Are tweaks for the lazy?

September 11, 2016
 by Paul McGowan

I must be lazy. I have tried dozens of tweaks that work, yet I no longer use them: VPi Bricks, sonic bells, resonating cups, directed harmonizers, green pens, degaussers, spray on optical cleaners.

They’re all effective, repeatable, and yet they find no home in Music Room One. At least not for the long term. I think laziness is one reason, but perhaps an even greater reason is that Music Room One must serve as the reference. Tweaks that enhance are not used. Tweaks that perfect, are.

For example, the use of diffusers fix room problems that I can measure, explain and hear. The LANRover fixes a poor communications link between DAC and computer. Power Plants steady the voltage, lower impedance and distortion.

It could be argued that the list of stones, dots, pens, and sprays fix unseen maladies, but that’s a little too far fetched for this lazy man.

Hypocritical? Perhaps. Likely, in fact. But none of us are perfected.

What’s your favorite tweak and why?

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46 comments on “Are tweaks for the lazy?”

  1. My favorite tweaks are: power cords, footers in combination with platforms, cleaning solutions for all contacts and the needle of my pick-ups and SQALAN oil for reduction of friction in the grooves – after an ultrasonic cleaning of the record’s grooves. Warped records are flattened by an integrated vacuum generator or an outer ring. Yes and still there are some five noise harvesters around. I still haven’t found a tweak for minimizing the eccentricity of vinyl records.

      1. I have that tonearm ET 2.5 mounted on my Luxman PD555. But that Nakamichi transport is more than a simple tweak I guess. 🙂 It would be a substantial upgrade. The only way to reduce the eccentricities is to enlarge the center hole and adjust things manually. The parallel tracker is the best tool here! But it is that time consuming!

  2. Sunshine in the morning and a good cup of coffee. Thats the best I can do at the moment. My systeem is okay perhaps it could be better but my hearing should also be better of at least 30 years younger.

  3. If I have to choose just one, it is Machina Dynamic various springs for isolating equipment (and speakers) from vibration, BUT, they also make a wide variety of odd-ball tweaks that really work. Well worth investigating

  4. I am very suspicious of tweaks, but then I have these Schumann resonators… I like them. I do not buy any of the mumbo-jumbo explanations of how they might work and do not know, myself, if they even do work. I suspect that they emit a rare compound that I refer to as “Placebanol” but can’t independently confirm this either. So why do I keep them? I mentioned it above. I like them. It is remotely possible that they have an effect on the listener’s brain outside of the placebo effect and since I am already dain bramaged, I have nothing at risk.

  5. Try this for about $8. It is easy to do blind tests, if you have someone to help. It makes a big difference in my system, as well as other’s system. Go to Walmart and pick up a container of “Daisey 6000 ct ZINC plated BBs”. It must be Zinc, not copper or other material. Here is the link:

    Simply place it snugly next to where the power cord connects to any piece of equipment. This tweek came ultimately from an audio equipment engineer/designer. He was unsure why it has an effect, but thinks it has to do with scattering of electromagnet energy at this susceptible point. I had the benefit of having someone come over and do the change without me seeing what it was.

    It has a particularly profound positive impact when placed (in the above way) next to my DAC, phono preamp and preamp. It also helped when placed near my amps, but it was not as profound. It costs $8, so what do you have to lose?

    1. So Reed, this was the one you were concerned about outing the other day? Do you use a whole container for each application, or have you tried a half in a baggie or something, draped around the IEC inlet? Sounds like one I read about recently where you put an electrical collar around the inlet/plug.

      1. It is. I just set the whole container next to it. The original guy experimented and stated that it had to be at least a certain thickness, but I can’t remember the exact amount, so I put the whole container.

  6. Ok, we all can think of some “funny” answers here.
    We already have the wine. What’s next..? A cigar, easy chair, jackpot in the lottery, new batteries for the hearing aid…
    But I will keep it serious (this time).
    Footers (Ceraball) under the speakers. Makes the speakers sound more uncolored, natural to me.

  7. My favorite tweak is to have built a sound room 6m. x10m. x 4m. (Average height) with nonparallel walls, acoustically balanced: Not dead not alive. The house has its own transformer (25 Kva) with a supply line (properly grounded) with appropriate gauge cable protected against EMI and RFI exclusively for this room.

    The main residents here are: RS1Bs fed by a variety of amplifiers (29 in total; SS and tube). Determine the sound differences between them for each type of music, (recording) and so enjoy it better, it is an important goal for me. This is my tweeak for the lazy

    And yes, I use the db-5, bricks and other tricks that work like LAST, but no exciting the nervous system such as coffee or alcohol, then prevent me from fully enjoying the ineffable beauty of the great masters music, the which occupies 90% of my listening time. And yes, I love vinyl, despite all its limitations, along with exceptional recordings on CD or SACD that there are.

