Fine Tunes #42

"Hey, J-10!" John Atkinson called from the hallway outside my office. "I liked your October 'Fine Tunes'!"

"Hey, JA! I wrote it in Paris—whad'dya expect, chopped liver?" I thought I was being clever. A sure sign of senility.

JA's face changed almost imperceptibly and he headed into his office. My, aren't your feet big, Mr. Scull!

But in the spirit of that October "Fine Tunes," I hope you'll use a few of following tweaks from my bulging grab-bag of tweaks to improve your audio system.

The first concerns reader Cyrus Won (who prefers that his e-mail address not be divulged). He'd noticed that the polarity of all the CDs he'd burned on his computer was the reverse of the originals. Cyrus is a Mac guy who uses Toast and an APS burner (I'm a PC guy and clueless about Macs), but he claims to have heard the same effect from other CD burners and a variety of platforms. "My fix is to make a second-generation copy, and that simply corrects the polarity by reversing it again. It does make a difference."

Interesting idea. I've just installed a CD-ROM burner and a 40-gig drive in my old 233MHz Gateway; I'll try this one out and let you know what I discover. You computer types should try it yourselves and report any differences you hear. [I checked the HP burner on my PC, examining the waveform of the CD-R version of one of my recordings against the original WAV file. No, it didn't invert polarity, so maybe this is something that is specific to Toast or to Mr. Won's burner.—JA.]

Lemme rummage around in the tweak bag some more and see what pops out...Yes, an e-mail from whimsical Netizen Bob McHugh, aka Bob knows this won't rock your world, but he's found a new, cheaper version of an old tweak that many of you might find useful.

Let's say you've reached the point of outright audio dementia and you're ready to shell out 20 bucks or so to a hi-fi catalog for a not particularly enormous amount of that well-known sticky substance, Blu-Tack, which many audiophiles use between minimonitor speakers and their stands, for instance. Take a deep breath and say to yourself, "You're good enough to deserve it, you're smart enough to pay less, and doggone it, people like you!"

Instead, Bob recommends an immediate trip to your local office-supply superstore to pick up some "White Tack" (or Quick-Tac, as it's known at Office Depot). Bob was quite funny about it: "Its original purpose is the same as Blu-Tack; hanging posters, keeping your phone, keyboard, bong, or whatever from sliding around on your desktop." Would you say we're dealing with a Boomer here? "The cost? 96 big ones. That's cents, J-10. One pack is good for about eight speakers." He went on to explain that dabs of the sticky stuff are effective under preamps, CD players, and other components. And it keeps them from sliding around when you try to push in those huge interconnects you've just spent a fortune on.

In a related vein, let's talk heatsink vibrations. I've occasionally been shocked—shocked—to run my fingernails across the heatsinks of some rather expensive amplifiers, only to be greeted by a harp-like zinging sound. Certain companies have shown an awareness of this, others not.

So I aimed my browser at the Audio Asylum and searched in the Tweaker's Asylum forum for any discussion that might lighten the, um, sinking feeling I had. Wouldn't you know it, the subject had indeed come up. One solution was to cut small blocks of hardwood to size and fit them tightly between the heatsink fins, making sure they're small enough not to interfere with the fins' cooling effect. In this way, they're removable if you decide to sell the amp. Not bad, but unless you're Norm Abrams, a lot of work. Another Asylum Inmate (that's what they call themselves) suggested blocks of plastic foam, but noted that these don't "optimally" couple to the heatsinks. I recall trying foam blocks some time ago on a pair of giant German amps and finding it way less than effective.

If at first you don't succeed...silicone sealant to the rescue! The material itself is black and, because it's typically used in roofing applications, is made to withstand up to 700 degrees F. One poster suggested using a caulking gun to apply a marble-sized dab on the upper and lower outside corner of each heatsink assembly. If there's room, you could put another dab smack in the middle of the heatsink. The idea is very cool, as it were. Rock, the poster in question, assured everyone that, after it cures, the silicone doesn't affect the heatsink's ability to dissipate heat, and it's easily removable with a hobby or craft knife. And, of course, it's much easier than cutting a lot of wooden blocks!

A small correction: I reported in the July "Fine Tunes" that Auric Illuminator CD treatment was not to be used with SACDs. I've since been informed by its maker, Audience, that I'd misunderstood them. Auric Illuminator is, in fact, quite safe to use on all media except dual-layer SACD/CD hybrid discs from the German pressing plant Sonopress, currently the only source of such discs. I've therefore gone back to using AI to excellent effect on everything but, and will report more later. At $39.95 for enough Auric Illuminator to treat 200-400 discs, it's still a "Fine Tunes" Favorite.

Reader Hector Ramos ( says a good CD treatment is Meguiars Gold Glass Car Wax, which he claims is the most reflective wax in their line. "I took my CDs, used two drops of wax on each sides, darkened the outer and inner edges (he doesn't say how), and voilà! I could not believe the improvement. For me, it was radical!" A 16oz bottle cost him $9.95 at Western Auto. I haven't tried it yet, but I'm gonna!