When a Tweak becomes something more

Kingrex

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Feb 3, 2019
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I was thinking upon the people so angered in the QSA thread over my dismissing a new plug end. I was mulling the vast array of items presented to audiophile that are suppose to bring glory to your system. Must haves!!!!!

I started wondering upon the variety of this or thats and how some becomes mainstream over time.

I was not involved when speaker wire was lamp cord and Monster came out with fat wire. I think everyone accepts a speaker wire as a component now. Same for a power cord. It seems many people accept they are a necessity. Accept for the Ching Cheng crowd.

At what point does anything handed to us stop being a tweak and become a foundation to good sound. Is a $1000 fuse a necessity. What about a $500 receptacles. People will tell you they are a component scale upgrade. How about little metal bowls or dots you stick on the wall. Or some harmonizer that is suppose to work with the earths resonant frequency. What about a ground box. Tweak or not???? Footers????? Power conditioner?

Is there anything that is handed to us that is not a necessity. Must we purchase everything in order to get the most from our systems. Where do you draw a line.

Maybe the more important question is, where do you start. What really matters. If you were going to build a stereo and you have a speaker, integrated amp and a CD or TT. Whats next. What do you have to have because its a foundation to good sound. A fuse????.
 

Blackmorec

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Feb 1, 2019
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Hi there Kingrex,
What a great question. When I was first involved in hifi almost 50 years ago you needed a turntable, amplifier and speakers. One could add a reel to reel or a cassette deck and tweak speaker positioning but that was as complicated as it got. Then over the next 5 decades a plethora of tweaks appeared….some very logical and others that defied any rational explanation. Gradually inventors and manufacturers discovered that audiophiles had a particularly flexible pricing tolerance so some of these tweaks sell for prices that 50 years ago would have been considered top-end money……..for the entire system. Back then such expensive accessories would have been treated as a poor April 1st gag but over time the audiophile market has become inured to ridiculous pricing, such that a $5000 fuse apparently finds enough buyers to make its continued production viable.
But there is one very valuable lesson that many of us have learned….and that is that hi-fi system components can be exquisitely sensitive to certain physical attributes of their ecosystem and that relatively small investments can bring fairly major upgrades in sound quality. We can now list those areas as including:
Mains quality
DC Power supply quality
Internal vibration/resonance
External vibration/resonance
Cable losses
EMI and RFI
Room reflections
Digital clock accuracy

What has happened over the past 50 years has brought us to the point that the sound of any particular hi-fi will vary, sometimes quite massively and fundamentally according to how well or not the above characteristics are optimized.

I personally have made a hobby out of gradually optimizing the above elements to achieve the finest sound I can. Now, whenever I look at an ‘untweaked’ system, what I see is a great deal of untapped potential. On a similar note, a system comprising a manufacturer’s mid-range components can sound better that the corresponding top components when the mid-range’s ecosystem is fully optimized.

A couple of the hi-fi forums I attend include a ‘My System’ section, where photos are posted of forum members’ systems. I often see quite pricey systems with for example dipoles close to the wall, electronics placed on a handy piece of furniture, mains and signal cables coiled together and a host of other performance limiting ‘shortcomings’ that ensure that only a quite small percentage of the system’s true potential is realised.

These days, buying a system is pretty much the same as it always was…..but getting anything like the best performance from it has becomes a very specialised and potentially expensive undertaking that requires a high degree of experience and quite specialised knowledge.

One final observation…..no matter how much I tweak my system, there’s always more I could do. The good thing is, proper set-up is entirely scalable and you don‘t have to spend a fortune on getting great performance. The down-side? Tweaks are like cocktails…..some work together really well and others really don‘t so just buying a whole bunch of well recommended tweaks is not a good way forward.
 

Gregm

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Mar 14, 2019
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Maybe the more important question is, where do you start. What really matters. If you were going to build a stereo and you have a speaker, integrated amp and a CD or TT. Whats next. What do you have to have because its a foundation to good sound. A fuse????.
I think there is a double-sided approach to this question:
a) we want to extract as much information as the system can offer
b) we want to hear this information

The second has to do with speakers, their positioning ,and the room and room treatment -- or not, as it were.
The first is what you are alluding to: how to tweak the system so that it reaches its ultimate performance level?