  8. Room treatments and room correction are the only tweaks that I use. No fancy cables, wall receptacles, USB filters or regenerators, power conditioners, or magic voodoo bricks. I save all the money that an audiophile tweaker would normally spend on those accessories to buy music or to fund my next significant upgrade like better speakers, DACs, or amps. I have first hand experience with blind testing and know how many tweaks can seem like they make a difference but they really don’t. Or they’re not cost effective, your money is best spent elsewhere.

  9. Re: “They’re all effective, repeatable.” Do you really believe that? Some of those tweaks don’t work because, well, they don’t work. I realize I’m begging the question, but it’s preposterous that every wacky tweak you thought made an audible difference actually did. Most faddish tweaks fade away over time (both in terms of sales and perceived effectiveness) because the effectiveness was always in the brain rather than the eardrum. Some “effective” tweaks — mats on top of CDs, in my experience — reveal themselves to be harmful over time, but other tweaks — little dots on the walls — reveal themselves to be merely placebos.

    Re: “Tweaks that enhance are not used. Tweaks that perfect, are.” That seems like a distinction without a difference.

    Re: “What’s your favorite tweak and why?” My favorite tweak was Harry Weisfeld’s first product (I believe): An isolation base for turntables. (His own turntable came later). At the time, in the early ’80s, I had a Kenwood KD-500 direct-drive TT. It was my first unsuspended TT, and I spent a lot of time trying to tame the issues that resulted from the design. I bought a Target wall shelf to isolate it from the floor, but since the wall was coupled to the floor, that didn’t totally fix it. I then lined the inside of the TT with a couple of pounds of Mortite to dampen things. Better, but only a minor improvement. Then I got the VPI isolation base, which was little more than a shelf sitting on damped springs. OMG! The improvement was astounding, and very repeatable. I became an apostle for VPI (and something of a bore when friends came over, playing records with deep bass with and without the VPI base under the TT).

    One other thing: the tweak that I’ve been doing for 35 years and continue to find very effective is cleaning all the connectors in the system every six months or a year. But that’s not a tweak for the lazy.

    1. The best tweak for isolating the TT from vibrations is the room next door! 🙂 Just guide the signal cable from the phono preamp through the wall. If you accept an AD-converter with connection to the router or WiFi you even haven’t to drill holes!

    2. Cleaning your connections is an excellent idea. I once went several years without cleaning mine, and when I finally got around to it, it was like a major system overhaul. You don’t need to spend large for the audiophile brands either. Harbor Freight and Home Depot both carry an effective cleaner.

  10. I’ve got cable upgrades and sound treatment panels, P10s, but I don’t think of them as tweaks. I have Aurios sitting on the windowsill because I don’t think I need them and just don’t want to put them into use as I like the way my system looks, even though I listen with my eyes shut usually.

    Of course you Washingtonians and Colorado folks can really enhance your listening with herb.
    Some use wine.

    I did tube roll the pre. I have same tubes for the amps BHK 300s, the ones he mentioned, but haven’t put them in yet.
    I’ve ordered the AudioKinesis swarm. Not a tweak to me.

    If Paul and the gang can really make CDs sound better (into the dsd dac)I will trade or sell my pwt for one. Not a tweak either.

    I have lots of BBs… Will try the above.

    1. Carpet is essential. Until recently, my living room was home to a fine sounding system, and it was fully carpeted. My wife decided that we should take some of our savings and invest it in a kitchen remodel and some new hardwood flooring. We found a beautiful hardwood, and a nice guy came to our home to measure the installation areas and give us an estimate. Although I wanted the carpet to remain in my living room, this guy convinced us that extending the hardwood through the living room would look spectacular. So, up came the carpet, down went the hardwood. Oh, yeah, it is lovely. Now, sitting in this room to enjoy tunes from my stereo, the audio nirvana is missing in action. The effect of the new hardwood flooring on the room acoustics has been devastating. My fix? I located a 9X12 wool carpet custom made in India. Although beautiful, its effect on fixing the room acoustics has been minimal at best. When it comes to room acoustics, there is no substitute for wall-to-wall carpeting.

  11. Paul, lots of responses today so you may not get down as far as this.

    I feel you might have started by defining “tweak”, a term I see often used but with much confusion.

