Fine Tunes #33

This month, "Fine Tunes" offers a grab-bag of useful and inexpensive tips for the impecunious tweaker searching for better sound.

First up, a technique I used in the early 1990s, when all my equipment was on Arcici SuperStructure racks and isolation shelves. I was reminded of it recently when I stubbed my toe on a screw head sticking up about 1/8" from the floor (Ouch!), and by an e-mail that arrived the very same day from Robert Stein of Ultra Systems/The Cable Company. Talk about serendipity!

Mr. Stein: "I was fielding a question from an audiophile with a thick carpet and wobbly speakers, and realized what I was suggesting he do was something you'd done yourself some time ago with your old racks. I told him if the 1" OEM speaker spikes didn't penetrate his thick carpet and padding, he should get some 1½" wood screws and drill them through the rug into the subfloor, leaving the heads of the screws exposed at the base of the carpet's pile. Then simply set the speaker spikes into the Phillips-head screws—X marks the spot. A few turns on one or more as needed to level things up nicely!"

Exactly what I'd done under all my Arcici SuperStructures, but with flat-head aluminum sheet-metal screws. I'd used a stud finder to locate and mark the joists running under the plywood top floor, then driven into them as many of the screws as possible. The racks were SuperSolidly mounted this way, even if—veteran tweaker that I've become—I now realize that they'd have performed even better had I filled their hollow frames.

I screwed my Avalon Ascents the same way. As it were. What a pain in the ass: measuring and setting four screws under each speaker, with another four screws for the external crossover, and all over again for the other channel. But it worked great!

Of course, Robert Stein is no fool; he quickly recommended that his friend upgrade to PolyCrystal-coated brass spikes. I enthusiastically agree—PolyCrystal is great stuff. Back then, I'd used Goldmund cones under the Ascents, which seemed to do the trick.

The only possible downside with speakers might be if their tweeters wind up slightly higher than optimal in relation to seated ear height. One might then slightly raise the two rear screws, as I did, and remember to stay outta that La-Z-Boy recliner!

The next tweak was sent in via snail-mail by audio worthy Larry Marks of Toronto, Ontario. "You appear to encourage tweaks," he wrote. Such a kidder. "So here's mine. Start with some Hitecloth, a product that's packaged in 7"-per-side squares meant for cleaning CD surfaces. Then get some bicycle handlebar foam—the tubes are sold in 8½"-long pairs. Take a 3½" length of the foam tubing, wrap a piece of Hitecloth around it (cut to fit), and secure the seam with duct tape. That's my applicator! I transfer sparse amounts of Lemon Pledge to it and clean my LPs once the heavy debris has been removed. Result: No more static-electric charge to attract dust! Long live chemistry, long live tweaks!" Thanks, Larry.

Coffee clutched in hand one morning and trying to regain my composure, I noticed that an e-mail from Donald W. Angel of Angelphonics Labs ( had popped into my online mailbag:

"Dear J-10: The best support for loudspeakers are points placed on carbon dampers on top of bathroom tiles! Let me elaborate..." Yes, Donald, please do. "There exists a low impedance at the speaker and its support point. But between the pointy tip and the carbon damper there's a very high impedance. Then there's a moderate impedance at the interface between the carbon block and the tile surface. Finally, there's a low impedance between the tile and the carpet or wood floor beneath it. This arrangement provides a more perfect isolation for the speaker from the floor, yet makes for a low-reactance system to driver motion. I found it afforded a more beautiful and holographic soundstage with a greater sense of air and greater delicacy to the highs. The bass appeared to be tighter and more delineated, and, last but not least, you can move the speakers with greater precision and ease."

One audiophile's experience. He went on: "Thank you for your most enlightening reviews, and especially your incisive humor." Now you see why I'm printing his e-mail! There was more: "Oops, I almost forgot: The most wonderful tool for lifting speakers is the lowly garden shovel! Once the speaker is in place, you can slightly insert a shovel under the cabinet, elevate it slightly by gently pushing down on the shovel's handle with one hand, and insert the footer assembly with the other! All in the interest of happy schlepping, J-10! You might be interested to know that I've been involved in sound reproduction for 50 years and am still trying. Yours, most truly..." Nice guy. Nice tip.

Finally, from reader Michael DeRoche ( "Here is another cheap isolation tweak that's worked for me, especially on my analog stuff. Find the thickest, softest mouse pad around, but one that's covered with cloth, not plastic. The plastic-covered pads don't work very well. Cut it into squares and put the squares under components as isolation devices. Everybody can find old mouse pads lying around work, so this one's a freebie!" Hey, good one, Michael.

Thanks to everyone for sharing. And remember, as Beethoven said, "Only the pure in heart can make good soup."