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Fifty Ways To Tweak Your Lover...

"That was the most fun I've ever had without laughing."
--- Woody Allen


  The tweaks listed on this page can vary the performance of some music reproduction systems. There are no "hard and fast" rules per se. Some of the tweaks suggest below may VOID the manufactures warranty. Also, we may be dealing with HIGH VOLTAGES which can KILL YOU!!! Please remember the Moressette lyrics "i got one hand in my pocket and the other one...". By keeping one of your hands in your pocket you reduce the risk of shock, death, and just having a REALLY BAD hair day ==:-{ ) . Let it be known here and now that i, nor my family, nor my marshmallow stash is liable for anything you may choose to do on your own due to what you have read here and the results thereof. In other words, you can't sue me when your prized Audio Note Ongaku circa $89,200 dies, catches your home on fire, and subsequently burns down the entire city you live in due to what YOU have chosen to do just because i humbly suggested a tweak. Also, i have ZERO financial interest in ANY product/tweak i suggest. Nor am i making these suggestions for financial gain. After all, what REALLY matters to me is that you...

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Simple to make platform isolates vibrations:
Brings out details for CD and record players.

by A.C. Flood

  A recent high-end print magazine did a recent review on one of their favorite pieces of equipment; a specially made, high tech, damping base for the front end of your stereo. The Vibraplane is intended principally for your turntable, but it will also work with your CD player and tube equipment . It is the ultimate turntable base.

The review gushed over the sonic improvements of the $1,700 and $5,000 models, saying "you'll appreciate the visceral presence that the Vibraplane adds to both digital and analog playback every time you spin some wax or plastic." The reviewers found improvements in imaging, low-level microdynamics, timbral truth and percussive impact, in fact, "every aspect of sonic presentation took on new life." (Vol. 17 #5) But, the price tag did not impress me.

When I clicked on to the company's web site, however - their research did. The site said that vibration can reach up into the audible range - 32 Hz. At that audible level, distortion degrades the music signal. Bass instruments and bass singers, like Barry White, dip down into that low range. In fact, there are over a dozen instruments can play that low; vibration at those low frequencies can distort sound signals there and other frequencies. Yet, the company said their rubber bladder isolation boxes can cut vibrations 80% at that frequency. 

In describing, the sonic impact the company was looking for, they likened their high tech boxes to a slab of granite resting on top of a tennis ball. Their sophisticated bases incorporate a large air bladder that is either manually ($1695) or automatically filled ($4,950). Their high tech base effectively isolates the turntable or CD player from vibrations.

A light bulb switched on in my head. My old Klipsch Cornwall speakers are super sensitive horns - they will play louder with 5 watts than most speakers with 150 watts. Any small tweak or improvement in cables, amp, pre-amp and sound source makes a slightly noticeable change. 

So I rested a thirty pound gray paving stone on a 14 new yellow tennis balls to create my own vibration isolation platform and I did indeed notice a pleasurable change. Imagine setting a gallon of milk on top of a carton of eggs. Incongruous perhaps, but the result is solid and stabile - it does not shake or sway.

I set the slab, 18" by 18" Yorkstone tile, ($3.50 at Home Depot ) on top of the tennis balls ($10 at Wal-Mart). The balls rest on a thin sheet of foam board (old poster board) to form the bottom of the platform. The board, or a sheet of plastic, makes the platform easy to slide around on my entertainment center. A simple 1 " wood frame corrals the balls. Although constructed for a dozen balls, there is room within the frame for 1 or 2 more balls. 

Each ball is a small rubber air bladder. Tennis balls are larger and cost less than racquetballs - though racquetballs may hold up better in the long run. A low box would do as well as the balls; as long as the slab does not touch the box. It must float out and above the tray of rubber balls like the cantilever of a Frank Lloyd Wright house. The foam board and the frame create a low box filled with balls. The rubber balls cushion the hefty slab. The frame does not touch any part of the stone. It is does not rock or move. The slab floats 2 " high on a cushion of rubber and air. 14 small rubber air bladders; the width of the CD player. 

The home made vibration isolation platform does indeed affect every aspect of your sonic life. 

The first telling piece was track 12, Storms in Africa II, from a newly purchased Enya Watermark CD (WEA Records 1988). On it, extremely low, almost sonorous, bass notes compliment a leisurely piano. The two are contrasted by a short, rhythmic soprano chorus with sounds of thunder and lightning. I listened for contrasts and tone at 9:00 on the dial, where 8:00 is my normal listening level. Switching back to the CD, WITHOUT the platform, I found this CD, and this track especially, was less immediate, not as dramatic and not as compelling. The sounds were not as isolated in space themselves, more jumbled together and crowded. Enya's beautiful voice did not float as much, the bass didn't seem as low. The thunderstorm effects were not as startling.