    Consider one commonly identified item, cables. Until remote (bluetooth, etc.) connections become more common we continue to need interconnect and speaker wires. And how is trying different cables from those supplied by the manufacture any different than changing out any other component? Try a different cable, cartridge, amp, etc., is that a tweak?

    In my mind a tweak is a modification to an existing component while retaining that device. So a cable can be tweaked by suspending it, wrapping it, adding a ground, etc. But I don’t consider replacing it with a different product a tweak any more than trying different speakers. And yes, I would consider adding a VPI brick a tweak.

    1. Good point. Another item in question is replacing parts within a component. The capacitors in my Totems have been replaced with NOS German ones, yielding what I consider to be a wonderful improvement. Tweek is not so easily defined.

  12. The best tweak that I have come across in a long time are the Akiko Audio tuning sticks. They are an item that once installed,one could/would be hard pressed to give them up. What they do for me in my system is bring about a much more natural sounding presentation to the musical soundscape.. Analog or organic sounding is the best way to describe it,but without taking away any of the musical details in the process [actually… they improve fine detail ]. A must have for digital playback in my opinion. A word of caution though…to many sticks in a system will take away from the quality of sound,leaving the system sounding dull and/or with high frequency grunge inner-woven within the treble range… leaving it to be a nonplus… Discretion in installation is the operative word here.

  13. Lazy, Paul ? Impossible. For someone who has built a business like PS Audio, the question simply doesn’t arise. With your experience you obviously have developed an uncanny ability to separate the wheat from the chaff. You know what really make a difference and what just change the sound. A lot of times people mistake a change in sound as an improvement and that is not necessarily so. It is always nice to keep an open mind and not be afraid to try something new but with the awareness that there are many snake oil peddlers too. Regards.

  14. I remember being at ” The show ” in Vegas many years ago where I wondered into the Shun Mook room. They had a set of Paraifals driven by an ARC REF stack.

    We played some music and then they set a bunch of silly wood blocks all around including on the speakers.

    Back went the music and ” Boom” the walls simply disappeard. I had zero expectations and consider myself a cynic. But that is what happened. Next we removed all that none sense and the walls were back in place.

    I’ve been scratching my head on that one ever since.

  15. Hallo Paul, I just read your your post about tweaks in which you mentioned the LANRover. I’ ve got one since last weekend. After quickly installing it I was ready for musical magic, but … I guess it’ s a matter of expectation and high hopes and the feeling that you get when you are ready to touch the sky and find yourself back to earth after all. Comparing the same music playing through my CD transport and the LANRover I could hardly hear any difference, and if, the CD was better. So to my ears this tweak is not bad, but more a Landrover than a starship. Best regards. neuewelle

    1. Huh. The LANRover is essential in my system. As I have mentioned in the past, I can tell if it’s been removed even walking cold into the room and unsuspecting.

      I guess it varies from system to system – as all things seem to do.

      Sorry it wasn’t such a big deal for you. Did you make sure to use a great sounding USB cable between the LANRover’s output and the DAC? That is still essential.

  16. I have also ditched all tweaks with the exception of stillpoints under my speakers. Sold the ones I used with electronics. I kinda consider ac cabling a tweak as well, and own a small fortune worth of these as well.

  17. “Are tweaks for the lazy?”
    No, they are for people who have something that is badly engineered and are looking for quick fixes to their shortcomings on the cheap. In those rare instances that they actually help, they invariably reveal other shortcomings that went unnoticed before. That leads to another and another and another tweak. If you have a very expensive amplifier whose power supply is so miserable that you need some kind of filter or regenerator to get it to work properly, you bought the wrong amplifier. There’s a posting somewhere on the web about a guy who championed the Yamaha NS10 as a great studio monitor speaker. Only problem was it was too shrill and needs a piece of tissue paper over the tweeter to fix it. Problem is, it must be exactly the right brand of tissue paper or it doesn’t work. Real excellence doesn’t require tweaks. The problems tweaks are designed to fix were engineered out of the products when they were created.

    1. That’s sounds fantastic, but that is not realistic as most people are on a budget of some type. Look at Paul’s designs. He has designed a level of equipment that has the fewest limitations he can, yet my guess is that there are still some things he might do differently if the target price of his preamp was 20k vs 4K. Even at that, his top of the line components aimed at minimizing as few limitations as possible costs 4K for a transport, 6K for a DAC, 4K for the preamp and 15k for the amps. That is almost 30k. Even at that, I’m sure he had limitations shooting for a price range. Maybe he would have made large external power supplies for the transport, DAC and preamp and charged a few grand more for each component, who knows.

