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Audio Tweaks & Shortcuts

Positioning Your Speakers
(The Quick & Dirty Fast Approach - see a detailed optimal overview on this subject in the FREE section of this Website)

Here is the quick and fast way to generally optimize the position of your speakers in your listening room. 

1) Place your speakers EXACTLY the same distance from the wall behind them (measure to get exact) and set them at 3ft (2ft min).
 2) Measure the width of the room, divide by three and place each speakers center 1/3 from the side wall closest to it.
 3) Measure the distance between your tweeters on each speaker. Place your listening position at or closer than the same distance back. So if your tweeters are 8 feet apart, measure and sit 8ft back from the two speakers.
 4) If the distance to the wall BEHIND you is closer than the distance to the speakers in front of you, try to add a rug to the wall or place a bookshelf behind you to break up the back wall reflections.
 5) If you need more bass, move the speakers closer to the wall behind them, if you want better stereo separation and soundstage move them further away from the wall behind them ... that's it, enjoy!

Clean Contacts. 

This upgrade is stunning! If you have never done this, you have never heard your system at it's full potential. This is the most significant upgrade you can make to your system for virtually no cost.

 A) Visit a local jewelry store and purchase a non-abrasive polishing/cleaning cloth that can clean plated metals. (Please pay careful attention to the last sentence because some polishing cloths will remove the gold plating on gold connectors). The top of the line Connoisseur cleaning cloths are recommenced. 
 B) Also needed will be contact cleaner (Caig Pro Gold or BullFrog are recommended) 
 C) Natural fiber pipe cleaners are available from Tobacco shops. 

STEP 1: Disconnect all cables in your system including the power from the wall. Use the polishing cloth to clean every RCA jack, speaker binding post, and connection you can reach. We find that cutting the polishing cloths into 3/4' strips makes the cleaning of binding posts easier. 
 STEP 2: Using an old nonabrasive cloth (such as an old T-shirt), apply contact cleaner to all polished contacts sparingly. Do not rub too hard - be gentle. Apply a small amount of contact cleaner to the pipe cleaner and gently move back and forth inside the RCA jacks - just a little cleaner will do! Then use a dry pipe cleaner in the same fashion to soak up any extra moisture in the jacks. 
 STEP 3: Reconnect the cables to your audio system. STEP 4: Try not to faint when you hear your system so transformed for so little money ... enjoy! 

Dedicated A.C. line(s). 

If you are serious about your HiFi, get at least one 15 amp or higher dedicated A.C. line to feed your system. Ideally one 20 amp circuit for your amplifier(s) and a second 20 amp circuit for your other gear. Use hospital grade or higher outlets (available at any Home Improvement store). There are numerous other high-end outlets available from audio dealers and suppliers. Ideally, install double runs of 10 gauge A.C. wires to each outlet. If you are not handy with A.C. please call a professional to have it done safely. Even with the cost of professional installation, the change will make a significant improvement in your sonics and be well worth the investment.

Cable Dressing. 

Often overlooked and sometime impossible, this can have audible effects on a high resolution audio system. Keep power cords away from any speaker, analogue or digital cable. Try to keep all power cords on one side of your equipment rack and audio cables on the other. Nylon zipties work very well for this application. This can sometimes eliminate hum and noise and can lower the overall noise floor of your system.

Deep Earth Grounding.

A.C. STAR GROUNDING SYSTEM: 

1) Drive 10 foot 3/4" copper grounding rods into the ground (at least 50ft-60ft - drier the ground deeper you need to go) at 4 or more different locations at your site. Use a Hilti Pneumatic 905 hammmer (to cone the rod and to avoid mushrooming the rods). Use compression couplers on the hammer and 5/8" driving bits. Dig hole 1ft. wide wide add Sodium Bentonite to rod - the sodium draws moisture to the rod and decreases ground resistance. 
 Rent a AEMC - model 3041 or 3011 - ground testing meter to see your levels accurately.. 
 Do in all 4 corners of building - 30" to 40: = Results in to lower ground impedance. Combine this with grounding on water pipe (more power). (See also: Deep earth grounding by Martin Convoy) 

2) Weld or Connect the grounding rods using "0-Guage" electrical (jacketed) cable to a central large copper plate. U-Bolt ground Clamp - Burnby part GUV5821 - ground connector. Connect all cables to where the water pipe meets the neutral (bonding point). 

3) Connect the copper plate also using "0-Guage" copper welders cable to your central A.C. box at the main grounding point. 

4) Run a length of "0-Guage" copper welders cable from the A.C. box to a central larger copper plate in your listening rooom near your system = CENTRAL GROUND. Use Leviton hostipal grade ac outlets. Run ground wire from each recepticle ( 12 guage) to the ground point. Go to junk yard get old pure copper buss bar (out of old electrical box). Sand off oxidation. Get ground lugs and connect with wire lugs to buss bar. Use zero guage wire to electical panel. Use same leg of circuit - same phase (dont switch phases). 

5) Connect the ground of EACH outlet of any equipment plugs into to the CENTRAL GROUND. 

6) Make sure the chasis of none of the equipment touch or are connected. 

7) Sit back and enjoy a lower noise floor, deeper more defined bass and a wider soundtsage.

Getting Rid of Hum.