In particular, I noticed external noises more with the platform in use. In my late listening session, I found myself listening for the quiet passages; outside sounds were more distracting. The quietest tracks seemed quieter. I removed a clock from the end of the room that had never bothered me before.

End result: Vocals float un-crowded, the deep earth low notes on Enya's Watermark shift the furniture and the tinkling chimes linger delicious microseconds longer. Her music sends me into a warm Alpha funk.

I alternated between first using the platform and then doing out with it. First I tested it with my CD player and then added a second one (a day later) to my Dynaco Series II tube pre-amp. I alternated between single tracks and whole CDs. Both units rest center stage upon my eight foot wide entertainment center. A small carpenter's plane made sure that each change was level. With both platforms in place, for both pre-amp and CD player, Enya's opening thunderstorms were indeed much better. There was better separation between sounds, greater detail and smoother vocals. My notes during the session say there was more separation between singers. The improvement made by the platforms was as noticeable as the difference between my decade old Monster cables and my new ones. 

Removing the platforms was more dramatic than using them however, so the improvement is subtle. They don't add detail so much as remove the crowding around the details. But the longer I use them, the more I appreciate them. I did not try an A/B comparison with only the Yorkstone paving stone or with only the tennis balls as a base, although I think that each part of the platform would probably offer some benefit. 

Together, the low tennis balls in their box under the wide slabs do look a little funny; but they do also sound great. 

For example, with the guitars on a newly purchased classic, Melissa Ethridge's Brave and Crazy CD (Island 1989), the improvements in contrasts and tone was less noticeable. At least when compared to the subterranean deep tones of Enya. The cymbals however, on her "This must be Paradise" track, ring out better with the awkward platforms in place. Tweaking the stereo system is easier than tweaking an entire room. This strange tweak made about the same as the difference as the upgrade from my old Sony CD player and my newer $500 Rotel. My old Klipsch Cornwalls have mid and high end horns. I damped the horns with rope caulk to decrease their ringing. This tweak was not as dramatic as that. 

Some tweaks add pleasing sonic coloration, while others remove it. This one removes it. Of all the little things I have done here and there, to fiddle (but not alter) my system, surprisingly this was the second most powerful tweak I have performed. Plus, it is both comforting and thrilling at the same time, to know that I am getting the maximum potential out the components I purchased. They are being used at their best.

I listened to a newly purchased Paula Cole HDCD, This Fire, from Warner Bros. (1996) for contrasts and tone. With the isolation platforms, I found that I did not have to keep turning up the volume - I felt I was getting all of the sound. There is no need to blast out rock CDs - the loud passages sound loud while the gentle tracks sound quiet. On the Cole CD, she recommends "playing this record loudly" and in fact I can now play all CDs louder, with out feeling the sound is being pushed out at me.

Experimenting further, I dug out a Joan Baez CD, one that I have rarely listened to. Her wonderful Diamonds and Rust album used to send me into warm and dreamy state decades ago on a small tube amp/bookshelf system, but her CD left me cold and awake. For although I love her voice, the CD recording wears me out. Not so with these low tech platforms. For now, it sounds better. Not jarring or harsh. The power of her incredible voice shines through. Her Classics Volume Eight CD (A&M 1987) is not good enough to make you sit in the sweet spot all day long, but her "Diamonds and Rust" tune is a joy to listen to again. The vibration isolation platforms put her voice on par with Enya, Melissa Ethridge and Paula Cole: her CD no longer sounds old. Therefore, my favorites are back again.

On a personal favorite, Paul Simon's The Rhythm of the Saints, the lush tropical percussion of his 12 piece band is smooth and delicious. The congas, blocks, bells, triangles and cymbals sing and resound. Yet, it is easy to pick them out. Each is distinct - in their own space. The high notes seem sharp and sweet. The bass is round and warm. I can hear strings sliding along frets.