      So, following your path of thinking, Paul should have no LANRover, cheap power cords, non of his power regenerators, mono price interconnects, standard USB cables, no special outlets, cheap speaker cables, no isolation devices, in his flagship room. Because, if he engineered the components correctly, they should make no difference. Why should he even produce any such items?

      The issue is that cost constraints cause compromise. The lower the cost, the more compromise. So, while the power regenerator may have a small effect on the flagship DAC, it may have a profound effect on the lowest price DAC in his line. That is because to get the price to 1k, the power supply may not be as robust. I think cost constraints are the hardest thing for guys like Paul to deal with. That is when the problem gets solved in various other ways like power regeneration, filtering, etc.

      That 30k system, and that is without speakers, is beyond what a lot of people have to spend on a system. The average audiophile has a system with lots of compromise, which is why certain tweeks help. If I had 100k to spend on my system, nothing in my current system would be there. If I had 200k, it would look significantly different than what I would build with 100k, etc.

      1. Compared to other equipment in the so called high end audio market, Paul’s products are cheap. His amps cost $7000 or thereabouts. If his power supply isn’t good enough, he could have built his regenerator into it. That would still have made it a lot cheaper than many other amplifiers such as the trashy units Atkinson used to test YG Sonja 3.1,the amps costing up to $44K and still had problems.

        The real fact is that there haven’t been any true “breakthroughs” in design in this industry in decades. Every new product is just a tweak of the old one. Genesis 1.2 is a tweak of the original IRS. So were all the models in between. I’m not singling them out, the whole industry is like that. What is a tweak anyway? It’s just an improved variant on something that already exists. At least in the minds of those who make and sell them. Are they really better or just different? Look at a guy like Peter Qvortrup. He’s tweaked a $1300 a pair Snell Type E again and again until it is now a $1 million a pair tweak. Too bad he can’t tweak the way he spells his name so that humans can pronounce it.

    2. “There’s a posting somewhere on the web about a guy who championed the Yamaha NS10 as a great studio monitor speaker. Only problem was it was too shrill and needs a piece of tissue paper over the tweeter to fix it.”

      Don’t believe everything some guy on the internet champions. No one in music mixing takes the NS10 “seriously” – including the thousands of mixers that used it as a comparison/reference (like the tiny Auratones) for years. It was used as a pair of “average” speakers in the same way that one would take a cassette out to the car to hear how the mix sounds there. If your mix doesn’t sound right on average eqipment, that is a sign there is something wrong with it – or with your monitoring.

  18. The best tweak I have ever done is get get my components away from my large full range speakers rather than between them. Cheap professional Belkin balanced cables to the power amps that sit outside and beside the speakers sound better than anything at any price between the speakers. That said, my Kef LS50s are a great point source style and are very forgiving about what is between them.

  19. My current favorite tweak is something I have noticed that Audio Physics/Townshend has started doing.
    Speaker isolation, basically they have rationalized that decoupling the speakers from the room improves the sound and reduces the amount of distortion produced. So I though yeah right……but further reading got me thinking “well if my speakers are ringing the floor, and ringing the other cabinet when either is playing, that could be a bad thing”. So when you love Audio you will think how could I make these…… the hand ball is cheap and when loaded correctly does provide a great deal of isolation. So off to Menard’s for some Maple board, 8 threaded furniture feet, a large hole saw, wood glue, sandpaper and 32 hand balls from Walmart ( well I had to do the two REL Subs along with the two speakers 4 balls each speaker/SUB). So about A week later with my spirits lifted by all the enthusiasm that tweaking brings I have 4 unpainted isolation stands that can be individually leveled installed in the system. I would say I was not quite ready to believe what I heard there is really something to this. I even measured the results with a vibration meter app that anyone can use on their mobile phone. Several things that are apparent, low level signals are not lost in the background of the room, bass decay is not encased in the boom that actually comes from the subs being coupled to the room and cross-talk yeah I know cross-talk between channels is different. I get the sense that the speaker cabinets are not ringing each other with information they each produced which the other is not. OK, so I know everyone say it at once your nuts!………yeah, but its a great Bliss that I am lost in and my music is satisfying my soul at an immense level and to me that is why since 1957 it has been a part of my life.

  20. I suspect we might be pissing up a rope a bit when applying tweaks, at least for CD. One reason I say that is the unfortunate industry tendency to compress dynamic range of not only reissues but even the first issues. Why it’s getting so bad that remasters that were once marginal and had at least some dynamic range on the disc somewhere are now solidly in the red. In addition, it would appear that most CDs, especially audiophile CDs, are in reverse absolute polarity. So, I don’t blame anyone for saying, “what’s the point?”


    Geoff Kait
    Machina Dynamica

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