Archived from Audio Direction Ltd.
1. Replacement of screws, particularly on speakers, with either brass or stainless steel ( non MAGNETIC !). Ferrous screws , while cheap, tend to capture and retain magnetic fields instead of allowing them to pass through quickly. This replacement of them with non magnetic varieties opens up the sound, giving greater detail and dynamics and a broader soundstage. Brass may be difficult to source and unfortunately most are slot headed making it difficult to apply sufficient tension. Non magnetic stainless is very common these days and while maybe not quite as good as brass works marvelously well. Most of the stainless can be had in a philips head configuration enabling sufficient grip to tighten the screws down firmly with fear of stripping them.
The use of non magnetic screws also has critical applications for transformers. Brass is the preferred composition for output transformers and the bolts holding the laminations together run 90 degrees to the magnetic field that the transformer is producing and thus disrupting the field.
For toroidal transformers, a large steel bolt is normally used to hold down the transformer to the chassis. ADL normally tries to replace this bolt with a nylon equivalent, available from many Marine hardware suppliers, and it certainly helps the sonics, smoothing out the top end and also extending it. The use of non ferrous bolts can also be applied to inductors as in speaker crossovers and such with similar positive benefits.
2. Positioning of coned feet.
ADL has long been advocating the use of coned feet. Generally we use three feet as from geometry, three points determine a plane. Use of three pointed feet normally gives the best component stability.
That being said the precise location must be experimented with. Sometimes movement of even as much as an 1/8th inch can dramatically change the sound. This needs to be determined through trial and error : a tedious and sometimes confusing procedure.
With three feet, having two feet up front and one in the rear generally gives then best upper frequencies. Reverse the triangular position: two feet in the rear and one up front, tends to give the best bass.
That being said, we have found that using four feet actually sounds better. Sound is more ven from top through bottom and the frequency extension on both highs and lows are much more extended, even though one f the four feet may be “floating” with barely any pressure from the component above.
Our preferred four foot position is to place the feet along the sides of the component approximately midway between the corners. Imagine a sort of diamond shaped arrangement but an asymmetrical one, with two feet bracketing the power transformer and the other two splayed out in order tp balance the component.
Since the corners are structurally the strongest points of any box, we need to add support to the midpoints of the sides. This will cancel out more of the sanding waves and eigenmodes and significantly increase detail.
For digital transports, the feet arrangement is determined by the spin motor. The initial starting point needs to be directly under , or, if awkward, slightly forward of where the spin motor is situated. If not sure imagine where the spinning CD or DVD is located in respect to the chassis. Directly centering one foot under the spinning disc is the ideal location to start. From there the remaining feet need simply to be placed where they can stabilize the component most effectively.
3. Bundling of wires.
If the wires in your amp or preamp are tightly bundled, clipping off the ties holding the bundles will increase dynamic range. If the bundles are wire tied, clipping them off will cut off the inductance retained in the metal ties and increase detail and microdynamics. Replacement with plastic zip ties will improve performance and still retain neatness.
NEVER, NEVER use metal ties to bundle wires. The metal in those types of ties increases inductance to great negative sonic effects.
4. On Zip Ties
Believe it or not the color of the zip ties do make a difference in sound. We believe it is due to the pigments used in the manufacturing process. If we use the clear ( actually milky cloudy semitransparent plastic) as the base, red ties have a more open top end. Blue ties have a bit better bottom end. Black ties actually restrict dynamics and detail as the black coloration is probably due to carbon black added to the mix. The carbon is slightly conductive and will capture and retain the EMF field instead of allowing it to move unimpeded and freely.
5. On Degaussers
You will have noticed we have a thing about magnetic fields and their interaction with the signal in the audio pathways. Degaussing is a simple means to eliminate certain aspects of this magnetic field interaction.
Degaussing the zip ties mentioned above certainly helps the sonics: increases upper frequency extension and aiding microdynamics and fine detail. The effect seems to be semi permanent, or at least no diminution of the effect has been noted even after several months.
In addition a degausser can be used on LPs and optical digital media like CD’s and DVD’s. On the video media, sharper images are noted and better color saturation with higher black levels. For audio, you will hear better dynamics and finer detail for both CD’s and Lp’s.
Curiously, degaussing an LP seems to lower the background noise levels. For those rare and difficult to find records for which you often have to be satisfied with scratched copies, the level of background noise seems noticeably lower when the disc is degaussed. The effect is noted only for one play and the LP needs to be degaussed with every playing. Also this effect is NOT noted when the LP’s were made of plastic. while most LP’s are made of vinyl ( for which degaussing worked well) some are plastic. Typically, these are those children’s records, including many Disneyland LP’s, Bethlehem LP’s, and many of the Phil Spector pressings ( Phillies label).
6. Kimber Speaker cable
Kimber Speaker cables employ a unique braided configuration. The differences in their base line cables are;
4PR (brown/Black insulation) polyethylene insulation with each insulated strand having 7 wires of the same gauge.
4 VS (Vari Strand) Color coded gray/ black: each insulated strand contains seven wires of different gauges
4 TC (Teflon Composite) currently color coded at clear white: teflon composite insulation with vari strand copper construction.
All Kimber speaker cables can have their performance upgraded by simply “puffing” them up. If you hold the cable end loosely in one hand, you can push a generous hand length together using the other hand, and the cable will automatically puff up. Do this for the length of the cable. The goal is to get the wires so that they lie 90 degrees to each other, as this configuration will reduce capacitance as well as inductance. Even a lesser angle will be better than the factory tight weave.
