finish it off. I've occasionally asked visitors to stand in one spot or another behind the speakers as I listened for tergiversation (ie, "to change one's tune"; Hoo-hah!). I found several locations where a nice, dense audiophile body made an improvement to the sound.
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."
Among the more intriguing audio-related announcements this year was that Koetsu phono cartridges were once again available in the States. In fact, they're being handmade in limited quantities by the sons of founder Yoshiaki Sugano.