Simon's voice is clear and distinct. The low end is not jumbled, neither is the mid-range or the high end. In fact, the string instruments seem to have more texture. Placement within the sound stage is tighter - though the sound stage itself is not wider, deeper or larger. But the bass twangs, casinets click and congas clip-clop. The gourds and the tambourines do not intrude on each other. Here is another:

Stevie Nicks has an incomparably luscious voice. Lusty and throaty, yet gentle and soft, both at the same time. As she kept repeating "Beautiful Child, Beautiful Child, you are beautiful " in that magical way that only she can do it, (on Fleetwood Mac's Greatest Hits CD), I kept shaking my head and thinking, 'beautiful stereo, beautiful stereo, you are beautiful...'

There is more music to be found in your vinyl and your plastic sources. This home made vibration isolation platform will show it to you. I can only conclude that the actual Vibraplane will produce similar dramatic results. Strongly recommended for turntables. Recommended for CD players and super sensitive speakers.

A.C. Flood acolin_f@yahoo.com 

  Hi there Steve, you told me in a recent e-mail that you would like me to send you any tips and tweaks that I knew. Well, here is one, try it out yourself and see if you can hear any differences made to the sound:


Music is all about vibration. In all acoustical musical instruments, their shape, weight, build materials, and even the acoustic in which they play all have their effects upon how that instrument will sound. That's why you can tell a cool Yamaha Jumbo guitar from an Encore el-cheapo. In musical instruments, therefore, vibration is an essential thing.

In hi-fi, however, vibration is not always a good thing. To create a good hi-fi, we need to promote "good" vibrations but stop them turning into "bad" ones by influencing the performance of other components.

That's what this first tip is all about. Most loudspeakers nowadays use a unit for the treble (tweeter) and a unit for the mid to bass (midbass). One problem with using two drivers in one box is that the midbass speaker, which causes a lot of vibration through the cabinet, will make even the most well-isolated tweeter cones move, especially at high volume. I noticed this effect on my bi-wired system by switching off the tweeters ("Speaker B" on the front of my amplifier). I first put my fingers lightly on the cone of the midbass unit, and sure enough, it was moving just the same as it had before. I then touched the cone of the tweeter, and that was vibrating slightly too. I thought this was odd, because my system is fully bi-wired, and I thought initially it might be the fault of my amplifier, "leaking" sound into the wrong set of outputs. I therefore decided to disconnect the wire for the tweeters altogether, and was surprised to find that the tweeter cone moved just as much as before.

I then realized that it was actually the midbass unit that was making the tweeters move. I pondered upon ways in which I could solve this without breaking my speakers. My final solution was to unscrew the tweeter from the front of the speaker and put copious amounts of Blu-tak on the back. I did this on both the speakers, screwed them back in, and switched my hi-fi on, with volume up high. There was noticeably less movement of the tweeter's cone now. To hear how this would sound as a whole, I reconnected the wires leading to the tweeter inputs at the back of my speakers, and put LeAnn Rimes' "Rock me" on. A definite improvement! This track mow had the sass and attitude that it was missing before. All my Happy Hardcore (vocal rave) compilations now sounded more detailed with better soundstaging.

I therefore highly recommend my tweak to anyone who has a two-way speaker system. It's very easy, costs next to nothing, and will genuinely improve the sound, both in theory and in practice. Give it a go!

Adam adam.saint@unn.ac.uk


Mick Shim's are in Baby!

Shim Mick

  Announcing some humor... and truth!  What you see above is the all new Shim Mick Supra-Phonic Audiophile Puck Thingies. These are made from specially treated, precision cut, quality controlled wood only found on the planet earth which is in very limited quantities.  You can place these on your speakers (observing the wood grain) to change the sound of the music reproduction from them.  Better still, you can use side one to place them on top of your small signal tubes.  When i placed these awesome Shim Mick discs on my small signal tubes my ears heard a more precise imaging which the front soundstage expanded a bit wider. Amazing stuff!!!  Think i'm joking here.  No, i'm serious!  Must be the way the wood changes the resonance of the glass envelope to then kill some resonance is my best guess.  There's more, yet these things are too good to keep quiet. Please try them yourself ASAP!!!  Pricing?  Well, ummm...  similar stuff costs about $50 a disc.  These Shim Micks are even more special then those copycats. In fact you can't buy these for $50 each.  Not even $100 each. How about i let ya in on a little secret. You can buy these for only 20 cents each!  No joking here either. Do they really work.  Yes. Do they really cost 20 cents each? Yes!  So where can you get them?