This electrical reduction will increase the high frequency extension as well as increase both dynamics and detail. In fact the more expensive Kimber models ( Select line as well as the Monocles, etc.) employ this technique to increase their performance. You can stuff the hollow core with aquarium tubing or simple rope to help the cable retain the shape. In addition to help keeping the shape, you can make the cable look like an exotic (and expensive) model !. One customer wanted to add some Christmas lighting in the hollow tubing, but I felt that it would detract from the sound…..would have looked really cool however….
One word of warning, though, you will lose about 20% of the overall length for the VS and PR series when doing this. The TC series loses a bit more: about 25% of overall length. Still considering how expensive wire can be these days, it is a relatively cheap way to up the performance of even the base line Kimber models.
The factory doesn’t do this because bulk spools of wire would be simply too big and would add significantly to the shipping costs.
7. Speaking of wires, one of the most cost effective upgrades for analog lovers is to change the wire in your tonearm. Most tone arms use woefully inadequate wire by today’s standards and an u[grade is of significant improvement. Bear in mind Hitachi OHFC wire made a big splash in the early 80’s and was still relatively uncommon. Any arms made in that era probably did not use the 6N copper nor the silver wire currently available.
At ADL we use either Cardas 33 gauge tonearm wiring or A and M System Teflon insulated pure silver wire. Both make a significant upgrade in sound quality in virtually every arm we have had the opportunity to install them in, from Linn Basiks to Sumiko’s The Arm.
We run a continuous strand of wire from the headshell clips out of the TT to a junction box with RCA’s. That way you can use an standard interconnect of your choice (shielded of course).
The cost of such a rework is about $175 and includes the junction box and RCA’s. If you wish to add a polarity switch the cost is an additional $25. Interconnects are extra , of course.
8. ON VACUUM TUBES.
Vacuum tubes are just that, a glass envelope ( usually) in a vacuum. The better the vacuum the better the performance: you get extended highs and much more detail.
However all vacuum tubes will start to out gas. Molecular air will be dissolved in the metal work and the very glass itself. As the tube goes through heating cycles this molecular gas will eventually enter the glass envelop. The Getter flash (chromed coating on the inside of the tube) is supposed to absorb this stray gas and retain the vacuum. In fact the vacuum pumps used to evacuate the tube in assembly can not get the vacuum low enough and the getter is flashed after assembly in order to lower the vacuum.
However with use and the out gassing products, the gasses emitted will be become ionized by the voltages in the tube elements and the getter can not accomplish its stated purpose. Often times you will see that blue glow developing on the glass envelop.
It is possible to activate the Getter and lower the vacuum within the tube.. It is relatively easy to do. I place the tubes in a toaster oven and turn it on at the lowest setting. Every 30 minutes , I raise the temperature by 50 degrees to a maximum of about 300 degrees and simply allow the tubes to bake for as long as I feel comfortable ( sometimes overnight).
Once the baking process is over I simply unplug the oven. I try not to open the door as the colder air can cause heat stress and fracture the glass. Allow the tubes to cool to room temperature before removing, and replacing in your unit.
The getters are activated by heat, but since the voltages are applied during play, the ionized air tends to gravitate to the respective anode and cathode. This a lot of the air can not actually reach the getter. Its a good idea to label the tubes, especially power tubes so that you don’t have readjust the bias ( if you mix them up).
If your tubes were glowing blue, you will notice the glow will have disappeared or significantly diminished. The top end will become pristine again as the tubes sounded when they were brand new.
This process will not restore old tubes, but will give you better sound from an older set.
It is our belief that one reason why NOS (New Old Stock ) tubes sound very good is that many were built in the Cold War era. The military sponsored a lot of research to better the performance of the tubes. They employed hydrogen bake outs for critical tubes, baking out the tube elements in a pure hydrogen atmosphere ( highly explosive) which made it easier for the vacuum pumps to excavate the very light hydrogen molecules. In addition, many of the glass envelopes were acid washed to remove a surface layer of hydroxides.
In the modern era, I doubt if many of the Chinese tubes undergo such procedures. That being said, modern production is constantly increasing in quality. The era when Chinese tubes were considered to be firecrackers is largely over. However, their prices have been increasing dramatically. The new PSVane tubes are almost as expensive as an NOS tube that they are trying to emulate. ADL still feels at those prices, the NOS types are a proven thing and probably worth the price when viewed as a long term investment.
A relatively simple mod for your duplex outlets. We sell and highly recommend this outlet a Leviton 5362 which retails for $15. Each half of the duplex is connected by the brass strap visible on the top with the slot.
It is rather thin and is designed for electricians to cut easily when installing a switched outlet.
Since the 5362 has four entry holes in the back we jumper over the duplex with a piece of copper wire equivalent to your house wiring. You can see this on the bottom of the duplex. This, in addition to staggering the input wiring, evens out the current distribution and makes everything look and sound significantly better.
Be sure to turn off your fuse panel when doing this !
Incidentlly the mounting screws are color coded. Silver screws for the white wire, Brass screws for the Black wire, and the green screw for the Green ground wire !
For speaker alignment. These are cheap these days; Costco, Ebay all sell them, little plastic contraptions which work well. Place on top of a speaker cabinet and aimed at your listening position they can tell you a lot without having to sit down, carefully sight the edge of th cabinet , readjust, sit down, etc. repeating the process endlessly, ity seems.
Place a cardboard piece or a pillow behind you head in your listening position and you can use the laser to accurately focus and aim your speaker cabinets. Speaker midrange drivers should be aimed directly at ear level ( have someone mark your ear height on the cardboard placed behind your listening position). While I like to have the inner edge of the cabinet aimed slightly outboard of your head, it is relatively easy to adjust for different positions. Of course using a speaker cabinet with a rectangular cabinet makes things much easier.