After about 50 yrs in this hobby I can point to one thing that matters (among others no doubt): the connectors.
Good quality plugs on your power cord (very important), speaker connectors and, especially, I/Cs, and so forth.

From there on, any component in the chain can affect the sound, as it is part of a circuit. Whether this is audible and if so, how significant this tweak is, is another matter.

In my book the objective of the system is to extract the maximum from the medium, and then present this to me in the manner I find most pleasing.
The music I listen to comprises historical recordings, good contemporary masterings and, more often than not, mediocre mixing and mastering -- but if I want to listen to Bill Evans or Furtwangler or Barbirolli, etc, that's all I've got!
And, with due respect, the fuse ain't going to fix whatever is not on the medium ;)
 

PeterA

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Dec 6, 2011
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I was thinking upon the people so angered in the QSA thread over my dismissing a new plug end. I was mulling the vast array of items presented to audiophile that are suppose to bring glory to your system. Must haves!!!!!

I started wondering upon the variety of this or thats and how some becomes mainstream over time.

I was not involved when speaker wire was lamp cord and Monster came out with fat wire. I think everyone accepts a speaker wire as a component now. Same for a power cord. It seems many people accept they are a necessity. Accept for the Ching Cheng crowd.

Power cords matter a lot. They often sound very different from each other. That is precisely why the Ching Cheng crowd chooses them.

At what point does anything handed to us stop being a tweak and become a foundation to good sound. Is a $1000 fuse a necessity. What about a $500 receptacles. People will tell you they are a component scale upgrade. How about little metal bowls or dots you stick on the wall. Or some harmonizer that is suppose to work with the earths resonant frequency. What about a ground box. Tweak or not???? Footers????? Power conditioner?

Yes these are all tweaks. And some people definitely consider them to be component level upgrades and essential for the full enjoyment of their systems.

Is there anything that is handed to us that is not a necessity. Must we purchase everything in order to get the most from our systems. Where do you draw a line.

I draw the line based on what I hear. I stop when it sounds right and go no further Often, less is more and too much is too much.

Maybe the more important question is, where do you start. What really matters. If you were going to build a stereo and you have a speaker, integrated amp and a CD or TT. Whats next. What do you have to have because its a foundation to good sound. A fuse????.

If I were to start now, given what I have learned, I would start with a good room. Then I would choose the fundamental components and optimize the power delivery and component supports. The rest would be set up of speakers and cartridge and optimizing room acoustics.

I consider these to be the essentials. Get these right and you will not need to play around with tweaks.
 

tony22

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jerrybj

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I have more tweaks than most, and have been roasted for them.
Some tweaks have been very beneficial. Others, no noticeable change in sound.

But I do know my system sounds way better than just the main components, surprisingly so.
 
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marty

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Power cords matter a lot. They often sound very different from each other. That is precisely why the Ching Cheng crowd chooses them.

Oh no! Say it ain't so. The damn Ching Chengs yet again, like for the 100th time!! This has come up a few times in the past few months and I've consciously avoided the fray for good reason. Seems like everything that can be said about them has been said. Well, almost so here's an update that will be easy for the naysayers to skip over. Some of you know i've gone a bit OCD when it comes to power cables. I've built some wacko monstrosities using several cables with every possible metal and termination that there is. I've been exploring some hypotheses but key among these is that dissimilar metals should be avoided or minimized due to the possible untoward effects due to different electrochemical potentials when metals contact with each other,. This has rarely been studied from an audiophile perspective as far as I know. So recently, after admiring a recent cable creation for a specific application, I did what I often do, which is put back a CC to see how it sounds in comparison.Well, I almost had to take out the crash cart for this one. The CC cable sounded so superior to my custom creation in almost every way, that I became physically ill. Once again, the humble CC cable has shown itself to be a remarkably good sounding, very musical sounding cable that has the ability to render natural instruments beautifully with their "authentic" sonic attributes. It is not a perfect cable. Nothing is. It simply destroyed my reference cable (for which I had high hopes) in a specific application. But jeez, the amount of time spent busting this cable's balls has got to be one of the great all time wastes of time on this forum. I just don't get it. It's a damn fine cable no matter how you look at it. It may have some errors of omission (more preferred by far than errors of commission), but for goodness sake, it's a freakin' 10 dollar cable. Leave it the hell alone. If you don't like it, fine, use something else. (If there were as many complaints about the #2 chicken sandwich (under 10 bucks) at Chick-Fil-A, they'd be out of business). For low powered stuff like front end gear that doesn't draw a lot of current, it's really hard to beat in so many ways. Long live the humble Ching Cheng PC.
 

