Fine Tunes #48

In his first e-mail to "Fine Tunes," Rafael Teodoro ( addressed a subject that Mark Gdovin, that faithful frequenter of the Stereophile soapbox, had already brought up. Mark had gone so far as to give readers sage advice from his brother, a materials engineer, regarding the dangers of applying Armor All to speaker cones and surrounds.

Instead of Armor All, recommends Meguiar's #40 Vinyl and Rubber Conditioner for his car-speaker surrounds. The material contains no silicone gels, he points out, and leaves a medium rather than a glossy shine, with no greasy residue. Other rubber treatments that purportedly contain no silicones according to Rafael, are One Grand Exterior Rubber Treatment and Sonax Trim Protectant. Meguiar's and other car-care products can be purchased One Grand Exterior Rubber Treatment costs $9 for a 16-oz pump spray, or just over $20 for a jug of the stuff.

Now our 1984 BMW 318i is getting somewhat long in the tooth, and since it sports but a measly two-valve-per for its four cylinders, the engine's sound has a distinctly agricultural flair—it has to be kept above 3000rpm to get any kind of oomph. And that gets pretty noisy.

Well, it's fairly rorty inside our car, and it's lots of fun to drive, but it makes quite a racket, and the three- or four-year-old stainless-steel exhaust resonates at about 3000rpm, the point we run at (and higher) if we want any passing power. Thus, the notion of high-quality sound in our car never rated very high on our list.

But I bought some Meguiar's #40 at my local car-parts emporium anyway, unscrewed the plastic driver covers (Kenwood, ahhhh!) in the footwells of our little Beemer, and treated the speaker surrounds. (The speakers are powered by an Alpine 40Wx4 FM/CD changer with removable head-unit, which I upgraded to about a year ago.) Then I went back to the trunk area, dropped out the two surround drivers that sit on each side of the rear shelf, and did the same to them.

Well, whaddaya know—after application of Meguiar's #40 front and back, K-10 and I found ourselves enjoying car music more than ever, and damn if I couldn't hear the front two speakers' contribution to the soundfield in the car much more than before. I could spread the bass-heavy material to the rear, and enjoy, for what seemed like the first time, what treble information the smaller footwell drivers had to contribute. This stuff is okay!

Another e-mail begins more diffidently: "Mr. Scull..." Hey, when I introduce you to my wife's mother, then you can call me Mr. Scull. In the meantime, J-10 will do! Randolph Schein ( suffered from what I'll call the Magnepan Bright Bounce Syndrome. He's got a listening room with hard plaster walls and polyurethaned wood floors, and even with the walls partially covered with rugs, the whole thing proved just too darn bright for his pair of Maggies.

A few years ago a solution presented itself, however. Randolph discovered a sort of squishy vinyl wallpaper with a heavily textured finish that made it look like a stamped-tin roof. (Could be worse...) Putting this on a wall moved the room in the right sonic direction, so to speak, absorbing efficiently in the 1-3kHz range. So Randolph completely covered the walls with it, and the result was so good that he no longer has to "compulsively," as he put it, jump up and insert resistors in his speaker's tweeter feeds to attenuate bright recordings. In fact, he reports proudly, most of the time now he keeps the Magnepans' tweeters wide open.

How so, you conveniently ask? The Maggies are very directional in the vertical plane, I understand, so with the room absorbing the acoustic bounce, this little problem was much attenuated. Should you try this and still find problems with top or bottom echoes, just paper above and below with squishy wallpaper. That should solve the problem.

But Randolph's listening room doubles as a family room (oh, those pesky families...), so there's also an antique double secretary with doors full of reflective glass to deal with. The fireplace has glass doors as well. So this ever-resourceful audiophile keeps several spring-loaded clamps nearby, and when he wants to listen really seriously, he drops several wool or wool-cotton throw rugs in front of the offending panes and clips them on. Works like a charm, he says. And if Randolph can do it, so can you. (I'm beginning to sound like Christopher Lowell.)

Onward. A fellow named Lloyd ( writes in to say that while he's had success using the popular Vibrapods—see "Recommended Components" in the April 2002 issue, p.142— as cheap footers, he's occasionally forced to use stacks of two or more of them for maximum sound improvement, and some components seem to require stacks of three. I couldn't stop laughing. How does he do this without the pile of pods toppling over? He uses Corn Cushions on the Vibrapods—"Dr. Scholl's, no less!" he trumpets—placed between the pods and the unit's base. Lloyd also highly recommends the Highwire Power Wraps ($24.95) for fixed-wire components.

In any case, get out there and tweak!

Editor's Note: Sadly, this is the final Fine Tunes" column, which made its debut in our July 1998 issue, Jonathan Scull having left the magazine at the end of March. But you can find all 48 installments in our on-line archives. All of us at Stereophile wish Jonathan well in his future endeavors.—John Atkinson