Jonathan Scull Comes to Visit

A key benefit of working with Stereophile is enjoying the expertise of fellow audio nerds. After the HI-FI Show just held in Los Angeles, Jonathan Scull and Kathleen Benveniste spent a week riding up the California Coast and paid us each a visit.

On the face of it, most hard-core audiophiles would likely kill for a chance to get a visit from the notorious J-10. After all, he might even come in and comb your carpet free of charge. Just think what your fellow neighborhood audiophiles would say when you regaled them with tales of how he tipped your speakers this way and that.

But there's a flip side to this honor: The wonderfully tuned system that you've been enjoying for months, if not years, will soon reveal every weakness, big and small, to the ears of the almighty Tweak-Meister.

When Jonathan sits down to evaluate your system, he will likely listen politely for a few moments, then lead into his critique with a back-handed compliment like: "It doesn't sound too bad . . . but my God, the grain, the glare!" (Plus a string of French words that K-10 smiles at, but that make no sense as far as you can tell.) In that moment your heart sinks, and there is a heavy ringing in your ears as the blood rushes to your head. You turn red and stutter, "Why, Jonathan, what would you suggest?"

At this point he is likely to suggest some $1000/apiece zircon-encrusted polycarbonate footers, at least three of which must go under each item in your system. Short of that, you disappear into your garage to retrieve your collection of cones, rubber pucks, granite slabs, and foam wall treatments, not to mention the half-dozen power amps you've dismissed as underpowered or too strident.

Six hours of huffing and puffing and kvetching later, J-10 has reworked everything you previously abandoned into a very nice-sounding system, in the process considerably reducing the grain and glare that earlier had him squirming in the sweet spot. Okay, so your room has now been thoroughly redecorated in the inimitable Scull fashion, but damned if it doesn't sound substantially better.

We figure that with this inborn talent, J-10 could easily be pulling down six figures as an on-call audio tweaker. Flying out to your house at a moment's notice for a hefty fee, he could save you twice as much in time and effort (not to mention the fact that his running commentary would keep you in stitches). Instead we get him for cheap each month in his new Stereophile column, "Fine Tunes."

Don't expect Kathleen to prune your roses, however. That service is still reserved for us Stereofools.