PeterA

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Marty, it seems as though we agree about the humble Ching Cheng power cord.
 
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Willgolf

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At what point does the law of diminishing returns come into play? I ask that question all of the time. As an example, I have 18 SR HFT's scattered around my room --- nothing. I have had some Power Cords where I could tell a difference and some not so much. If you can get a chance to A/B various cables you can hear differences. I have many isolation platforms and I am not convinced they work at all.

I think if you have a good system with good room acoustics, with good clean power many of the tweaks really won't add much if anything. I have them all and the only way I could know which ones work now would be to totally start over.

The bottom line is that in my system, it is a sunk cost so I can eliminate saying I wonder if that would help my system when in reality my system does not need any more help!
 

ddk

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I was not involved when speaker wire was lamp cord and Monster came out with fat wire. I think everyone accepts a speaker wire as a component now. Same for a power cord. It seems many people accept they are a necessity. Accept for the Ching Cheng crowd.
Rex, at least learn to put one system together properly namely your own first before making stupid comments about people you know nothing of!

david
 

Kingrex

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Rex, at least learn to put one system together properly namely your own first before making stupid comments about people you know nothing of!

david
I have no idea what your talking about or what has you spun up???? Do you for some reason think I am down on Ching Cheng cables?????? I don't think I ever said anything of the sort. And what is with the personal attacks. Have I done something to personally insult you?
 
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ddk

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I have no idea what your talking about or what has you spun up???? Do you for some reason think I am down on Ching Cheng cables?????? I don't think I ever said anything of the sort. And what is with the personal attacks. Have I done something to personally insult you?
Read your own post and Ching Cheng crowd comment!

david
 

Kingrex

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Read your own post and Ching Cheng crowd comment!

david
The ching Cheng crowd is taking a solid low cost high value product and making the most of it. They are far from the exasperating constant buy this multi thousand dollar widget. I don't get what your taking about. Your finding meaning that is not there.
 

Ron Resnick

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So recently, after admiring a recent cable creation for a specific application, I did what I often do, which is put back a CC to see how it sounds in comparison. . . . The CC cable sounded so superior to my custom creation in almost every way, that I became physically ill. Once again, the humble CC cable has shown itself to be a remarkably good sounding, very musical sounding cable that has the ability to render natural instruments beautifully with their "authentic" sonic attributes. It is not a perfect cable. Nothing is. It simply destroyed my reference cable (for which I had high hopes) in a specific application. . . . For low powered stuff like front end gear that doesn't draw a lot of current, it's really hard to beat in so many ways. Long live the humble Ching Cheng PC.

Thank you for this report, Marty!

I know Marty pretty well. He is the biggest audiophile masochist I have ever known. Who else has the patience to test extensively and laboriously AC duplex wall plates with careful methodology? Who else has the patience to test extensively and laboriously AC plugs with careful methodology?

I have not heard David's Ching Cheng power cords. But I am very much looking forward to putting them in my system, and listening with them! Someday I look forward to comparing them to other power cords.

If anything the psychologists probably would say that Marty has bias in favor of the custom power cords he made himself. But Marty is a professional scientist, not a typical befuddled and biased audiophile.

I find Marty's report to be extremely probative.
 
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Kingrex

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Look, I don't have ill intent to CC. My comment was not well posted. I don't believe it constitutes a excuse for personal attacks.