ELECTRICAL NOISE: 

If the hum or noise that is the problem is heard at the loudspeakers when no music is playing then the source of the noise is electrical. In order to find this noise you need to work from the loudspeakers back. A loudspeaker can't generate noise on its own so the first item to check is the power amplifier. 

Turn off your system and disconnect the power amplifier input cables. Turn the power amplifier back on again and listen. If the hum or buzz is still present then it is originating in the power amplifier. If it has gone then it is originating somewhere else in the system. In this case turn your system off again, reconnect the power amplifier input cables, then disconnect all of the preamplifier's input cables (from CD, tuner, turntable etc). Rotate the preamplifier's volume control to minimum. Turn both preamp and power amplifier back on again and listen. If the noise is present now it is originating from the preamplifier, or from the connection between the preamplifier and power amplifier. 

If you cannot resolve the problem at this point it is possible that you have a faulty preamplifier, faulty interconnect(s) or possibly pickup of an external interference such as an RF signal. You may need specialised help to diagnose this. If the system is quiet then you should proceed to connect each source item (CD, tuner, turntable etc) in turn, using the preamplifier, or power amplifier's mute switch each time, and listening for the return of the noise. When it returns you will have identified it's source and be able to attend to the problem. If one of your source components (CD, tuner etc) is the cause of a system noise it could be due to a ground loop. This occurs when more than one item in a system has its signal ground connected to the power ground. Circulating currents in this loop can give rise to a hum or buzz. In this case try a 'cheater' plug (no ground connection) on the power connection of the offending item. 

Of course good ground connections are basic to any low noise system. You should as a matter of course ensure that your power and preamplifiers are both plugged into the same wall socket. It is important that your CD player, tuner and processor are connected to this same socket as well, even if through a multi-distribution box of some sort. Note that double wall sockets are almost always paralleled together, so using the two plugs on the same wall socket equates to the same ground. 

Video recorders, DVD players, surround processors, and any device that is connected to a television cable or satellite dish can cause a loud buzz. If by the process of elimination above, you determine a component like a VCR is causing the hum or buzz to occur, and checking the earthing doesn't remove the noise, you may require an isolation transformer to physically separate the VCR power supply from the mains. You may also find that a balun fitted to your antenna wire could help. If after all this the noise is still present and annoying, it's time to enlist specialised help. You should ask your dealer for assistance. 

MECHANICAL NOISE: Some items of equipment can directly radiate a mechanical hum or buzz. This mechanical noise almost always originates from the device's power transformer. Place your ear close to each component of your system and listen. If you hear a hum or buzz coming from within your equipment, then the noise is mechanical. 'Lamination rattle' occurs in all transformers to some degree, related to the quality of the transformer and the quality of the line voltage. If the noise intensity varies depending on the time of day, sometimes even the time of month, then it is due to the quality of the AC supply voltage in your area. In this case you're at the mercy of your energy provider.

Polarity In A.C. & Reduced A.C. Noise.

ELECTRICAL NOISE: 

One of the biggest FREE changes you can make in the sound of your music system involves the A.C. that feeds the power to it. Almost no-one pays attention to whether they have optimized the polarity of their A.C. system, we all assume that if we just plug components into the wall using the three prong A.C. plugs that the polarity of the A.C. will be right, after all you cannot plug it in any other way. However, there is a "bad sound ghost" hiding in the polarity of your A.C. and here is how to find him and get rid of him:

DISCLAIMER: In this hint we suggest the possible removal of a ground wire to some components. Note this "may" void some manufacturers warranties. You should always consult a licensed electrician to do any electrical changes in your system and to avoid potentially lethal voltages and shocks.

1) Get a few "cheater plugs" (AC plugs with three holes at one end and only 2 prongs on the other) and a voltmeter ready to do this process. You need to snip the prongs off the end of the blades on one side of the cheater plug so that it will plug into the wall normally and reversed. You need some cheater plugs with EQUAL sized blades at the ends to do this.

2) Start with your Preamp. Remove ALL connections to it (all interconnects, ground wires to your turntable,etc) so the only connection that remains will be the AC cord to the wall. Plug your preamps A.C. cord into an A.C. cheater plug and plug it into the wall.

3) Set your Voltmeter to AC (if you set it to DC you will blow up your voltmeter). Plug one of the test leads from your voltmeter into the GROUND socket of your A.C. outlet that the preamp normally plugs into. Attach the other test lead of your voltmeter to the chassis of your preamp - make sure it is touching metal and not a painted surface. Write down the voltage reading showing on your voltmeter.

4) Next, reverse the cheater plug and check the voltage a second time, one of the two will be a lower reading that the other. If it is the lower number - you are all set, leave your A.C. plugged in this way. If the voltage is the higher number then you need to reverse the polarity of the A.C. to your preamp which you can do by using the cheater plug in the reversed position.

5) Repeat this process for each component in your system - always selecting the lowest voltmeter reading of the ground as the optimum setting for plugging in its A.C. power cord.

6) Once you are done with every component that plugs into your system (this excludes speakers UNLESS they are powered speakers) then re-connect everything you you will find you how have a quieter background, less hum and noise, more sparkle and detail and a generally improved sound - all for virtually NO COST!!!

We have customers on every continent and in most countries around the globe, and have received ongoing praise over the years from many of the audio industry's most respected experts. To learn more about our company, products, shipping or for audiophiles looking to sell their high-end equipment, call HigherFi, 7-days a week, directly at 952-440-2226.

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