The General Tweaks Page
I use the CD Stop Light pen on all CD's. I do not know why it helps, but it certainly does.
Keep your CD's clean, no fingering on the surface. This helps the CD player to read the information properly without the use of too much fault correction. Even if the fault correction works, the electronics involved may interfere with other electronic parts.
Polishing CD's (nowadays known as the 'Pledge Tweak')
From Wesley Fong in Hong Kong I got this tweak, I have not tried it yet but it makes sense and I will try it as soon as I get some polish.
Wesley wrote: This is the biggest tweak I've ever discovered....And it was in my house cleaning products cabinet all these years!!! you will be amazed!!!
Dig up a can of furniture polish.....I use the American product called 'Pledge'....Fold a piece of Kleenex tissue paper....Spray some pledge on it and apply to the CD in a light circular motion....Then fold the tissue and use the clean side and wipe the cd from the center to outer edge in even strokes until the cd is super clean and polished.......
Now drop that rascal in your cd player and get freaked out!!! You'll get mind blowing resolution!!! I've always used 'Prosona' which is a CD enhancer from the USA.....It was quite costly...USD20.00 for 4 oz.....But 'Pledge' is cheaper.....
Update information from Wesley: You'd better not use the kleenex tissue paper...Perhaps it can scratch the surface of the CD, but lets be safe. I purchased a "kiwi" brand shoe polish cloth from the supermarket. It works wonders!
Since i just discovered this tweak, Ido not know if the 'Pledge' will have any adverse effect on the plastic surface of the CD...Only time will tell...........If it does damage it, we can all cry together!....
Now I have tried this tweak, I used Pledge furniture creme with bee wax from Johnson Wax, $3 for 250 ml. This tweak is a KILLER! You must try it!! The CD reproduction is now near perfect with lots of details and air. The reproduction is very lifelike and the voices and strings sound magical as does the bass and treble. When the CD is polished I prefer the original to the CD-R copy (also polished) which previously sounded better, apparently the fault correction applied in the copying process is no longer necessary. I used paper tissue made for optical cleaning, but any product which does not scratch the plastic may be used. Cotton cloths, lens cleaning tissues or other types of material normally used for cleaning eye glasses, camera lenses or waxing cars. I mailed Wesley and stated that he had struck gold, he replied that he has struck silver. He is working on a new silver cable which he thinks makes even more difference than this tweak, more about this later..
Trichord Clock 3 Modification
The Trichord Clock 3 modification kit improves the clock stability in the CD player, and improves the sound in an unbelievable way. This is not cost free, so the CD player shall be of a reasonable quality to make it worth while. The kit costs around 200$ in Sweden plus installation if you do not feel comfortable with the soldering iron. Despite it's cost, I think this is the best spent money I have used on my system.
Improving DC Power Supply in the CD player
While your CD player is open, check if the DC supply can be accessed easily, if so put some extra capacitors on it. Use electrolytics in parallel with polypropylene capacitors. The polypropylene capacitor shall be between 1/10 and 1/100 of the electrolytic. Be careful not to use the electrolytic capacitor in the wrong direction.
Copying CD to CD-R
Copying CD's to CD-R using the computer gives the interesting result that the copy sounds better than the original. I have used a Philips CDD 3610 (CD-RW ) and Easy CD software, copying the CD to the disk and then copied from the disk to the CD-R. The probable cause of the improvement is less error correction needed while playing the CD-R and perhaps lower jitter, I don't know. Read my opinion on the CD polishing tweak, I am not sure about this tweak any more and will need to make some more testing.
Some claim that de-magnetizing CD's, using bulk defluxers, improves sound. I have not tried it.
Using de-magnetizing CD
The use of de-magnetizing CD's does improve the sound. This is another magic trick I do not understand, but as long as it works, I have no problem with the understanding problem.
Put CD in the Freezer
Another magic trick said to improve the CD sound is putting the CD in the freezer. The use of some plastic covering is advisable, to keep the CD free of condensing water. I have not tried this either.
This is one of the most important areas of tweaking. All vibrations may generate unwanted signals in the equipment. The easiest way of reducing the vibration from entering the system is to use sorbothane feet in combination with heavy shelves. This is an area worth its own page, maybe I will make one in the future.
Power Line Filters
The use of power line filters often improves the sound. This is very system dependant, and current demanding devices may loose some dynamics, but try it.