After I started this thread, I became somewhat confused on what the whole of the concept really meant. My mind started going to every single component we apply in high end audio is a tweak. Right????? Once you step outside the manufacturer power cord, you're tweaking. Once you decide to put something on a shelf and not on the floor, you're tweaking. Everything seems to be a tweak. Once you add a dedicated circuit outside the 14 awg romex that feeds everything in your living room, it's a tweak. I got a bit lost myself in how to move forward with the concept. I guess it comes down to what tweaks matter. What improves a stereo. In a meaningful way. Maybe they all do. And maybe that is the issue. I have 11 cords in my system. I built 7 myself and 2 of the 4 I bought and use are CC. The CC are on my tape outboard preamp and NAB/IEC adapter. A pretty critical area in my system. Go figure.

Maybe the question is, where does Tweaking and Tuning diverge. Or are they the exact same thing.

And yes, I am a part of the , Hey, you can make your system perform better if you do this. I am a part of the merry go round. I started doing what I am doing because I wanted to help. I saw an issue. As I have personally bounced through numerous componants over the years, I hit levels of exhaustion at times. I wasted $12K on SET tube amp. That hurt. And every time I look at what I have and consider, can it be better, there is always 10 other things waiting to be investigated to see if they help in my situation. It's kind of never ending. Its almost frustrating there is not a guide on right and wrong in audio. Its unfortunate there can not be one. I don't see how.
 
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dminches

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For low powered stuff like front end gear that doesn't draw a lot of current, it's really hard to beat in so many ways. Long live the humble Ching Cheng PC.

Do you use other power cables for your amps, etc.?
 

MarkusBarkus

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Its almost frustrating there is not a guide on right and wrong in audio.
...actually, IMO I think you have hit upon some of them in your various posts, @Kingrex

It's always going to be a bit of a WAG whether or not one can hear a guaranteed improvement following someone else's guidance, but I think there are some "best practice" type approaches. At least I think so.

For example, we know running a larger gauge line will have less voltage drop and lower impedance. Can we hear it? I think I can, but I can't really prove it in a Science paper. To me, if one can afford it and it's not a huge logistical issue, it's a best practice to run a dedicated line, largest gauge that reasonably works.

Clean up that stinking ground clamp assembly on the water pipe. And the component connectors (annually?).

Don't stack components! I hate it. Who knows *exactly* what the interactions are between/among components, but I AM NOT STACKING components.

Don't have a rat's nest of cables behind your rack. Even cheap DIY solutions make sense. Who knows what the hell is going on electrically among all that spaghetti throwing off energy fields every which-way in a radiation soup.

Take the strain off of all connectors/cables. It's madness not to. We have these giant kielbasa-cables pulling on little fixtures. And if cables are loose at the IEC fixture, use those 25 cent sleeves and do "the tighten up" (like Archie Bell and the Drells-sorry for the throw-back).

And, IMO since I'm barking orders: isolate your components! Everything is vibrating, all the time. Pick a strategy, even cheap, and execute it. Everything gets isolation from the rack/floor and each other.

Room is complicated, but it seems to me unlikely you can plunk some expensive (or cheap) gear in any room and extract the best sound. Most people probably need help here.

And the trickiest of all, and I recall you/we posted on this before: component compatibility. I don't think everything sounds great together...that is: getting a groovy amp, someone else's pre, cool speakers and mixing it all up. I think it can take a while to get good synergy among components and the room. That's where we really need good dealers, gear honchos, etc. And time. Tranquillo. You have to let things settle a bit. I have emailed manufacturers to ask about matches or compatibility. They can be pretty helpful, IMO.

OK...fire at will.
 
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ddk

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Look, I don't have ill intent to CC. My comment was not well posted. I don't believe it constitutes a excuse for personal attacks.

After I started this thread, I became somewhat confused on what the whole of the concept really meant. My mind started going to every single component we apply in high end audio is a tweak. Right????? Once you step outside the manufacturer power cord, you're tweaking. Once you decide to put something on a shelf and not on the floor, you're tweaking. Everything seems to be a tweak. Once you add a dedicated circuit outside the 14 awg romex that feeds everything in your living room, it's a tweak. I got a bit lost myself in how to move forward with the concept. I guess it comes down to what tweaks matter. What improves a stereo. In a meaningful way. Maybe they all do. And maybe that is the issue. I have 11 cords in my system. I built 7 myself and 2 of the 4 I bought and use are CC. The CC are on my tape outboard preamp and NAB/IEC adapter. A pretty critical area in my system. Go figure.

