Fine Tunes #7 Page 2

"A field has a point of origin, but that's it. What's important is not that the field extends to infinity but that it extends beyond the cable itself. In fact, there's good evidence that it's not the electrons that carry the signal, but the electric field around the cable that does. You see what this means? If the field is affected by the dielectric and everything is the dielectric, then everything affects the sound of the cable. That's where the inverse square law comes in. The relative effect of the dielectric depends on the distance. It's only what lies an inch or two from the cable that has any real effect. And air, Jonathan, is the best dielectric."

That's why you shouldn't bind the cables too tightly against the rack, and why you might even try using Styrofoam blocks to space them out that critical inch or two.

And that's why the cheap speaker-cable tweak I'm about to pass on to you works so well. Go to your neighborhood grocery and head for the picnic section. Buy a stack of clear plastic cups of whatever size suits you, the bigger the better. At home, turn a few of them upside down and, using a soldering iron, poke two holes through the cup walls near the bottom (now the top). Thread your speaker wires through the holes and voilè—cheap and effective cable lifters. Given the infinite scope of magnetic fields and the inverse square law, it becomes obvious that getting the cables off the carpet is beneficial. Air is a far better dielectric than your static-laden carpet. [crackle, spark] Oops, there goes the DAC.

Another dressing tip: One leg at a time! Ahem. Instead of using plastic tie-wraps, you might try suspending interconnects from the rack with light string. When the Shun Mook Monks were here long ago, they tied a broom handle to one of my racks and suspended the phono cable from it with string. Analog was much improved, the lowered noise floor quite startling.

And while you're at it, go ahead and bundle your power cords together! As wireman Skoff explained it to me, "That way, you get rid of all sorts of rogue signals that ride the power line. The expanding and collapsing fields won't be exactly the same; some will be out of phase with the others, and that tends to cancel out the junk."

All of this costs practically nothing, except for a modicum of sweat equity on your part. C'mon, you need to get down on your knees and stretch that gut of yours a little. I certainly did. I can guarantee that even modest, entry-level systems will benefit from good cable-dressing etiquette. Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

One more thing. Last month I covered the whys and hows of cleaning your cables and power cords with Q-Tips and pipe cleaners. Big news: I just received a clutch of newly reintroduced Signet interconnect cleaning tools from Jim and Bridget Davis at Music Direct. Dab cleaning fluid on the male end and scour the female RCAs in your components, or dip the other end and clean the male RCA connectors. They're $11.99 a set of four from Music Direct: (800) 449-8333.