Fine Tunes #29

I must share with you an e-mail from reader Gene Radice (, in response to my September "Fine Tunes," on avoiding slap-echo. "Your columns are so refreshing to read," it began.

Thanks, Gene, we're all in this together!

"I had to laugh at your excitement over lining the listening rooms with LPs to inhibit wall reflections. Of course this is a great idea. I figure it was discovered about 1930! Why do you think all the pre-digital radio production studios sounded so good and warm? It wasn't just the ribbon mikes and tube gear. They sounded good even after condenser mikes and transistorized gear were installed. Two or three of the walls were lined with LPs from floor to ceiling. I've built a few. So are you ready for another shocker? You can use books too."

I smote my forehead a mighty whack. Now why didn't I think of that!

"For all those audio fanatics who have only CDs (ugh), don't tell them to use those cheap little plastic cases (probably will make their room acoustics worse)," Gene continued. "Surely the use of books will delight the eye and ear in the listening room of the intelligent Stereophile reader."

Of course! And Gene—please don't call me Shirley!

Then, as if by magic, another e-mail on the subject popped into my blushing in-box, this from reader Dave Bachmann (

"A comment on your September column of cheap tweaks: I have a good-sized room—26' by 16' by 7.5'—with large windows along one length and bookcases (filled with 7" reel-to-reel tapes and LPs) along the other length. The speakers (MartinLogan SL3s) are 6' into the room and fire down the length of the room. In order to break up the reflections on the bookcase side, I have intentionally pulled out the tape boxes in a random pattern. As the shelves are 12" deep, this allows a lot of variation in the reel boxes. The LPs are all on the lowest shelves and would intrude too far into the room (and be a bit dangerous besides), so I've left them flush. The windows are still a bit of a problem, and I leave the drapes closed for the vast majority of my listening. The imaging may not be perfect, but it's well ahead of whatever's in third place. Enjoy!"

When I related these e-mails to SpJ/La Luce turntable manufactrix and analog maven extraordinaire Judith Spotheim, she hesitated a moment, then demurred, as she is wont to do.

"Vell, I disagree weeth most of that. It's better to deal more effectively weeth the first-reflection points weeth proper acoustic treatments than weeth just books or tape boxes. Otherwise you can have out-of-phase reflections from the side wall, wheech create acoustic nulls—very bad."

Well, Judy's right, as she so often is. But if you're caught in a web of domestic requirements and can't get hubby/hubbyette to agree to proper acoustic treatments, or if you just don't have the room, Gene's and Dave's modifications to the Cardas Bookcase Principle I outlined in the August "Fine Tunes" will work better than bare walls.

And while I'm tying up loose ends, I've discovered another super-cheap resonance-absorbing tweak: the Tweak Shop's Black Hole Sorbothane Isolation Pods! According to Elliot and Cara Kallen of the Tweak Shop, these 2"-diameter half-rounds are specially manufactured to their specifications by Sorbothane, Inc.

"Unlike the other pods out there, we've chosen the lowest-durometer (softest) Sorbothane available. These are extremely well-suited to the task of absorbing and dissipating vibrational energy that can have deleterious effects on your audio system. Simply put, four of these under a component, flat side up, and you've effectively isolated it from a wide variety of nasties!"

Elliot Kallen trumpets the Black Holes' effectiveness under tubed preamplifiers and phono stages, but reports benefits for digital transports and processors as well. However, "We don't recommend them for use under big, heavy amplifiers, where they'll simply squash down until they've lost their damping capabilities." If you simply must use them under the big stuff, four pods will do components weighing 15-20 lbs; add one more for every additional 5 lbs. Caveat: Keep 'em away from extreme heat, as Sorbothane can melt down to a yucky mess. Black Hole Pods are only $5 a pop—buy a bunch and experiment!

"But that's not all! If you order now..." Ginsu Kallen reports that so many of his customers kvelled over the 2" by 1" half-round Black Hole Pods that he set out on a mission to find their siblings: the Black Hole Sorbothane Dots!

"These little beauties are only 3/4" across and 3/8" high, so they're ideal for places where the bigger guys just aren't practical, or for lighter or smaller components. They provide the same great vibration-damping control as their bigger brothers, and can be used in the same manner, but, because of their size, they have dozens of other uses. Like replacing the little rubber dots that are standard shelf supports for Target equipment racks, or as substitutes for the cheap little stick-on feet that come with many components. Here's the best part: They're $1 each! Buy 'em by the dozen!"

What's that? You got it—the tweaking never ends!