Low Cost / Free Tweaks

Here are some low cost, or free tweaks that you can try out to improve the sound of your setup.

AC Polarity 

Please check that the AC polarity in your system is correct. You can check which terminal is live using a test screwdriver. This is especially a problem if you are using UK to US plug adapters or distributors with universal sockets.

Correct polarity.

Universal sockets which allow fitting of both US and UK plugs.

This universal socket is wired to be correct polarity for UK plugs but wrong polarity for US sockets. I've seen the reverse too.

A UK to US adapter commonly used by audiophiles in Singapore. They degrade the sound so I avoid using them.

This adapter is a polarity corrected adapter. Many adapters sold on the market are not polarity corrected.
If you are using two pin non polarised plugs, try the plug both ways round. One will sound better than the other. If you have to be scientific about it, you can measure the AC voltage between the chassis and earth (remember to disconnect all other interconnects etc from the item in question). The plug orientation that results in a lower voltage would be correct.

Speaker Screws

Tighten all your driver mounting screws periodically. On woofer and midbass units especially, this dramatically tightens up the bass (no pun intended). You will be surprised how loose mounting screws can become over time.

While you can make do with hand tightening screws, it would be even better to use a torque wrench. You can consult your manufacturer for recommended torque. Otherwise, you could make do by ensuring that you have equal torque applied to the screws mounting each drive unit.

My personal CDI Torque Driver. Tohnichi tools are also a popular choice.

For woofers, I would look at torque of at least 10 lb/in upwards. Please be careful not to strip the screw head or threads. I know of an unfortunate fellow that destroyed a tweeter when he allowed the magnetic field to pull in the driver bit.

Tightening screws applies to a whole host of other things including components, circuit boards etc. You will need to start off with much lower torque there, about 5 lb/in or even lower.

Bi-wiring Terminals

Do you bi-wire your speakers ? If you do, you can try bridging only the negative terminals of your speakers with a short piece of wire or jumper. This sometimes increases the coherency of the speaker.

If already bi-wired, try adding a jumper for just the negative terminals.
If you don't bi-wire, do you still use the supplied bridging links that are cheap and nasty stamped pieces of brass ? Replace those will a length of copper wire. Nothing exotic is required here, and you can start from small lengths of Belden or Canare wire, or shoot for the sky if you like.

My Nordost Norse jumpers. A good improvement over the nasty plated brass links you usually get.
Experiment also on how you hook up your speakers. You can try feeding in the wires to the tweeter terminals or woofer terminals, or even a combination of both. Usually one arrangement will sound better than the other.

This usually results in a brighter and more immediate sound.

Try this for more authoritative bass and for a slightly less bright presentation.

Great for the fence sitters.

Another variation for the fence sitters. Don't ask if you have tri-wiring terminals !
Speaker and Floor Coupling

If you are able to install spikes on your speaker stand, or underneath your speakers, do try them. It is important that the spikes are correctly levelled, and the speakers do not rock back and forth. It is very worthwhile to experiment with different spike discs if you use any to protect your floor. I've never liked the local practice of letting spikes rest directly on stone floors, or using coins to protect wooden flooring.

Low cost brass spike discs are fine for experimentation, but I've always like the returns from investment in better spike discs.

From top and clockwise - TAOC spike and spike plate set, Herbie's Audio Lab Titanium Hush Puckies, Yamamoto Sound Craft PB-10 Ebony disc, Generic chromed stainless steel disc, Generic brass spike base.
Spring Cleaning and Cable Dressing

Chinese New Year spring cleaning shouldn't just apply to the rest of the house, remember to clean your hi-fi system too. It is useful to unplug and reconnect all your cables to help remove any oxidation. If you have easily accessible fuses, it is helpful to take out and re-seat the fuses. Needless to say, this is done with the system fully powered down and preferably unplugged from the wall.

There are are a variety of cleaning solutions available on the market. I personally use Caig Lab's DeoxIT Gold for cleaning plated connectors, except that I remove all traces of it by wiping down with isopropyl alcohol after that. A small tip (no pun intended) - baby cotton buds (they are slimmer compared to normal cotton buds) are perfect for cleaning inside RCA sockets.

Check all your cable dressing too. Your cables should drape nicely (no tension please - just like its bad for humans, tension is bad for your cables and sockets too). If possible, your cables should not run in close proximity to each other, and if they need to cross, should do so at a 90 degree angle.


Even though my equipment is well past its burn-in stage, I still find that it benefits from burn-in once in a while. Using a specialised burn-in CD or track, I do set my preamp at fairly high levels (about 75 % of maximum volume) for a few hours, with the power amp switched off.

My phono interconnects (mine are RCA terminated on both ends) benefit tremendously from burn in (I hook them up to my CD player or my Hagtech Frybaby) once in a while. Despite using a high output MC cartridge, the miniscule amounts of voltage probably do nothing for burn-in there. Those with fixed cables, or DIN sockets would need to come up with their own adapters to do this.

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