The Non-tweaker's Guide To Tweaks Page 4

Cleaning contacts: It's no coincidence that the word "clean" is often used to describe well-reproduced sound. Cramolin is the stuff to use; just follow the instructions, making sure you wipe it off until the cloth (or Q-tip) is not picking up any more dirt. I've also used Tweek (sold as Stabilant 22A in Canada), which is not a cleaner but a "contact enhancer," but I'm not so keen on it now. It's true that application of a small amount of this liquid to an electrical contact enhances the effectiveness of the contact, but, as the Stabilant 22A instructions warn, it should not be used if the metals are dissimilar. The caveat is very important; if you use Tweek between, say, a gold-plated RCA plug and an aluminum-alloy jack, the contact will be improved initially, but over time (weeks) the metals will react chemically with each other and the sound will show increased degradation. If you then clean the contacts, you'll find a black guck that looks just as awful as the system has started to sound.

I've even had a problem with Tweek when both plug and jack were supposedly gold-plated; on one of them, the plating was apparently very thin and impure. So, if you use Tweek (it's tempting; the sonic improvement can be quite dramatic), make sure that both surfaces have high-quality gold plating, and check the cleanliness of the contact in a few weeks. If you see evidence of the black plague, fret not: Cramolin will remove it and the Tweek (footnote 2).

Navcom Silencers: For vibration control, these are the ticket. The Silencers, developed by Sims and now marketed by Sumiko, are puck-like devices that do a better job of isolating components than anything else I've tried. They have a salutary effect under CD players (although not, I expect, ones where extensive vibration control is part of the design), preamps, and power amps; they're an alternative to Tiptoes under speakers (you have to try them; a friendly dealer is your ally here, too); and some have reported major improvements with turntables.

Tube dampers: Obviously, solid-state equipment is unlikely to benefit from use of these devices; as far as I know, there are no "transistor dampers" on the market, although some audio manufacturers take special steps to reduce the effects of vibration in solid-state circuits. But tube preamps, power amps, CD players, etc. do benefit. The effect is apparently related to tube microphony; transients, in particular, seem crisper. I've had good experience with AudioQuest's Sorbothane dampers; Sims is about to release their version, made of Navcom, of course. Be sure that you don't put dampers on tubes that get quite hot---eg, amplifier output tubes---it can get extremely messy.

As with many human activities, tweaking in moderation is both pleasant and useful, but an excessive urge to tweak may be regarded as a disorder---nay, an illness. Here are some of the symptoms to watch for:

1) A manufacturer unveils a $17,500 CD transport (to serve as the basis for a $500 unit with the same transfer function). Your immediate thought is, "I wonder if it would sound better with Navcom Silencers under it."

2) You cannot attend any symphonic concert without wondering if the sound is out of absolute polarity.

3) You write an indignant letter to TAS about what a conservative fuddy-duddy Enid Lumley has become.

4) You carry a full set of hex wrenches with you, in case you run across a tonearm whose VTA is not quite right.

If these symptoms persist, just keep saying to yourself, over and over, "It's only's only's only hi-fi..."

Speaking of hi-fi, I'd better check my CD player. I think the laser's wavelength needs a tweak.

Footnote 2: I'm intrigued by Ken Kessler's enthusiastic report (Vol.13 No.8) on a new cleaning fluid called Kontak [available from the Sound Organisation---Ed.].