Fine Tunes #41 Letters

We received the following letters in response:

Armor All & Tabasco

Editor: The tweak mentioned in the November 2001 "Fine Tunes," of using Armor All on speaker surrounds, makes a lot of since. In order for the speakers to sound their best the surround has to be soft and supple.

I'd think this tweak would work best in older speakers, where the "rubber" surround has gotten stiff from age, but it well could even help a new speaker to sound better. After all, by the time a consumer buys the speaker system the driver is probably at least six months old, and the actual material from which the surround is made could be more than a year old.

I have yet to try this tweak, but will try it as soon as I can get around to it.

As for the "Toilet Tweak" of using empty toilet paper rolls to cover the speaker wire, it is alot more work than what was suggested to a friend by her vet. Brush Tabasco sauce onto the wires and the cats will never go near them again. My friend said it works great. And you don't have to wait until you have emptied rolls of toilet paper.—Rob Iacullo,, Team Amiga

Armor All

Editor: A few days ago, I wrote J-10 concerning a potential hazard using Armor All and similar polymer/rubber treatments as possibly being a recipe for long-term disaster. I since had a chance to discuss this with my brother, a PE-certified ME specializing in materials, and this is what he had to say (bear in mind, he was simplifying things given my "weakness" in chemistry):

"The hydro-carbon molecule of 'plastic' polymers can be thought of as resembling the spinal column: The carbon is the spine and the hydrogens are the ribs. The molecule is flexible much like the spine. It is an 'open' molecule in that not all charge balances are satisfied. Thus, there is a tendency for other molecules to bond or for the hydrogens to 'fold back' onto the carbon. UV light (radiation) and oxygen are the principal contributors. Anyway, Armor All tends to bond between the hydrogens, thereby reducing the 'space' for flexing. So long as it retains some 'liquidity,' it serves as a sort of lubrication. However, once it dries, the remaining material serves to reduce elasticity and flexibility.

"In other words, once you use the material you are essentially 'addicted' to it in that you have to keep re-applying it in order to retain the flexibility. Otherwise, you have essentially induced a chemical sort of 'osteoporosis' to the 'spine' of carbon and breakage and/or reduced flexibility is the result."

He went on to say that it is far worse to treat an already oxidized polymer than a brand-new one. He illustrated this by talking about the dashboard of one of his collector cars (1971 Dodge Challenger). He treated the dash and it looked great. The next winter, after a particularly cold day, the dash had three huge cracks in it. Though he wasn't an ME then, he later found out from his major advisor/mentor that the material no longer had the ability to contract with the cold after his treatment with Armor All (due to the aforementioned effect). The only way to avoid that, according to his professor, is once an item is treated you have to keep treating it forever and, even then, you might not get away with it.

As for the improvements claimed by your reader tweak contributor, my brother surmised that his surrounds were likely quite broken in and perhaps in the beginning of being broken down (really almost the same thing but a matter of stages). He suspects that the treatment did stiffen the woofer surrounds, raise the mechanical Q, and they did probably get more "lively." Probably did sound better in some sense. But my bro also surmised that the low reach of the woofers was probably raised quite a bit and that their overall life was shortened. Bear in mind that my brother is every bit the audiophile that I am, though our music preferences diverge quite widely (he likes electronic-based rock and alternative while I like mostly acoustic jazz and classical).

I write this, not to enter into a debate but so that J-10 doesn't become a media "mouthpiece" for what may be unsafe and destructive practices. Since he is always trying to improve sound and help the readers, I just didn't want him to unwittingly become a vehicle of harm.—Mark Gdovin,

Cat protection

Editor: Our cats also like to munch Monster Cable. One day, while at the auto sound installer, I noticed the convoluted tubing that they use for wire runs. I procured 12' of the 5/8"-diameter tubing gratis; when I got home, I placed it over the existing wires.

The cats could munch no more, as the tubing was bigger than their mouths. My cables also looked much more expensive than they actually were, so that was good for the ego. (bigger sound?).

I have seen the tubing for sale at the various auto parts stores for maybe a buck a foot, so it's cheap enough to try.—C. Diesner,