Bored? Got the feeling that surely there must be something you can do to your audio system besides just sit there and enjoy it? If the answer is ?yes,? come to grips with the fact that you are an audiophile. Yes, it is embarrassing and a hard thing to admit, but there is hope. You could be cured after years of expensive psychotherapy! Or you could just do like the rest of us and give in to the cravings.
In past articles we?ve talked about the major issues of audio system set up. Today let?s cover a few of the little things.
Shake, Rattle and Roll
In the end, audio is all about vibes – some good, some not so good. The controlled vibration made by your speakers? driver cones is a good vibration. But if other anything else in the system vibrates, it?s reduces the fidelity of the music you hear. For example, the vibrations of poorly made speaker enclosures act as secondary, uncontrolled sources of sound. The result is lower clarity and definition. That?s why Polk speaker cabinets are made of dense, heavy materials – to reduce cabinet resonance for better sound.
So let?s take a look at other potential vibration spots and see how you can eradicate them.
Stands and Spikes for Stability
The stability of your speakers can have an audible impact on the sound of your system. Speakers that sway, rock and teeter tend to image poorly and have reduced bass and definition. Ideally you want your speakers to be rigid. If they rock or sway when nudged, you are losing some of the sound quality you paid for. Here?s what to do:
Floorstanding Models – If the speakers are on carpet, use carpet spikes. Carpet spikes pass through the soft carpet and spongy pad to make contact with the hard floor beneath, making the speaker far more rigid and stable. Polk RT and RTi Series floorstanding models come with carpet spikes that are hidden under the rubber feet (see illustration). If your speakers didn?t come with carpet spikes, you can get accessories generically referred to as ?Tip Toes? ? machined metal cones that sit under the speakers – from high end specialty audio stores or on-line.
Once you have installed the spikes, push down firmly on the top of the speaker to drive the point through the carpet and pad. If your speakers are on an uncarpeted floor that a sharp spike could mar, use the rubber cap. Floors are rarely perfectly flat, so you may find that the speaker still rocks. If the speakers? feet/spikes are adjustable, set their heights so that the speaker sits firmly on the floor without swaying.
Can?t find the feet/spikes that came with your Polk speakers? Call Polk Customer Service at (800) 223-5246 during East Coast business hours and they?ll send you a replacement set FREE.
Speaker Stands – If you have a bookshelf-sized speaker sitting on the floor – shame and sacrilege! Get them on a shelf or speaker stand where they have a chance of giving you good sound. Speaker stands should be well-made and sturdy.
Choose a stand that is an appropriate size for the speaker. The combined speaker/stand height should place the tweeter at or near your seated ear height. If your speaker is on the large side (like an RT55), make sure the stand?s top plate and base are large enough to make the whole assembly stable and sturdy.
If you are going to put the stands on carpet, make sure they come with carpet spikes (see the floor-standing section above). The best stands are made of heavy gauge steel tubes. If you?re a real fanatic, fill the hollow tubes with lead shot (never use sand) to make the stand super-heavy and non-resonant.
Well-made wood stands are your next best choice. The better ones come with floor spikes and metal studs on the top plate. Our favorite wood stands are Sanus brand which are available in real wood veneers that match Polk?s RTi Series models.
Follow our advice, make your speakers stable and reap the rewards of better sound.
Isolating Components Against Vibrations
Vibrations can also affect the performance of your electronic components. The theories as to how soundwaves in the room can affect the sound of electronic components are arcane and obscure. The important thing is that devices that help isolate components from vibration can make an audible difference. How much of a difference? Well, that depends on a lot of factors but if you are looking for that last little tweak for your system this could be it.
The most cost-effective vibration isolators we?ve found are Vibrapods. The name sounds vaguely obscene but the improvement to your system sure isn?t ? in most cases the results are clearly audible, especially when they?re used on source components like CD and DVD players. I put Vibrapods on all of the components in my system and noticed an immediate improvement in detail and imaging focus. These nifty and inexpensive (only $25 for a set of four) gizmos have been widely praised by just about every high-end magazine and website, including being named a Stereophile Recommended Component.
Vibrapods are available from many specialty audio storefront and online retailers. In way of putting our money where are mouths are, we decided to sell Vibrapods in the Polk web store and offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee. Check ?em out at http://shop.polkaudio.com.
Quality Furniture Delivers Quality Sound
No isolating device can make even an ounce of difference if you have your components on flimsy furniture. Low priced knockdown furniture is made out of lightweight particle board and thin metal all held together with weak hardware. You get what you pay for. Do your audio system (and your home) a big favor and get well-made furniture that?s specifically designed for audio/video gear. A search of retail stores and web sites will reveal a broad selection of quality brands including: Bell?Oggetti, Standesign, Sound Organization, and our personal fave Sanus (available for sale on the Polk web store). The better racks feature heavy 1/2″ (or thicker) MDF shelves, heavy gauge steel supports, real wood veneers and thick tempered glass.
With the growing popularity of home theater, many furniture stores also carry wall units and cabinets for audio/video components. Look for solid materials and construction as well as overall build quality. Make sure there is adequate ventilation for electronic components (high heat can shorten the life of your gear) and provision for easily running wires from one shelf to another.
Something for Nothing – Free Tweaks
Some of the best things in life are free, even in the audio business (but not too often). Here are a couple of cheap tricks for better sound:
Wood screws may loosen up over time. Tighten all the screws on wood enclosure speakers, including the ones that hold the drivers to the baffle and the input plate. Be careful DO NOT OVERTIGHTEN THE SCREWS as you run the risk of stripping the wood.
If you are using bare wire or spade lugs, tighten all binding post terminal nuts with a nut driver. Again, DO NOT OVERTIGHTEN or you?ll strip the threads and that will be a gigantic pain in the butt to fix. If you have dual speaker inputs, make sure the post nuts are hand tight on the unused pair.
Toe-in your speakers toward your listening position to get a more solid center image. If your main speakers flank a TV, pull the speakers a few inches in front of the plane of the set to get more spacious imaging and natural timbre.
Don?t say we never gave you anything for free.