Power Line Isolation Transformers
The use of power line isolation transformers is a tweak I intend to try. The transformers shall be highly inductive, and this makes them expensive. Ben Duncan at HiFi News has made such a transformer called 'Pure Power', and this is sold in kit form (check the HiFi News site). I think that separate isolation transformers for each unit, with floating ground looks to be a very interesting tweak. Connecting the signal earth of the separate units, connected to the same ground can cause quite a lot of trouble, and isolation transformers would make life easier especially for single ended equipment. Sadly the price on commercially available isolation transformers has stopped me from trying this tweak.
Radio frequency waves may generate unwanted signals, and the best way of dealing with this is shielding and filtering. This is a demanding task, best suited for experts, but the use of ferrites and shielded cables is a possible way of dealing with this on an amateur basis. The use of balanced equipment may also be sensible if RF is causing severe trouble.
Interference between cables is reduced if you can keep them apart.
One of the most important tweaking areas. There are two kinds of speakers, one that use the early reflections to give you the impression of the musicians playing in your room, and one that aim to give you the impression of the musicians playing in the room that the piece was recorded in. I like the second one, but this type of speaker is far more demanding when it comes to room tuning. The most important is to get rid of the early reflexes from the floor, the side-walls and the ceiling. The second most important is to keep room reverberation low. Dipole speakers are a good choice as these are relatively insensitive to floor, ceiling and side-wall reflexes. The only sensible way of dealing with floor reflexes is the use of a thick carpet in front of the speakers. Ceiling reflexes can be kept low using absorbing panels, and this is also the case with side-wall reflexes. Room reverberation is reduced with the use of furniture, curtains and extra absorption devices. Frequency correction (resonance) may be dealt with by the use of tuned absorption devices.
This is really a subject worth its own page, maybe I will make one in the future.
Cables really do make a difference, trying with different ones can be amusing, but my advice is not to spend too much money on them. There are plenty of reasonably priced cables suited for experiments, for instance Supra from Jenving, Kimber, Goertz, Audioquest, Cardas and DH Labs all available from The Parts Connection. Remember that the signal cable shield shall only be connected in one end (the source end). Impedance matching is also important, see separate tweak.
As I use a tube preamplifier and such items does not like low impedances, I have altered the input impedance of the Gradient filter from 22k to 122k. The improvement was quite substantial in treble quality and soundstaging. Having been listening to my system after this alteration for a week I am surprised of the magnitude of improvement. I knew that it would make a difference, but not that it would be as large at it has turned out to bee. The whole scenery opens up and there are a lot of details I have never heard before. Voices appear even more natural than before and everything is crystal clear.
I have simulated the circuit used by Jadis in the preamplifier output section (ECC82 cathode follower) and the output impedance is in the range of 350-400 Ohms, not much higher than what is found on many CD-players. This leads me to the conclusion that it should be worth while looking into the impedance matching even with solid state amplifiers. CD-players will probably sound better if presented with an input resistance of +100 kOhm rather than the usual 47 kOhm. Probably minor changes in input resistance and capacitance will make just as large difference as changing interconnect cables, and indeed some cables (MIT, Transparent Link) use such correction circuitry.
Improved Filter Components
Changing filter components to polypropylene capacitors, foil air core inductors and inductance free resistances is always positive if the loudspeaker elements are of high quality. It is not always positive with lesser quality loudspeaker elements, as the constructor may have used a certain kind of filter component to compensate for defects in the elements. Trying is never wrong though.
Improved Power Supply
The power supply is one of the most important parts of amplifiers. Improvements may be made quite easily. The easiest way of improving is to change the electrolytics into higher quality ones (for instance Elna Cerafine) and if possible increase their value a little. Connecting polypropylene capacitors in parallel with the electrolytics is also useful.
Leave Equipment Powered On
Almost all HiFi equipment sounds better if they are left powered on, especially D/A convertors improves when left on.
Experiment with Loudspeaker Position
This is the most important area of tweaking. Experiment with this, it is worth while.
Clean CD Lens
Important and often forgotten way of improving CD sound quite a bit.
Improved Floating Suspension on Record Player
I have attached a simple oil damping device on my Unamco turntable which has a floating suspension. I think this tweak should work with other turntables of this design type too. First remove the suspension, cut a hole in the film container lid and attach the spring to the lid. Re-attach the spring with the washer and nut, be sure to remove the plastic foam that are usually used for damping. Fill the film container with motor oil and snap it into the film container top. That's it!
When you have your turntable on the operation board, apply some damping material to the sub frame.
If you perform this tweak, be careful when you move the turntable.
What do you gain then? Magic!
With this tweak the high frequency vibration that normally passes through the spring is damped and you also get a much better low frequency damping of the sub frame than with the normal plastic foam that let a lot of vibration pass through.
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