Maybe the question is, where does Tweaking and Tuning diverge. Or are they the exact same thing.

And yes, I am a part of the , Hey, you can make your system perform better if you do this. I am a part of the merry go round. I started doing what I am doing because I wanted to help. I saw an issue. As I have personally bounced through numerous componants over the years, I hit levels of exhaustion at times. I wasted $12K on SET tube amp. That hurt. And every time I look at what I have and consider, can it be better, there is always 10 other things waiting to be investigated to see if they help in my situation. It's kind of never ending. Its almost frustrating there is not a guide on right and wrong in audio. Its unfortunate there can not be one. I don't see how.
Hey Rex,
My reply had nothing at all to do with cc power cords or any audio related comment the term “cc crowd” is what ticked me off. I apologize if I misread you but it came across as very derogatory.

david
 

Kingrex

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Feb 3, 2019
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Hey Rex,
My reply had nothing at all to do with cc power cords or any audio related comment the term “cc crowd” is what ticked me off. I apologize if I misread you but it came across as very derogatory.

david
David, your comments caught me off balance as I have spoken with you on the phone. I get where you are coming from. It felt so personal. Maybe because of those reasons. I don't quite know why my original post had to mention CC. I like many have been trying to shape my system to more support what I want to hear. And it a daunting task. There is such an aggressive push to high $$$$ solutions. It causes a high level of confusion. When I look at comments from people such as Marty, I wonder where are $ are best placed. Marty's room is amazing!!!!! Its one of the best rooms I have heard. He uses what works. And that is not what we see in print every day.

...actually, IMO I think you have hit upon some of them in your various posts, @Kingrex

It's always going to be a bit of a WAG whether or not one can hear a guaranteed improvement following someone else's guidance, but I think there are some "best practice" type approaches. At least I think so.

For example, we know running a larger gauge line will have less voltage drop and lower impedance. Can we hear it? I think I can, but I can't really prove it in a Science paper. To me, if one can afford it and it's not a huge logistical issue, it's a best practice to run a dedicated line, largest gauge that reasonably works.

Clean up that stinking ground clamp assembly on the water pipe. And the component connectors (annually?).

Don't stack components! I hate it. Who knows *exactly* what the interactions are between/among components, but I AM NOT STACKING components.

Don't have a rat's nest of cables behind your rack. Even cheap DIY solutions make sense. Who knows what the hell is going on electrically among all that spaghetti throwing off energy fields every which-way in a radiation soup.

Take the strain off of all connectors/cables. It's madness not to. We have these giant kielbasa-cables pulling on little fixtures. And if cables are loose at the IEC fixture, use those 25 cent sleeves and do "the tighten up" (like Archie Bell and the Drells-sorry for the throw-back).

And, IMO since I'm barking orders: isolate your components! Everything is vibrating, all the time. Pick a strategy, even cheap, and execute it. Everything gets isolation from the rack/floor and each other.

Room is complicated, but it seems to me unlikely you can plunk some expensive (or cheap) gear in any room and extract the best sound. Most people probably need help here.

And the trickiest of all, and I recall you/we posted on this before: component compatibility. I don't think everything sounds great together...that is: getting a groovy amp, someone else's pre, cool speakers and mixing it all up. I think it can take a while to get good synergy among components and the room. That's where we really need good dealers, gear honchos, etc. And time. Tranquillo. You have to let things settle a bit. I have emailed manufacturers to ask about matches or compatibility. They can be pretty helpful, IMO.

OK...fire at will.
Markus, You hit the nail on the head. I see the audio tuning/tweaking much like you do. I think everything you note is correct.
 
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PYP

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Once you have the room, what guidelines do you use to choose an appropriately sized speaker for that room? I've found in-home demos for gear to be invaluable, but I can't see how to do that for speakers.

I'm in the camp of "get the big stuff right first" then tweak. And also removing all tweaks from time to time and then reintroducing them individually to see how they affect the sound. I've been through several rounds of removing tweaks and then, in the end, keeping them out of my setup.

I suppose I consider room treatments like a diffuser, as well as power cords and distributors to be tuning rather than tweaking.
 
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