Tweaks'n'Squeaks Page 6

CDs also benefit from periodic dry-cleaning: With a lint-free cloth, rub the shiny underside (the playing surface) from the center outward. Never rub in circles, as this can mar the surface in scratches tangential to the spiral of encoded information, thus increasing your chances of creating a glitch audible on playback. If you're uncomfortable holding and cleaning CDs, you can buy one of Radio Shack's or Discwasher's cleaning devices. Various liquids and machines are available to wet-clean CDs, although wet-cleaning hasn't proven as popular or as effective as with LPs.

However, CD-treatment tweaks have proven popular. They include: liquid treatments for the playing surface of the disc (Finyl, AudioQuest Laserguide, CD Saver); liquid treatments for the outside edge of the disc (AudioPrism CD Stoplight); rings and bands to be temporarily or permanently affixed to CD rims (Harmonix Tuning Sheets, Sumiko Reference Bands, Allsop CD Stabilizers, Compact Dynamics CD Upgrade, Monster CD Rings); and various mats to be placed atop the CD just prior to play (CD Greenbacks). Most of these products are inexpensive and nonpermanent---you can easily experiment with them, which is the essence of audio tweaking.

You should also periodically clean the laser lens. You can do this simply by removing dust from the lens with a camera lens cleaner that blows air. Dedicated products such as Discwasher's CDL (footnote 2 Laser Lens Cleaner are also available.

Most audio equipment sounds better once it's been properly warmed up. In addition, turn-on/off power transients can present problems for electronic equipment. Unless you don't plan on listening for several days, or you use tubed equipment, it's better to leave everything turned on all the time---that way your system will perform at its best the moment you want to use it. Of course, everything you leave on will draw power, and that can get pricey. If you listen primarily on weekends, you might want to leave everything on for those few days, and turn it on and off as needed during the week.

Periodic maintenance
Audio systems periodically require simple, basic maintenance. When was the last time you checked the tightness of your speakers' driver bolts? Checked the tightness of the male-female connections on your interconnects? Tightened the spade lugs on your speaker terminals? Dusted your tubes' glass envelopes? Checked the oil level in your tonearm's damping trough? Cleaned the contacts between your headshell and tonearm? Checked the tightness of the connections between your power-cord plugs and electrical outlets? Cleaned out the dust under your amplifiers? Looked at the condition of the rubber surrounds on your speakers? Considered the height of your latest listening position relative to the dispersion pattern of your speakers? Cleaned out all your air hoses? Considered what effect that new picture has had on your listening room? Or done anything to minimize the amount of dust, dirt, and smoke in your listening room?

You'll be making a mistake if you simply insert new gear into your system and ignore it until it breaks or needs to be replaced. Take care of it, and it will reward you with good, reliable performance. It's your system---get the most out of it!