Well, while shopping out of town i went into this basket place. In their arts and crafts department were these little wooden pieces and low and behold i found that their all wood wheels were remarkably like some really pricey 'audiophile' tweaks. All ya haveta do is call Basketville at (802) 387-5509 and order part number CWY002823 which is a 1077 wooden wheel. Of course your local hobby shop probably also carries something along these lines.  Yes, i've tried the other pucks and most of them seem the same for a very very  small fraction of their 'audiophile' counterpart.  Don't be fooled by overpriced imitations!!! These are the real deal. Really!  No joking. Surely i'm serious. i am serious and stop calling me Shirley!

Some extra tweaking can be staining them to change their resonant frequency, attaching them to speakers, attaching them to walls, hanging them on string in the middle of our listening room to help diffract the sound, shaving out the indented wood to better fit your small signal tube, applying them on my forehead to change the resonance of my empty scull.  Well, all the above BUT that last one works.  Some things just can't be fixed. Have at it my friends and this is a kinda serious article.  Please try them.  What cha got to lose but maybe $5?


Lookin' for some good sox?

  Let's face it, there's nothing like good sox. While at the WCES '98 i forgot how much i missed sox. Ya see, stupid me had some sox a few years ago, but then i gave them away with my beloved pair of VTL 225 (KT90 triode-strapped) tube amps when they were sold. Well, stumbling my way through the show i came upon the Ensemble room. Aaaah, there it was. GOOD SOX! Imagine having good sox in Las Vegas? Like, no way :-{)+ . So please come with me and together we just may find ourselves enjoyin' some good sox together.

The first generation of Ensemble's Tubesox were good. They did a wonderful job yet they also seemed like they could use some refinement. After about 2 years they seemed to loosen up because there was only a very small amount of the plastic stuff on the upper and lower edges. Now the cool folks at Ensemble have made improvements to the original design and we have the Tubesox-ITtm. The IT version has much more of that kinda plasticy stuff which keeps the sox from loosening up too much and also now go from the top to the bottom of it too. What's more is that the black plasticy stuff actually gets some cool lookin' red stripes, called thermo-indicators once it reaches a temperature of about 115oF.! So if you like the way way they look in the photo above it gets better with usage! Tubesox-IT's are mainly made of Kevlar with a small amount of copper threading interwoven within. So you need not worry about these babies melting into your gear like that cheaper plastic ring stuff i've read about but fortunately never used. The main job these sox do is wrap around the tube itself to reduce the effects of microphonics to a good degree on small signal tubes like the 12a-series/7025/ECC83, 6DJ8, etc. The result is a better defined soundstage, faster dynamics due to less microphonics interacting with the music, and depending on how microphonic the tube is, an overall cleansing of the music.

As soon as i got settled in at home one of the first things was playing around with these new sox. First i tried them on the 12AX7 tubes on a review sample amplifier i have here (review forthcoming in another venue). What i heard was a better defined soundscape and better focus of the musical instruments. There was also a bit more apparent depth because of the "cleaning" of the music gave a better "vision" into the soundscape too. Well, that was easy enough though the real test was in trying them with my tubed phono stage's 12AX7 tubes.

After unscrewing the top to my preamplifier i placed the four Tubesox onto the four 12AX7 flat plate Telefunkin glow-bottles. Now i was prepared for an improvement, but not for one this good. After all, i use the prized 12AX7 tube. Well, it was as if i went from basic quality tubes to premium, "hand selected by G-d herself", tubes. Just take what you read in the above paragraph and double it. Yes, it was that good my friends to my ears in my system. Please keep in mind i use Telefunkin flat plate 12AX7 good ol' diamond bottomed tubes here and not some Chinese meltdown-master cheapies. Well, instead of sayin' more good stuff just to repeat myself, you're probably get the gist of things here.

Bottom line is i missed having good sox and now i've found even better sox then before. Sox it to me baby! Ok, now for the reality of the price. They'll set cha back about $69 a pair though lemme tell you, a premium set of Gold Aero tubes will set cha back hundreds of dollars and you might possibly be better off getting the basic matched set, get a set of Tubesox-IT and wind up saving about a hundred bucks in the end and get better music reproduction too! Also, my previous set of Tubesox lasted for about 2 1/2 years before getting all loosey-goosey and this newer version seems much better constructed so you could be using these sox through possibly three or more sets of tubes as time goes by. In the end a modest investment now can reap benefits many years past the memory of the price you paid. Humbly and highly suggested to all my tube-freak friends (you know who you are).

Ensemble Inc.
PO Box 261
Muttenz 1

Voice (+41) 61-461 9191
Fax (+41) 61-461 9325

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